Review: Arrow 8×01: “Starling City”
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Director: James Bamford
Writers: Marc Guggenheim and Beth Schwartz
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Joseph David-Jones, Colin Donnell, LaMonica Garrett, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Moire Kiyingi, Ben Lewis, Katherine McNamara, Josh Segarra, Andrew Sixtos, Susanna Thompson
Reviewed by: Jason Larouche
In the wake of learning his ultimate fate, Oliver Queen embarks on a quest with the fate of the Multiverse hanging in the balance.
The season premiere focused on nostalgia and immediately kept fans in a state of confusion. Mirroring the pilot captured that George Bailey feel with some Back To The Future Part II deja vu. This is the world without Oliver Queen. Rather, this is Earth-2, as fans soon realize via Black Siren. The writers brilliantly compress the events of the first season into one episode. Longtime fans of the show are looped in through similar camera angles and dialogue from the pilot. Stephen delivers on emotional moments, from Oliver reacting to Thea’s death to the moment with Moira in his bedroom. There is also that smirk he tries to push down through familiar situations. Much like Barry had in season two of The Flash, Oliver gets sucked in to this world’s problems by his loved ones’ doppelgängers.
Since this is Earth-2, doppelgängers means topsy-turvy of the expected. This allows Beth and Marc to have fun with where certain characters could have gone. Tommy is The Dark Archer instead of his father, and Adrian Chase is The Hood. And, of course, Felicity is nowhere to be found since Emily Bett Rickards left the show last year. The twist of having Rene and Dinah be SCPD cops on the take presents a mirror image of Team Arrow, a fact Ollie notes in the climax. Tommy’s motivation towards The Undertaking also mirror that of his father on Earth-1. The Glades killed Thea, so therefore Tommy will destroy The Glades. Focusing on redeeming the man Oliver knows rather than just killing him demonstrates the maturity he’s gained as a hero.
Katie Cassidy-Rodgers is brilliant in this opening episode. We’ve seen an evolution in her since her first appearance on The Flash, as I’ve noted numerous times before. Now we see her in full Black Canary mode with a new improvised design on the suit Felicity gave her. The pixie cut works in distinguishing her from Earth-1 Laurel, who wore a wig. You get a sense that Laurel has become a voice of reason for Adrian’s Hood. David Ramsey showing up as the REAL Diggle was both welcome and hilarious. Having Laurel and Diggle involved will keep Oliver grounded and focused on what he’s fighting for. He can’t trust the Monitor, but he can trust his team. Making it a trio on this heist motif taps into the Robin Hood mystique of Green Arrow. Speaking of which, the updated suit works on multiple levels. The change in the hood’s material and pattern design calls back to the original Hood/Arrow costume.
Since this is Earth-2, the biggest complaint is lack of continuity. The second season of The Flash had established Earth-2 as a world with a 1930s aesthetic. Also, Robert Queen had been The Hood instead of Oliver, and there’s no mention of him. In this world, could he have been the inspiration for Adrian Chase suiting up? You can tell it’s Katie’s stuntwoman in one of the fight scenes because of the bad wig. And why is S.T.A.R. Labs much closer to Starling City rather than be 600 miles away. A building that is missing a monorail around it? In trying to capture nostalgia, did Marc and Beth forgot what Earth-2 looks like? And you’d think after a heartfelt goodbye to his mother, seeing her die again would emote a stronger response from Ollie.
In spite of its flaws, I give this a solid 4.5 out of 5. That “full circle” feel was accomplished by mirroring the pilot all those years ago. There are only ten episodes this season, and it started off strong. Nice Batman Easter eggs by the way. It’s only in the aesthetic of Earth-2 that’s lost. Having the effects of The Crisis demonstrated here was necessary to establish its threat. As the reporter reviewing this series for the third and final year, I feel privileged with this responsibility and look forward to where we go from here. Team Arrow all the way.