ARROW “LEVEL TWO” REVIEW
BY JUSTIN CARTER
This season of Arrow shouldn’t actually work as well as it does. No really. Image a TV series about superheroes who can’t actually be superheroes because of government interference? It sounds incredibly dull on paper, but the show is having fun exploring the ramifications of the scenario and giving a tangible outcome because of it.
If not for there already being a 100th episode two years ago, this week’s installment would certainly fit into that mold. Even though “Level Two” is not about Oliver in the larger sense, it’s all about Team Arrow and the effects their heroism have had on its members and the city. Instead of being a celebration of what’s come, it’s more of an introspection, and one that allows the cast to shine, thanks to established history and events yet to come that we’re just now seeing play out.
Using a creepy prison psychiatrist is as good a way as any to get Oliver to self reflect when aliens can’t be used. Isolating the moment where Oliver’s dad killed a man and took his own life is such a particular thing to zero in on, but it is the one particular thing that ties Oliver and William together — seeing someone commit suicide on a boat harboring Lian Yu. It makes sense to keep hammering that point across, even I didn’t think about it until this episode, and in many way, brings Arrow even more full circle than it already was by the end of season five.
A good deal of “Level Two” is about various members of Team Arrow wanting to have a better life for Star City in general and their children in particular, but there’s an extra weight given to these talks because of the flash forwards. Rene and Dinah are currently the two people most invested in Star City’s future, and it’s as good a time as any to get them to talk about the good they did as vigilantes and the good they want to keep doing as members of their community. The Arrowverse has an…interesting relationship with the police (more about that in the notes), so seeing them turn into hired guns in the far future is particularly sad for the dream Dinah and Quentin held.
I figured that the flash forwards would slowly be used to show us what happened to the rest of Team Arrow in the not-so-distant future, and we duly get our first glimpse of that with an older Dinah kicking cop ass. However, I certainly wasn’t expecting an older Zoe to join her in being a hero. Having Future Zoe in the vigilante resistance that Future Roy and William find themselves is creatively the right move to make; this will always be a show about Oliver (and now William), but she’s been in the superhero circle longer than he has, so of course her being rescued by the new Green Arrow inspires her to fight for her city years later. If the new Arrow turned out to be someone we’ve never heard of or just one of many, I think I would be fine with that if the tradeoff is seeing Zoe kick ass as the new Black Canary.
“Level Two” isn’t without its faults however. I get what the idea was with pairing Laurel with Felicity together to torture Silencer, but it’s not as heavy on backstory and history as the other stories are. That Felicity is so gungho about Diaz doesn’t allow her the introspection afforded to the other characters, with even Laurel of all people managing to do some of that on her tumultuous year flipping between double agent and sassy mastermind. The biggest point of comparison we get is a short mention about Felicity’s Earth-2 counterpart, which seems more like a tease for “Elseworlds” than anything else. But this also may be why she’ll no doubt be showing up in the flashforwards, to provide the contrast that these earlier episodes lack. This doesn’t detract from the episode’s overall theme, but it is something of a strange oversight I hope gets fixed soon.
It’s been hard to ignore how this season Dinah wants to fix the SCPD and portray them as good cops who are being overwhelmed while in the real world, cops are…less so. Black Lightning is really the only of these shows that’s trying to have an actual balance with showing how the system is corrupt while having some like Henderson try to do their best with their circumstances, but yeah, Arrow is the worst offender of this by far and I don’t know if they’re too far gone to change that to reflect real life better.
Felicity’s not dead in the future, I don’t buy that for a second.
The Glades has quietly become one of the most important locations on this show, so it will be fascinating to see what developments from the present lead to it getting walled off in the future.
Don’t be hating on Beebe, Rene. You clearly didn’t hear about how the Legends saved the world.
If you’re reading this in America and haven’t already, don’t forget to vote!