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Arrow: The Complete Second Season

Arrow: The Complete Second Season
Studio: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
Format: Available on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD, and for Digital Download
Home Video Release Date: September 23rd, 2014

Synopsis: Starling City has been torn apart by the Undertaking, so the need for the hooded vigilante– now known as The Arrow – is more urgent than ever in the explosive second season of the hit action series based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow. After retreating to the island on which he was once stranded, Oliver Queen returns to protect his mother, sister and besieged company – , but comes to realize that allies and enemies have switched sides, and the stranglehold of evil on family, friends and city is diabolically linked to his fateful shipwreck. A once-tight comrade-at-arms and a strength-enhancing, yet mind-warping serum may prove to be the mightiest adversaries The Arrow has ever encountered. Can justice find its target in this breathlessly exciting, 23-episode Season Two? Or will all fall before the fury of Deathstroke?

The series stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, David Ramsey as John Diggle, Willa Holland as Thea Queen, with Susanna Thompson as Moira Queen and Paul Blackthorne as Detective Quentin Lance. Arrow is based on characters appearing in comic books and graphic novels published by DC Comics.

Special Features:
*Comic-Con Panel
*Deleted Scenes
*Gag Reel
*Bonus Recap Episode "Year One"
*From Vigilante to Hero - Documentary highlighting Oliver Queen's journey from fighting injustices to becoming Sterling City's accepted savior
*How Did They Do That?: The Visual Effects Of 'Arrow' - Explores how Season 2 has raised the bar for action and FX, showing how the creators can make anything the writers dream up come to life
*Wirework: The Impossible Moves of 'Arrow' - See how the intense and elaborate fight sequences are shot for maximum realism
*Ultraviolet

Arrow: The Complete Second Season Review
By James Harvey

After recovering from a bumpy start to its first season, Arrow really surprised fans and critics alike with its gritty, down-to-earth spin on the popular DC Comics character Green Arrow. Amassing a dedicated following and stellar ratings, Arrow proved that DC Comics characters can thrive on the small screen. And now the show is back for its second season and, thankfully, hits it target square on. In fact, I'd say its aim improved quite a bit. Just note, the rest of this review is going to be written as if readers are already familiar with the characters.

You watched the first season, right? It ended with The Glades, the impoverished section of Starling City, left in ruins by the season's big bad Malcolm Merlyn, who was ultimately defeated and killed by Oliver Queen. Queen also lost his best friend, Tommy Merlyn, who died amongst the chaos of The Glades' destruction. Tommy's death and the destruction of The Glades really propels the second season, ultimately leading to some great twists in the second half of what is ultimately top-notch season of one of TV's biggest surprises. My thoughts on the series will be brief so we can get right to the Blu-ray portion of the review.

The second season of Arrow definitely learned from the mistakes made in the first season. The storylines are more carefully thought out, with very little filler episodes or wasted characters. The villains are more developed and layered, making for far more interesting fare then the standard "bad guy of the week" stuff. These bad guys actually bring weight to the show, and eventually cause problems that just seem to mount and mount for ol' Ollie. Granted, the show does fall into some repetition. There are some character beats that get replayed time and time again, and some of the bad guys are kinda weak, but overall the show really learned how to limit that. It also leads to some frustration, especially in the last quarter of the season when any break in the ongoing subplots was absolutely maddening. The storyline the writers came up with for Slade Wilson/Deathstroke was incredibly well put-together, even if it was needlessly complicated as the full extent of his plan came together at the end of the season. The writers just flew this season.

The writers on the series really built up some truly fantastic stories that are just so addictive, so intriguing. It's revealed early in the season that Arrow comes face-to-face with the legendary League of Assassins, and it's that move right there that really pushes Arrow into something beyond your standard "superhero" show. We're starting to really see the bigger picture, a bigger world. It's a massive gamble for the show, since it adds a more fantastic layer to what's been a considered a pretty grounded series, and it really pays off. What helped this season is how this flashbacks really built upon the present day events, and that helped to balance some of the more fantastical elements that are starting to seep in. While the flashbacks in season one seemed to run on their own, and didn't really reflect or relate to events unfolding in Starling City, it seems like the writers really made a concentrated effort to make sure everything connected and that, to me, helped to really build this epic scope for the show.

And, thankfully, the cast of Arrow was up for the challenge. Week in, week out, the cast and crew behind this show really put everything into this show and it pays off, especially when it comes to great character work. This season features two big standouts among it's already great cast - Manu Bennet as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke and regular Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity. Honestly, the whole cast gets plenty of great material to work on this season, resulting in some spectacular character work (especially Roy, who graduates from a bland pretty boy to a layered, complex troubled young man during the course of the second season story), but these two actors/characters just tower above everyone else. In fact, their characters serves as great polar opposites for Ollie. One exploits his weaknesses and takes him down a dark road, the other trying to bring out the best in him and keep him focused on his noble crusade. And this comes to blow time and time again.

If there's any real weak point to the season, it's the bizarre treatment of Laurel, who is all over the place for the entire season. I get that she's in a rough place, with the death of Tommy and some difficulties with her father, but she becomes such a frustrating presence during the season. You can tell the writers are trying to figure things out for her, but they just can't put it all together. Thankfully, the writers do recover her character toward the end of the season and tie it into the Sebastian Blood subplot, a smart move given her character's erratic behavior, and a good way to have her eventually play into the season's main plot with Deathstroke.

And while the show did succumb to a couple weak "bad guy of the week" episodes, some of the show's neatest ideas came from those primarily one-off stories. Bringing in Sara, and exploring her ties to Oliver and the League of Assassins, was a smart way to stir things up for the show. The introduction of Barry Allen was handled pretty much perfectly, especially the cliffhanger ending (Spoiler: he's totally fine), as was the introduction of the Suicide Squad (with the neat little cameo by Harley Quinn). These one-offs even allowed for some great exploration of the main cast, like Nyssa Al Ghul coming to town looking for Sara, or Deadshot bringing out more of Diggle's story. There's an absolutely great episode centered around Moira, Ollie's mother, which did more for her character in one episode than the entire first season combined. I could list more, but those are a few that really stand out for me.

Arrow: The Complete Second Season is a genuine step forward for the excellent live-action DC Comics television series. The action sequences are better, the actors sell the material so perfectly, the writing is more tight with less filler, and the cameos and guest appearances are like the icing on the cake. Everything is turned up a notch here, plain and simple. I know I skipped over a lot, and barely even scratched the surface on what this season had to offer, but I'd rather everyone just find out for themselves. To chose who enjoyed the first season, you will go bonkers over this. For those looking to try something new, give this show a shot - you won't regret it. Arrow is a fantastic show, and I Highly Recommend it to anyone looking for something fun, exciting and a little different.

Moving on to the Blu-ray release itself, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has cobbled together a pretty excellent package that is well worth the sticker price. The set contains four Blu-ray discs, five DVDs, and the option to view the show through Ultraviolet. The oversized Blu-ray keepcase is nice and sturdy, packaged in a nice slipcase with a mini-booklet that breaks down the episodes and bonus content.

Taking a closer look at the Blu-ray discs included, the audio and video quality for Arrow: The Complete Second Season is pretty excellent for the high-def release. In terms of video, the detail is spot-on except for the odd soft-looking shot (something I assume is the result of the actual film and not the transfer). The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is surprisingly deep, taking full advantage. Dialogue is clear and distinct, with the quiet moments perfectly balanced against the loud action beats. Dialogue is usually center-focused and the action beats are more spread out, allowing everything to be heard nice and clear - as it should be. There was the rare time when the action drowned out some of the dialogue, but that was a mere fraction of the time, at best. Arrow has never looked or sounded better.

Moving on to the bonus content, there's the cool bonus episode "Year One," which gets viewers up to speed on the series. This originally aired a week before the second season kicked off on TheCW last year, and is a great little inclusion for those hoping to try the series blind. Up next is "From Vigilante to Hero," a nearly 25-minute featurette where the cast and crew discuss the similarities between a hero and a vigilante and how that relates to Arrow. Following that there's the "How did they do that?" and "Wirework" featurettes which looks at visual effects and stunts used to pull off some of the biggest action beats for the series. The last big featurette included is an abbreviated look at the show's 2013 Comic-Con appearance, running roughly 25 - 26 minutes, and spotlights some of the big reveals and moments from the panel.

The disc wraps up with a host of deleted scenes, a gag reel, both DVD and digital download versions of all 23 episodes and a bonus booklet. All in all, a fantastic bundle of goodies.

Overall, the show and the actual Blu-ray package make for an excellent release. Arrow has really stepped up in its second season and delivered plenty of fantastic episodes and mind-blowing twists. The show is growing by leaps and bounds, and that is incredibly evident revisiting this solid second season. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment has reliably put together another great Blu-ray collection for the release. The audio and video is solid and the bonus content is worth checking out. It's a worthy addition to anyone's collection given its strong rewatchability. Arrow: The Complete Second Season comes Highly Recommended to own. Don't miss out on one of television's best shows.

Also, if this isn't enough for you, I highly recommend picking up the fantastic Arrow – Original Television Soundtrack: Season Two soundtrack, available on Compact Disc and Digital Download from La-La Land Records and WaterTower Music, respectively. Much like the soundtrack from the first season, the new release is an incredibly well put-together soundtrack, featuring some of the best scoring on television today. The CD release by La-La Land Records is especially attractive.

Arrow – The Complete Second Season is now available to own on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download from Warner Home Video.