I’m far less bullish coming out of “Identity” than I was with “City of Heroes”. The premier episode felt like a nice blend of all the facets ofArrow. It didn’t have any identity issues (ha puns). Arrow still knows what it is, just tonights episode wasn’t as perfectly blended.
There is a singular big thematic idea coursing through “Identity”, which of course deal with identity. The fusing or compartmentalizing of opposing sides of one's persona. For Oliver on the island he must come to terms with now being able to take a life and still having that naive innocence his money afforded him. In the present he must deal with being vigilante , CEO, and regular human being. In lighter tones Felicity must deal with being Olivers Executive Assistant and the negative connotations such a position holds for a woman like herself. It is a tough balancing act that if it goes awry could make them end up like Diggle, alone and seething with anger.
Diggle’s failed relationship is something I wish was explored a bit more and shown. Name checking it and talking about it is one thing but seeing a character fail at reconciling two opposing feelings is much more interesting than Oliver being called away from his fundraiser. “Identity” did a lot of name checking the theme of the week without offering any resolution or appearance of one. Which is understandable Oliver is in a period of transition as he tries to be the hero this city needs and deserves and not just their Dark Knight.
Class struggle and socio-political elements have been with Arrow ever since they built a season where a vigilante murdered the ultra rich on a weekly business. The struggle has gotten worse after the earthquake. The Glades seemingly descending into chaos and the Police are ineffectual either by choice or lack of resources. It’s the type of environment that is ripe for exploitation by organized crime, which the local Triad is doing (man they said that like it was normal) who are stealing medical grade opiates for their own drug trade.
It’s also the type of situation that politicians are ready to exploit. Enter Sebastian Blood the Alderman (city councilmen equivalent) for The Glades. He is on a rampage to crucify the elite who sees as turning their back on their fellow citizen.Arrow waist no time in showing Blood for being a political dick who is ripe to burn someone if it gets him in front of the cameras. The fundraising scene felt in complete, we never saw anyone rich or poor donate money to the Glades. Blood once again slams Oliver in the press at his own part but doesn't act grateful for Queen getting all his elites friends in a room together so that they could give money.
Arrow has a problem where the plot and narrative can’t seem to function if it isn’t directly tied to Oliver and his crusade. Seeing the money change hands would have given the appearance of a larger world and not that this is a series about one mans war on crime. There has been a distinct lack of rich people hobnobbing so far, almost like they are all hiding after it came out one of their own fessed up to building an earthquake machine or something.
“Identity” chunkier moments come when it has to expect Katie Cassidy to act. Last season Cassidy slowly grew more bearable, but now I think that might have been a bit of Stockholm syndrome on my part. That bearability seems missing now. Under the soft lighting and glitzy scenery of a party Cassidy’s airy and aloof delivery attempting to be serious or engaging made sense. It fit the clear attempts at soap opera dramatics. Under the harsh dark lighting of her scenes with the hood, where she is asked to act “serious” it just doesn't work at all. Her serious face is just that a serious face with wooden delivery and no conviction behind it. Clark Gregg sells schlocky lines like “I live outside the box” effortlessly party due to the nostalgia inherent in the character but from an acting standpoint because plays it with a certain amount of self awareness but does not make fun of that knowledge. Cassidy lacks all of those things. Her explanation about The Hood being unable to save Tommy as her reason for going on the crusade to catch him should have played much better. All the dramatic irony of the two talking about the same person and The Hood knows it. Director Nick Copus plays the scene how it should be played but no amount of technical execution can make up for poor acting. Even if it’s a misguided intention there is no belief behind her words that The Hood simply brings chaos to Starling City. It falls so flat it’s almost like they are trying to make it super apparent she is lying to herself.
Laurel’s plot made me pine for the olden days of Detective Lance showing up everything and chewing The Hood out.Paul Blackthorne another actor I wouldn’t characterize as good but he certainly fit the camp operatic dynamics of the show. The character of Detective Lance was also far more interesting than moody vengeful Laurel. The Hoods presence forced Lance to question his beliefs about justice and the abilities of the police to protect the city. Laurel is simply out for misguided revenge, no where near as interesting. Hopefully whatever happens in “Broken Dolls” gets Lance back in the suit and tie. He really doesn't look good in the beat cop uniform.
Stunt casting is a real fine line between actually casting someone good for a part and it being a joke of “hey look who we got”. Michael Jai White is perfectly cast as the Bronze Tiger, Ben Turner. Neither of which are name checked in this episode which would make White and his Wolverine esque weaponry seem a bit odd( well odder than it already is). Where as “Identity” had far too much Laurel, we had far to little Jai White slicing, dicing, and throwing spinning ish. The gaping wound will hopefully be filled in future episodes as it has been confirmed that Bronze Tiger will be back along with Deadshot as part of the Suicide Squad (or more likely named Task Force X).
The action felt a little claustrophobic, it was trying to make the most of what it had to offer. In general the editing was a bit to quick for solid hand to hand combat. Arrow season 1 had a habit of over editing the action sequences, something they eventually stepped back on. The Hood’s fight with Bronze Tiger did play on expectations nicely. With him being suddenly taken out by a trick arrow (we are getting plenty of those now I guess Felicity just makes them?). That showdown in the warehouse (of course) had a nice slasher/monster movie vibe to it with Tiger darting in and out and cutting The Hood up.