Tonight's episode of Arrow - the second - builds upon the pilot's strengths, adding important plot and character development while honing the show's visual style and dramatic ethos. If the series continues to improve, it could become a critical bulls-eye.
Unlike many adventure shows that target the young adult demographic, Arrow seems to recognize that violent action sequences come with physical and emotional consequences. In tonight's episode there's a scene in which Oliver Queen's ex-girlfriend Laurel is attacked by assassins. In a show of this nature it's easy to predict that none of the good guys are going to die (at least not this early in the series run), and sure enough Oliver fends off the bad guys, though not without the intervention of his bodyguard (another nice touch, allowing a secondary character to shine).
Fight scenes are nothing new in adventure television; no matter how competently executed, they start to feel the same after a while. But in the aftermath of this attack, there's a short scene in which Laurel and her father, police detective Quentin Lance, are visibly shaken by the trauma of the events. Neither is in hysterics, but both are clearly upset, afraid and suffering some degree of shock, as you might expect after an assassination attempt. If this were a lesser show - say, Smallville - the characters would shrug off the attack with a bad pun. Arrow doesn't display Homicide-like levels of realism, but for this sort of show it's a welcome sign of dramatic maturity.
The episode does falter a bit near then end, when a coerced confession is used to put a bad guy in jail. There's no way Arrow's illicitly-obtained testimony would stand up in court in the real world, and in this instance I feel the writers took a little too much dramatic license.
Otherwise, however, this was a solid hour (minus 22 minutes of commercials) of television. The trauma of Oliver's shipwreck and his difficulties readjusting to city life are mostly well-handled, as are his efforts to juggle the feral personality he developed on the island with the playboy act he's developing to disguise his activities as a vigilante. It's a delicate balancing act, but so far it's working. Plus there's another island flashback to fill out the backstory and a tantalizing glimpse of a shadowy figure who might become the show's main villain.
The preview for next week's episode makes it look like Deadshot will be Oliver's latest foe. Deadshot is one of my favourite comic villains; hopefully Arrow will adapt the character with greater skill than the producers of Smallville managed a few years back.