I HATE the CW. It doesn’t even try to make shows for my demographic, and hey that is alright. But with Arrow, the superhero biopic based on the quasi-well-known D.C. superhero Green Arrow, could just might show a more balanced network on channel 5.
Having premiered back in September, I’ve given the show 6 episodes to prove itself, so this review is based on my impression of those 6 episodes alone.
The first thing you need to know about this new show is that it has absolutely no connection with the Green Arrow of Smallville fame, which is great news for probably most people. That version of Green Arrow differs tremendously from this new envisioned hero. It’s like comparing pop music to rock n roll, or at least that’s how I make sense of it.
Arrow relies on the kind of gritty storytelling that borrows somewhat from Chris Nolan’s Batman and, surprisingly, Lost. I never really got into Lost having only watched 10 or so episodes, but if there’s one thing I took away from their storytelling, it’s the use of ongoing flashbacks to bolster the story. So, imagine a superhero television show that paces itself like Lost.
In a nutshell, Arrow is about a 20 something billionaire named Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) who was shipwrecked at sea for 5 years. He returns from his isolation with an agenda: to use his superhuman skills acquired mysteriously from his time on the island to the right the wrongs of his father, who acquired his wealth by taking advantage of the poor.
Yes it’s Robin Hood mixed with Batman with the show Revenge for good measure. One of the show’s strong points is that we are introduced slowly to the character of Oliver Queen. We begin with his return to his home of Starling City, as he juggles reconnecting with his estranged family/friends and taking down the crony capitalists that are choking the city to death.
That’s Arrow’s biggest strength: character development. Oliver is interesting and constantly changing. One minute he is a brooding anti-hero unafraid to kill someone who stands in his way. The next minute he is a detective, figuring out the best way to subdue his well-protected enemies. Then we have the minutes where Oliver is an actual person, struggling to fit back into the lives of his beloved family who thought he was dead for years. Oh, and let’s not forget that we are treated to excellent flashbacks to his 5 years of desperate survival that turned him into the character we already know. The show goes out of its way to make Oliver Queen a great character.
I wish I could say the same for some of the other characters. With the exception of Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) and Oliver’s bodyguard Dig (David Ramsey), the rest of Arrow’s cast are either one-note or should be one-note. This is more apparent early-on with Laurel (Katie Cassidy), Oliver’s girlfriend before the shipwreck, of which he cheated on her with her sister, who did not survive the shipwreck. Yikes. Although this character is ripe with great plot opportunities for drama, I did not find Cassidy’s portrayal of the character very compelling or fun to watch. Watching her be a lawyer is especially frustrating and full of one-liners like, “I’m the only one who cares about this city!” and “I will always fight for the little guy!” Sorry Laurel, Rachel Dawes did it better.
I could go on and on about the lackluster characters, but instead I’ll focus on how the show ultimately redeems itself via the excellent pacing, memorable villains, above-average action scenes, and the show’s fantastic commitment to comic-book tie-ins. Even the people who don’t recognize the nuance references to the D.C. comic universe benefit from the rich universe this show borrows from. It works.
The show is on a good path, and it’s only main flaw (again the characters) is improving weekly. If there is one thing that can really make this show a must-watch, it would be the implementation of more moral “real world” dilemmas that we all know and love from D.C. stories such as Batman (at what point do you become the villain you’re fighting against?) and Superman (security versus freedom). Arrow has teased us with these deep questions, such as how Oliver Queen has readily murdered dozens of bodyguards and security personnel to accomplish his missions. At first we rolled our eyes at the inconsistency of this, but then a major villain early on actually points this out to Green Arrow and it sunk in. Oliver then begins to show how his torture on the island made him callous and depraved. These are great themes more than suitable for a D.C. character.
So yes, Arrow is definitely worth watching for most people. It has the beautiful actors and supernatural-ish world and characters CW watchers crave and it has the fantastic storytelling and action that is usually witnessed on ABC and Fox. It’s a fun show that can sometimes throw drama-infused curveballs, and I can’t wait to see how the first season turns out.
-On a side note, I am very much against D.C. copying Marvel for a superhero team up movie in the form of The Justice League to rival The Avengers. Shows like this prove that D.C. belongs on the small screen, and a team up using this version of Green Arrow would be 10 times better than using, say Ryan Reynold’s Green Lantern. We’ll see if I eat my words once Man of Steel comes out.