TV First Impression: “Arrow”

Not since The Flash have I been so excited for a super hero series on television. Not since The Cape have I expected the producers to fuck it up. Greg Berlanti, one of the men responsible for the okay super family show, No Ordinary Family, and something called Green Lantern that starred Ryan Reynolds, is one of the execs behind Arrow (based on the DC Comics character, Green Arrow), the CW’s new action show that airs on Wednesday nights at 8 PM. Despite his spotty record with super heroes, I’m always rooting for Berlanti (not that the guy needs it) because he created Everwood, one of my favorite shows of the early millennium. Berlanti and his co-creators, Marc Guggenheim (who also worked on Green Lantern) and Andrew Kresiberg (who has written the Green Arrow book and has a long resume of genre television series) delivered the goods with Arrow. If the show can maintain the drama, action and suspense of the pilot, it will not only become a hit, but could easily fill the shoes of Supernatural, which is getting a little long in the tooth (and hair – have you seen Jared Padalecki recently? Dude, find a Sports Clips).

Where was I?

Right off the bat, Arrow succeeds because they picked the right guy to play the hero.  Stephen Ammell, whose credits are primarily guest starring roles, could have easily been just another annoying pretty boy playing Robin Hood, yet he really captures the tortured soul of billionaire, Oliver Queen, a young man who lived on a deserted island for five years and had to learn to survive with a bow and arrows. Show opens with Queen being rescued and returned to civilization. He’s covered in scars and doesn’t say much. Through flashbacks, which occurred throughout the hour, we saw Oliver as just another pretty rich kid with money to throw around. While out on the family yacht with his father (the ever great Jamey Sheridan) and his girlfriend’s sister (yeah, Oliver was one of those kind of douche bags), the boat gets caught in a storm and sinks. The sister dies in the wreck, while Oliver, his father and a ship hand manage to make it to a life raft. Time passes and water runs out. Dad tells Ollie to make amends for the wrongs he did and kills the ship hand and himself, leaving Oliver floating toward that island where he’ll be reborn.

Upon his return to Starling City (where he used to live), Oliver is reunited with his mother (Susanna Thomson, Once and Again), his damaged little sister, Thea (Willa Holland), his best friend, Tommy (Colin Donnell, a potential scene stealer), and Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), his ex-girlfriend who very much blames him for the death of her sister. While Oliver tries to adjust, he quietly notices how the city he grew up in has gone to hell. His father felt responsible, and now Oliver feels that it’s his duty to right the wrongs of Starling City by becoming a vigilante.

If you’re unfamiliar with Green Arrow and are thinking, “Well gee, this sounds like a rip-off of Batman,” you should know that the character was created by a competing comic book company in the early 40’s before DC bought the rights. There are many similarities between Arrow and the recent Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, from Ammell’s stoic observational behavior, to his façade of being a playboy party animal to make people believe he’s still a shallow dick. But you know what? I actually believed Ammell more than I did Christian Bale. The actor actually let the audience into his pain and played a believable big brother, best friend and pissed off vigilante. Actually, the entire cast, which also included Paul Blackthorne as Detective Quentin Lance (yes, dead girl’s daddy) and David Ramsey as Oliver’s bodyguard, Digg, was pretty great. With any show that’s drawing from comic books there is that danger of camp and the actor’s hamming it up. However, in the pilot the principals played their roles low key and natural. Together with the strong script and excellent action sequences (this show, by the way, is pretty violent), Arrow really impressed me.

I’ll be curious how closely the series hones to the source material. In the mythology of Green Arrow, Dinah Lance is Oliver’s true love and she becomes a super heroine called Black Canary. In last night’s episode, Oliver referred to his sister as “Speedy,” which is the name of Green Arrow’s sidekick in the comics. I’ve read that The Huntress, another female hero, is due to make an appearance this year, as is the villain, Killshot. As long as Arrow maintains that appropriate balance that it did in the pilot, these future prospects have me pretty excited. Considering that the CW’s ratings don’t have to be anywhere near what the other four networks achieve, I trust that the network that could will give Arrow plenty of time to find an audience. I hope so, because the excitement I had for it was rewarded and this is one show I’ll be watching every week.

  • Eric S.

    Just watched the first episode and I’m pretty impressed. I’m looking forward to the DC character crossovers, like Smallville did in its later years. I know this is supposed to be a grittier take on Oliver Queen, but I’d rather see Black Canary sooner rather than later.

  • Guy Smiley

    The idea that you liked this guy better than Bale as Batman/Bruce Wayne is just laughable. Bale was a perfect Bruce Wayne, and while Ammell was fine the writing on “Arrow” (for the first episode at least) really let him down. I never got any sense of who this version of Ollie Queen is, or what his motivations are. He was really just written as a poor man’s (so to speak) Bruce Wayne.

    Will the CW be willing to give this character some depth and make him the liberal crusader that Ollie’s traditionally been in the comics since the Dennis O’Neill wrote for the character in the late 60s/early 70s, or will they take things as dark and gritty as Mike Grell’s comics did in the late 80s/early 90s? I doubt they’ll do any of that, as the show seems more concerned with being yet another teen-friendly soap opera, complete with skeletons in the family’s closet.

    Who the hell are all these supporting characters? I found them all incredibly annoying, and I don’t remember any of them from comics. Except for Dinah Laurel Lance, that is… Is there any chance she’s ever going to become Black Canary? I think I spotted Deathstroke’s mask early in the episode, and I know both Deadshot and Huntress are going to appear, so there will be a few bones thrown to the comics crowd.

    Still, we only got a few minutes of actual superheroics. Those moments were pretty good, for a TV budget, but the rest of it was just terrible dialogue. At one point, I believe “Laurel” even said “Ollie and me” when it should’ve been “Ollie and I…” Nitpicky? Yes, but anyone writing for television should know the difference.

    I’m willing to give “Arrow” another few weeks to see where it goes, but I have a feeling that this show, like “Smallville” before it, just isn’t for me. Maybe I’ll enjoy the forthcoming SHIELD series (Agent Coulson’s back!) more.

  • Guy Smiley

    ” as is the villain, Killshot.”

    DEADshot… The name is Deadshot.

  • Brett Alan

    And…holy crap!…one of the names tattooed on his body was “Ken Shane”!!! Evidently supervillains do NOT take kindly to websites which get their names wrong–even other writers on the site can be targeted! B^)