Television Review: Arrow

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*Some of this is a bit of a rant about comic books and anti-heroes and nuances that don’t work. So be warned. Also, I may spoil things if you know nothing about how comic book story lines go, but I don’t spoil any major plot lines.

I avoided this show for weeks, mostly because I was like, Yet another “pretty people” show on the CW. I already watch Supernatural and am infatuated with The Vampire Diaries, so it seemed redundant to watch another sci/fi slash nerdy pretty people show on the CW. But over Thanksgiving my sister had the show on her DVR and one evening after being thrown up on twice, cooking dinner for 10 people, and finally sitting down to a glass of white wine I sat on the couch as she clicked over to Arrow. Now, this is the sister who introduced me to the likes of Toddlers & Tiaras and Hoarders, so our taste in shows is not always the same. I stopped her with a look, “Tell me honestly, is this just a show of pretty people?” “Noooo.” She said in her I-may-be-messing-with-you-voice. So I just kept looking at her, but my sister is immune to my looks, even the ones that stop burly grown men in their tracks, and she pressed play.

Arrow is a television adaption of The Green Arrow (a comic book story). While out to sea with his father and his girlfriend’s sister (you heard me right) their yacht capsizes and everyone dies except for Oliver Green, playboy millionaire. He finds himself on an island full of danger, which he barely survives before making his way home five years later. Before his death in the life boat, Oliver’s father hands over his personal vendetta, telling Oliver to get back to the States and take out the people on The List so his father’s life wont be in vain, and Oliver is supposed to try and take them out financially, but if he can’t, then you know. Arrow them. Basically he’s a mixture of Batman, Robin Hood, Robin Caruso, and a sociopath.

I’m just going to stop here for a second and remark on that I’ve figured out why I dislike comic books so much, and it is not just because of the picture formatting which I don’t like reading. It’s because of this. The father passing down a personal vendetta. GAH! In other words, I’m going to be a horrible person all my life, finally get a moral conscious just as I’m dying, and hand off all the personal trauma of rectifying my mistakes to my son. This is the basic plot line of so many comic book stories. First of all, get a new idea. Second of all, really? Why are all parents either evil or missing? I know, I know, drama, tension, etc. But it still irks. These people shirk their responsibility, pass it on to the next generation, and it screws up that generation. AND WE LAUD THESE PEOPLE AS HEROES. Way to keep the cycle of stupid going.

OK. Rant about the basic premise to the show over. I actually enjoyed watching the show with my sister, though I later had to go back and watch it from the beginning. In fact, I was impressed with Arrow. Mostly with Stephen Amell’s stunt work. That “salmon ladder” exercise regimental thingy is impressive. So are his abs. I mean, hello. And yes, he did the stunt himself. Honestly, I think it’s easy to spot when there is a stunt person because his hood always gets in the way, or there is a sun glare, or a shadow.

Pilot

Screen still from the show “Arrow”

I was also impressed with the writing and the interplay of relationships. Because as a friend said to me while I was discussing the show with him, the comic book stuff is easy, it’s writing the relationships that are hard. I’m a huge fan of Thea Queen (played by Willa Holland- GAH! She’s a whole decade younger than I am. When did I get old?), Oliver’s sister. She does what everyone else is afraid of doing when he gets back from his torture years, she gets in his face about who he has become. She says to him, If you don’t want to talk to me fine, but find someone to talk to, because there are things you need to say. My best friend who knows more about the comics than I do informed me that  so far she’s a nice mix of the original Speedy, and GA’s later sidekick, a girl he rescued from child prostitution. For what that’s worth. 

And his sister is right, and she’s right to get in his face, this guy needs a LOT of therapy. He picks the person that he was last close to emotionally, his ex-girlfriend. Yah, the one whose sister he slept with and took on the yacht. (This show has been messing with my improv. I’ve been catching up on it and I maybe started a scene out by yelling at a guy for sleeping with my sister. He told me that it didn’t mean anything. So I told him that was worse, I wasn’t important enough for him to cheat on me with someone special. However, I made my teacher say, “Oh dear god.” Best moment ever.) Laurel isn’t happy to see him, even after he apologizes for his part in her sister’s death, but she realizes he needs someone to talk to, and so they have a night of convo and vino. Only it was conversation and ice cream. Oliver finds out that Laurel is dating his best friend Tommy, and its a little awkward at first but his alternate vendetta life leaves little room for a romantic life and he tells them to be happy. I enjoy the tension of him wanting to try and talk to someone who may understand him, because she once did, but that since they are no longer in that type of relationship its too hard and he tells her to walk away.

Speaking of romantic relationships. Oliver soon gets entangled with another avenging child of a horrible man and the writers spend several episodes trying to show why Oliver is not a psycho, but she is. Her vendetta is revenge and it’s wrong. They fail miserably. I maybe could have suspended my disbelief about his anti-heroism antics, but then they tried to say, no really, he’s the good guy. In point of fact, he isn’t. He’s mentally and emotionally damaged by the trauma of his father’s death, and what he is doing, is not OK. Trying to put a nuance to his actions that isn’t there, just doesn’t work. It would have been better if they had just left that alone. Let him be the anti-hero that is cleaning up the streets of his city because the police are corrupt. That’s fine. But don’t try to tell me what he is doing is good. He’s killing people. Killing people is not good. (Also, way to have the good girl versus the crazy girl stereotypes played to the nth degree.)

The other character I quite enjoy is IT Girl…. let me Google that. . .  Felicity Smoak, played by Emily Bett Rickards. She is nerdy, smart, and interesting. She maybe has the stereotypical glasses, but as someone who sits in front of a computer for hours on end herself, I often wear my glasses to work. I like that she not only is smart at her job, but she is intelligent enough to understand something more is at play and she digs enough to have a great understanding of what she is getting involved with.

I think this show is well acted, the cast is excellent, the stunt work is amazing, and the writing of the relationships is quite good. I enjoy it so much I keep going back episode after episode. But I do have some problems with the basic premise, and I end up liking the side characters far more than I do the main character. (This happens to me a lot, I’m a huge Ron Weasley fan, Harry is such a brat.) But I must give Stephen Amell credit for his acting chops, there is an entire emotional scene with him and Laurel where he doesn’t say anything, but you can read every thought as it crosses his face. It was a very powerful moment. Some of the story lines feel a little over used, but the story lines of intrigue and betrayal are always fun to watch, so I try to just sit back and enjoy the drama. It’s a solid show with a larger arc than just a vendetta, and I think that means it will be around for a little bit longer than I was expecting. Yes, they have sucked me in.

Also, those abs. They suck me in every time. . . . That sounds wrong somehow. Like an implosion of Alien. I’m sorry, but if my mind has to suffer, so does yours.

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6 thoughts on “Television Review: Arrow

  1. I’ve been meaning to watch this one, but haven’t found the time yet; when it comes out on DVD I’ll probably catch it then.

    I was leery also because I’ve seen maybe one half episode of Smallville ever, and know they pulled in a Green Arrow character, so I’m wasn’t sure if these were supposed to relate; but then I read that John Barrowman would be in the show, so I was glad that Captain Jack was still getting some work since, I don’t see Moffat bringing any of RTD’s featured characters back to Who anytime soon (though there is a 50th anniversary coming up that could hold some hope….).

    Also, reading your passage about Oliver & his ex girlfriend, I had to think: did they name her Laurel on purpose for a subtle (Stan) Laurel & (Oliver) Hardy nod? Writers can be sneaky sometimes!

  2. Interesting review…. I wanted to like this show because I liked Smallville so much when it was out….but the Green Arrow is too much of beefcake for me and and the acting is subpar at best (the other Green Arrow in Smallville Show was better).. This show has too many cliches in the writing and the gratuitious muscle flexing on camera makes we want to vomit…To me it feels like a late night soap opera and I hate soap operas….perhaps women will like it (no offense women) for that reason alone…I think the CW and DC just wanted to pick up and do a low budget Super Hero spin-off show that they could ride on the coat tails of Smallville from. They should have developed a show surrounding a more intriguing character in the DC Universe than the Green Arrow..at least they didnt do Aquaman…I just cant feel sorry for a playboy millonaire like Oliver (unlike Bruce Wayne who lost his parents to a mugging) who has to fulfill some wierd vendetta of his fathers..btw ….I must respectively disagree about your take on heroes in general….first we are the some of our parents to a degree…good or bad..in the end we have to stand on our own two feet….so that is life…but a lot of story origins dont start with the parents or parent figures not being around or in their lives…look at Supermans ma and pa kent…Spidermans Auntmay…both of those are very big main super hero characters who have a moral compass that helps point them in the right direction…no family is perfect….most good heroes reflect different striations of society and the families types within if you look hard enough…..okay I’m done ….I’ve talke to much already… 🙂

    • I’m not saying that superheroes don’t have moral compasses. But everyone of those that you mentioned where not the biological parent of the character. Healthy parents don’t usually equal tension and trauma to set off a hero on his journey, I get that, I just think it is one of the cliches you mentioned.

      I thought the side characters had depth and the relationships were intriguing to me. I enjoyed the fight scenes even when everyone was clothed. I wont defend it as the greatest show ever, but it was better than I expected.

    • It is definitely one of those shows that I wont watch for a few weeks, but will eventually go back and watch the episodes. I’ve been addicted to 30 Rock on Netflix recently.

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