TV Nights: Arrow Season 1
Hello, James here from the other side of the pond.
Like most of you I have been a fan of superheroes since I was a kid, but over here in England the DC Universe got little exposure outside of the Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent sagas. This meant entering into the world of Arrow was a rare treat as I had no idea what to expect. Luckily my ignorance was rewarded with fresh new characters and a story that was brand new to me, largely delivered in a favourable and coherent format. Here is my review of Arrow season 1.
Testing the water under a thick layer of green face-paint, Arrow paved the way for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Gotham, and The Flash by seeing if there was a weekly audience for a live action superhero. Its continuing success (a third season has been commissioned) proves that viewers have an unquenchable thirst for all things powerful and dressed in combat attire.
Oliver Queen, a billionaire playboy, is shipwrecked by a storm that takes his father’s life. Reaching a small island known to the Chinese as ‘purgatory’, he faces a daily struggle to survive. Forced to learn hand-to-hand combat techniques and how to fire a bow, he is rescued after five years and returns to his home in Starling City. Donning a green hood, a bow and a quiver of trick arrows he hunts down people from his father’s list in an attempt to right the wrongs his father had been a part of.
The episodes’ format is of a continuous storyline over the whole season, broken up by stand-alone episodes and returning nemeses. The world is consistent and despite the occasional clichéd characters they all add an interesting angle to the show.
One of the key reasons for Arrow’s popularity are the two storylines that unfold simultaneously. Most of the time we are with Oliver in Starling City, but flashbacks to the island give us a chance to be drip-fed this interesting alternate story. The island scenes are also used to ensure that the intensity of the show never drops; if we have a scene filled with talking and plot development it will then cut to the other location for some action to instantly increase the tempo.
The island flashbacks also help when there is a laughable plot contrivance in the Starling City timeline. Several times in the first half of this season I found myself growing weary at some of the modern storylines, but I was so engaged with the island saga that I continued to watch, lapping up every twist. Luckily in the latter episodes this problem has eased. There is still the occasional plot-hole but they are less comical and more fantasy quirks you buy into.
At the beginning there is also a problem with the shows lead, Stephen Amell, as he often seems very awkward and wooden. In some scenes he appears so frigid that he resembles a Thunderbird and has neck movements similar to C-3PO. However, after more viewing you realize he can only relax when he is in vigilante mode as his time on the island has made him a stranger to his own relatives. A subtle but clever piece of acting.
Another strength of Arrow is that at no point do you think about Batman. Let me explain. Originating from the same universe, there was the potential for Oliver Queen to live in Bruce Wayne’s shadow. The similarities between the two characters are obvious, so much so that they are almost carbon copies of each other. But the fact that you watch this billionaire, traumatized by his father’s death so much that he becomes a vigilante that hides in the shadows, and that my mind had not wandered to thoughts of The Joker and Detective Gordon is testament to Arrow’s own identity. This largely comes from the fact that unlike Batman, Arrow does kill his enemies. While this might be detrimental to Queen’s moral compass, it does create situations and storylines that do not occur in Gotham City.
Quiver of Arrows
It’s also refreshing to have a large supporting cast who are all given time to develop their own personalities. Fleshing out Oliver’s family and friends makes the world seem more realistic while it also helps develop the various relationships. The chemistry and emotion in the love triangle between Oliver, best friend Tommy and ex-girlfriend Laurel is definitely improved by the latter two’s own story being told. Special mention should also go to Katie Cassidy who plays Laurel Lance, consistently strong acting during this season means I wouldn’t be surprised to see her crop up in several more TV dramas.
The season finale is also very pleasing, offering enough closure to make the 23 episodes seem relevant, while leaving enough threads to entice people back for season two. Several of the characters have clear arcs, relationships are constantly in flux and, like always, nothing is what it truly seems.
With Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice laying the ground work for an eventual Justice League movie, The Flash getting his own show and some not-so-subtle hints about Nightwing, Arrow is essential viewing for all die hard comic book fans. Due to his popularity it would come as no surprise if Oliver Queen made an appearance in the aforementioned stories or played a key part in the Justice League saga.
Written by James Dyble – You can find him on Twitter at @jedyble