Pilot Season! – ‘Arrow’, reviewed
The Arrow pilot wasn’t bad, but then, considering it was essentially a mash-up of the first half of Batman Begins (playboy comes back from traumatic adventure abroad with new skill set and objectives, while maintaining playboy persona) with the pilot for REVEEEEENNNNNNGGGGEEE!!!! (socialite with secret plans to upset corrupt order butts up against plotting and fiendish rich people), it was a pretty easy formula to stick.
And yes, I’m kind of partial to Green Arrow, though mostly as a featured character on Justice League Unlimited and the urban hunter period from the late 80’s. Stephen Amell doesn’t get a lot to do to show off, actor-wise, but he manages to switch from “scary and spookily calm” to “vapid party-boy” pretty nicely.
Mostly, though, I like the interpretation of the Oliver Queen character so far: a blend of his early Batman-knockoff days (the playboy-adventurer), the leftie man of the people (Oliver’s plans are a response to Starling City’s depression), the Grell hunter period and even the Andy Diggle Year One miniseries.
And from an overall standpoint, the tone manages to be serious and action-focused without becoming too dour or embarrassed by its comics routes, and not overly stylized to point of becoming distracting.
So yes, “Secret leftie parkour vigilante playboy fights corrupt businessmen, drug kingpins, poverty and his asshole family” probably has some legs, and I’m hoping the next episode is as solid as this one was.
THAT SAID. I have some concerns and complaints, which I will list thusly in no particular order:
The Name: I don’t mind that they are not calling him “The Green Arrow” – for one thing, I am 100% sure somewhere down the line an executive pointed out that Green Hornet and Green Lantern bombed so maybe avoid the word “green”, and Arrow is a punchier series title anyway.
But as I understand it, he will be referred to as “The Arrow” on the series, and that doesn’t make sense, considering his primary characteristic – the thing the police use to identify him – is that Green Hood he keeps wearing. In fact, the phrase “Green Hood” gets used enough on this program that if I hadn’t known better I’d have assumed that was going to be the character’s name.
Alternatively, were I a policeman or a witness trying to assign a name to a hooded archer, I’d probably just call him “The Archer” or “The Bowman.” Arrow is way down on my list of descriptors.
I would actually not bother naming the character at all. In fact, Oliver Queen’s only referred to as “the Green Arrow” once in the entirety of Mike Grell’s run. And it worked just fine.
Man, Oliver Just Killed a Whole Bunch of Dudes: Now, I’m not against this in theory, particularly early on in the pilot, where Oliver kills a man both out of revenge for the death of an innocent caught in the crossfire (he’s mad), and to protect his secret skillset (he’s still planning how he’ll operate). It works in that context. Later on two guards he shoots with arrows are only referred to as having been “hospitalized,” but that guy on the ground with the arrow jutting out of his chest near the end…that’s what I’m gonna call fatal.
Again, giving a guy a bow and arrow and then asking him to only wound is a little far-fetched, but the show probably needs to take care that Oliver doesn’t rack up quite the bodycount he’s already started in one episode alone. Kill-to-survive yes; Punisher, no.
Easy Does It With The Easter Eggs, Show: I don’t know if the writers weren’t confident in a series pickup or what, but they sure did decide to drop every single gag into one episode. His buddy’s Tommy Merlyn, Oliver calls his sister “Speedy,” one of the judges is named “Grell,” there’s a bad guy named “Drakon” who lasts all of a minute, hey, there’s Deathstroke’s mask (though the idea that Oliver’s the guy who took Deathstroke’s eye? GREAT), his new bodyguard’s named “Diggle,” even the computer database has the listing “D.Didio” (DC’s publisher)…one nod or shoutout is fine. But this is overdoing it.
That said, I will accept a brief shot of a flower shop called “Sherwood Florist” in an upcoming episode.
Speaking of That Bodyguard: This dude…this is not a good bodyguard. It’s one thing for Oliver to give him the slip the first time they meet, as a way of testing his limits. But when your protectee puts you in a sleeper hold until you black out, and then you can’t account for his whereabouts for like a half-hour, and then you’re not around when he sneaks off to his secret lair…just how shitty is this guy? He’s introduced like we’re supposed to be impressed with his military background, but this is some Clouseau level behavior.
How’d Oliver Do That? I’m giving the show the benefit of the doubt and assuming we’re going to learn how five years on an island resulted in Oliver being able to set up a secret, wireless bank-account-stealing-and-redistributing program, and where he learned to speak Russian, and when he started reading up on Buddhism, but for now, I’m just going to ask, did the island he was stuck on have a library or what?
No Voiceovers! No! Stop it. They don’t contribute anything, they’re way too descriptive and Stephen Amell doesn’t really have the chops for it. It’s a narrative cheat.