Pilot Season! – ‘Arrow’, reviewed

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Jeff Holland, reviews, Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

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.

  1. Moff says:

    If it turns out he was actually stranded on the Lost island, then for once that would explain something.

  2. mbourgon says:

    Thanks for writing this. FWIW, I was reading an interview with the showrunner (that I can’t find, otherwise I’d post the link), and he actually addressed a couple of your points…

    1) He’s not going to be referred to as “The Arrow”. Possibly “the hood guy”, but not The Arrow.
    2) IMHO, him killing some dudes was to show that no, he’s not Batman, while he’s doing good he can still kill people and it’s no big deal.
    3) While there’s a ton of easter eggs, there’s only one or two that I, as a non-fan, noticed.
    4) I kept expecting that Bodyguard to be something more, but if he comes back, there’d better be a good reason.
    5) Yeah, that’s going to be some explanation – if he was able to learn Russian on the island, how, and why wasn’t that channeled towards building a yacht or something, Gilligan’s-island style? Supposedly each week they’ll cover part of the past 5 years, so that by the end of the series you’ll know exactly how he got all the skills to become…. The Hood. : ) (hey, at least it’s not the Cape! )

    Overall, promising, and they’ve got some good actors. Glad to see Harry Dresden, and looking forward to seeing Captain Jack.

  3. braak says:

    It’s kind of funny, actually, the idea of him being called “the Hood.” Both because it describes him as a criminal (i.e., “hoodlum”) and because Green Arrow has always had a Robin Hood complex.

    I got to admit, though, that Smallville’s insistence on calling Superman “the Red-Blue Blur” throughout the entire length of the series, as though this is a thing any human being with a mouth would commit to saying for a great length of time, sets an alarming precedent for superhero naming conventions in shows like this.

  4. I hate voice overs. It’s what killed The Dresden Files TV series for me as well. The only time I’ve managed to actually enjoy voice overs in a TV series is in Dexter – because Michael C Hall is just that creepy and awesome. The voice overs in Arrow come across a bit cheesy.

    As for the rest of the show – if they don’t fully flesh out what the island was (I gather it isn’t just the site of some illegal slave-trade heroin plantation as it was in the comics) then this show will lose all credence. So far I’m enjoying it, mostly because of the family dynamic between Laurel and her dad, and – tbh – I’m a sucker for pretty boys with scars.

  5. Jeff Holland says:

    1) Re: Dexter, I generally agree, though of course, Michael C. Hall’s voiceovers are frequently bang-you-over-the-head redundant, especially when he ALSO has an internal dialogue going on with Ghost Harry to explain to the slower viewers what’s happening.

    2) I’m curious to see how long the show can stick with the island flashbacks (which yes, once Deathstroke’s mask came into view it became clear this would be a little more complicated than the comics origin) before they become frustrating, but for now I do like seeing how Oliver handled his first days there.

    3) Oh man, that conversation between Laurel and her dad…Paul Blackthorn, I realize you are playing a panicked father but DIAL IT BACK. Put on your Jim Gordon pants, man.

  6. braak says:

    It’s obviously a pretty great idea for Deadshot to have been the Green Arrow’s mentor while he was on the island (or maybe a previous Deadshot, whom the Green Arrow killed, and is now replaced, Dread Pirate Roberts-style).

    But it is going to be hilarious to try to make a TV show fight between two guys whose powers are “superhuman accuracy with ranged weapons”.

    Each blow slightly more precise than the last! LOOK OUT JACK KIRBY!

  7. […] assuming it’s Batman who brings the team together, Martian Manhunter isn’t really needed, and Green Arrow’s busy anyway (to say nothing of Superman-equivalent skill sets like Power Girl or Captain […]

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