Reporting Blake Northcott
Earlier this year, several corporate bigwigs sat around a boardroom table at the CW Network’s head office, sipping brandy and smoking Cuban cigars. “The Hunger Games made quite a bit of money, so archery must be hot right now,” one man huffs through a haze of smoke. “And these comic book movies sure are doing well. What if there was a way to combine archery with a comic book for next season’s fall line-up?”
A shy intern raises his hand. “Well, there is this DC comic called Green Arrow…and the hero actually has a bow and arrow.”
“Excellent!” the old man exclaims. “But let’s just call it Arrow. After Green Lantern and The Green Hornet bombed at the box office, people might have a negative association with that color being in the title.”
And the TV show Arrow was born.
Alright, I admit it – I made up that entire back story…but it sounds plausible, doesn’t it?
As an unapologetic comic book nerd, I was understandably cynical going into the pilot episode of Arrow. I was never a big fan of CW’s Superman drama Smallville, and historically, the medium of television hasn’t been kind to comic book properties in general.
So I was pleasantly surprised to see that, while far from a masterpiece, Arrow had some solid storytelling, decent characters, and was mostly faithful to the source material. Like many others, I was in shock that they didn’t completely overhaul the Green Arrow in order to make him more appealing to the gaggle of Twihards that make up the network’s key demographic.
What was good?
Oliver Queen is played convincingly by Stephen Amell, who definitely looked the part. Buffed, battered and beaten from his time stranded on a remote island, Queen returns to Starling City looking as heroic as you’d imagine. While not a superstar presence on screen, Amell is able to pull off the confusion and disorientation of a man trying to reintegrate with society, while keeping his secret identity under wraps beneath his (now artificial) bad-boy, party animal façade.
Former blonde bombshell Katie Cassidy goes brunette to play Ollie’s old flame Laurel Lance – the plucky young lawyer with whom he shares a complicated past. Katie has a strong presence on screen, and if nothing else should provide some eye candy for the male viewers (and some of the female ones as well, I’d imagine).
The real star of the pilot episode is the action. There are some impressive sequences in Arrow, and the violent, hard-hitting style gives credibility to Ollie as a character, and his dedication to being a protector for his city. He has no problems getting his hands dirty, and it gives a dark edge to the show that I didn’t expect from something appearing on the CW.
What was not so good?
Ollie’s back story – specifically the time he spent marooned on the island – needs quite a bit more fleshing out, and I hope it gets explored in future flashbacks. When Tom Hanks was stranded on an island, he returned stateside with nothing more than a ZZ Top beard and a volleyball named Wilson. Oliver Queen, on the other hand, came back to civilization equipped with superhuman archery skills, a black belt in a dozen martial arts, fluency in foreign languages, and the protein powder-infused body of a professional fitness model. On top of that, he seemed to have no problem with complex computer hacking the day he got back, despite being out of the technology loop for half a decade.
My biggest gripe was with the Green Arrow’s mask (or lack thereof). Instead of using a black mask to conceal his identity beneath a hood, for some reason Ollie decided it was a better idea to smear green makeup all over himself like a toddler left unsupervised in the arts and crafts room. I stare at a figure of The Green Arrow every day on my desk, and I know what the costume looks like; sure, I can live without the pointy blond goatee, but the mask is an integral part of his look – why ditch it for an odd-looking (and impractical) substitution?
What was strange?
The plot: A young billionaire playboy disappears for several years, only to return to his crumbling hometown with a vengeance; possessing martial arts skills and some clever technology, he systematically attacks the criminal underworld’s most unruly villains, all while trying to win back the affection of a beautiful lawyer.
The similarities to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins are glaring; at times the show verges on a thinly veiled bootleg. If you replace the Green Arrow with the Caped Crusader, and Starling City with Gotham City, they would almost be indistinguishable.
There are some key differences between the two stories, and I was able to enjoy the pilot regardless, but looking back it feels like there were so many of the same plot points it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence.
Did Arrow hit a bullseye?
No, but it came pretty damn close.
Despite my gripes it’s definitely worth a watch, and if it improves over the next several outings Arrow could develop into one of the more exciting superhero dramas we’ve seen on the small screen.
Blake Northcott is an author, Twitter-er, and occasional Slayer of Vampires (only the ones that sparkle).You can follow her on Twitter, or pick up her best-selling Sci-Fi/Superhero books Vs. Reality and Relapse over at Amazon.com.
Blake schooled the Bearded One with Empire in Decline: What George Lucas Can Learn from Marvel, and uncovered the celebrity-thick shenanigans of drinking and drawing with Are Comic Book Artists the New Rock Stars?