Arrow: The Pilot
Posted on Monday October 15, 2012, 17:09 by Stephen Carty in Small Screen
As anyone who persevered with (read: suffered through) Smallville's final years will attest, one of the highlights of its disappointing later seasons was The Green Arrow and his promotion to recurring regular status. As such, it's hardly a major surprise that The CW have chosen to use DC Comic's Emerald Archer to fill the small-screen-superhero void left by Tom Welling's Teen Of Steel. Since, however, I've found myself caught between sceptical cynicism and 'that could actually work' optimism. In the end my vacillation is actually quite appropriate, given that the pilot of Arrow (no 'Green') is solid and rather promising in some ways, but frustratingly underwhelming and unsatisfying in others.
While showrunners Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim were recently responsible (read: guilty) for penning DC's big-screen stab at Green Lantern (no wait - come back!), they've been thankfully vocal in distancing Arrow from Smallville. Wisely opting for a new, unrelated take, this isn't a spin-off (as was rumoured at one stage), but a different, noticeably darker version with Justin Hartley replaced under the green hood by Stephen Amell. Plot-wise, however, we're in familiar territory, with billionaire playboy Oliver Queen returning to Starling City (should it not be Star City?) after being marooned on a harsh island in the South China Sea for five years.
Arrow has more than a few shades of Batman Begins about it. We've got the son of an industrial family (check) coming home after a period away (check) to find the city his parents help build (check) overrun with gangster-ism (check), before deciding to use his wealth, resources and new skill-set to clean up the streets (check, check, check). The decision to employ a tone similar to Chris Nolan's Bat-verse fits with the realistic approach they're attempting (apparently, there will be no super-powers on the show). What's more, The Green Arrow is often seen as something of a Batman hand-me-down; he was only used in Smallville when they couldn't get the rights to The Caped Crusader.
The problem is that while Arrow aims for the same look and style of Nolan's Dark Knight series, it lacks the substance and patient character-building. In particular, the inception (see what I did there) of Queen's Green Arrow persona feels comically rushed, as we only see him jump a fence, lower some boxes and open a case before he's the finished crime-fighting article (the tennis ball shooting bit is cool though). Where did he get all this tech from? Doesn't it take time to put a base (the Arrow-Cave?) together? 25 minutes in, and Oliver's in full costume before he’s even had his welcome home party.
Of course it's early days, and the word on the street is that the character will slowly unfold throughout the season - which I like the sound of, a lot. If that's true, perhaps the pilot only rushed things to avoid showing its hand too early and spend years spreading material thinner and thinner. Particularly intriguing were the sporadic (and brief) flashbacks to Oliver's time on the island (flashbacks and an island; Lost fans rejoice!), which pleasingly suggests that the series will mirror Jock and Andy Diggle's acclaimed Green Arrow: Year One mini-series. This, let me tell you, is the right way to go.
In addition to the distinct Nolan flavouring and noticeable side-order of Lost, Arrow also comes with a generous garnish of Jason Bourne. Actively attempting a darker, grittier feel than Smallville, our hero here is a killer and, rather crucially, willing to snap a villain's neck in order to protect his identity (unlike, say, Batman). But while the freerunning / parkour stuff is a nice fit (Queen would have been leaping and climbing on the island), the show isn't as dark and gritty as it thinks it is. Though director David Nutter (who’s known for opening new shows and establishing their looks) handles the action well, he's still saddled with a script that is often glossy, clichéd and workmanlike, and that is a real shame.
In the lead, Stephen Amell is strong, quite literally. He's a more physically imposing figure than Justin Hartley's permanently shirtless chisel-fest on Smallville, with a face like the well-groomed lovechild of Chris O'Donnell and Paul Walker. On the down side, it already looks like he'll be getting into a will-they-won't-they romance (sigh) and a love triangle (sigh squared). Fanboys will probably get some excitement from the fact that the former love interest is Dinah "Laurel" Lance, AKA The Black Canary, but the romance with CW regular Katie Cassidy is already forgettable. Elsewhere, Paul Blackthorne offers good value as Lance’s cop father, as does the pearly-voiced Colin Salmon as Queen’s new stepfather. As for his mother, well that was interesting…
But what did you guys think? Did Arrow hit the target? Or did the blend of Smallville, Nolan, Lost and Bourne fail you? As always, put answers on a postcard - then tie that around an arrow and shoot it at us. Or you can comment below...
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Posted on Monday October 15, 2012, 20:43
Loved it. I am so glad that they didn't go the Smallville, lovey dovey route. Looks like the show may have some dark legs to it. WOOHOO!
Posted on Tuesday October 16, 2012, 12:01
The picture attached to this article on the front page of Empire reminded me of Robin hood Men In Tights. That's the most interest I have in watching this. That is all.
Posted on Wednesday October 17, 2012, 02:09
In general, I enjoyed. There was some nice touches, "Speedy" and her drug problem. Merlyn, the Deathstroke mask..I didn't like the actor they hired as Oliver Queen from the trailer but I actually think he pulled off the role rather well.
Posted on Wednesday October 17, 2012, 06:35
It was good but if they go down the Smallville route with villain-of-the-week, I may turn off.
Posted on Wednesday October 17, 2012, 19:07
I agree with the article in many points and even thought I didn't like the dark knight nor TDKR I agree that Batman Begins had a good pace and setting that Arrow has followed and exactly because it is a series that can go on for 24 episodes to 124, meaning 45 minutes to 1000 per series they could have used that in their advance and instead of rushing things they could have taken them slow and we could see the hero becoming a hero step by step instead of mintue to minute. I liked it overall and Stephen looks good and acts good too. There are some interesting elements in there too that can make you follow the story. Like who is his mother really and what is she hiding etc. Of course I haven;t followed the comic book (more of a Marvel-ous) guy than DC so I haven no idea about whats going on or what will go on but It is fairly good and I hope we will follow it for years to come although I do hope Stephen will soon make the transition from TV to Movies.
Posted on Thursday October 18, 2012, 16:21
Spot on review I think. Lost of pluses and lost of minuses. Just watched it last night and I am hoping after 5 episodes it will be something that will be worth watching.
Posted on Friday October 19, 2012, 12:17
Didn't enjoy it. It all seemed very panto, cliche and all been done before. I didn't like any character enough to root for them. The thing that sets a series apart is its charisma throughout, and this had none. Will wait for more Person of Interest for my non-superpower action.
Posted on Friday October 19, 2012, 22:20
Generally I have to agree with your evaluation. However, I disagree concerning the "comically rushed" hero training. I suspect that while he's been missing for five years, perhaps it wasn't all whilst on the island. The way they're drip feeding the flashback makes me think there's a lot more to it than Oliver Queen simply bouncing about for five years. Plus check out his precious bow. No way did he throw that together himself.
Posted on Monday October 22, 2012, 21:35
It was awful. Cliched dialogue, hackneyed archetypes, loaded with boring exposition, rushed characterisation and uninspired plot. Some cool parkour and Archery can't make up for the fact that the show looks, feels and sounds like an episode of 90210 with some flashbacks from Castaway.