TV Review - Arrow

The Green Arrow is a DC Comics character created by Mort Weisinger, the co-creator of Aquaman, and George Papp, another graphic artist at the time. Edgar Wallace's 1923 The Green Archer inspired the hero. The Green Arrow's story makes allusions to that of Robin Hood and Batman. In the 1970s, the character was co-featured with the Green Lantern. 30 years later, the Green Arrow appeared in the Justice League series. The character became popularized on the series Smallville, which ostensibly was about Superman before he was Superman. By the end of that series, he does become Superman. Justin Hartley, a former soap opera stud, as a few CW stars are, played the live-action Green Arrow, but Stephen Amell (Heartland and Hung) takes over the role of Green Arrow aka Oliver Queen.

I wondered why not do a Smallville spin-off with Hartley as the lead, but, to continue in the same universe would have the Green Arrow constantly upstaged by Superman. With any problem or enemy that arose, the audience would simply ask where's Superman or why doesn't the Green Arrow just call Superman. Starting over or rebooting the character sans Superman is the best way to make Green Arrow the star and not just a side character or one of the background heroes in the Justice League. Another reason not to have Hartley is because the tone of the character is drastically different. The Green Arrow was introduced into Smallville because the makers didn't have the rights to the Batman character, which is what they really wanted.

The Green Arrow was the alternative to Batman because Weisinger and Papp patterned the Green Arrow after the Caped Crusader any way. The direction of Hartley's character was more in line with what Joel Schumacher did with Batman, whereas this new series wants to be more in line with what Christopher Nolan did in The Dark Knight. Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim wrote and co-developed the show. Both share credit in Eli Stone, which is a far cry from the tone on display in the first two episodes of Arrow. David Nutter directed the pilot. Nutter is an Emmy winner for Band of Brothers. He's also produced and directed The X-Files as well as directed the pilot for Supernatural, so if ever there were going to be a TV series that was a weekly The Dark Knight, I'd trust Nutter to helm it.

The show opens with Oliver Queen being found on a seemingly deserted island. Oliver was on a huge yacht called the Queen's Gambit, which somehow ended up sinking, possibly capsizing. It initially resulted in the death of Oliver's girlfriend, Sarah. Oliver and his father, Robert Queen, were adrift on a life-raft for a long time. Oliver's father died before the raft made it to the deserted island. Oliver was stranded on the island for five years. His mother and his sister, Thea, presumed he was dead. When he returns to his home in the fictional Sterling City, his mom and Thea see that he's changed.

In 2007, before Oliver became lost at sea, he was basically a male-version of Paris Hilton. He was loud and obnoxious. He was superficial and arrogant, a pampered, pretty boy. Five years later, he's quiet and more sensitive. He's brooding and modest. This is what he chooses to show people. In private, he's a master at escape. He's trained in martial arts and parkour. He's also an extremely skilled archer with trick arrows at his disposal. We're not sure where these arrows came from, but the way he hides his vigilante alter ego is by wearing a green-hood.

The vigilante doesn't just go after random criminals. The vigilante has a specific list of names. It's like an assassin's hit list. Instead of living in his family's mansion, which looks a lot like Lex Luthor's mansion on Smallville, Oliver commandeers an abandoned warehouse that becomes his bat cave or fortress of solitude, as it were. He practices his archery and stalks his prey. While his archery and stalking are impressive, Oliver's vigilantism isn't interesting. It isn't interesting because it's obvious that the mobsters and white collar criminals he stalks aren't a match for him.

Things don't begin to get interesting until the second episode when China White enters the picture. China White, played by Kelly Hu, is not that far flung from Lady Deathstrike, the Marvel Comics character, also played by Kelly Hu in X2: X-Men United (2003). She's basically a hired gun, but someone with fighting skills to give Oliver a run for his money. She escapes and she leaves Oliver without a worthy adversary, though Smallville never had this problem. Nolan never had this problem either. So far, the villains seem too easy for Oliver to defeat.

There isn't even a question as in Revenge of whether Oliver is willing to go to the length of killing people. In the first episode, we see Oliver murder a man, and, again, it's something that comes too easy for Oliver. The show features flashbacks that reveal what Oliver experienced while trapped on that island. Apparently, it will be the explanation for why Oliver became this killing-machine.

Those flashbacks might be compelling, but, in the end, they won't be emotionally satisfying. The emotional beats have already been ruined. Despite the mystery surrounding Oliver's mother, played by Susanna Thompson, the show seems to have colored clear and bold lines about its boundaries or lack thereof and where it's going. The show is therefore predictable, probably as predictable as Smallville, but, Smallville had worthy villains up front and it handled its themes as well as subverted expectations in a way that made it seem fresh. Arrow does not.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 1 hr.
Airs Wednesdays at 8PM on CW.

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