They really should have gotten rid of the voiceover. Other than that, the CW’s latest stab at superhero TV, “Arrow” (Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m. central) was a very good stab indeed. An adaptation of the D.C. Comics superhero Green Arrow, “Arrow” stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, spoiled billionaire playboy who returns home after being stranded on an island all by his lonesome for the last 5 years following a shipwreck that killed his girlfriend and father. Now back home in Starling City, the reformed Oliver (Ollie to his friends and frenemies) has a plan: he will suit up in green tights and fight crime with a bow and arrow. And oh, wicked parkour skills, too. I guess having to run around an island for 5 years has its benefits!
If you’ve watched the CW over the years, you’ll notice some familiar names popping up in “Arrow”. The network is famous for reusing actors from past shows, including leading lady Katie Cassidy (“Supernatural”), here playing crusading lawyer Dinah Laurel Lance, Oliver’s former girlfriend — and whose sister Oliver was, shall we say, trysting with when he ended up shipwrecked. Dinah of course blames Oliver for the sister’s death. (Me, I’d think the storm had more to do with it, but what do I know.) Fellow CW regular Willa Holland plays Oliver’s all-grown-up little sister Thea (aka “Speedy”, a little inside baseball for all you comic book geeks out there). Family is not quite the way Oliver remembers it. For one, little sis is all grown up and doing drugs, and mom (Susanna Thompson) has re-married his dead father’s business associate (Colin Salmon). But hey, at least his old buddy Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) is still the same carefree playboy, although even ol Tommy is keeping secrets. And doing a lot of pretending of his own, too, it seems.
Genre fave Paul Blackthorne co-stars as hardboiled cop Detective Quentin Lance, who is apparently Starling City’s only Detective, since he seems to get the call whenever there’s trouble. And oh, if the last name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s Dinah’s father, and the other guy who really hates Oliver’s guts. This comes into play when Oliver is abducted by killers early in the pilot, then again when Oliver’s first criminal target, a mobster calls in reinforcements. The mobster plot is really uninteresting, but it allows Oliver to show off his bow and Batman-esque “here one second, gone the next” skills. Seriously, 5 years shipwrecked on an island has definitely benefited this guy! Hopefully future episodes will flashback to his time on the island and reveal how he developed these awesome skills.
The pilot episode of “Arrow” starts fast and rarely lets up. It opens with Oliver being rescued, his homecoming, and quickly introduces us to Oliver’s alter ego, Arrow. (Oliver came home with a plan, in case you were wondering.) The pilot was written by Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg (from a story by co-producers Greg Berlanti and Guggenheim), and it’s impressively economical with its time. For an hour pilot (plus commercials), they’ve crammed in an insane amount of storytelling and a big cast. We see flashbacks to the shipwreck (Jamey Sheridan plays Oliver’s father, Robert) in-between the present scenes that explains Oliver’s awakening. Again, the pilot’s visuals are so well put-together that it makes the voiceover explaining things incredibly redundant.
Leading up to its premiere, we’ve heard that “Arrow” would be a grounded and gritty superhero show, one that would eschew people with powers. This superhero isn’t a goody two shoes, either, and isn’t above shooting bad guys in the chest with arrows. In fact, in one early scene he coldly snaps a bad guy’s neck because “no one can know [his] secret”. In that respect, “Arrow” is already miles ahead of CW’s last superhero show “Smallville” in terms of grittiness, but of course there are plenty of ridiculous moments (a guy running around in green tights and bow and arrow notwithstanding, natch). For a guy who is trying to keep his identity a secret, Oliver is incredibly bad at sneaking off to slip on his tights. At one point, he chokes out his freshly assigned security detail right out in the open. How’s he going to explain that one? And yeah, he wears a hood and green eye makeup, but come on, stand five feet from Oliver Green and Arrow and you’d know it’s the same guy. I mean, hell, the mole underneath his mouth is a dead giveaway. I’m just saying.
But that’s just nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. “Arrow’s” pilot is excellent, and the show looks like a good watch. Plus, it’ll be interesting to see just how far and for how long the producers can push the superhero angle without eventually introducing powers into the equation. Already, characters from the comic books like Deadshot, The Huntress, and China White are lining up to be introduced in future episodes. How much longer until people start dressing up in colorful costumes and running around doing silly “supervillain” stuff? One thing’s for sure: it looks like it’ll be fun to find out.
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