Wednesday, October 10, 2012

'Arrow' Premiere Review

In the CW’s latest offering, Arrow, Stephen Amell takes on the titular role of the vigilante hero from the DC comics universe. The creators of Arrow have decided to go with more of a Christopher Nolan way of handling a superhero story and make theirs a world free from superpowers in order to tell the tale of presumed dead wealthy playboy Oliver Queen. As he makes his return to his home town of Starling City in order to defend its citizens from corruption and greed as well as find personal redemption as his alter ego Green Arrow.

Before I watched the first episode I had my doubts about this project, I’ll admit. For ten years (off and on) I watched Smallville when it aired and one of the best things about that series was their version of the Green Arrow, memorably portrayed by Justin Hartley. As soon as this new show was announced and it became evident that the creators were choosing to start over the anxiety only grew—origin stories are tricky especially when someone’s already played the role not too long ago. But hey, if it recently worked for Spiderman on the big screen then why couldn’t it work here? To put it simply, Arrow is easily one of the most exciting shows this fall season has to offer. It has a compelling story that’s unfolding in a city filled with characters you want to come back to each week and learn more about.

It’s also unintentionally, and this is meant as a complete compliment, like a male-led version of ABC’s Revenge. If you watch that show then you watch Arrow with this thought in mind, it becomes impossible to un-see it. Here we have a lead character who lost his father to tragedy, a need to take out vengeance against a list of people his father left behind, and when the character begins this quest there’s some mysterious backstory yet to be revealed about what changed the character so dramatically from the person they used to be. Where Revenge has Emily Thorne putting herself into a different identity and higher social class in order to get the job done, here we have the opposite as Oliver Queen embraces a grittier aesthetic with his Arrow figure. All darkly-colored tactical clothing with very little in the way of a mask except for a streak of green across his eyes—it’s his war paint and it makes the statement that he’s ready for battle against the dregs of Starling City.

Where the first episode really perked up into something you’re left wanting more of was that ending which featured the reveal that Oliver’s own mother, Moira, seemed to know more than we first thought about Robert Queen sending their son off on this mission of vengeance as she was the one who masterminded the kidnapping attempt against her son and his friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). She certainly seemed less pleased than a grieving mother should be that her son was not only alive, but that he seems to have become a more mature and focused man; the kind of man who would investigate what was really going on with his father and the heavy-hitters of a corrupt city (there are a lot of corrupt cities in DC canon for those of you who noticed that sounds an awful lot like a certain Caped Crusader’s M.O.)

One of the advantages in how Arrow handles their idea of an origin story is here we have a character that has long-term connections in their life already so we don’t have to waste time during a lot of meet-cutes and first introductions. But having Oliver go through a traumatic event and be out of their lives for a good chunk of time means we can approach things anew with Oliver as he tries to figure out who he can trust, if anyone at all, (a lot happened in those five years and not just the fact that Oliver missed the Twilight craze the lucky bastard). We already have what should blossom into compelling personal tension as well as camaraderie between Olly and his friend Tommy who may have seen more than he should have during their escape from the thugs that abducted them. Oliver also has to deal with the guilt of surviving an accident that claimed the life of the sister of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), an employee at a legal aid office and the woman that Oliver was actually dating five years ago before he was shipwrecked. From the pilot we know that Laurel harbors resentment toward Oliver for not only surviving but for having her sister out there in the first place—making her death ultimately avoidable if not for Olly’s selfish and immature ways. They’ll probably have a love/hate relationship as the series progresses since Laurel is also a firm believer that you can’t take the law into your hands, and so it’s easy to envision a future in the first season where Laurel is pitted against both Oliver and his Green Arrow alter ego in his quest to prove himself a better man than he once was.

Amell only shows a fraction of what I think he’s capable of doing with the role as the show goes on. There’s no denying he’s charismatic and can pull off the physicality of the role. Cassidy as Laurel didn’t quite pop the first watch but when I viewed the episode again she definitely starts to make a better impression. This series also has some great guest stars coming up in the forms of Kelly Hu and John Barrowman to name a couple and much like Smallville this show may come to sink or swim long-term by how they fill the world they’ve created here. Mainly if the characters that are based off of comic book canon can still feel a little larger than life even if they don’t have superpowers to speak of. That’s one of the greatest current challenges facing Arrow is if they can endure the wrath of the fanboys since the creators have very clearly stated that it’s more inspired from DC comics canon than something that will strictly adhere to it. Judging it purely on its own merits, Arrow is a worthwhile addition to your TV lineup. It’s got action, humor, a dash of mystery and I have a feeling that the Tumblr dashboards of the world will take to Stephen Amell--call it a hunch but I could pinpoint several rebloggable moments in this episode alone.

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