With The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises being two of the biggest films of this year it seems that on the big screen superheroes can do no wrong. It’s a shame that can’t be said for the small screen as for every success like Heroes or Smallville there’s a failure such as The Bionic Woman or The Cape so expectations were mixed for the latest superhero TV show. The programme in question is Arrow which takes its inspiration from the DC Comics series The Green Arrow and attempts to bring the style of the big screen superhero films to our TV screens.
In the opening scenes of Arrow we see a bedraggled man running through the wilderness before we see him being rescued by fishermen off an island whose English translation is purgatory. The man in question is billionaire playboy Oliver Queen who has been missing presumed dead for five years, after the family boat capsized killing his father as well as several others. As we hear from his opening voiceover Oliver isn’t the frivolous boy he once was and is now intent on bringing justice to his hometown of Starling City. Oliver’s return brings up many surprises, namely that his mother is now married to his father’s business partner Walter Steele and that his teenage sister Thea has turned now turned to drink and drugs as a coping mechanism.
We also see that Oliver hopes to reunite with his former girlfriend legal aid lawyer Laurel which may be a little bit hard considering her sister, whom he was having an affair with, also went down on the boat. The only person happy to see him is his old friend Tommy Merlyn however I’m not sure how long that feeling would last as the two are attacked and kidnapped by masked assailants.
It soon becomes clear that Oliver’s mission to bring justice to Starling City lays in his alter-ego The Arrow as we see he is now an expert in archery, escapism and using zip wires. Oliver soon sets up a base in an abandoned factory, a must for any superhero, where he installs a number of computer screens and generates a list of Starling’s biggest villains using a small notebook. Coincidentally his first target is Adam Hunt a fraudulent businessman who Laurel is also taking on in court, essentially bringing the two together. Hunt is your typical tyrannical evil billionaire as he shouts at random lackeys and employs a large force of scary men who are inevitably picked off by ‘The Arrow.’ As Oliver’s first mission against Hunt heats up we also see him decide to let Laurel down, by acting as if he’s the same man he was when he left though I don’t think she’s too heartbroken as there’s another love interest lurking aroundthe corner. Finally there was a neat little twist at the end of the first episode which I didn’t see coming and one that gave me some incentive to tune in next week.
As the first episode of a superhero TV show I feel that Arrow set up its premise fairly well fitting as much as it could into a forty minute runtime. One of the main problems with superhero stories is that they can sometimes come as overly campy but I felt that Arrow was fairly dark and was realistic as a story about a vigilante archer can be. From the opening shot of Oliver running on the island all of the action was top notch especially a couple of well-choreographed sequences when Oliver is laying into Hunt’s goons. The city of Starling was also well-designed with a sweeping shot outside of Oliver’s hospital room making it seem fairly futuristic while the production design throughout was impressive given the budget constraints that TV shows often have.
For me the problems mainly lay with the script as plenty of the lines feel extremely clichéd and although there are some great one-liners, overall I felt dialogue wise it took itself a little too seriously. Oliver’s earnest voice-over throughout felt like a parody of several other superheroes’ monologues, while lines such as Oliver’s mother being warned that ‘the Oliver you lost may not be the Oliver that we’ve found’ or Oliver telling his sister that she was ‘with me the whole time.’ The performances are a mixed bag with Stephen Amell certainly having the right look for the role if not wholly convincing as a masked vigilante just yet. CW regular Katie Cassidy fits the love interest role perfectly as the justice-seeking Laurel Lance who even has the alliterative name that is the staple of characters in comic book stories.
I also enjoyed Susanna Thompson’s scenery chewing performance as Oliver’s mother and Colin Salmon as her new husband Walter though I hope his commitments to this show don’t impact on the great job he’s doing on Strictly Come Dancing. For me though the best member of the cast is former star of The OC Willa Holland who, as Thea Queen, portrays perfectly a girl who has emulated her tearaway brother who she thought she had lost years ago.
Overall I wasn’t utterly enthralled by Arrow however I feel that it definitely showed promise with an opening episode which was well-paced and tried to fit in as much as it could. I felt that Oliver’s attack on Hunt wasn’t given enough time, as it seemed to take him no time at all to steal the huge amount of money from this ruthless tycoon. Arrow certainly has enough going for it to be a success and based on this first episode I’m certainly hoping it gets a full series which is more than a lot of recent superhero-based TV shows have done.
Did you enjoy Arrow? Do you think it shows promise? Leave your comments below…