By: Adam Basciano
“After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell, “Hung,” “Private Practice”) was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the Pacific. Back in Starling City, Oliver slowly reconnects with those closest to him, his devoted mother Moira (Susanna Thompson, “Cold Case,” “Kings”), beloved sister Thea (Willa Holland, “Gossip Girl,” “The O.C.”), and best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell, “Pan Am”), but struggles with his ex-girlfriend Dinah “Laurel” Lance (Katie Cassidy, “Gossip Girl,” “Melrose Place”), who blames him for her sister’s death. Oliver has brought back many new skills from his time on the island and despite the watchful eye of his new bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey, “Dexter,” “Blue Bloods”), Oliver manages to secretly create the persona of Arrow – a vigilante – to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society. As Arrow, Oliver will atone for the past sins of his family while he searches for the personal redemption he needs.” (The CW)
Most superhero pilots I’ve watched, lay out the origin of the hero for you in a linear fashion. “Smallville”, “The Flash”, “Bird’s of Prey”, even the failed Aquaman pilot from a few years ago. From the outset, “Arrow” is a completely different beast than these shows. It throws you right into the action and actually shows Oliver Queen getting off the island first and getting reaclimated to the world he had been gone from for 5 years. The producers of this show said from the very beginning, that they were using Christopher Nolan’s Batman films as a template for this show. That is abundantly clear. Everything from the realistic tone, flashbacks of his time on the island, his first appearance in costume it’s all reminiscent of “Batman Begins.” That’s not a bad thing either as I loved what Nolan did with Batman.
Culture shock, guilt ridden, repentant, playboy, crusader for justice. Stephen Amell seems capable at doing all these things. He uses the aloof playboy billionaire as a facade, which is a slight alteration on the way the character was played in “Smallville”. Amell is in great physical condition. I don’t know how many stunts or fights he actually performed but he definitely looks like he could pull all of that off. As for his archery skills, take that Jeremy Renner! Amell seemed to play well off of most of his cast mates, especially Katie Cassidy. Amell used slight nuances in body language to express the emotions he felt when interacting with Katie’s character. I’m also thankful Stephen Amell didn’t change his voice to the Christian Bale growl, as so many actors are doing lately. Katie Cassidy plays Laurel Lance as a person with a strong sense of justice. She has no fear in taking on the most corrupt business man in town, while some of her colleagues would back off. She’s pissed at Oliver for cheating on her with her sister and the consequences of that, calls him on his questionable behavior, but still holds out hope that he’s a better man. Sounds a lot like the comic book version to me. The only major difference being she’s a lawyer instead of a flourist, Oliver cheated with her sister not her assistant, and she’s not Black Canary… yet. Cassidy’s portrayal of Laurel’s anger frustration, resentment and sadness felt completely real and justified. She and Amell really sell the history between the characters. To the haters complaining about the show using her middle name first, I loved it when Tommy called her Dinah Laurel Lance. Take that message board whiners! Speaking of Colin Donnell, he plays the best friend who hasn’t changed a bit to a tee. He had the most comedic moments of the bunch. Tommy Merlyn’s commentary on “Lost” and his jab at “Twilight” are laugh out loud moments, at least I did. Willa Holland has played the troubled teen pretending to be the good girl before, and has no trouble slipping back into that persona again. Her character is interesting because she seems to have an issue with drugs. The comic books have dealt with this issue before, and the tv show will have Oliver tackle this same issue here, in the form of his sister. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he calls her Speedy either. I see what the producers did there, and I like it. Paul Blackthorne is a great character actor, and feels like a natural in the role of Det. Quentin Lance. His general disdain for Oliver Queen over the death of one of his daughters is palpable. Susanna Thompson is somewhat distant and dubious as Moira Queen, but that plays a role come episodes end. The rest of the cast was serviceable in their respective roles.
The action and stunts by the way, are all action packed, brutal, and bone crunching. That’s pretty obvious, given that Oliver Queen will kill when necessary. I thought the costume looked great in motion, and Arrow only appearing at night seems like the right stylistic choice. The use of flashback to tell the story of the ship wreck worked well. It seems that this will continue, to further explore Oliver Queen’s time on the island. As I said, that’s unique among superhero television adaptations. Oh, seeing that Deathstroke mask tease in action makes it all the more kick-ass! . Despite it’s different approach, “Arrow” makes sure to check of all the boxes of a superhero origin story. Alterations to the source material aside, the creative team behind the show have in my opinion, given us the Oliver Queen we’re familiar with since Dennis O’Neil and Neal Adams and then later, when Kevin Smith relaunched the character. The crusader for social justice and advocate for the underprivileged. More of a street level hero, and that’s how I prefer my Green Arrow. The show acts as the opening chapter of a comic book. It familiarized you with the characters, and sets the stage for what’s to come. “Arrow” is respectful to the Oliver Queen/Green Arrow character, while putting it’s own spin on the story. After one episode, it’s been more enjoyable than a years worth of the New 52 version of the character.