ARROW [P/review]: CW’s edgy Superhero soap aims higher!

The CW network seems to love their superhero origin stories.

At the beginning it was ”Smallville”. The former WB almost had their “Aquaman” (in fact, the pilot was filmed and is floating around out there, and I don’t mean that Jim Cameron thingy on “Entourage”). We were teased with “Grayson”, about none other than the first Boy-Wonder-turned-Nightwing. That one fell through, but I’d still love to see it (maybe on the silver-screen with Joey Gordon-Levitt? –Moody. Not this Deacon… I hated the Robin twist in DKR!).

And now… We have Arrow, Oliver Queen’s early days as the Emerald Archer.

We’ve reached the end of the first season and it’s been renewed for a second; and if you haven’t yet watched the biggest surprise of the first half of 2013, CW is repeating the entire 1st season of “Arrow” over, starting tonight at 8/7c. Mind you that before this excellent show, the Deac has never read a single Green Arrow comic book.

Sorry Kevin.

My knowledge of Queen comes solely from his appearances in the Justice League comics and other such team-ups, like the infamous Green Team with Hal Jordan.

Would you watch a “Vigilante” cartoon? Didn’t think so.

So, I found it strangely sweet to learn about the character alongside the progress of the show that takes on a more reality-based stance on the superhero than usual. And I’m not talking the Kardashians strolling down “Jersey Shore”. Yes, this TV hero’s darker and grittier than those of the past. Yes, it’s an origin story. But that’s not nearly enough of a reason to compare its every detail to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

Also, you’ve been warned: this article contains SPOILERS. But, if you haven’t already watched the first season, what in the devil’s hell are you reading this article anyway!


I mean it!

(But come back, please remember to come back).

And, now on to talking some Green Arrow…

Well, we can’t really. Why? Well, they don’t call him that just yet. He doesn’t call himself anything. The cops call him “The Hood,” or simply, “The Vigilante”.

Either way, “Arrow” contains two stories told side by side. The first, is about Oliver Queen’s return home, from being marooned on an island after his father’s yacht was caught in a storm and sunk. Ollie’s daddy’s dying wish was for his son to right his wrongs in Starling (not Star) City, which, as the season progresses, we learn involves pops and the town’s other one-percenters’ plot to bring down “The Glades” — yeah, the damn ghetto. By the end, we discover the group, headed up by Malcolm Merlyn, and to which Oliver’s mother is also part of… possibly against her will, each suffered the loss of a loved one due to the crime and desperation of the people living in the Glades.

Don’t forget the cameo from Storm Shadow, either.

We later come to find that Merlyn sabotaged the boat when Robert Queen began having second thoughts about “The Undertaking”. To right the wrongs of his father and save the Glades, Oliver uses the skills he learned on the island to become a bow-wielding, freerunning vigilante. They call him a vigilante, but he really isn’t; more, the pro-bono hitman. His father left him a list of names of the people involved and Oliver goes to work at crossing those names off that list… by putting arrows in their scrotums.

He’s also quite the Robin Hood — for all those who make fun — by returning money these naughty people extorted or stole from the people of Starling City.

As we follow Ollie, he crosses paths with ex (and future again) girlfriend (Dinah) Laurel Lance and best friend Tommy Merlyn, Malcolm’s son. He puts together his own little crime fighting team, his bodyguard-turned-cohort, John Diggle and Queen Consolidated IT gal and tech genius Felicity Smoak (from the Firestorm comics). Our “Hood” even meets a certain street-thug-with-a-heart-of-gold named Roy Harper, who curiously rocks a red hoodie and matching obsession with tracking down vigilantes. Oh, don’t forget: Roy’s also dating Oliver’s little sister Thea (full name: Thea Dearden Queen, who Ollie nicknamed “Speedy”).

Who you calling Liv?

And those are the good people!

Oliver will face off against several of his usual rogues: Deadshot, Huntress, The Count (Vertigo), The Royal Flush Gang, (Merlyn) The Dark Archer, and China White. There seems to be no shortage of DC characters making their debut here, and unlike your typical villain of the week scenario, most of our beloved baddies live to fight another day. Even Merlyn’s fate is in question… is he dead, did he survive?

We don’t know for sure.

The second story is told through flashbacks and details Oliver’s time on the island and how he learned all the skills he later puts to use. He meets and begins his training under the tutelage of Yao Fei and later his daughter Shado (who first appeared in the 1987 Green Arrow comic “The Longbow Hunters”). He later meets and is trained by Slade Wilson, yes that Slade Wilson, and yes, the mask makes an appearance. There’s also some kind of mercenary group on the island that plans to blow up some planes or something in order to destabilize China’s economy… I think… It’s not real clear, but they serve as the antagonist for Oliver to learn how to survive and fight against. He learns to fight from three different badasses, and it’s often fun to watch the spoiled playboy billionaire learn to fend for himself. We see him go from inept and a liability, to fighting mercs and making his first kill shot.

It seems that Wilson and Queen are becoming friends — likely more out of necessity than anything else – but, what the hey. Is this Arrow’s version of Smallville’s Lex Luthor/Clark Kent relationship? We all know Slade is destined to bump heads with Ollie… and Bruce, and… well, he bumps heads with a lot of people. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we meet this guy in the present.

Now that we’ve been told by “Arrow” insiders that there are two big, familiar DC personalities playing villains in season 2, could we be seeing our first live action Deathstroke? I hope they don’t rush the transformation, as I’d love to see why he becomes Deathstroke and a thorn in our hero’s side. Like Season 1 showed us what happened to Oliver on that island, “Arrow’s” executive producer, Marc Guggenheim, indeed confirms that Season 2 is about what happens to Slade on that island.

The things that make us geeks smile: masked psychopathic murderers.

By the final episode of the season, we see Ollie evolve from a hitman crossing names off a list to being the hero he’s destined to be. We see him start to fight for what’s right for his city. Felicity and Diggle, along with Laurel and Thea, play no small part in that. In the end we find that they are what Oliver fights for — though, he needs a little motivation from Malcolm to realize it. The finale also shows us a glimpse of Mr. Harper’s heroic future, when he put his own safety aside for the sake of others during the massacre at the Glades.

So far, we’ve been teased with Speedy/Red Arrow and Black Canary… two people very important to the Green Arrow story. I just hope they don’t go the Smallville route and start introducing everybody.

Overall, Arrow’s first season was a, perhaps, surprisingly enjoyable success, undoubtedly setting the standard for superhero television today. Phil Coulson, eat your heart out.

3.5 (out of 4) Bibles. Loved it. The first few episodes were kinda slow, as “Arrow” didn’t really hit the stride for me until the midway point. And, they killed off Count Vertigo a little too soon for my tastes. However, the 2nd half of the season aimed, nailed and destroyed. Season 2 should be that more riveting! (Moody gives it 4 Bibles, but he’s a sucker.)















But wait! There’s more!

Oh, the fishnets are coming…

As I’ve mentioned, there’s no shortage of DC Comics references, as some of the ones I skipped over are a Ted Kord name drop. Coast City. Ferris Aircraft. A trip to Blüdhaven, and a mention of Nanda Parbat and a mysterious man who trained Malcolm Merlyn there for two years. We’re getting the sense that “Arrow” doesn’t take place in its own self contained bubble and that it’s part of a larger DC universe.

As for the Season 2 roll call? Let’s begin with Laurel “Black Canary” Lance, who we know can fight just as well as anyone else we’ve seen. Roy Harper and his red hoodie. Thea “Rhymes with Mia” Dearden — who’s already got the “Speedy” tag. Shado. And… Miss Helena Bertinelli, the Huntress. Sure she’s been mostly a baddie here, but her brief partnership with Ollie was fun to watch; and nothing says she can’t come back and be convinced to turn over a new leaf.

If this motley crew’s not the “Arrow” answer to a “Smallville” Justice League, can you say.. Birds of Prey?

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