Friday, October 12, 2012

Review - Arrow - Pilot Episode 1:1

Episode 1 – CW – Aired October 10, 2012                  5-Stars

What a bulls’ eye!  No beating around the bush, so slow build up, but started right out in full blown action of a gruff looking, 5-year survivor, Oliver Queen running around like a mad man on a deserted island.  The narration by Oliver gave it a great ‘personal’ feel as he is rescued and returns home.  

I had  reservations about someone other than Justin Hartley playing the familiar Oliver Queen, because I thought Hartley had done such a great job on Smallville, but when clean-cut, and smoldering-eyed, Stephen Amell turned around, my reluctance melted away.  He reminded me of a cross between Henry Cavill and Chris O’Donnell, two of my all-time favorites, an even mixture of wholesomeness and danger.  

Enter our leading ladies.  First up is dear ole Mom.  She seemed genuinely concerned for her son’s safety and well-being, but there was also a sense of something more; something hidden; something not quite revealed.  Oliver’s reception to her was withdrawn and polite, but missing a touch of warmth.  With the maid, Oliver greeted her lovingly, what I would have expected for his mother instead.  That tells me a lot about his relationship with his mother, more than any of the dialogue spoken between them.  Then there was the sister, whom Oliver greeted really affectionately, like a loving, big-brother-who-missed-his-sister would.  By this point I desperately looked for traces of the billionaire playboy, but didn’t see any.  However, I didn’t have to wait too long.  The next leading lady was the sister of the dead girlfriend, the lawyer, the angsty public defender, the Lois-esque fighter against corruption.  I’m not quite sure about her yet, but I will wait and hold judgment after I’ve allowed her plenty of time to interact with our new hero.

After all the cursory introduction, the show quickly takes us back for a tease to the origin of the conflict, the point that brought us to the reason, creating a dozen more questions already bombarding our minds.  His ability to speak Russian, being blunt and observant of his mother’s actions and state of being, his politeness to be excused, his quick, brief answers, all ‘show’ a contrast difference to the care-free, selfish, spoiled party boy who couldn’t save the girl.  He’s clearly damaged, from the accident, his time on the island, as evidenced by his sleeping on the floor, and allowing the storm to rage around him, bringing up the memories of his demons and regrets.   Up to this point, everything mentioned above was all cram-packed just into the opening segment.  I LOVED it.  It was action-packed, character-central, and full of intrigue.  For a superhero show, it’s brimming with simple humanity.  

The second segment starts with a hint of ‘arrows’ and then jumps to the frailty and weakness of his little sister, who is called “speedy”.  I can’t help to assume that the nickname has a double meaning – referring to the drugs, as well as some other meaning – not yet revealed.   Then, it’s off to regain some semblance of the life he’d left behind by pairing up with this old friend, Tommy, – who conveniently pointed out the abandoned Queen Industries warehouse - which would make a perfect place for a hero’s lair.  Then he confronts, Laurel, and his past – including the mistake of cheating on, and being unable to save, his ex-girlfriend’s sister in the accident.  I love the twist that causes friction in their relationship, and adds depth to both characters. 

Then the fireworks start.  First the shock of action so soon without having a long, drawn out, and talked-to-death lead up to our first glimpse of Arrow’s heuristic presence (as is the practice of CW shows).  Oliver and Tommy are abducted right away, we get another quick glimpse at Oliver and his father’s backstory, and then it’s wham-bam- you-just-got-the-crap-kicked-out-of-you-without-apology!  Let me repeat that – Oliver Queen/Arrow kills a few men and doesn’t apologize for it.  EXCELLENT!  This jumped twenty spots on my ladder of excitement.  I also loved how his journey as Arrow began with a hood on the island, and then his first attackers wear masks, and then he’ll eventually be the one in a hood and/or mask; great elemental development.  Best line of the night is: “He told me I’m gonna kill you,” He was badass with no super power, no super suit, and no gadgets; just one heck of a will, determination and a great set of abs.  I think his greatest evidence of strength is when he told the bad guy at the end of this segment, “You killed that man.”  Then the baddy replied, “You don’t have to do this.”  And Oliver didn’t hesitate to respond, “Yes I do.  Nobody can know my secret.”  This spoke VOLUMES into the mindset of the newly-returned-from-the-dead Oliver Queen.  This “Arrow” is on a path of justice, and like an aimed projectile that has been loosed from a bow, it doesn’t stray from its path or waivers in its journey to the targeted destination.  It simply shoots where it was aimed.  I can’t tell you how happy I am that he doesn’t suffer from the same weakness many of our previous superheroes have – the inability to kill, confront and destroy their enemies.  Man, the possibilities are endless with this character now, and the depth of his psychosis is quite questionable, which makes him all the more interesting.  Wow, and that was just the first half of the episode.

The second half introduces us to the ‘concept’ of a green-hooded man being responsible for the killing of the kidnappers, and a hostile questioning from a detective.  It’s clear this guy doesn’t like Oliver, or his family. Am glad Tommy had Oliver’s back during the questioning, but am sure he woke early and saw more than he admitted.  The first time through, I didn’t catch the parent protecting their kid jibe at Oliver, but having now seen the full episode, I see where this clever little clue into the detective’s identity had been placed.  I truly appreciate clever quips, even if they aren’t so obvious.  I love the model boat in the background, the way his eyes sometimes look green,  and his brooding silence.  Continuing on – Resa’s assessment of Oliver’s good heart, and Oliver wanting to be the good person she’s always told him he’d be – is a great moment of setting and character development.  

I liked the scene with Diggles, the bodyguard/driver, and Oliver’s disappearance right after that informative little speech.  It’s good to know this show isn’t all about catching bad guys, but balanced with a good sense of humor; kudos for the writers on that part.  The return of the narration makes me wonder if this will be a regular part of the program – like USA does with the show Burn Notice.  I can see where it would be interesting, but also where it could lend to lazy writing or showing intent in the scene.  I LOVED every minute of the warehouse scene; I don’t know any red-blooded woman who wouldn’t.  It was really, really hot!  Stephen Amell's abs were amazing, and his ability to shoot bouncing tennis balls left me tingling with excitement.  It reminded me of Henry Cavill as Theseus in Immortals.  

Now we get to the MISSION.  Having only so far received a quick glance at our antagonist in the background with Laurel and the notebook from his dad, we get more information through narration.  This process works.  The intensity on Oliver’s face shows his steeled determination.   One of the most moving statements is when Oliver says, “He hasn’t met me yet”, referring to Arrow, not Queen.  

Hunt is your typical Luther-esque baddie, complete with bald head and privileged superiority complex.  I love seeing the greedy being humbled.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the rich.  I hope to be rich myself someday.  But greedy, manipulative bullies will always stir a desire for a lesson in humility.  Arrow isn’t emotional in his campaign for justice. He speaks clearly and directly about what he wants and expects, leaving no room for misunderstanding or speech-making.  After the commercial break, we return to the opposite of Arrow’s character with Hunt grandstanding in righteous indignation, spouting commands and demanding service and protection – the very thing he ‘steals’ from those he bullies.

Next we get a glimpse of the playboy billionaire, and I have to say – he shines brighter than a newly polished crown – as he ventures to his ‘return-from-the-dead’ party.  Diggles’ appearance in the back of the car raises expectations even Oliver can appreciate.  Tommy did a great job throwing the typical soul-less party, filled with women, dancers, booze and loud music, and for the first time we get to see the real mask Oliver Queen wears – and there isn’t a hint of green anywhere.  This whole scene was characteristic, expected and well done, but it blew me right out of the water with the dig at Twilight with the lines - “Which one is she?” Oliver asks.  “The one that looks like the chick from Twilight,” Tommy answers. Oliver responds, “What’s Twilight?” Tommy answers, “You’re so better off not knowing.”  I laughed out loud!  Then, what would a party be without a bit of illegal drugs and a rambunctious little sister giving a ‘woe is me’ speech trying to justify her stupid decisions.  I loved that Oliver listened; allowing her to get her teen-angst off her chest, but then so coolly lifted her stash.  It said so much about his character.  It gave me hope this character isn’t going to spend a lot of time bashing everyone over the head with incessant chatter, but a face-full of fisted action.  I’ve been dying for something like this for a long time.  He basically does the same thing with Laurel, except he takes it a step further and lies to her about who he really is – to push her away, to protect her, and I don’t think it’s just because he has feelings for her, but because he sees her as a distraction from his goals – which she was literally creating.  When his phone buzzed, the truth came out – only she had no idea how much, or what he was talking about, followed instantly by the lie.  Again, this was another pivotal ‘showing’ of the great character of his super hero.  

I like Diggles, but he had it coming.  I saw that writing clearly on the wall before Oliver had to knock him out.  You’d think by now that bad guys would learn to never say, never; and the old-fashioned butt-kicking began.  I LOVED every second of it.  It wasn’t over-done, under-whelmed or off the mark.  Bulls eye!  Though Hunt believed Arrow missed, I knew he had not.  I didn’t know in the moment how, just that it wasn’t a wasted shot.  I find it funny that the bad guys brought guns to a knife fight, and without the presence of any superhuman powers, got their butts royally kicked.  

Our angry detective got a quick glance at our hooded hero as he jumped from the window of the high rise, of what I’m sure is only the beginning of a long story thread to push this series forward.  And of course, for continuity’s sake, Oliver Queen needs an alibi to throw off any suspicion of his involvement with the masked vigilante.  With the hood and slash of green paint gone and the playboy billionaire mask firmly in place, the offer of a $2 Million reward for the hooded man was expected, but funny and worked very well.  And FINALLY we discovered the reason for the detectives’ animosity toward Oliver, being the father of his ex-girlfriend and the girl who drowned on the boat.  This element adds a great dynamic to the story.  Then the threat Oliver makes to Tommy about questioning too much – was good, solid writing.  Oliver taking ALL of Hunt’s money, as he had promised, was priceless.  I had to back it up and see it again, it was so sweet, so direct, so exciting. 

Oliver remembering his father’s last words, “You can survive this; make it home, make it better, right my wrongs, but you’ve got to live through this first.”  Great writing, great moment, great insight into our new hero.  Then came the great tragedy – seeing his father kill another and then sacrificing his self to save Oliver.  In a way, this is the driving force, the under current message and the defining element of what I see in Arrow – kill others – even if means sacrificing yourself, to make it right. The rain in the background of this scene really captured the essence of the message.  

And now for our final scenes:  Seeing how Laurel’s clients, those who had been fighting against the corruption of Hunt, being compensated by Hunt’s own money, were a good example of Arrow not being about greed and power – righting the wrongs. “It looks like Starling City has a guardian angel.” Then we have conflict show up in the guise of best-friend having a relationship with ex-girlfriend.  Didn’t Tommy read the ‘no ex-girlfriend’ bro-code?  Obviously, he missed the memo.  But, no worries – Arrow heard the message clearly from his stalker’s perch. What was he doing there anyway?  It’s a CW or Superhero must to have a love triangle, so here we go.  Last, but certainly not least, and quite surprisingly – the Mommy Dearest twist.  Now, I always suspected the ex-business partner of being dirty somehow, but I never suspected the mom.  Quite a nice twist; I can’t wait to see what happens.  As Oliver said, “She says the island changed me, she has no idea how much.  There are many more names on the list, those who rule my city by intimidation and fear. Every last one of them will wish I had died on that island.”

Well, this concludes my first review of Arrow.  It’s been a while since I’ve written a television show review, and I can’t say how committed I’ll be for future episodes, but I can say this:  I haven’t been this excited and inspired by a show since Smallville, and I really hope it exceeds my expectations.

Till next time,
~T.L. Gray


  1. Great review.

    Amell was great as Oliver. Hope to see Speedy soon in action!

  2. Thanks, Buddy. Just read your own review of Arrow - good job. We seem to have a lot of similarities. I too love all things Sherlock Holmes, Batman (well, superheroes in general). Not sure yet of the new show Elementary, but absolutely love the BBC version of Sherlock starring Cumberbatch. That is excellent.