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Arrow, the CW’s adaptation of the DC Comics character Green Arrow, wrapped up its first season tonight, and I have to say that I have been impressed with the show. Full disclosure before I continue: even though I am a comic book fan, I know very little about the Green Arrow character. When it came to this show, I did not really have any expectations one way or another regarding how “true” to the source material it was. Truthfully, I do not think it really matters as the show is wildly entertaining.
In it, we see Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) returning to Starling City after spending five years on an island. He returns with a mission: to right the wrongs of his father (who died from the events leading to Oliver’s stranding). He takes on a vigilante crusade against the wealthy corrupt. His actions eventually lead him to discover that Malcolm Merlyn (John Borrowman), the father of his best friend, is hatching a plot to literally destroy the crime-and-poverty-ridden part of town in order to “save” Starling City.
The show takes several cues from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy (which isn’t surprising considering that Green Arrow is largely a knock-off of Batman to begin with), but it eventually finds its own identity as the season progressed. I liked how the show was able to mix stand-alone episodes with the larger season-long arc. It has a very nice balance and very much positively reminiscent of Smallville.
Unlike Smallville, this show does not hold anything back and continually pushes the storyline and character development forward. I loved this, and it immediately separated Arrow from its spiritual predecessor Smallville. In the young Superman series, the writers always held back, because if they took another step forward in their narrative, Clark would be Superman and the show would be over. Arrow is not under any such restriction. It allows the characters and story progress in a natural direction.
While it took most of the first half of the season, the cast is pretty well-rounded. Amell as Oliver conveys an interesting dynamic in his duel life. He doesn’t have a complete night/day switch when it comes to his secret identity (probably because he doesn’t need to), so it is a welcomed switch from most other superhero portrayals. I only wish he learned how to swing his arms occasionally and not keep them continuously stiff. Seriously, what is up with that?
Susanna Thompson as Moira, Oliver’s mother, is a great dynamic presence on the show as a woman completely conflicted and playing a very dangerous game to protect her family. Willa Holland is a fine actress, but it took a while for the writers to give her character anything meaningful to do. David Ramsey as Diggle is fine in the role, but is a bit of a generic character. Luckily, he and Arnell have good enough chemistry. The real highlight of the show is Paul Blackthorne as Detective Lance. While his character is a complete cliché, Blackthorne throws himself completely into the role, making it a lot of fun.
On the other hand, you have Colin Donnell as Tommy. Donnell is arguably the best actor on the show, but the problem is that he isn’t given anything interesting to do. He has moments of brilliance, but it is really the writing causing him to suffer. However, due to the finale, it may no longer be an issue. The worst offender of the bunch is Katie Cassidy as Laurel. Like Donnell, I cannot blame Cassidy. She does her best, but her character is totally bland and adds nothing to the show. I know from the comics, Laurel is Green Arrow’s main squeeze, so they had to include her. Hopefully, they give her something interesting to do next season beyond being a girlfriend.
We also have Emily Brett Rickards as Felicity. I have problems with this character. Rickards is fine and I like her, but I am getting extremely tired of the “adorkable” quirky girl who just happens to an expert computer hacker and can do anything tech related when the story calls for it. It is especially irritating since she was introduced as a lowly IT technician. Why would she be this if she had these amazing “skillz”? TV and movies really need to retire this cliché.
I really enjoyed Arrow a lot this season, but if there was one thing in this season’s story that bugged me, it was the whole romance angle. Oliver and Laurel use to date before the events of the show. Now, Tommy and Laurel are dating. The Tommy/Laurel subplot seemed out of place in the show, but it largely worked. Then four-fifths into the season, we get this love triangle when Oliver suddenly is in love with Laurel again. I realize this is the CW, and I do not mind the idea of love triangles, but this one is incredibly forced that it was tough to buy into when Laurel and Oliver hook up again. The writing on that was awful.
I kid you not, within ten minutes of an episode, it goes from Oliver trying to persuade Tommy to reconnect with Laurel, to Oliver having sex with Laurel (in front of an open window where Tommy can get a full view – when has this ever really happened?). The transition was cringe worthy and does not work at all. I get the writers were needed to do that (maybe the network forced them to), but it was handled clumsily. Hopefully, they will learn from this mistake and handle such things better next season.
Despite all the hostility the internet had for this show last summer, I was looking forward to Arrow, and I was not disappointed by it. Tonight’s season ender was very much a nail-biter. Cynics are going to claim that the story ripped off The Dark Knight Rises, and while the general idea is the same (blow up a city), the execution is very different with extremely unexpected (one might say subversive) results with not everyone getting out alive (seemingly – it’s TV…who knows, right?). While the show didn’t end on a cliffhanger in the traditional sense, the final moments did set the stage for next season while a whole new set of problems for Starling City and our hero.