Apr 3, 2014

[TV] Arrow: Season 1

I never really got into shows like Smallville - I guess the whole teen romance angle that sort of intermixes with all CW programming always annoys me. It feels like it dumbs things down to a weird level in order to appeal to some imagined target teen demographic that their studio executives really favor.

I had no plans of getting into Arrow at first since I really didn't have an affinity for the Green Arrow character. Combine that with my aforementioned instinctive dislike for CW shows, I simply stayed away. But friends kept insisting that it was an amazing show and more and more Doctor Who actors were getting involved in cameos and minor roles and so it seemed like maybe it was at least worth investigating.

So I took the first season for a whirl...and died. I still don't understand who we managed to get all the way to the end of the first season. And it's not that the show was necessarily bad in itself I suppose, but it really didn't appeal to me. I could see the various elements that they were trying to dangle for fans to latch onto but then it's pretty clear that I'm one of those types of fans.

Synopsis: Arrow is a US television series that could be termed as a drama, maybe an action series as well. It was developed for television by Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim (who helped give us the Green Lantern movie) together with Andrew Kreisberg.

The show is a somehow more "realistic" approach to the whole Green Arrow mythos, although it doesn't necessarily borrow too many story elements from the original comic book. Here Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is your classic millionaire playboy whose life is changed when he ends up fighting for survival after being stranded on an island for over 5 years. He was the lone survivor of a shipwreck that claimed the lives of everyone on board, including his father.

But eventually he does return to Starling City and finds that his mother (Susanna Thompson) is already involved with Walter Steele (Colin Salmon), who was now CEO of Queen Consolidated. But beyond trying to reintegrate with his family, Oliver spends his nights secretly hunting down various high society criminals all of whom have somehow "failed the city" and thus deserve to be punished. His vigilante adventures are set in contrast with his life on the island, which has more than its fair share of mysteries including how Oliver was trained to be the lethal assassin of sorts that he has become.

It always feels so 90's when heroes being "more realistic" tends to involve them being willing to kill. It used to be that the one thing that helped distinguished the good guys from the bad guys was never crossing that particular line. But more and more TV and movie versions of heroes are depicted going down this road, although whether or not this is truly called for remains to be seen.

Realistic apparently also means less cartoony costumes. And while I know that it seems a bit of a stretch that a little domino mask would be enough to obscure someone's identity, I don't think smearing a stripe of black paint over one's eyes is a better option. I cannot imagine how even the most basic detective was unable to immediately connect the student appearance of an bow-wielding vigilante with the return of a famous millionaire son believed to be dead. And with the multiple run-ins with members of his family and even the police while in his Arrow garb, they never figure things out either. Does he now have the special power of being able to always stand in a shadow or something? And even the ridiculous voice modulation in the Nolan Batman movies was a better attempt as masking his identity.

For the most part the show goes through a convoluted series of attacks on various community leaders who have somehow failed the city. This is a weird spin on the freak of the week concept since it's hard to relate to his need for lethal justice for vague crimes that we never fully get to hear about. And while they are able to establish that everyone was doing something bad or borderline legal, I don't know if this really warranted the death penalty.

Oliver is a caricature of a character - which is weird to say given he is in fact based on a comic book. But all he can really do is brood, growl and find flimsy reasons to take off his shirt. And seriously, it's like he's contractually obligated to lose his shirt at least once every episode. And while I can respect the work he has put into his body, that's not a replacement for actual acting and decent storytelling.

The show just never gripped me and the confused narrative didn't help. And as much as they were aiming for a realistic depiction of the Green Arrow character, in the end it all felt rather hallow and highly scripted. And this isn't even me getting into complaints about changes to various characters and storylines versus their comic book origins.

Arrow may work for others, but I think I'm definitely at a point in my television enjoyment that requires a lot more than what this show had to offer. This may be a case of just differing opinion and the fact that the show has just been confirmed for third season tells us that there are still people out there who enjoy this far more than I ever will. Thus I can only rate the show as 2 unnecessarily complicated conspiracies and plot twists out of a possible 5.

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