In which I basically just describe what’s going on in the Arrow TV show along with some facile commentary.

§ February 14th, 2014 § Filed under television § 8 Comments

(Some minor SPOILERS for Arrow ahead.)

So I’ve sort of binge-watched Arrow over the last month…well, it’s a lazy example of binge-watching, in that I watched the premiere episode on Netflix a couple of months back, and then got cracking on the rest of the series a few weeks later. I streamed the rest of the first season, and I’m nearly caught up on Season Two via iTunes.

My initial impression of the Arrow series was based on a brief viewing of an episode sometime during the first season’s initial broadcast, and that fifteen minutes or thereabouts felt to me like it was a narrative assembled on a framework of comic book in-jokes, and I made my Supreme Nerd Judgement based on that exposure. “BAH, THIS IS JUST COMIC BOOK IN-JOKES,” said I, and I went about my business, using that time not watching Arrow to, oh, I don’t know, cure all disease and create world peace or something.

Eventually I decided to give it another go, and once I started actually watching the series, I began to appreciate it for the fun action/adventure/melodramatic serial that it is. Yeah, there are comic book in-jokes (a character says she’ll be back in Central City “in a flash” because in the comics the Flash lives in Central City don’cha know), but there is plenty of straight-up DC Universe stuff going on in this series, too. Back stories, abilities and relationships are all altered a tad, but I still got to see live action Green Arrow fighting side-by-side with live action Black Canary, and that’s okay with me.

During the first season, with Green Arrow…excuse me, the Hood or the Vigilante…offing dudes left and right, I was reminded of a G.A. comic I read long ago, where Ollie accidentally killed a guy who was about to shoot him. Yeah, it was probably justifiable self defense an’ all, but Green Arrow is a Superhero, and not supposed to kill the bad guys, and he ends up, I don’t remember exactly, hiding out in a monastery or something to pay penance for his deeds. I suppose I could Google it (or, if I were a character on Arrow and absolutely nobody else, I could Bing it) and find out the correct story details, but that’s the general gist of it. He killed a guy, felt terrible about it, had to come to terms with it.

In a way, the show is taking the long-term view of that particular character development, by having Ollie eventually realize that he can’t keep killing the bad guys, and trying, in the current season, to transition to less lethal outcomes in his conflicts. He does slip once or twice…his killing a villain who was threatening Felicity is shown as weighing upon him; the apparent deaths of multiple Russian prison guards a couple of episodes earlier, not so much. But still, it’s nice to see a heroic character attempting not to take lives, rather than stabbing them or blowing them up and following it up with a clever quip.

Another slow transition is the introduction of superpowers into the series. Characters that traditionally have superpowers in the comics have had less paranormal replacements for those abilities in the TV show (Black Canary has a device that emits a sonic screech, Count Vertigo deals drugs that cause severe disorientation), but now there’s a serum in the series that gives people super-strength. Special guest star character Barry Allen has, in an episode I haven’t seen yet but know about already, his Flash origin (if not yet demonstrating any Flash powers, which is presumably being saved for that spinoff Flash TV show if it’s picked up). Allen even gives his backstory (in an episode I have seen) his encounter with a being that, if not specifically described as such, obviously has super-speed powers. I suspect with the popularity of superheroes in mass media now (you know, TV shows and movies), Arrow suddenly dealing with super-powered guys ‘n’ gals probably won’t be a traumatic experience for the general non-comic reading audience. A Flash guest-appearance will be the test of that, I suppose.

But I’m all for that, filling the series with more super-characters from the funnybooks. Funny that Arrow is becoming the go-to TV show for superhero action, with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., spinning off from the most successful series of superhero movies of all time, being generally a disappointment to fans expecting more of what they saw on the big screen. It’s more of the “street-level” superheroing, not so much the “flights ‘n’ tights” eschewed by Smallville, but Good Lord there’s live-action Deathstroke in this TV show. There’s the League of Assassins. There’s the Bronze Tiger. There’s Deadshot. There are mentions of Nanda Parbat, which plays heavily in the backstory of the Deadman comics, though I’ll eat my hat if Deadman shows up in this series. (I mean, actual dead-spirit-possessing-live-people Deadman…I’ll eat a hat for no less.)

In short, I like the show, and I expect to keep liking it so long as it doesn’t become the meandering-yet-running-in-place exercise in futility that Smallville became during its forty (or thereabouts) season run. That the lead character is already in costume, and that the thrust of the series is fine-tuning that character’s purpose in that costume, is already a vast improvement on the “is he Superman yet?” predecessor.

8 Responses to “In which I basically just describe what’s going on in the Arrow TV show along with some facile commentary.”

  • Jer says:

    IMO, Arrow last season was just awful. It was very generic and the character of Ollie Queen was a rich guy who was using his wealth to basically be a serial killer that targeted criminals.

    At some point they decided “hey, maybe people actually want to see a show about superheroes instead of murderers” and started not just throwing more nods in towards the DC Universe, but actively mining it for characters to put in and taking a more “superhero” attitude to the choices that Ollie makes – that killing a criminal is never the right choice to make, and when it happens it’s not something to celebrate but rather to regret.

    If they had started the series off this way – with Ollie returned from the island dedicated to both fixing his city AND never killing again while doing it – and left the “Ollie is a killer” stuff on the island, the series would have been much stronger right out of the gate. But it’s getting good now, and has gone from something that I’d watch every once in a while to see if it had gotten better to something that I watch regularly now every week.

  • Old Bull Lee says:

    I got the impression right at the beginning that this show was basically trying to do Christopher Nolan on CW.

    It’s not a perfect show, but I think they’ve largely succeeded. Characters have arcs, plots are layered and complex, there are moral dilemmas and philosophical arguments, and the acting, writing and directing is absolutely stellar compared to Smallville.

    Sometimes they fall short of their goals, but I admire the ambition and sincerity enough to cut them some slack.

    And compared to Smallville, the comic in-jokes are rather subtle. When they made one on Smallville, even if you didn’t get it, you would roll your eyes because it was so obviously an in-joke. Most of Arrow’s jokes are more casually dropped in, and if you don’t know what they are they sound like natural dialogue or commonplace names of things.

  • Malky says:

    Deathstroke is so great in this.

  • Adam says:

    It’s my second favorite show on TV, though it’s a long way behind Person of Interest.

    Don’t agree with the notion that Ollie should have started out non-lethal. Or the notion that the show was particularly generic in the first season. It has a lot of CW ‘pretty people doing things’, but that can’t be avoided. Still, the finale of the first season was downright daring compared to the ‘solve everything and hint at next season’ finales of most shows. It’s up there with Buffy s5 for finales that make me go ‘woah, did they really just do that?’ It’s also the first time I’ve liked John Barrowman since Doctor Who.

    I don’t know how they’re going to make Laurel a more likeable character. Right now Sarah is a very credible Black Canary. Caity Lotz sells it. (It doesn’t hurt that in a recent episode we see her doing that crazy hopping pull-up thing that Stephen Amell does, and just like him it’s clear she actually did at least one herself.)

    I love that the show is willing to pull deep. China White. KGBeast. Dollmaker.

    Oh, and for a serious DCgasm (and a super minor spoiler) check Wikipedia for the titles of the last three episodes of the season.

  • Adam says:

    Oh, and based on just about everything I’ve seen, read and heard, series stars Amell, Ramsey and Rickards seem like they have a ton of fun making the series and it really comes through.

  • Snark Shark says:


    Bing Crosby? Chandler Bing?

  • Coby says:

    LOL, Bing

    I missed most of the first season, but caught up when The CW mercifully decided to show a season recap before season 2. A lot of it is really slow and soap opera-ish, but, yeah, like you said, when they get around to the actual comic book characters, it is a real treat to see them in live action.

  • SB says:

    Yeah, that was how O’Neil wrapped up his appearances in Green Lantern. The Grell series took it in a different direction: He kills a guy in Longbow Hunters to save Black Canary (Dinah was never really given her due in that series, and the sidetracking of her character along with the forced-in-hindsight 80s darkening of Green Arrow have soured me on Grell’s run in more recent years. Turns out Dinah losing her powers put an end to plans for a Greg Weisman Black Canary mini in the late ’80s right before he started working in animation and that is just a criminally missed opportunity) and after realizing he’s more or less okay with it, Ollie starts murdering people left and right, including a kid with a paintball gun Al Powell style. By issue 30 he’s running around with CIA agents and freelance assassins mowing people down with an UZI because arrows are inefficient and he’s got people to murder.