Sooo, Arrow has arrived! Well, it arrived Monday, and anyone without a torrenting issue (or principles) has already seen it, but I have vowed never to let legality-based tardiness deter me from posting, so:
Ollie Queen is many things to me. Passionate. Flawed. Proud. Arrogant. Witty. Dashing. Honourable.
Fictional. To be clear.
But as I may have previously mentioned, I know not to expect my visions to be carried over between media. Christian Bale did not represent my Batman, Brandon Routh wasn’t my Kal-El, and Ben Affleck was, at best, a bargain basement Halloween Matt Murdock. I’m glad he’s directing now.
So having endured the crappy Arrow banners across the top of my DC comics (grrr), borne witness to Stephen Amell’s crazy shredded (but also thick, like someone laser-cut sides of pork into a torso shape and strapped it to a himbo) and mad-scarred bod, and repeated to myself over and over “It will be different. That is fine. It will be different. That is fine…”, I tuned in.
Well, Amell’s physicality and opacity (some might call him wooden, I think he’s got some presence so I’m going with the “o” word) are the best things about the show. That’s a lie. The washed-out hi-def rockiness of the island where Ollie is stranded for 5 years is the best thing about the show, scenery porn on a Nat Geo scale. Everything else is like someone put Smallville in a blender with Dark Knight Rises and then sifted out all the asymmetries, all the room for contemplation. All the ideas.
We can spot the bad guys because the narration points at them like a kid in a schoolyard. They are non-specifically bad people who cuss and do bad things we don’t see. I believe they may also be visually impaired and therefore deserving of some sympathy, especially the bald dude (budget Luthor) who fails to notice the 2 inch arrowhead WITH A MODEM ON IT sticking out of the faux panelling behind his evil wing-chair, flashing as it downloads $40m from his accounts. How’s he going to afford corrective laser surgery now? Bad Arrow.
Dinah Lance is Ollie’s love interest. The writers (Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg stand out particularly as influences, having both worked on particularly non-interesting Green Arrow runs for DC comics) make a point of showing that Dinah has a mad-on for Ollie because he totally cheated on her with her sister who then drowned in the shipwreck he survived… and Ollie pulls a Bruce Wayne a la Batman Begins (the scene where he clears the party by calling the attendees out as phonies and parasites) to “protect” her from being drawn in by his chiselled smoulder….
But they’re so kissing by season’s end. Actually, Arrow is “gritty”, so they’ll probably bone (she’ll keep her bra on) “out of nowhere” and then stuff will get, wait for it… “complicated”.
The Queens are all rich screw-ups, aside from the Maid who is clearly, touchingly, heart-string-pluckingly dumb as a box of rocks if she thinks Ollie was a “good boy” before his island trip. But there’s a nice class statement there about the servers being more humane than the served, which nicely subverts Ollie’s comic roots as one in a long line of Aristotelian (i.e. high-born) DC heroes, so okay, fine. In fact, urban decay and corruption are major themes in Arrow, as the prodigal heir to a tainted legacy returns to protect the victims of his lineage’s misdeeds (or a 1%er turns Hero of the 99%), moving (emblematically) into a now defunct factory that belonged to his father. Of course, that’s all also a nice way to get Ollie into a bitchin cool warehouse-style pad and show him getting sweaty under high-contrast lighting, but hey, whatever.
Tommy Merlyn (Merlyn being Ollie’s nemesis in DC lore) is slightly too effete and soft to be a feasible future foe, but he’s obviously the Luthor to Ollie’s Clark (see how they switched it up so the guy who’s the Luthor proxy has hair but the villain is bald, so it kind of works on multiple levels because a bad guy is still Luthor-lite but so is a good guy… for NOW!).
Ollie learned parkour on the island. He also got burned and broken a lot, which makes you wonder how many episodes we’ll go before this happens as an old injury betrays him.
All in all, this is solidly passable TV. The unfortunate thing is that, much like wannabe blockbusters blowing their budgets on “the big scene”, it feels like Arrow spent time finding the right leading man (buff, twinkly eyed, young, not too charismatic, not too grim) but skimped on the rest of the production. Except the lighting.
Count the green filters in this show. Compare it with the Ed Norton “Hulk” movie. Winners on a postcard please.
What did bug me though, was the introduction of a device to let the viewer know that this show will run and run, namely a water-stained notebook filled with a list of names Ollie has to do something about, our aforementioned Evil Magoo being the first name crossed off.
This is part of a pattern with content, where for some reason producers feel that if viewers can’t see the invisible highway of future installations stretching out horizon-ward, they won’t bother to get involved. So we get shoe-horned promises that “we’ve got loads more ideas, loads, really, SO many you wouldn’t believe it, so pleeeeease come back”. Setting aside the fact that this is superhero TV, a genre Smallville’s already shown can be milked for decades, the concept’s hardly tricky. Arrows + Bad Guys + fit rich dude with family issues = People’s Champ.
We don’t need to know it’s never going to end. You can’t give us perpetual novelty.
Just make it interesting. Not “teaser”, or “cliffhanger” interesting. We’re smart, we see through that stuff.
Make us care and wonder and not understand. Obscure the invisible highway with ominous fog.
And read some of the comics, for fuck’s sake, the good ones! There’s a reason Ollie’s around for you to re-envision.