I’m not familiar with Green Arrow beyond what I’ve read in various comics not staring him and Justice League Unlimited. When it was announced that the CW would be developing a Green Arrow television show, it was safe to say I was skeptical. I’m not a fan of Smallville and I didn’t understand how they could really pull off a live action superhero show, regardless of what The Avengers did. We are constantly surrounded by incredibly high quality superhero media, so how could Arrow possibly make a dent in that?
The Arrow pilot does not eschew that traditional superhero format of using the first episode as set up. Though, that’s a good thing since I don’t know much about Green Arrow beyond that he’s an archer and he’s based in Star City, though it’s called Starling City now. The parallels to Batman, especially in Arrow, are unavoidable. Oliver Queen is a billionaire playboy who, after a life changing experience in which loved ones die, returns to his city to clean it of the filth that has accumulated. And just like Nolan’s films, this is a gritty, more grounded take on the character.
Though, unlike the comics, Green Arrow murders people in Arrow. This isn’t like Batman letting Ra’s al Ghul die in Batman Begins, this is Green Arrow shooting arrows, not boxing glove arrows, but sharp, metal tipped arrows into various peoples’ chests. Sure, we’ve seen the whole violent superhero before, but the effort taken to make this feel grounded and to make Starling City feel like a real place shows such passion and desire to make this show something different. Violence doesn’t separate Arrow from the rest, the whole approach does and I applaud it.
Everything is not perfect in Arrow. The performance leaves a little to be desired and the dialog could use some tweaking to properly service this serious story being presented, but that being said, what we are shown is so strong and the idea so interesting that I can forgive it in the pilot. If the trend continues it will negatively affect the show, but for now I was so enthralled with the plot and action that I can overlook it.
There were two huge reveals that really stuck those hooks in me to keep watching. Throughout the entire pilot we are shown flashbacks to Oliver’s disappearance, when the boat he, his father and his girlfriend’s sister were on sinks and they disappear for five years. His father murders the other surviving crewmate and kills himself so that Oliver can survive long enough to get to safety, leaving him with the task of cleaning up the city his father failed. That specific scene was surprising and incredibly effective at setting up Oliver’s motivation.
Oliver’s mother, as shown in cliffhanger ending, is not only responsible for the kidnapping midway through the episode, but probably for the boat sinking in the first place. It seems that she is going to be the antagonist for the series, but I don’t know how long it will remain a secret. Especially since I don’t think a little green paint over the eyes and a hood really conceal that Green Arrow is Oliver Queen, but I may have to suspend my disbelief a little there.
Arrow is such a breath of fresh in the crowded superhero genre. It doesn’t just feel like the Nolan treatment for Green Arrow, it felt like a completely new take on an established superhero. Even if Green Arrow doesn’t continue his habit of murdering people, the pilot did such an amazing job of establishing characters and motivations that I’m on board for whatever they throw at me. I figured I would like Arrow, but I had no idea that it would become one of the best shows on television.