Review: Arrow

I don’t know how I missed this show, but I’m so glad that I started watching it. It’s based on a series of comic books, stars a group of very attractive people, and is brilliantly written. Check, check, and check on all three qualities I look for in a show. Ok, I’m kidding about number two (though the cast is hot), but this show is seriously amazing and well worth the last three weeks I just spent binge watching to catch up.

Arrow is currently in the midseason break of its third season on the CW network. It’s based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, a costumed crime-fighter by night and billionaire playboy Oliver Queen by day. Oliver, who returns home to Starling City after five years stranded on a hostile island, has returned to fight crime and corruption as a secret vigilante whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow. While this show had the potential to become very Robin Hood-esqe, Arrow also dedicates significant focus to exploring Oliver’s past and how he was changed by his time spent shipwrecked on the island.

Here’s a recap of what’s gone on so far (general overview spoilers to follow):

 

In the first season, Oliver struggles to reunite with friends and family while spending his nights hunting down the wealthy persons responsible for “failing the city.” He does this as a vigilante nicknamed by the Starling City Police Department as “The Hood.” His targets were later revealed to have been identified by Oliver’s father, who left a notebook with his son just before he died as part of the same shipwreck. Over the course of the season, Oliver uncovers his family’s connection to a secret organization and a plot to destroy a poorer section of the city known as the “Glades.” War veteran John Diggle and tech wizard Felicity Smoak are eventually brought in to assist Oliver in his crusade to save Starling City.

In season two, Oliver’s main antagonist is Slade Wilson, a man from Oliver’s time on the island who resurfaces with a vendetta against Oliver. Slade’s struggle with Oliver puts Queen Consolidated at risk, as well as repeatedly threatens the lives of Oliver’s family and friends. To stop Slade from destroying Starling City, two new people join the Arrow team: Sara, the innocent girl turned trained assassin with whom Oliver was shipwrecked on the island (and whom he believed had died there until she returned to Starling City), and aspiring vigilante Roy Harper, whose life Oliver twice saved as “The Arrow.”

In season three thus far, The Arrow has become a public hero in the wake of Slade’s defeat. However, Queen Consolidated is sold to a wealthy scientist named Ray Palmer (who has a hidden agenda of his own), Oliver’s family is divided by secrets, and a conflict ensues with Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of the League of Assassins responsible for training Sara.

 

Basically, there’s a lot going on in this show. Between the flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island and the endless threats facing Starling City, there’s a never-ending series of mysteries for The Arrow and his team to unravel. I’m routinely surprised and consistently impressed by the well thought out structure of the script, never bored by the villains or disbelieving of their motives.

The production value of the show is pretty good, too. The CW has likely managed to keep costs down by focusing on realistic technologies instead of CGI heavy Tony Stark style gadgets. However those same budget minders also make the show more believable and relatable. If what the heroes are facing is something that could actually exist, people can understand its dangers on a personal level. It sort of goes with the whole Robin Hood vibe of The Arrow’s mission to save Starling City.

My favorite character by far is Felicity. She’s smart, she’s witty, and she’s incredibly resourceful. Using her MIT degree and superior hacking skills, Felicity utilizes whatever resources she has available to assist on missions. She helps with everything from bomb diffusion to scanning blood samples and fingerprints. I don’t know how The Arrow survived without her for the first half season – she’s absolutely an indispensable member of the team. I also greatly admire whomever is responsible for her wardrobe; the costumers have totally nailed her outfit selections from day one. Just because she’s the IT girl doesn’t mean she can’t look fierce in heels and a sheath dress!

That said, it’s hard not to like Oliver, too. His altruistic streak gets on my nerves sometimes, but then I remember that he used to be a complete jerk before he was shipwrecked (think Tony Stark pre-Iron Man) and I forgive him for overcompensating. There are worse things than trying to save your city and your family from disaster, right?

The character I really don’t like is Laurel. From day one, she has driven  me absolutely nuts. If Oliver is Robin Hood, then Laurel is  his maid Marian. She’s the girl always trying to help, but routinely ending up in distress. She’s pretty, she’s smart, and ok she thought her boyfriend (Oliver) and sister (Sara) died in a shipwreck while cheating on her so that’s pretty terrible, but you’d think that sort of thing would just make her stronger. Instead, she usually comes off as petty. Its only in season three that we’re beginning to see her grow more as a character.

Some other notable people involved in this show: John Barrowman appears in the role of Malcom Merlin, Sean Maher as Shrapnel, Alex Kingston as Ms. Lance, and Summer Glau as Isabelle. These four are not new to science fiction television and their experience shows. John Barrowman is famous for playing the ever cocky Captain Jack in the BBC reboot of Doctor Who, Alex Kingston for playing River Song in the same, Sean Maher for his role as genius doctor Simon Tam in Joss Whedon’s Firefly, and Summer Glau for the roles of mentally damaged prodigy and sister, River Tam, in Firefly, and vindictive scientist in Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse. These four actors have proven themselves to be excellent contributors to the success of Arrow and I love seeing them all back on the silver screen.

Overall, I’m really impressed with this show. I’m a pretty die-hard Marvel fan, and have been since I first watched X-Men as a kid, but DC Comics is seriously impressing me with this Green Arrow inspired television show. Maybe it’s because, unlike Marvel, I don’t know anything about the comic background, but it’s more likely that the CW and DC partnership is working cohesively. The show is entertaining, clearly articulated, and well scripted. Someone is clearly putting their resources into it and its paying off big time. I give this show a solid thumbs up and look forward to its return in a few weeks.

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