December 14, 2013

The CW is On Target with Arrow

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The CW has a brand new show to balance out its heavily female centric fare. With favorable reviews and the ratings to back them up, Arrow is growing increasingly likely to be the Smallville successor that the network needs.

I had hoped this series would be worthy and it’s definitely shaping up to be. It’s a CW show mind you, so it does have a certain amount of melodramatics and suspensions of belief, but not as much as you’d think, and quite a bit less than its network superhero brethren. Like Smallville, Arrow is a show that tells the story of the early days of its hometown superhero, this time Green Arrow. And like the Lois Lane/Clark Kent relationship, there too is the iconic love interest and the emotional trappings that those scenes must entail. But for the most part, that’s kind of where the overlap ends. The differences between Smallville and Arrow are what’s making the difference and allowing it to do well with an audience that’s seen this all before, because it hasn’t.

Credit must be given to Arrow actor Stephen Amell. There have been two episodes so far and he’s shown decent acting ability in a role that may have caused a lesser actor to play overly macho or so serious to the point of cartoonish. Having already had 10 seasons of Superman (okay, Clark Kent approaching Superman), Arrow serves to be the network’s Batman analogue. Of course they would have loved to make that show, but not having the rights to that property may have actually done them a favor. The character of Oliver Queen as Arrow is, again, very much like Bruce Wayne, but still far enough different to stand his own ground. Both men were rich playboys who didn’t possess any actual superhuman powers and were thought to be long lost, but both came back with an indomitable will, superb training, and a wealth of resources to draw upon. But Arrow shoots to kill, and sometimes doesn’t even bother with an arrow when a neck break will do. Batman would abhor this. This sole distinction is one that is important because it has many implications – you don’t quite know how far Arrow would go. Other than doling out justice as he sees fit, does he have a larger moral code that he’ll abide by? Amell has done a pretty good job in the first two episodes of portraying the depth that this character may yet have. He’s cool and reserved when trying to hide his new secret life, sympathetic and regretful over what he’s lost over the 5 years he’s been gone, and unapologetically brutal when righting the wrongs of his city.

From a creative standpoint, this show has made a lot of good choices so far as well, most of which serve to undercut and minimize cheesiness. Just the decision to have him be willing to kill keeps the show honest, no workarounds just to avoid death, cheats that would have otherwise taken credibility away from the story. There are finally real stakes onscreen. An expert archer can only miss so many times. Also, I actually like the voiceover/narration that the show employs. It’s done sparingly and tastefully, and allows exposition to happen when needed, as needed, and not shoehorned into dialogue. There are far less occasions (so far) when you hear actors spell out feelings or what to make of the scene. It gives the audience a lot more credit than did Smallville I feel. And the writing itself is quite good. Secret emblems, conspiracies, and flashbacks are just some of the mystery that this show has yet to unfold, and for a CW show, that’s surprisingly engaging. Comic fans will enjoy this show for the many characters and references they’re planning on incorporating into the show, and the casual viewer will have quite a bit to latch onto as well. Stephen Amell and his constantly shirtless abs are for the ladies and the ruthless action/fight scenes are actually pretty testosterone driven. Everyone’s a winner. With only two episodes having aired this arrow still has quite a bit longer to fly. Let’s just hope it hits the mark in the end.

Note: If you missed the premiere you can watch it for free on the CW’s website for a limited time only.

Episodes air Wednesday evenings 8/7c on the CW.

By David C. Sales

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