A review of the CW’s Arrow (part two)

A DC-TV Primer: the CW Network’s superhero lineup

Wednesday: Arrow

Part Two

Read Part One here

Arrow the television show and Arrow the character are the Batman of their CW Universe: the flagship, the one the other shows and characters look to for inspiration, guidance and training (willingly and unwillingly for both parties).

Hell of a thing to say for a big Superman fan like me, eh? Like it or not, up until 25 or so years ago I would have said that Superman was the iconic flagship, and would have been correct; but the apparent dislike of the Man of Steel by the editors and writers at DC since have lowered his esteem – at one point making him as laughable as Captain Marvel and the Martian Manhunter were. But that is a whole other blog rant.

When Flash faced his Big Bad Season-Ending supervillain on his own show, the Big Bad taunted him for coming alone. “Who said I was alone?” Flash said. Arrow jumped from the background to stand beside his friend and protégé.

Chills. This is going to be a cool fight! (It didn’t disappoint!)

 

Arrow/Green Arrow was the perfect DC hero for a television drama: a little-known character (but popular in the comic book world) with a simple origin and not a lot of background to burden a program developer.

Millionaire playboy trapped on an island where he learned to shoot arrows. In the early 1970s the character loses his fortune and becomes a social, as well as a crime, crusader.

Quite likely because of the movie franchise, the Batman character was unavailable. In retrospect, it was a good move to go with Green Arrow. Giving Batman the Berlanti treatment would have been fun to watch, but it would not have worked as well.

Let’s face it; Batman’s origins and character are too firmly entrenched. The show would be too burdened by its past (although Gotham – now in its third season – does a great job in re-imagining that past; and is very good in its way, that take on the Caped Crusader would NOT fit in with the DC-CW stable).

 

Being in its fifth season, Arrow shows cracks that are not yet visible in Flash, let alone the sophomore Supergirl or Legends. The cracks are particularly apparent while binge-watching.

The formula (which can quickly become formulaic) for the DC-CW shows started in Arrow:

  1. The uber-baddie that lurks throughout the season culminating in a season-finale final battle. Granted the show does it well: it’s not one long storyline with zero progression {kaff-last-season’s-Agents-of-Shield-kaff}. Other villains show up during the season – some you think MIGHT be the season-finale uber-villain. A viewer can go several weeks without hearing the Big Bad mentioned. This is good.

The show sometimes even makes fun of this: at one point at the Season Three finale, Quentin Lance said (I paraphrase), “a super-villain is threatening to destroy all of Star City? It must be May!” In my opinion that line should proudly stand alongside “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly” and “I saw it in the window and I couldn’t resist it” in TV history.

  1. The mcguffin syndrome that occasionally plagues Flash began with Arrow: bad guy shows himself. Arrow fights bad guy and gets whipped. Arrow’s team finds a flaw and creates a special Arrow to beat bad guy. In between we have scenes advancing the various sub-plots.
  2. The sub-plots: Characters die. They come back. Characters hate Arrow for various reasons (most often of the “I can never trust you again” type) but also come back into “Team Arrow”. (I cringe when I hear or read that term). Quentin Lance seems to hate Arrow in odd-numbered seasons and be his ally in even-numbered seasons.

 

That being said, I LOVE the show! It’s full of comic book Easter eggs (although not as much as Flash) to keep this old viewer happy.

Although even that is not without its faults. Introducing characters like Roy Harper and calling Arrow’s sister by her nickname Speedy pretty much give away their inevitable roles in the show. Their introduction and use of Black Canary was a nice surprise twist, though.

 

By not being tied to a popular back story ala Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, the creators of Arrow can introduce “new” characters: we meet his mother, his father, his sister (I love Willa Holland as Thea Queen – the character grows from self-centered rich girl to a very three-dimensional woman!), Diggle and of course Felicity.

Dave Ramsey as Diggle provides the muscle and back-up when needed and is a great character.

And of course how could I not love she-geek Felicity Smoak played by Emily Bett Rickards?

 

The villains are a mixed breed of one or two-shot baddies to the Big Bad that is finally fought in the season finale. The Big Bads are drawn from DC comics. When John Barrowman was introduced as Malcolm Merlin, we old-time readers knew he was up to no good. Same with Slade Wilson, Brother Blood and Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough, who also played Dum Dum in Captain America: The First Avenger movie).

The most surprising Big Bad was Batman villain Ra’s Al Ghul, confirming Arrow’s status as this world’s Batman. Excellently played by Matt Nable; he steals every scene.

For the new season the Big Bad is modern-era villain Prometheus. In the comics he fought the Justice League to a standstill and mutilated Red Arrow/Arsenal.

Uh-oh … once again being a comic book reader may have spoiled part of a future storyline…

 

I’m saving Stephen Arnell for last. The actor who plays Arrow excels at the role even five seasons in – he is serious, but not too Batman-like (read sociopathic) level. Sometimes he even smiles.

 

Oh and by the way, Arrow had Amanda Waller & the Suicide Squad before it was cool. Find those episodes.

 

We likely only have another two or three seasons of Arrow left. Enjoy them.

 

 

 

Original Material Copyright 2016 Michael Curry

 

Characters mentioned and their images are copyright their respective holders.  Thanks to DC Comics, the CW Network and Berlanti Productions and the actors portrayed for the use of their images.

I also thank the original creators of all characters mentioned, whether or not they have been properly compensated (gratmens during the credits aside).

 

 

 

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