Review: Arrow Season 1

Ollie and his crew. If you like fantastic fiction you might like this one. It’s worth looking at and spending time with.

It’s no secret I’m a comic book fan. That said, I never watched Smallville when it was on TV. I was interested early on, but then for some reason it never really appealed to me. I love Superman, and the idea of the show should have grabbed me. Lois & Clark did, but for some reason I just never tuned in to Smallville. Even when they started introducing heroes like the Legion or Doctor Fate or Hawkman.

A couple of my friends have been talking about the CW’s Arrow on Facebook and Twitter. This year I’m set up to stream Netflix so when I got curious I flipped on the first season of the show. There’s a lot to like about this program and what I enjoy the most is being able to watch an episode without commercials. I suppose that this was my video equivalent of trade-waiting the comics. Regardless, I watched the pilot with some trepidation, as I do any comic book adaptation. Fair warning, there may be spoilers ahead here. I don’t believe they’ll ruin your overall enjoyment of the series if you’re familiar with the characters in play here so here we go. SPOILER WARNING.

The structure of the season is such that viewers don’t get an origin from start to finish in the pilot episode. Green Arrow’s Star City is name-changed to Starling City (and I don’t really understand that but okay) and Oliver is wearing the hood which wasn’t my favorite in the comics but okay. There are a number of divergences from what I know of Green Arrow at this point but none of them matter.

This show is a wonderful update/adaptation of the classic superhero comic mixed with not-too-much pathos and soap opera relationships. It works very, very well.

Oliver Queen is the son of wealthy industrialist Robert Queen who is not – well, you have to watch to really get the sense of it. Speedy is there, but she’s Ollie’s sister Thea. Other familiar characters pop in and out like Helena (Huntress) Bertinelli, Deadshot and Slade Wilson. Little changes are made but they work for the world of the story.

Viewers don’t need to be well-versed in the lore of Green Arrow to enjoy this show. There are bad guys (Count Vertigo, the aforementioned Deadshot and obligatory organized crime figures) and good guys and some who fall in between. What the writers and crew and actors and directors have done here is create a rich array of characters who interact believably with one another in a world that doesn’t require excessive suspension of disbelief.

Yeah everyone knows how to fight because that’s the way it should be. Yes, the stakes are always high and sometimes repetitive. Also some of the dialogue is trite and weak but the biggest thing that bugs me isn’t anything to do with the writing or acting, it’s in the casting. Every woman on the show looks so similar that they’re practically interchangeable. The men all have interesting faces and builds but the women (Laurel, Thea, McKenna, even Felicity with her blonde hair) are all built the same, dress the same, wear their hair the same and even Ollie’s mother, Moira, looks like an older version of the young women on the show. This doesn’t mean they don’t delineate their characters well but on the surface they look very, very similar. Almost like Irv Novick drawings from the 70s and 80s. That’s not all bad.

The biggest problem in the season is that when a major character is abducted around mid-season and another character joins Ollie’s crew, ostensibly, in order to find the missing character – that missing character is not mentioned for almost half a dozen episodes. Not at all. If everyone was so concerned it seems it should have been a bigger part. In the end, the plot is resolved and I was satisfied with it.

I should mention that Stephen Amell is terrific, though. He has to play Ollie at different points in his life in this show because one of the conceits is that he was marooned on an island for five years and that’s where he learned the skills he’s using. I understand that he’s the second guy to play Ollie in the CW/DC Universe but I can’t imagine anyone else doing as well as he has. He looks the part, and has the hardest job on the show. I’m curious to see what happens when they finally let him into the kitchen to start cooking chili.

This review is getting out of hand so I’ll wrap up by saying that I really, really enjoyed this season. Guest stars John Barrowman, Alex Kingston and Jamey Sheridan bring a bit of gravitas to the world of the show. Paul Blackthorne is the resident cynic who doesn’t think much of Ollie or his chosen vocation. What the show does very well is display how difficult it would be to be a superhero in this modern world. Keeping one’s identity secret is nearly impossible with all the help Green Arrow needs. And a hero who uses sharp weapons and has to kill in order to either preserve his secret or because the bad guys deserve it is really complicated. Everything he does affects everyone around him all the time.

It makes for great comics and good TV. I recommend anyone who’s a fan of this kind of story should watch it. I don’t think you’d be disappointed.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at

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