And when I say all of “Arrow,” I mean all of it. Off from my day job from December 23 through January 2, I set a goal to take in all 32 episodes that have aired so far. I managed to get through the first three episodes of Season 2, needing a few extra days to get to the point where regular viewers currently sit as we all await another new episode on January 15.
Why spend a big chunk of my festive season cramming on the adventures of Oliver Queen? Call it comic geek’s remorse. I’m usually a sucker for anything super hero-related on TV, but for some reason, I never watched even one second of “Arrow” prior to a few weeks ago. I’d heard some good things, but nothing that made me snap into action.
That changed when the introduction of Barry Allen (right up there among my favorite comic book super heroes) piqued my curiosity. Two of my employees at my day job, both of them fellow comic fans, also inisisted that if I gave “Arrow” a try, I would probably like it.
Logistically, it was a little tougher than you’d figure to binge-watch the show. Netflix has the first season but not the current one. The CW only has the most recent five episodes available for online viewing, so I had to turn to Amazon Instant Video to fill in the gap at the beginning of Season 2.
It was worth the effort in the end. My opinion of “Arrow” is colored by the fact that while I’ve been a fan of DC comics for almost 30 years and consider myself pretty knowledgeable, I’ve never been a regular reader of any volume of “Green Arrow” for any length of time. I read Kevin Smith’s 2001’s relaunch as it happened but hopped off after the first arc. So while I can definitely recognize certain elements of different writers’ takes on Ollie from the comics, I’m not so steeped in his lore that it bugs me when the show does its own thing.
Anyway, my friends were right, as I liked a lot more than I didn’t in the first season and a half of “Arrow.” I’d even say it surprised me to the upside, meaning it’s better than I expected it to be. Here are some of my broader thoughts on the series now that I’m all caught up:
There are way more DC references in “Arrow” than there are Marvel references in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”
Really, except for a few “S.H.I.E.L.D.” episodes that dealt with the Marvel movies or set up origins for some villains, it’s not even close. This surprised me a lot, as I was expecting the opposite. I feel like that was justified given that the main character doesn’t even refer to himself by his comic book code name.
Having Marc Guggenheim as one of the helmers and Geoff Johns playing an active role from time to time no doubt helps a lot. For longtime comic fans, it’s a lot of fun to try catching everything. Some of the references are obvious, while others are more sly—like Moira discussing “another Ted Kord fundraiser.”. One of my favorites was when Alex Kingston (becoming a certifiable geek goddess if she isn’t already) says she is catching the red eye to Central City and should get there “in a flash.”
(Sdie note: Coast City, Central City and Blüdhaven are okay, but Star City was too silly and needed to be changed to Starling City? What gives?)
The show has also done a nice job putting new spins on existing DC characters. Here I’m thinking mostly of Count Vertigo, though Slade Wilson is definitely a big one too. They work well within the context of the series, and while it may be a bit cliche to say the show’s writers captured the essence of those characters while changing them to suit their needs, I think that’s exactly what I mean.
There will never again be an origin story as long as this one
Seriously though. As much as I appreciated the way “Arrow” got right to work and let Ollie’s time on the island play out via flashbacks, I was hoping we’d be rid of it by the time the second season rolled around. No such luck.
I get that all of his experiences there made him the changed man he is in the present. In fact, I think we’ve had that point drilled into our heads repeatedly over 30-plus episodes. But at this point, it looks like we’ll be spending five years there too. Guiness people, you have your world record for “World’s Longest Origin Story!”
This is a fairly dark, violent show for an 8 pm network show
Action scenes in “Arrow” make the ones in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” look like pillow fights. Nothing stands out as particularly gruesome or gory, but there were a lot of guys in Season 1 who ended up with arrows sticking in painful places. I’m not asking for boxing glove arrows or anything, but the body count raised my eyebrows a couple of times.
Incidentally, I’m fine with the way Ollie goes from shooting for mortal wounds in Season 1 to “trying another way” in Season 2. Super hero comics have a long history of treating the “to kill or not to kill” question in a very unuanced, black-and-white manner. Having Queen go from avenger to protector feels like a natural evolution of his character, though I’m wondering who needs to die so he has the proper inspiration for Season 3.
At the same time, there are things that scream CW all the way
All those pretty faces. Plenty of topless shots of Stephen Amell training or working out. All of the many, many looks of angst or longing. Yep, this is a CW show for sure.
Jokes aside, the love triangle that is a running undercurrent to Season 1 got to be a little much. Though that seems to have ended decisively in the season finale, the romantic drama isn’t over yet. In fact, recent revelations make it very possible a slightly different triangle could develop, and no one wants that. Or at least I don’t.
Maybe I’m just too old to be in The CW’s target demographic, and that makes me sad. Let’s move on.
The dance between realism and four-color super heroics is getting trickier all the time
Everything that happened in Season 1 up to the unveiling of “The Undertaking” could have happened in real life. Then the twin earthquake machines showed up.
Since then, we’ve seen Barry Allen have the accident that transforms him into The Flash, and Johns has hinted that if the “Amazon” series featuring a young Wonder Woman ever gets off the ground, it will be set in the same universe as “Arrow.” Having characters like that cross paths with Ollie requires a delicate balancing act.
I’m sure the people in charge realize this already, and I’m all for expanding the DC universe on TV as much as possible. It just needs to be done carefully, as it would be a shame to see “Arrow” go off the rails because of too much craziness.
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