Arrow: Pilot – Review by Jerry Whitworth
Created as some amalgamation of Batman and Robin Hood, Green Arrow is wealthy thrill-seeker Oliver Queen who inherited his fortune from his family to fund his playboy lifestyle. Everything changed when his yacht crashed on a deserted island where he took up the bow and arrow as a means of survival. Upon his rescue some time later, Queen decided to devote his life to justice as Green Arrow. He would later come into his own as a champion of the downtrodden combating racism, classism, corporate greed, and corrupt politicians. Despite infrequent appearances in various media and brushes with fame having the likes of legendary artists Jack Kirby and Neal Adams, prolific writer Dennis O’Neil, filmmaker Kevin Smith, and novelist Brad Meltzer approach the character in comics, Green Arrow became a known entity to the general public through his many guest appearances on the popular television program Smallville. The series followed the earliest adventures of Clark Kent before he took up the identity of Superman, Green Arrow filled a World’s Finest role with the character of Batman and his properties tied up in other projects. The success of Smallville paved the way for Birds of Prey (based in the Batman mythos) and Aquaman (the character another notable guest on Smallville) but both had their own unique degrees of failure. Arrow is an attempt to spawn another Smallville while being more in line with the successful Christopher Nolan Batman film series.
“Pilot” is the first episode of Arrow, introducing Oliver Queen as a trust fund party animal and gossip rag feature in the vein of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian that returns to civilization after five years of being missing and assumed dead. While on a trip with his father Robert aboard the family yacht (in the midst of bedding his girlfriend’s sister), the vessel goes under leaving Oliver, Robert, and a worker from the boat stranded in a life raft. Robert instructs Oliver that he has to survive and undo the harm caused to Starling City from Robert’s underhanded dealings, leaving a book identifying people in Starling with his son before killing the worker and himself. While away, Oliver’s mother Moira married her husband’s business partner Walter Steele, sister Thea had become a drug addict following in Oliver’s footsteps as a media mishap, and Robert’s sale of his factory prior to his death left a gaping wound in the community that has become widespread. Queen sets up shop in the now abandoned factory as a base of operations for his new career as a green hooded vigilante that has no qualms about becoming a murderer in order to advance his agenda. Taking aim at corrupt millionaire Adam Hunt, Queen has to deal with bodyguard John Diggle trying to follow his movements, former best friend Tommy Merlyn’s suspicions of Queen’s reemergence and the sudden presence of the green hooded killer, his ex-girlfriend’s police detective father Quentin Lance trying to bring the anti-hero to justice, and his mother’s attempts to uncover what Robert told him before his demise.
I’m conflicted about the series being such a fan of the base material. While Arrow is some mash-up of Green Arrow with the Punisher or Showtime’s Dexter, I think I’m fine with this turn but curious if it was a necessary measure. This is especially true with how quickly it went there, with about a dozen bodies piling up in the first episode alone seemingly as a bold statement that Queen is a killer and you either have to get past it or stop watching. In the same vein as Dexter, undoubtedly the FBI will have to become a presence in the series when you consider there’s someone going around killing people en masse (the Starling Slayer?). Being a show on the CW and trying to follow Smallville‘s success, it’s little wonder it’s angst filled with intertwining romances (setting up a love triangle between Queen, his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance, and Merlyn in the vein of Smallville‘s Clark, Lana, and Luthor) which I can only assume is an attempt to bring in female viewers while men watch the show for its action elements. There are many changes from the original material, such as Queen’s turn as an anti-hero, the presence of his parents (likely an attempt to youthen Arrow), Star City becoming Starling City, Dinah Lance becoming Laurel Lance, Merlyn as Queen’s childhood friend rather than someone he idolized as a child, Richard Drake becoming Quentin Lance, Speedy going from Queen’s ward to his sister, and, perhaps most notably, Drakon going from being a short, Greek master assassin that was one of Green Arrow’s most dangerous enemies to an inept Persian security advisor with passable martial art skills Queen conquers in their first meeting.
Regarding the battle between Queen and Drakon, I can’t help but be disappointed. It was an adequate fight sequence to be sure, but it missed the opportunity of the kind of threat Drakon posed in the comics. Where the show has hinted at Deathstroke the Terminator, he would almost have to appear at this point as Arrow’s second most dangerous yet realistic enemy from the original series in Drakon was reduced to a brief scene together (only slightly more than a cameo). Considering the outlandish and unrealistic nature of Arrow’s other rogues like Brick, Count Vertigo, Clock King, Steelclaw, and Bull’s-Eye, it’s like limiting yourself only to squander what few elements you still had. As for Merlyn, you all but know the turn is coming ala Smallville‘s Lex Luthor but at least with Luthor you knew you were getting someone who deserved to be Superman’s nemesis where Merlyn posed a lesser threat than Deathstroke or Drakon in the comics (though, of course, Arrow could build him up to be more, but time will tell). Returning to Deathstroke, we can only wonder in coming episodes what connection Queen has to the character if perhaps the villain will serve a similar role to his master Natas did in the comics. I think the only real redeeming factor to much of this is the mystery surrounding Moira. Did she have her husband murdered? Was Steele involved? Will she end up being Oliver’s nemesis and what sort of dynamic will this establish (will she be willing to murder her son or vice versa, or did she already try with the yacht “accident”)? With such characters as Deadshot, Huntress, and Felicity Smoak set to appear, the series seems more like the abandoned Green Arrow film Super Max than it does a television series based in the Emerald Archer’s world. At this point, I’m still interested in the show, but I think it has a ways to go to be something I would continue to tune into. Thus far, it’s about the same level as the Cape.
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