~ by Rebecca Fisher
If we’re being really honest here, the concept of Green Arrow doesn’t sound all that promising. Though first appearing in DC comics back in 1941, he certainly doesn’t have the same recognisability as Batman, Superman or Wonder Woman. And whereas those three have become so iconic that they’re no longer in the shadow of the material that originally inspired them (Zorro for Batman, Greek/Roman mythology for Wonder Woman, Moses for Superman), Green Arrow’s assortment of origins are still very obvious.
A young billionaire (like Bruce Wayne) is cast ashore on a deserted island (like Robinson Crusoe) where he becomes a master archer, skills that are put to use once he returns to civilization and becomes a hooded, green-clad vigilante (like Robin Hood). Even his name – Oliver Queen – sounds a little silly.
But (you knew there was a but coming) in the past decade Green Arrow has enjoyed a boost in popularity after appearances not only in animated shows like Justice League Unlimited, Young Justice and The Batman, but also as a regular character on Smallville. It all accumulated in the creation of Arrow, first airing in 2012 and just now beginning the filming of its third season. Hearing a lot of buzz about it, and remembering that I really enjoyed the character on Justice League, I decided to put aside my reservations and check it out.
Billionaire Oliver Queen is presumed dead after a shipwreck that also kills his father, only to be found five years later and reunited with his mother and sister in Starling City. Trying to reintegrate himself back into his family and modern civilization itself proves less of a challenge than what Oliver really has planned.
He spells it out himself in the opening voiceover to each episode: “I will fulfil my father’s dying wish: to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city.” This hand-written list identifies a variety of corrupt businessmen, politicians and mobsters, and it soon becomes apparent to the audience that those five years Oliver spent on that island can’t have been spent alone. Having acquired a range of languages, martial arts and pin-point precision with a bow, Oliver takes to the streets of Starling City in a green hood and voice modifier to dispense justice.
As it happens, there are quite a few storylines at work here! Perhaps the strength (or ingenuity) of Arrow as a show is that it doesn’t slow down for a second. If there are any plot holes or character inconsistencies, you probably won’t notice them thanks to the rocketing pace of the proceedings.
Your average episode will include a standard villain of the week (usually a recognisable guest star from such cult shows as Fringe, Battlestar Galactica, Angel, Once Upon a Time or Farscape) who the vigilante known as “The Hood” tracks down and threatens, forcing them to return their ill-gotten gains to the population.
Then there’s the running thread of the season’s overarching plot, which often encompasses only couple of scenes per episode. It’s soon apparent that Moira Queen has a dark secret, one that has to do with her husband’s death and a conspiracy known as The Undertaking. This mystery is metered out in small doses, finally reaching its climax in the season finale.
And on top of this, the show also contains flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island (which may in turn give you flashbacks of LOST) that depict his fight for survival and his growing realization that he’s not alone.
Amidst all this drama is a huge collection of characters, each one with their own background and story-arcs. With such a large ensemble cast, it’s difficult to know where to start!
Stephen Amell plays Oliver Queen, and though I initially thought he was a bit wooden, many of his acting choices become more apparent as the season goes on and we get a sense of the character’s many facets: the wastrel persona, the stoic vigilante, the spoiled whiner in the island flashbacks, and the rare glimpse of the “real” Oliver whenever his guard is down.
Then there’s his aforementioned secretive mother Moira (Susanna Thompson), struggling to cope with her youngest daughter Thea (Willa Holland) who turned to drugs to deal with the loss of her father and brother. Though they’re delighted to have their missing son/brother returned to them, they face a difficult adjustment period fraught with unanswered questions about what really happened to him while he was away.
Also happy to see Oliver is Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), his best friend who now has to break the news that he’s been seeing Oliver’s girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) while he was presumed dead. Yes, there’s an inevitable love triangle, but the most interesting thing about the dynamics here is that Laurel’s resentment and confusion over Oliver’s return is augmented by the fact her sister Sara was killed in the shipwreck – she and Ollie were having an affair behind her back.
Sara’s death destroyed the Lance family, and to add yet another complication, Laurel’s father Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is a police detective determined to hunt down the vigilante.
Finally we’ve got Oliver’s inner circle: his bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey) and IT girl Felicity Smoake (Emily Bett Rickards), who are let in on his secret fairly early in the show’s run and end up his most important allies. Within this extensive cast of characters are a range of rivalries, friendships, secrets and lies that make up the underlying tensions of the show, all of them gradually building as the season rushes along.
Arrow is a show that knows how to make the most of its format, doling out portions of its story-arc across twenty-three episodes and filling the rest of its run-time with kidnappings, drug deals, shoot-outs, hostage situations, assassination attempts and Oliver’s interpersonal relationships. There’s always something going on, and it’s this high-octane style of storytelling that gives the show its undeniable energy.
The underlying conspiracy is what drives the action of this first season, with at least one twist or revelation present in each episode, whilst the “prequel” aspect of the island flashbacks marks out Ollie’s development from playboy to fighting machines. Needless to say, this is an extremely busy show, and its climatic final episode has already got me seeking out Season Two.
Next Time: Lost
It was confusing, it was fascinating, it was convoluted, it was frustrating – it was Lost. And so was I by the end of it.
About The Reviewer:
To read Rebecca’s detailed introduction of both herself and the series, as well as preceding reviews, click on: