Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Review - Arrow

I had the opportunity to watch the pilot episode for Arrow at the Paley Center for Media's CW night and I went in believing this was going to be the new Smallville for the network, and while there some similarities - it's a superhero origin story, it has the same director of photography and it's even using Lex Luthor's mansion as the main estate - this show is much more Dark Knight at its core ... and it's very good.

One thing that definitely put me over the top, in addition to the terrific pilot (directed by legendary pilot episode director David Nutter, of course it is), was meeting star Stephen Amell (Heartland, Private Practice) at the Q&A afterwards.  What a charming, likeable guy.  He earnestly talked about the role, about tweeting from the set and his desire to do his own stunts even though he knows he reluctantly has to defer to his stunt double. It's important to me to like the star behind-the-scenes, and I do here.

Very mild spoilers ahead:

Amell portrays billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, a spoiled bad boy whose life of luxury is upended when he is shipwrecked on a dark, mysterious island for five years.  During that time, he transforms himself into a fierce warrior and expert archer.  He is eventually rescued and returns to Starling City, his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson, Kings, NCIS),  and sister Thea (Willa Holland, Gossip Girl, The O.C.) - dad was on the boat and met his fate ... well, won't spoil that for you.  He also reunites with his friend Tommy (Colin Donnell, Pan Am) and seeks out ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy, Melrose Place, Supernatural), whose sister Oliver was having an affair with and who went down with the boat.
All sense that something has changed within Oliver, but they have no idea how much.  He has returned with a purpose: to amend for his incorrigible actions before the accident.  He does so by becoming Arrow, a green-hooded vigilante determined to take down the criminal element and restore Starling City to its former glory, fight the ills of society and right the wrongs of his family.  This is where Arrow is more like Dark Knight than Smallville.  The creators insist their Green Arrow is undeniably human, as will be all the nemeses and villains he'll do battle with.  No alien superpowers here (though Oliver is incredibly skilled and agile, rather borderline superhuman).  There's also the darkness in him that he unleashes on the night (Batman) while in the day he maintains a broad public persona - the spoiled playboy everyone remembers him to be (remember Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins?)  ... after all, who would possibly suspect such a shallow, carefree person to be their dark savior? He even has his own Alfred-like confidante in trusty bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey, Blue Bloods, Dexter).  The fun there will be that Diggle calls Ollie on all his snark and crap and they form a playful friendship. Having the funds to pull off his new mission also helps, and his "batcave" - a loft somewhere in the city - is complete with a workout apparatus that ... well, watch the pilot and be careful not to drool too much. Seen those abs of Amell's on all the posters?  You know the one:
In effect, the producers say that there are actually four characters Amell is playing: The Oliver before the accident, the Oliver while on the island, the Oliver that returns and the Arrow persona, and so far, Amell is pulling them off wonderfully.  He and Cassidy have incredible chemistry, and since it has been made know that her character eventually becomes Black Canary, that will be something to look forward too. 

Also intriguing is the mystery behind Oliver's own mother.  The pilot clearly lays out that she knows much more about the deadly shipwreck than she has let on – and is more ruthless than he could ever imagine.

The series will flashback to the time Oliver spent on the island: how he survived, if he was alone, how he trained (and who possibly trained him) and more, which should provide some awesome action sequences to compliment the ones that we'll see in the present (the pilot had one wicked-ass battle).

One line in the episode definitely made you see just who the new Oliver is and what he's about:  he tells his beloved housekeeper Raza (sorry, don't know the actress' name) - a kind of co-Alfred: "I want to be the person you always told me I could be."  Swoon.

This show is off to a great start and as someone who stuck with Smallville for all ten years, it's nice to have another hero origin story to watch.  And if the pilot is any indication, this is going to be a good series.  And as the lead in for Supernatural, how can you lose?

Bottom line:  Arrow hits the bullseye.

Arrow premieres this Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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