Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Arrow "Pilot" Review

Arrow's an intriguing superhero action TV series, with good action scenes, compelling characters, and depth; a teenager did not perform brain surgery yet. Arrow's "Pilot" is a success. Of all the TV shows premiering in the Fall, Arrow is the one I anticipated the most. The CW's lone DC Comics adaptation success was Smallville, which ran for 10 seasons between TheWB and The CW. Oliver Queen was portrayed by Justin Hartley for the last few seasons. During Smallville's run, The CW developed a series for Aquaman. AquaMan wasn't ordered to series (but the 'Pilot' can be viewed on YouTube). Arrow attempts to capture the tone of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy. The Green Arrow was introduced as Batman-ripoff in the original comics, with a sidekick named Speedy to boot. My friend Funk's older brother owned several Green Arrow comics. I paged through them during the summer of 2004 because of my fascination with badass archers. Legolas of the Lord of The Rings made an impression on teenage Chris. The Green Arrow comics were the forgotten ones amidst the collection in his dank basement. I could've taken the home and neither he nor his brother would've given a shit. The Green Arrow was superfluous to Funk, a ripoff of Robin Hood; Batman didn't even enter the kid's mind. DC Comics already had too many rich vigilantes.

Batman's an iconic hero because the character literally spans generations. Kids and teenagers in the 60s watched Adam West's Batman. The early 90s saw the era of Tim Burton's Batmans. The kids WB aired one of the best cartoons of all-time during the mid-90s, Batman: The Animated Series. My love for Batman grew each afternoon I watched animated Batman on TV. The comics have been around since the 1940s. Batman's part of the fabric of popular culture. The Green Arrow exists in his shadow. The character doesn't share the same history; there is no filmography for him. Green Arrow's brightest moments as a relevant popular culture figure were reduced to Justin Hartley's portrayal of him on Smallville. Barely anyone watched Smallville in its latter seasons. The Green Arrow isn't discussed with the reverence and love of the character that’s responsible for Arrow's existence. Arrow's creative team needed to make the character compelling and interesting. The CW's lives and breathes for young females; so, how will a gritty superhero drama about an expert archer with a bone to pick with the men who've ruined Starling City be appealing for young females? It starts with Stephen Amall's abs. Arrow's creative team and The CW's executives can just sit tight, cross their fingers, and hope the girls stick around for more of Amall's abs. Presumably, the abs will be on display.

Arrow's "Pilot" is simply solid. Oliver Queen narrates about his experience on a deserted island after his family's boat shipwrecked in the North China Sea. Queen's reintroduction into Starling City is handled deftly. Queen learns what's changed through the insane intuitive senses he developed isolated on an island. Starling City's been taken over by corrupt men, represented in the "Pilot" by Adam Hunt, a millionaire who stole millions from clients; a fictionalized Bernie Madoff. The Green Arrow, in the comics, was politically aware; a small dose of politics is thrown in through the Adam Hunt story. Oliver has a list of men he needs to go after in his effort to restore what was lost. Robert Queen, the patriarch of the family, killed himself days after warning his son to survive and fight, because he'll need to fix his, Robert's, mistakes in a city he failed.

The city's not the only broken thing in Arrow; his family, too, is broken. Oliver's kid sister, nicknamed Speedy, was a 12 year old girl when the boat capsized and the city thought he died. Speedy's now a 17 year old girl, pretty, sexy, and content to live the wild lifestyle her brother led before he disappeared. Oliver catches her trying to snort lines in her bedroom and then buying a capsule of drugs during his welcome-home party. Oliver's mother remarried quickly after her husband's disappearance. The new husband is Robert's former right-hand man. Oliver realizes the change during a dinner of Hamlet proportions. The woman who died on the trip is the sister of an ex-girlfriend he treated badly in his douchebag playboy days. Her father is the chief-of-police in Starling City. Oli's best friend, Tommy, is in a relationship with Laurel, the scorned ex-lover of Oliver's. Laurel works as an attorney. She devoted her life to bringing justice to the individuals responsible for the fall of Starling City; Oliver's after the same people. The elements are connected.

The "Pilot" is successful because it pays homage to the character of the comics and sets him apart from that character. The nods to Speedy and Robin Hood happen in the first half of the episode. Actually, the case-of-the-week is a steal-from-the-rich-and-give-to-the-poor-or-rather-screwed-ones-who-gave-their-money-to-Adam Hunt story; but it's close to Robin Hood. Stephen Amall has great presence on the screen as the changed Oliver Queen. He's much better as pissed-off archer than douchebag playboy. Like Bruce Wayne, Queen needs to embrace the role he's forgotten about long ago.

The action scenes should be a calling card of the show. Of the shows I watch with action scenes, the action doesn't stand out. Buffy and ANGEL staged amazing fights by-and-large. Buffy was The Slayer; she kicked ass every day. Angel fought every night to atone for his sins. Fighting wasn't just a part of their character--it was/is their character. Oliver Queen is a fighter. Arrow's big action scene, which was a fight in the third or fourth act (the new structure of scripted programming still confuses me. I need to count acts. I don't know which shows use six and which use seven). The excellent fight scene could be a product of the 'Pilot.' Fight scenes might tail off now that the budget is lower. The stunts were neat, too. Oliver moves like a video game character, it's like he manipulates gravity with his movements. It's really neat to watch. I'm hopeful about the fights and stunts retain the quality seen in the "Pilot."

The mythology of the show's not overwhelming or tiresome. Oliver's mother arranged the kidnapping of her son to learn the truth about the island. The flashbacks to the island show what turned Oliver into a badass archer with a plan to take back the city. Robert Queen's a mystery, too. He shot a man on the raft and killed himself--that's a story, too. Arrow's well-realized and well-drawn for the future. The creative minds behind No Ordinary Family and Green Lantern seem to have cracked the superhero code. Arrow, through one episode, is really good.

Other Thoughts:

-Tommy details Oliver on what he's missed, which includes the LOST finale and the lazy conclusion that everyone was dead the entire time. I'm sighing as I type the words. It's been three years, and 'they all died' is still the prominent thought when the finale's mentioned. Read my 10,000 word review of the finale to help figure out what really happened.

-Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisburg wrote the episode. Berlanti and Guggenheim got the story credit. David Nutter directed the "Pilot."


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About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.