Finding the Bull’s-eye: a review of Arrow (Season 1; episodes 1-10)

Surprisingly, most especially to me, I’ve come to enjoy the CW’s new super-hero show Arrow. I didn’t want to; thinking it was going to be some poor attempt to capture the Smallville crowd, considering I never was one. I never got into Smallville at all. Saw two episodes and it just never grabbed me. But I watched Arrow anyway, and like I always do when I watch a new show, I watch at least four episodes before I decide whether it is worth my time and if I should continue with the show and by the fourth episode, I was hooked. I started to enjoy the show and I was eagerly waiting for the next episode.

it took a while, but Arrow found its mark and has become one of my regular television habits this season

it took a while, but Arrow found its mark and has become one of my regular television habits this season

The show, of course, is not without its faults. For one, the dialogue is quite weak. The dialogue is quite contrived and has a habit of explaining directly what people are feeling and I don’t like that. It sounds scripted, and I really can’t stand the voice-overs, the narration of Oliver Queen, the lead character. It’s too neat and it gives everything away. It’s not my cup of tea — but while the dialogue is flawed, in my opinion, I am enjoying the story-telling and the character development. Oliver Queen is an interesting character study of the reluctant hero who evolves from a need to exact vengeance and to right his father’s wrongs and in so doing, finds his heroism and his soul. Amidst a need to detach himself from the world in order to carry out his mission and to protect the people he cares about, he finds that he cannot do this, and in it finds his humanity.

What makes it work is Stephen Amell. I was disappointed with him in the first two episodes. I thought he was nothing more than a ridiculously good-looking actor with the physical prowess to bring the hooded vigilante to life; but by the third episode, he found his stride and he found his character. He captured the right tone and attitude to make Oliver Queen relatable and accessible. It took him two episodes but he managed to find that balance of light-heartedness and seriousness that is required from a show like this. It isn’t full-on camp but neither is it full-on dead serious drama, as say, The Dark Knight.  It straddles somewhere in-between and that is the delicate balance that one has to find and he found it eventually and he has become quite enjoyable to watch.

The one who annoyed me to no end was Katie Cassidy, who plays Laurel Lance, the love interest and the human anchor for Oliver Queen. She was off and she was in a different frequency from the rest of the cast and the whole show itself, but by the sixth or seventh episode (I can’t remember which anymore), she found her stride as well and found her place in the show where she resonated with every one and truly became part of the show. Thankfully so, because if she had failed to find her stride, she could have been the show’s failing. But she found it, thank God!

Willa Holland as Thea Queen, in my opinion, the heart and soul of Arrow

Willa Holland as Thea Queen, in my opinion, the heart and soul of Arrow

The reason why I didn’t drop the show from the very first episode was Willa Holland. As Thea Queen, the younger sister of Oliver Queen, she was just the right mix of spunk and trouble and had a presence that jumped off the screen and just grabbed you. For the longest time, she was the anchor that held the show together for me until all the pieces finally found their place and worked as a cohesive unit. She may not have the largest role in every episode, but her presence, for me, marked the axis for what the show should feel like — the right mix of drama and camp and comic book reality.

That’s the thing about shows like Arrow. It does not attempt to take on the dramatic depth and intensity of something like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy but neither is it the campy fare of Adam West’s Batman and instead tries to find that middle line. It’s a serious comic book television series — not too serious, not too light-hearted, not too campy. It is a difficult tone to achieve properly but the show has managed to do it well, in my opinion.

The story arc is intriguing and develops properly and realistically. Oliver’s dilemma of how he goes about his business is compounded with the difficulties of his commitments to his personal life that always gets entangled in the mess of his need to exact vengeance, which in turn has become less of a mission to right his father’s wrongs and more because it is the right thing to do. In the ten episodes of the first season, it has delved into this with the right emotional hooks that I am enjoying Oliver Queen’s heroic journey as he tries to find himself in the world he has returned to.

The action is quite enjoyable, as well. It isn’t your run-of-the-mill action sequences that were done on a low budget (because it is television) and instead, quite a few episodes actually have well-directed action sequences and the show has shown some very impressive parkour stunts that have been very enjoyable to watch.

Considering my regular television programs include such heavy-hitters as The Good Wife, American Horror Story: Asylum, and The Walking Dead, Arrow has become an enjoyable alternative to the heavy, thought-provoking fare that I also watch and evens out my weekly television habits alongside The Vampire Diaries. I don’t want to diminish Arrow and The Vampire Diaries by calling it lighter fare, as they are as enjoyable, but they are not as intense an experience as the first three.

I’m happy that Arrow is as good as it is and that it entertains me to no end. While I no longer collect comic books like I used to back when I was a teen-ager, the love for the extra-ordinary and the fantastic still has a place in my heart. As much as I want to be moved in the gut and in the heart the way The Good Wife or The Walking Dead would move me, shows like Arrow and The Vampire Diaries brings back that sense of wonder to my day-to-day.

And hey, as much as I totally adore Willa Holland, let’s face it: Stephen Amell is just way too gorgeous to ignore. And the fact that he has the ability to make Oliver Queen work shows that he isn’t just a pretty face with a rockin’ body — the boy has got depth in there to make something like that work. And that is just the icing on the cake.


2 thoughts on “Finding the Bull’s-eye: a review of Arrow (Season 1; episodes 1-10)

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