11
Oct
2012
Arrow: Season 1, Episode 1
Pilot
Chris
While the past decade was marked by super heroes becoming a staple of the cinematic landscape, even going so far as to say the super hero film has become a genre unto itself, the same kinds of characters and stories have had a much more difficult time finding a foothold in primetime television. While budgetary restraints remain a hurdle for these translations to overcome, it's odd that we've gone so long with so few TV shows about super heroes (the main exception being Smallville).

Given the serialized nature of comics, one would think that it would be far easier to find a home for these characters on the small screen and that networks would be eager to try and replicate the success of Hollywood, albeit with characters whose looks and abilities would make for an easier adaptation sans an enormous budget.

Such is the case with Arrow, the CW Network's attempt to adapt the Green Arrow mythos for a primetime drama. However if the Pilot of Arrow is any indication of what we can expect from this series, I sincerely hope that the viewers aren't paying very close attention to it, as it could sour people on the idea of network television super heroes for another few years (or at least until S.H.I.E.L.D.).

We start off with an origin that stays true to the source material. After spending five years marooned on an island, with only a bow and arrow to sustain him, billionaire heir Oliver Queen is rescued and returns to civilization. After reuniting with friends and family, he begins a crusade against the forces of greed that have corrupted his beloved city.

Arrow wears its Nolan Batman influence on its sleeve. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. Christopher Nolan achieved incredible success in crafting a realistic, believable world of vigilantes and psychopaths that stayed true to its influences but remained grounded enough to appeal to a wider audience. In the comics, the character of Green Arrow began his fictional existence as an almost carbon copy of the Batman, complete with an Arrow Cave and an Arrowplane ("¦it was a simpler time).

As the old saying goes, if you're going to steal, steal from the best. However you run the risk of suffering in comparison to the inspiring material if you don't do enough to differentiate the new venture or if it just isn't very good. I'm sad to say that the writers of Arrow commit both these fatal flaws. The Pilot of Arrow is like watching a student film recreation of Batman Begins. The first episode follows the essential beats of that film almost to the letter, albeit in a condensed time frame.

Oliver (Stephen Amell) returns as the favorite son of his once great now fallen on hard times city a changed man. Its obvious that his relationship with his mother is strained but it isn't exactly clear why. It appears that the only people from his old life that Oliver is genuinely happy to see are his younger sister Thea (Willa Holland) and his russian housekeeper (his first lover perhaps?). Oliver's relationship with his party girl sister is sure to be a major sub-plot for the show going forward and it seems that she has inherited the unfortunate (nod to comics fans we did not want or need) mantle of "Speedy."

Oliver's former best friend (soon to be arch-enemy) Tommy Merlyn takes him out on the town, but instead of making an immediate return to the party scene, Oliver insists on seeing his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). The reunion is made only the slightest bit awkward by the fact that Oliver was having sexy time with Laurel's younger sister aboard his yacht as it sank to the briny deep.

This interaction is where things really start to go off the rails. Take an earnest but lacking in originality cover of Nolan's Batman Begins and add in a heaping helping of patented CW melodrama, stir for forty minutes, and lo and behold"¦it's not very good. The dialogue between Queen and Lance is cringeworthy, and the lack of chemistry was so powerful that I fear it might be contagious to couples watching the episode (though if your date night involves the premiere of Arrow you probably had issues to begin with).

From here Oliver survives a kidnapping attempt, undergoes his mandatory training/equipment prep montage, and hits the town in costume for the first time. His choice of first target doesn't make a lot of sense until the end of the episode, and even then his motivations are still a little fuzzy. As we close in on the end of what seemed like a week of televised purgatory, Oliver makes a big show of partying like a careless rich boy, attempts to intervene in his sister's drug habits, pushes Laurel farther away, and makes time to duck out and kill a billionaire tycoon's private security force with extreme prejudice.

The biggest problem with Arrow, (aside from the absolutely grating dialogue) is that nothing the characters do or say feels natural or earned. Everyone seems like they are going through a set of motions for no other reason than a script tells them to. And while I'm sure we will learn more about what Oliver's father knew, and what he told Oliver before his death, the fact remains that the most important thing to establish in this pilot episode was not the how of Oliver's vigilantism, but the why.

Green Arrow is exactly the kind of character that should be prioritized for adaptation to network television. And this pilot did present elements that could be built into a compelling show. The execution however was sorely lacking. Both writers and actors struggled with the material and left me with little hope that this ship can be righted before the audience gives up all hope. I don't plan to keep watching Arrow on a regular basis, but I will check back around episode 5 or 6 to see if the creators are any closer to hitting their mark (I'm sorry, but listening to that much bad dialogue in one sitting, it"¦it changes you!).

Grade: D

Notes


-Ok, ok It wasn't all bad. The final fight scene was choreographed to satisfaction and there seems to be an interesting sub-plot brewing around Oliver's relationship with his mother.

-Every line Laurel has is terrible.

-"And they probably figured you'd pay a king's ransom to get your boy back. Or a Queen's ransom in your case." Hear that? That's an entire viewing audience groans in unison.

-"As your wingman, I recommend Carmen Goldman." "Which one is she?" "The one who looks like the chick from Twilight." "What's Twilight?" "You're so much better off not knowing." Alright. I admit it. This got a chuckle.
Tags: Arrow
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