When The CW announced its intentions to spawn yet another comic-adapted series, one could not help but approach with caution. Although Smallville was handled with care and respect, there were certainly moments in the final seasons in which the writing was becoming increasingly unsatisfactory, at times infringing upon the integrity of the source characters. As such, it was unclear as to whether or not The CW’s new series, Arrow, would have the same frustrating flaws. Despite its liberal take on the source material, Arrow maintains a high standard of entertainment with intriguing story arcs, solid character development, and an interesting, though respectful, take on the characters, both from the Green Arrow and the overall DC Universe.
Many times in media, Green Arrow’s (Stephen Amell) origin story is skimmed upon at best, often ignoring the fact that he was stuck on an island for years, and as such, likely has some residual issues to work through. Arrow does no such thing, using this fact as a focal point from which the series builds upon. With an intriguing shift between the present timeline and that of Oliver Queen’s five years on the island, the audience is introduced to a barbaric world of isolation with a twist that even J.J. Abrams would be proud of. Slowly over the course of the first season, viewers are able to see Oliver’s transition from pampered rich kid to hardened vigilante with some serious bow and arrow skills.
The most important thing that a viewer must do before tuning in is simply to suspend all of what they once held to be true of Green Arrow. While the overall character has remained unchanged, the universe in which he exists has undergone many changes in the transition to his own series. In particular, the survival of the mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) presents a unique twist of the story, providing some ample opportunity for some character development. The alteration brings with it a mysterious storyline that Oliver has only begun to break through. In this regards, the series is doing a great job building up tensions and defining the relationships of the characters involved. Furthermore, the secretive and dysfunctional nature of the characters helps to separate Amell’s Oliver Queen from the Justin Hartley incarnation seen in Smallville.
As would be expected with any series, Arrow does certainly have its weaknesses. First and foremost, there are so many characters already playing a large role in the series that it can be difficult to truly connect with any of them before you are cut to the next scene. Due to the unlikely nature of the series, it is important to focus on the character more than the plot in order to give the project a sense of realism. This in turn offers the opportunity for a viewer to connect better with the content that would otherwise be difficult to breach (unless of course you go around fighting criminals with a bow and arrow on a daily basis). That said, it is possible to focus on characters so much that you overwhelm your viewers with the multitude of emotions that they present. Although Arrow has not yet reached unsatisfactory levels, it has danced dangerously close to this line on a number of occasions.
Yet another strength turned weakness, Arrow presents so much mystery to its viewers that it can be a bit deterring. If there is one thing shows like LOST taught us, it is that suspense is great, but only if you eventually provide answers (and hopefully not take six seasons doing so). Once again, Arrow has not yet reached the point at which the mystery has turned sour. Rather, it has arrived at the time at which the writers and creators should slowly start leaking answers into the episodes in order to give the viewers a sense of fulfillment in tuning in. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before people lose interest and no longer care to know what the answers to all of the questions were.
Overall, Arrow asserts itself as a strong player in The CW lineup. While it is not without its flaws and idiosyncrasies, it is a perfect example of how to properly bring a superhero to life in T.V. Land. It is no Smallville, and intelligently, it is not trying to be any such thing. It clearly aims to forge a new path for itself, reestablishing the superhero in televised entertainment.
Arrow airs on The CW, Wednesdays at 8pm.