Spoiled rich kid Oliver Queen returns to Starling City after five years trapped on an island. Setting out to avenge his father and fight against corruption, he adopts the guise of an arrow-firing vigilante.
Arrow appears to be a slightly darker version of Smallville, which also featured DC’s Oliver Queen—the Green Arrow—as a major character in its later seasons. Here, the role is taken by David Beckham look-a-like Stephen Amell, whose performance is so-so at best, lacking the sparkly humour of Smallville’s Justin Hartley.
In fact, the whole show is lacking in humour in an attempt to channel the darker, straighter version of the screen superhero seen in The Dark Knight trilogy, rather than the snarky humour of Iron Man. It’s a shame the pilot has been lumbered with a dreadful voice over from the title character, a dire misused gimmick that should be dropped going forward. Director David Nutter keeps the visuals interesting, even when the script and acting aren’t particularly…
We’re quickly introduced to a range of characters and motivations in a pretty efficient manner, but a lot of the failings in the show come from the comic book source material. The scion of a rich family adopting a vigilante disguise to fight crime or corruption in high places is a well-worn trope, and all Arrow is doing is reshuffling a very familiar pack of cards.
Tweaks to the comic book mythology include the addition of a younger sister, a blatant shout out to the demographic of The CW. There’s also Queen’s ex—crusading lawyer Dinah Laurel Lance—who, going by her full name, is set to transform into Black Canary at some future point. Similarly, his best friend Tommy Merlyn is destined to become the rival archer Merlyn of the comics. Presumably, the flashbacks to Queen’s island life will continue, and should provide fertile ground for character-based story material: who taught him to speak Russian, for example?
There’s enough here, though, between the father’s motivations, the kingpins who run Starling City and the machinations going on within the Queen family—especially the involvement of his mother, Moira—to keep the interest level high. If this opener offered little that was spectacular (other than the sinking of Queen’s yacht), there is the promise that later episodes will up the ante somewhat. Otherwise, we’re looking at Queen/Arrow taking down the bad guy of the week, and that’ll get very tired, very quickly.
Verdict: An efficient, if basic start. Arrow Begins, indeed.
Episode 1 ‘Pilot’: 7/10
Brian J. Robb