We are 3 episodes into the second season of Arrow, an adaptation of the DC property Green Arrow. Having rewatched season 1 and listened to comments, criticisms, and reviews through out as well as having a discussion with my uncle on the matter I have to come to the conclusion that Arrow isn’t just good-its probably the best live action superhero TV series I’ve seen and may ever see.
Now the show is not without its faults and mistakes but I believe a portion of the criticisms come from comic fans who want to apply their desired vision of the characters to that of the show even though the show. They want the Oliver Queen from 1969 that Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams crafted. The one with more ties to recent memories. They also want a Dinah closer to the comic version. Understandable. However, while I do agree with some of the complaints, I think some of the comic fans have been unjustly hard on the series and have not really given it a chance. Arrow is good and it does things that, to be honest, I believe other vigilante type superhero stories could learn from. I also believe it also does things future comic book TV adaptations could take to heart.
Its Batman fan fiction! is a complaint I hear and they’re right. This is designed to exist in a world similar to the one Christopher Nolan and company showed in his Batman trilogy. There is one major problem with this criticism I have, Green Arrow is a Batman knock off. People have rough memories of Ollie before 1969. At most people remember what he looked like before the redesign and recall him being the 8th member of the original Justice League. Oliver Queen was created in 1941, in the earliest days of superhero comics two and a half years after Batmans debut. A millionaire playboy who owned a major corporation just like Bruce Wayne. Batman had gadgets, Green Arrow had trick arrows. Batmobile, Batplane, Batcave to Arrowcar, Arrow Plane and Arrow Cave. If you’re going to do a Tv series thats a Batman knock off why not use the premier Batman knock off character? One of the only 5 superheroes to have made it from the golden age to the silver age to the bronze age. One who had a wave of creators add to his history making him more than just a knock off of the Dark Knight?
Going into Arrow myself I was apprehensive. The previews were a mixed bag and I was unsure of the alterations made to the universe. Dinah went by her middle name, worked as a lawyer. The fact that Oliver’s mom was alive and he now had a sister. Tommy Merlyn, his best friend whose last name was the same as Green Arrow villain. It was a rocky start and things went forth with the episodes being okay. Somewhere along the line it clicked. I can’t pinpoint where but things started to become more and more noticeable. The revelation of the mysterious businessman played by John Barrowman being revealed as Malcolm Merlyn-and then being shown to be the Dark Archer, was a great pair of twists. Barrowman was extremely effective and was a blast as the series major villain. Along the way dropping hints and clues of an expanding superhero universe. Another surprise was that the masked man who worked for Eddie Fyers on the island was not Slade but his partner Bill Wintergreen, a clever bait and switch. It showed the creators were familiar with the comics and could surprise them all without losing the attention of the non-comic reading audience. We all assumed it was Slade when the masked man showed up but then actor Manu Bennett popped in to the series. Manu is impressive, especially on Spartacus, and has done well so far. Sure the changes to certain things bothered me but the narrative set forth made most of these just a small annoyance. Do I like Shado as a Chinese bad ass over her original background as a Yakuza assassin? No. Do I like what they are doing with Shado on the island? I’m getting into it.
The changes to Ollie’s origin on the island I believe are a welcome addition. From 1 year to 5 years the viewer has watched Oliver learn survival tactics, hand to hand combat and finally how to use a bow. Its interesting that we are getting so much pre-Green Arrow development versus Bruce Wayne where in most narratives we see a small amount of his training and then his arrival as Batman and his perfection of his craft. In the Animated Series (Best superhero cartoon IMO) there are very few scenes about his training. Some stuff in Japan, some escape artist training with Zatara, and little else. In Nolans universe we know he’s traveled the world but little is shown of that time and his stuff with the League of Shadows only hints at the level of training he received. The comic books for Batman are so vast its amazing there has not been a Batman series specific to his years of training. Year One documents his return to Gotham and his efforts to gain an identity and other Batman comics have shown bits and pieces. Arrow has given us the promise of seeing Oliver’s development in skill. While my enjoyment of these origin aspects is mixed, I am still curious for the whole saga of Oliver the careless playboy into Oliver the human weapon. Stephen Amell has done a worthy job of taking the GA mantle. It was a rocky first few, maybe several, episodes but now he seems like such a perfect fit.
The evolution of the hero is two paths, what it takes to get to the costume and the road after you put it on. We have watched in the first season of Arrow the Emerald Archers development of his tactics, his identity, confidence in his role and how he effects those around him. Arrow has taken lumps, made mistakes, struggled, had his motivations questioned, had his methods questioned and more. Arrow is comes off as a killer in season 1 and now in season 2 has taken to defeating his enemies without killing. Its interesting that some audiences were hard on GA’s method sin season1, especially seeing as Oliver killing people is nothing new-he’s done it before. Not on the level of the show but it was not a twist to the character. There is an expectation that this TV show should have had Green Arrow acting as close to the classic iteration of the character. Its hard to do a TV series were the character is set in their ways early on. They need development and Oliver has shown development in this show.
Some of the big criticisms are aimed at Laurel Lance and I can’t say I have been fine with everything about this. I give Katie Cassidy credit in the role but it seems the writers don’t want to just make her Black Canary and have her date Oliver. I have no problem with Oliver and Laurel not having a relationship. While I always enjoyed the GA/BC pairing the two have been on and off for years. I also get the frustration with the new Black Canary not being Laurel but hey-so far I’ve been impressed by this Canary’s limited scenes. Laurel, and this Canary, are both improvements on all the other live action Dinah’s and Black Canary’s.
Laurel is the weakest element in the series but oddly the addition of her father I have found to be one of the most successful elements. Quentin Lance has been a good cop through out the series. Smart and hard working and I’ve enjoyed him quite a bit. The family additions to Olivers supporting cast has been interesting. The twist in the pilot with Moira Queen was extremely effective and his Step-Father, Walter Steel has been good. I hope they use him more. Olivers sister, Thea, has been a mixed bag but with the addition of Roy Harper (the original Speedy) I have warmed to her. Even if their relationship is nothing new from a dramatic stand point their chemistry has been done well.
Green Arrows supporting cast growth was warranted. GA’s cast has usually just been him, his sidekicks, and his friends from other comics. Even Batman has had more supporting cast members. The addition of Diggle and Felicity Smoak (actual DC character) has been excellent. Diggle’s role as partner-assisting in research, doing stand ins, and mixing it up with the action. Also Diggle has done wonders in keeping Oliver level headed. David Ramsey has been
doing a damn fine job. Felicity I’ve enjoyed too. Her being brought into the group has given the series a little more humor. Not that there was no humor before Felicity’s role was expanded, it just has helped greatly. One of the best scenes in the newest season is in the second episode where the three are adapting to their roles and Felicity is upset with going from IT to secretarial work so Oliver can keep her close. Emily Rickards has been good here and it feels sucky there are those who rip into her performance, or the characters position, simply because Chloe from Samllville. I didn’t like Smallville, I prefer Felicity.
Arrow has also thrown a lot of nuggets out. So many references that CW could expand further than just the Flash series. Very smart, feels extremely developed and proud of the history of the DCU. I appreciate that. Like I said though, there have been mistakes. I don’t like this version of Deadshot or Huntress. That however are the biggest complaints I have had thus far.
I like Green Arrow character quite a bit but most of his comics have been forgettable. This is one of the best interpretations of the character. I think its extremely effective as a TV series. Non fans can enjoy it without feeling lost and GA fans can watch it and pick up on all the comic details and references. Structure wise it works like genre TV shows where their are procedural episodes mixed in with a larger narrative featuring a big bad. The cast has done good jobs and the writers seem to understand and embrace the DCU.