Arrow review – 1×01: ‘Pilot’

Courtesy of The CW

The CW’s best (only?) hope for success from its slate of new shows makes its debut as Stephen Arnell dons green leather to become Arrow. So how is Batman Jr.’s abs?

Let’s bitch it out…As escapist fare, Arrow hits the mark. Early in the show I mistakenly thought that it was going for gritty realism – it is aping Christopher Nolan at every possible opportunity – but as soon as Oliver’s arrows begin multi-functioning as money transferers, cable wiring and explosive devices, it’s clear that Arrow isn’t afraid of straining the realm of the possible (and paying homage to The Penguin and his multiple umbrellas). This heightened crime-fighting reality, in which plastic sheets provide cover from ammunition, is fine so long as Arrow remains steadfast and sticks with whichever direction it selects.

There is a certain fear that this is more Birds of Prey than Smallville and the pilot doesn’t entirely dissuade those concerns. The dialogue frequently occasionally veers into cheesy territory (especially the voice-over, which is freakin’ terrible) and the baddie of the week, Adam Hunt (Brian Markinson) is beyond forgettable. The costume looks okay in motion, but the moment the cowl comes off to reveal a slash of green mascara, even Arnell looks a little embarassed. So like many pilots, it’s a bit of a work of progress.

There’s plenty to like, however. The action scenes are slick and brisk (they’re courtesy of feature film director, David Nutter, so the quality may drop next week when he’s not in the director’s chair). Arnell is well cast as a brooding avenger / party boy (with a Batman jawline and promotable sixpack). Susanna Thompson, as mother Moira, is appropriately regal (she was a queen in the short-lived and unappreciated Kings) and Katie Cassidy – as inevitable love interest Laurel Lance – is…looking good? If there is one short-changed actor in the bunch, it’s definitely Cassidy who is given little to do but fill the Katie Holmes role from Batman Begins and preach about being the sole protector of Starlight City. She and Arnell even have a scene in which he pretends to be vapid and shallow and she accepts it, which could have been directly transplanted from Batman Begins. I like Cassidy as an actress and I am excited to finally see her on a show that looks to survive longer than a season, but this character needs some fleshing out beyond “good heartened bitchy love interest” stat!

Courtesy of The CW

Other Observations:

  • The scene in which the boat flips and Laurel’s sister, Sarah Lance (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) is sucked into the water is quite effective. Less effective is the CGI of the boat on the water, which brings back barely repressed memories of the terrible boat/green screen scenes in the Ringer premiere from last fall. *Shudder* Back to the therapist I go…
  • Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is both father to Laurel and seemingly the only police officer working cases in the city. He and partner Detective Hilton (Roger Cross – who stars with Markinson on Showtime‘s hit Continuum) handles both Oliver’s kidnapping, as well as Arrow’s attack on Hunt. I’m confused. Are the writers playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and figured that they would not only make every character related or sleeping together, but they would double dip to get their money’s worth by having actors take on multiple narrative roles? What’s next: Oliver’s sister, Thea (Willa Holland) and Laurel as superheroes? Wouldn’t that be silly*
  • *Yes, I know that both Speedy and Black Canary are from the comics and apt to make an appearance on the show. This whole “writing sarcasm” thing doesn’t always translate, does it?
  • I’m uncertain what to make of Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). Oliver’s best friend is also the not-so-secret lover of Laurel (told you everyone is doubling up!), but other than that he’s a bit of a blank slate. It seems as though he’ll play the generic “person who investigates their friend and discovers their secret identity” role, but I hope the show has more interesting stories to tell because that character is always such a d*nk
  • I have similar concerns about new step-dad Walter Steele (Colin Salmon) and bodyguard John Diggle (David Ramsey). Currently they’re space fillers, so we’ll have to see if the show has plans for either. Is Walter in on Moira’s deception (and possible criminal activities)? Why did they really hire Diggle and is Oliver truly safe with him? We’ll know more in the future (hopefully)…
  • Guess we’ll uncover how Oliver got those awesome fighting, jumping, tech and language skills in his five years on Purgatory Island as we go. For now: no answers.
  • Finally, your Arrow drinking game consists of 1) Taking a shot each time Arnell takes his shirt off, 2) downing a full drink each time we see a training montage and 3) chugging an entire bottle every time Arrow has to rescue Laurel (you know it’ll happen at least once every few episodes). Enjoy becoming an alcoholic. Cheers to your liver!

What did you think of the premiere: will you keep watching, or is the show more hype than substance? What did Oliver’s father (Jamey Sheridan, aka Homeland‘s Vice-President) do that requires so much fixing from so many bad men? Are you okay with the fact that Arrow shoots and occasionally kills baddies with his titular weapon? And what’s Moira’s end game – is she the big villain of the show? Hit the comments below with your thoughts on the pilot.

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW

About cinephilactic

cinephilactic is a university contract instructor in Film Studies. He is an avid TV watcher, particularly science-fiction, fantasy and drama series. His favourite shows currently airing on TV include The Good Wife, Breaking Bad, Justified, Hannibal, Game Of Thrones and a smattering of shows on The CW. He has a tendency to "hate-watch" particular shows and likes to think that his sarcastic voice comes through in his reviews, though sometimes he's just being bitchy

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