Feb 15, 2017

Giant Box of Television: Arrow Season 1


I was recently inspired to go back and watch Arrow from beginning to...well, not quite end, but to where it's up to now. I didn't get on board with Arrow right away as I was quite annoyed by the idea that they were going to attempt a superhero television show without superheroes. There had been a clear communication from the creators of the show that this was not going to involve all of the things that make a superhero universe wonderful and weird, but rather would be an action show about a guy with a bow.

Thank goodness they got over that.

Once Flash had started on the CW, and I loved it, I decided I should probably familiarize myself with the characters from Arrow  who were popping up every now and again. I'm very glad I did, for many reasons, not least of which is that Stephen "Oliver Queen" Amell is seriously one of the most attractive people on television.

Season 1 of the series is dark. Very, very dark. But it manages to balance that darkness with some deeply human moments, and some very funny moments. Oliver, at this point, has just returned from what the intro to the show calls "5 years in Hell," the end of which we're just now seeing in the current season. It's probably not a stretch to consider this entire season to be a depiction of a man dealing with PTSD in a very extreme way, but one that channels his demons and pain into something better. It also wonderfully sets up a good deal of the moral greyness that follows the character throughout the series, as even now, in the 5th season, the characters are still dealing with the ramifications of Oliver's indiscriminate killing during his first year back in Starling City.

Green Arrow has never been one of my favourite comic characters. Much like Daredevil, I always saw him as a sort of Batman-lite, and in many ways he's treated that way in this series. In fact, some storylines are lifted directly from Batman's corpus (season 3's conflict with R'as al Ghul, for example), and it's easy to watch the show from the perspective of it really being a Batman show. But Oliver Queen has some very different personality traits to Bruce Wayne. Particularly, in this season, we see his deep loyalty to his family, and his eventual acceding to the opinions of others in his mission. His supporting cast grows and develops over the course of the season too, going from background figures in the series to fully-fleshed out individuals all their own. It strikes me that the creators of the series probably initially envisioned it as simply a Batman story but with a green costume, but the characters surround "The Hood," including Starling City, changed it into something else.

Unlike their filmic counterparts, the Arrowverse television shows understand that superhero comics can vacillate from light to dark literally in the space of a panel. There are still cheesy one-liners, sometimes completely out of place, but that's what a superhero universe is. It's simpler than our own. And vastly more complex (fans of DC's pre-Crisis continuity know what I'm talking about). But it's never one or the other, and Arrow does a wonderful job of representing that.

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