Friday, 19 July 2013

Arrow Season 1 Review

I never watched Smallville.  Despite being a big comic book fan I never went out of my way to watch what some call ‘the best superhero show on TV’.  I saw a handful of episodes and hated them and many of my friends continually told me of how the show just continued to loose quality.  As such when Arrow was announced I was extremely sceptical about what to expect.  I went into the first episode with no expectations and thinking I was going to hate it.  I’m pleased to say that I was proved completely wrong.

There are a lot of television shows that takes time to  find its feet and perfect their tone and storytelling during their first episodes, and to be fair Arrow did have that problem, with the show initially feeling like a mixture of Nolan’s Batman films, Lost and a handful of other television shows.  However, despite taking a few episode to figure out exactly the type of show that they wanted to make these first episodes were still exciting and competently made.

The island story could easily be its own amazing show.
The shows writers took some artistic licence during these early stages of the show that could have very easily driven viewers away, especially those with an attachment to the character from the comics.  Traditionally a character that works on his own and doesn’t have a large cast around him here Oliver Queen was given not just a family unit but also a group of allies to aid him in his crime fighting.  Both of these new elements not only made sense to the character but also went a long way to creating interesting character development and story beats.

Without doubt two of the best character arcs in the first series were Oliver’s bodyguard turned crime fighting partner John Diggle, watching the two of them go from cold and hostile to brothers in arms was hugely rewarding.  Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen was another amazing addition to the show, set up as a potential villain in the early episodes it was amazing to watch as the characters true motivations and involvement in the villains ‘Undertaking’ come to light and her shot at redemption in the final episode.

The Dark Archer proves to be an amazing villain for Oliver.

Another way in which the show stumbled at first was finding the right quality of acting.  Despite having a great cast it definitely seemed to take the cast a while to find their characters voices and motivations.  He may have physically looked the part but Stephen Amell certainly took a while to find the right presence in his action role, though his struggle to find the right tone as an actor does kind of mirror Oliver finding his footing as a vigilante in Starling City.  Despite these clunky starts the quality of acting come the end of the season was on top form, especially switching between the present and Olivers time on the island where you could see that he was quite clearly playing two very different versions of the same character.

Just like the ever expanding story of Oliver taking down The Undertaking in Starling City his time on the island also continued to evolve and expand, taking us in interesting new directions and very quickly became one of the most interesting aspects of the show, especially when Oliver was teamed up with Slade Wilson.  A surprise relationship that worked extremely well and built what could have been a boring island story into something so exciting and complex that it could easily stand on its own two feet.  It also went a long way in showing how that shows writers aren’t afraid to change things up and challenge fans expectations by having Olive become friends with one of DC’s biggest villains.

Arrow isn't afraid to challenge fans expectations of characters.

As the season progresses it starts to leave the ‘villain of the week’ formula behind and build towards the climax of the underlying story in two epic episodes filled to the brim with amazing action pieces, shocking story turns and some of the best character moments in the whole show, ensuring that when the final credits roll you’ll be eagerly awaiting the second season.

A show that started off as a very entertaining and competent superhero drama that over the course of the season built up into something more engaging and intricate filled with great character moments and action sequences that aren’t watered down for television.  A great start to what will hopefully be an amazing show that could far surpass Smallville as one of the best superhero shows.


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