I’m not watching “Arrow”. Not out of any strong feeling, I’ve just never got round to it. Judging by the conversations I’ve had with friends, I might be one of the few geeks who isn’t watching this ‘great’ show. With the third season just having kicked off on TV in the past few weeks, I’ve decided not to be the missing viewer anymore so I’ve got hold of the first two series courtesy of Amazon Prime and a box set and now I’m going to binge watch the first two series to catch up with the current one (and, by extension, pick up “The Flash” at the right time too). So, welcome to a feature I like to call…
I’m writing this as I watch the episodes so some of my observations are no doubt going to seem quaint or naive to you veterans as I try to predict which was storylines are going to unfold. Anyway, be patient with me as I catch up!
Season 1 Episode 1: ‘Pilot’
You know what, I actually remember watching this when it first aired. Don’t worry, I’m not sitting on a throne of lies, I genuinely haven’t watched “Arrow” since but having watched the pilot again, I’m at a loss to explain why I didn’t keep on watching. The pilot’s tightly written and well plotted with enough action and setting up of mysteries to hook me in. Stephen Amell is an engaging leading man and makes for a convincing hero. Rest of the cast are good too, but I have my suspicions about Colin Salmon’s character – he seems shifty – and I’m calling it now, Oliver’s best friend Tommy is into something shady. Don’t trust him one bit. There’s a nice balance between the present day scenes and the flashbacks to Oliver’s time as a castaway. The last time I watched a series that heavily featured flashbacks and a mysterious island, I enjoyed six seasons of it so this bodes well!
Season 1 Episode 2 – ‘Honor Thy Father’
I’m going to overlook the spelling of Honour in the episodes title because one, it doesn’t actually appear on screen and 2, it’s a cracking episode. Okay, so Laurel seems to be getting over Oliver’s infidelity, betrayal and complicity in her sister’s death quite quickly. I know five years have passed but her father’s resentment feels more realistic at this early stage.
I sincerely doubt she was won over by Oliver’s visit with a tub of ice cream but not as much as I doubt the lean and ripped Oliver Queen actually eats ice cream. Still, there’s a really nice theme running through the episode of fathers, children and legacies with Laurel and Oliver reflecting on promises they have each made to their fathers and what the consequences of those promises are.
I’m really impressed with how dark this series is prepared to be; especially given its native home is notorious tweenage fluff channel CW. As he sets out on his vigilante career, Arrow is quite comfortable with brutality, a real Killer Queen as the body count piles up. I’m interested to see how that plays out as it’s a tough ask for the audience to continue to sympathise with a murderer.
Turns out I was maybe wrong to suspect Colin Salmon – now I’m wondering what the Mum’s up to? What’s her agenda?
Looks like the bodyguard will eventually become a kind of mentor/ guide for Oliver? Like a sort of action-oriented Alfred. Worth mentioning at this point that although the parallels are many, the show is doing a good job of keeping its distance from just being a ‘bow ‘n’ arrow Batman’. The finale of the episode doesn’t disappoint either, with conspiracy and murder as the Mum is revealed to have been involved somehow in the sinking of the yacht while on Flashback Island, Oliver is shot. With an arrow! By someone who looks like him?! Quick, next episode!
Season 1 Episode 3 – ‘Lone Gunmen’
Not quite the powerhouse episode as last time but there are satisfying and intriguing reveals to build on the cliff-hanger from last time and we get, I think, our first ‘supervillain’ of the series. Now, I’m not steeped in DC lore beyond an awareness of their biggest characters and everything I absorbed from the fantastic animated “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” series but I think ‘Deadshot’ is somebody from the comics, so that’s pretty cool. Unfortunately, when it comes down to business, Deadshot is considerably less accurate than billed and quickly ends up only living up to the first part of his name. There’s a scene where characters talk about trolling instead of trawling but it might be an accent thing. With Deadshot failing to provide much of a challenge, the rest of the episode meanders around a bit, introducing a putative love triangle storyline which is as unnecessary as it is inevitable. Still, Oliver’s Batcave – I mean Arrowarehouse is getting better and better equipped by the day.
Season 1 Episode 4 – ‘An Innocent Man’
I’m liking how the writers are using these early episodes to test out a variety of formats and formulae to see what works for the characters and the show. This time out, it’s a change of pace as Oliver seeks to write the wrong of an innocent man facing the death penalty. Some good detective work and the issues raised make this the most ‘Dark Knight’-y episode yet. It’s certainly a dark episode, pushing the character of Arrow much further across the line than is usual for this kind of show. Good job Diggle is going to be a kind of Alfred, because I get the impression Oliver’s going to need someone to pull him back from the dark sometime soon.
I’m really starting to like the teaser coda at the end of each episode, tugging on the ongoing arc threads to remind us they’re there. Hmm. Colin Salmon might be a good guy after all…but oh no! Here comes John Barrowman, the human Croque Monsieur (cheesy and hammy in equal measure with an unfeasibly golden brown exterior). Oh well, let’s see how he plays out. He’s got the list too though, and the recovered yacht in the warehouse was a good visual.
I love the irony of Oliver being arrested at the end of an episode with the title and theme of an innocent man. Is all lost for our would-be hero?
Season 1 Episode 5 – ‘Damaged’
I wonder when we’ll drop the “I am Oliver Queen” opening monologue? This is another great episode, settling some of the nagging questions about Oliver’s ability to do what he does without being detected and nipping them in the bud before they start to undermine the series’ credibility.
Ha ha! Arrow’s been tagged with a GPS tag setting up fun episode of how he’ll do his hero stuff without blowing his cover. If only Oliver had just appointed a partner – oh wait, he did! We’re also starting to get a sense that Oliver is up to something more strategic than simply working through a list of targets as he states it was part of “the plan” to be captured and accused.
When he returns to the Arrowarehouse, Diggle seems unusually surprised by a place he’s already been to. There’s lots of island stuff this time out and it’s great as we learn just how untrue the idea that Oliver was alone on the island was. The mask featured prominently in the pilot return and if I remember my “Teen Titans” cartoon correctly, it belongs to Slade Wilson/ Deathstroke. Am I getting warm?
I can’t let the episode pass without commenting on Oliver’s prison-themed blowout. I know money talks but you still have to admire the sheer logistics of pulling off a party of the scale Oliver does at such short notice, unless his plan was so cunning that most of the party was already arranged beforehand.
The conspiracy around the list of names and the sinking of the Queen’s Gambit gets more intriguing and now it seems Mum isn’t quite the clear cut villain I might have taken her for. Final thought: kudos to Barrowman for dialling the camp waaaay back thus far.