Thursday, October 11, 2012

Arrow Reviews: Season 1, Episode 1 - Pilot

For a summary of the episode guide layout & categories, click here.


Newly returned to civilization after five years marooned, Oliver Queen tries to reestablish himself - both in his old life among the elite of Starling City and as a vigilante who will bring the rich and powerful who hide behind the law to justice.  His family seem to have secrets, with his sister Thea hiding a drug problem and his mother Moira and new stepfather Walter Steele trying to stall his getting involved in the family business.  His attempts to reconcile with his old girlfriend Laurel Lance fall flat and his newfound intensity seems to turn off his former best friend Tommy Merlyn.  His efforts at heroism are more successful, though he does have to dodge the attentions of John Diggle - a bodyguard his mother hires to watch him after a kidnapping attempt.  By episode's end, Ollie has stolen 40 million dollars from local scumbag Adam Hunt and given the money away to various people Hunt had cheated out of their money.  This is, we are informed, only the beginning. 


Green Arrow: Year One
(the island sequences, particularly Ollie's "costume" while shipwrecked), Green Arrow: Quiver (Ollie's assault on Adam Hunt's office resembles a similar action sequence from Chapter 2 of this story), The Hunger Games film (cinematography on the island sequences), The Divine Comedy (reference to Purgatory - the place where one's sins are cleansed which is also the name of the island Ollie was marooned on), My Wicked, Wicked Ways (Ollie's life and appearance before the shipwreck are reminiscent of Errol Flynn, who was a famed womanizer and yachtsman), Hamlet (Ollie's conflict with his stepfather and his girlfriend's father), Robinson Crusoe and the legends of Robin Hood, particularly his robbing the rich to provide for the poor.


Stephen Arnell plays Ollie as a young man changed by trauma.  His body is covered with scar tissue from various cuts and burns but his mental wounds run far deeper.  There is little of the wise-cracking swashbuckler comic fans may be used to, though he does get in a few sarcastic jabs at both his new step-father, his captors, the cops and his new bodyguard, revealing his famous anti-authority streak.  Ollie's proletariat leanings are displayed when he insists on carrying his own luggage and shows more affection to his maid/housekeeper upon his return home than to his best friend Tommy.

Laurel Lance, as played by Katie Cassidy, is presented as an idealistic but tough young lawyer.  Like her cop father, she believes in the law but is frustrated by her inability to deal with the corrupt businessmen in Starling City who use the law as a shield from justice.  She's quick to call Ollie on his past bad behavior when he tries to apologize for cheating on her with her sister and being indirectly responsible for her death.  Still, she does attempt to reconcile with him by episode's end, saying she was wrong to wish him dead and that she's willing to talk with him if he needs someone to unload on.  To Cassidy's credit, she is able to make this seem natural, playing Laurel as someone who honestly is that loving and can't stand to see anyone hurt, no matter how much they may have hurt her. 

Quentin Lance, played by Paul Blackthorne, is your standard good cop worn down by a bad town.  He harbors a deep, barely-restrained hatred for the people he sees as hiding behind the law.  Unfortunately for Ollie, he falls into that category by Detective Lance's definition - guilt by association, due to his family's dealings with countless other rich, corporate scumbags and Ollie's role in his daughter's death.  Blackthorne manages to transform what might have been a one-note character and infuse him with enough sympathy to make him seem more likeable.


The fight scene just before the mid-point of the episode, where Ollie takes on three assailants at once is choreographed like something for an action movie, not a TV show.  The musical score is equally cinematic and captivating. 


The ship carrying Ollie and his father was called Queen's Gambit.  This was also the name of the op-ed column that Oliver Queen wrote while he was working as a political writer in the comics. 

The character of John Diggle was named in honor of comics author Andy Diggle, who wrote Green Arrow: Year One

Reference is made to a Judge Grell.  It seems likely this character was named in honor of author/artist Mike Grell.who wrote and drew the famous Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters mini-series as well as writing and doing much of the artwork for the first 80 issues of the second volume of Green Arrow comics.

One of the dancers at Ollie's party appears to be wearing a stylized "sexy" version of the Black Canary costume.  Of course it could just be an attractive blonde woman whose club-wear involves a black bikini with fishnet stockings... but it could be a reference.

Tommy Merlyn has a certain liquor stocked for Laurel at Ollie's welcome back party - Pinot Noir a.k.a. Black Grape.  One of the most famous vineyards that makes Pinor Noir is Canary Hill.

Dialogue Triumphs

Ollie: I know it's too late to say this but I'm sorry.
Laurel: Yeah, I'm sorry too.  I'd hoped you rot in Hell a lot longer than five years.

Raisa: You are still a good boy.
Ollie: Well, I think we both know that I wasn't.
Raisa: But a good heart.
Ollie: I hope so.  I want to be the person you always told me I could be.

Tommy: By my rough estimate, you haven't had sex in 1,839 days.  As your wing man, I highly recommend Carmen Golden.
Ollie: Which one is she?
Tommy: The one that looks like the chick from Twilight.
Ollie: What's Twilight?
Tommy: You're so better off not knowing.

Tommy: Dinah Laurel Lance.  Always trying to save the world.
Laurel: Hey, if I don't try to save it, who will? 

Dialogue Disasters

Detective Lance: Yeah.  Well, they probably figured you'd pay a king's ransom to get your boy back.  Or a queen's ransom, as it were.


Ollie dropped out of college and can speak Russian.  Not surprisingly, Ollie displays signs of Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder and night terrors.  Ollie reflexively attacks anyone who touches him in his sleep. Ollie's nickname for his younger sister Thea is "Speedy" and it is shown that she is experimenting with drugs.  Ollie's apparently become quiet good at parkour over the last five years and he is willing to kill to protect his secret identity or in self-defense, though he prefers to shoot to disarm as he does with Adam Hunt's bodyguards.   John Diggle - the bodyguard hired by Ollie's mom to watch him - is ex-military and will answer to Diggle or Dig.  Ollie turns his father's abandoned factory into a base of operations for his activities as Arrow. Ollie makes use of two trick arrows - a zip-line arrow for exiting Adam Hunt's office and a wi-fi tap arrow that allows him to hack Adam Hunt's computers and steal 40 million dollars, which he then transfers to various people Hunt owed money  Tommy Merlyn is apparently known to the police as someone who slips roofies to young women.  Tommy and Laurel apparently have had a few one night stands and Tommy apparently wants to become an item but Laurel is skeptical.  Oliver's father committed suicide.  Laurel's real first name is Dinah and her favorite drink is Pinot Noir wine.

Untelevised Adventures

Ollie apparently fought the assassin Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke at one pont, as we see his mask on the island with an arrow shot through what would be Slade's bad eye.

The Fridge Factor

Sarah Lance dies only to drive a wedge between Laurel and Ollie and to give Ollie survivor's guilt.

Granting that she is established as being enormously big-hearted and idealistic, Laurel is awfully quick to forgive Ollie and offer her friendship given that he was cheating on her with her sister and was indirectly responsible for her death.

The Winick Factor

None, surprisingly.  In fact, Ollie is portrayed as being so good at what he does that is capable of getting the drop on ex-soldier turned security expert John Diggle not once, but twice and successfully maneuvers around two separate security teams - one private, the other SWAT.

The Bottom Line

My hopes were high going into this episode and it did not disappoint.  Oliver Queen is presented as being a competent, moral hero.  Dinah Lance is presented as a strong but open-hearted heroine.  We don't get much feel for the rest of the supporting cast save for Dinah's father Quentin Lance, who is given far more pathos than the script might suggest by the brilliant Paul Blackthorne.  Still, enough plot hooks are dangled for us to see the other characters developed in later episodes.  The action scenes are generally great, though some of the action in the storming of Adam Hunt's office was shot a little too up-close for my liking.  What really captured my attention though was a powerful musical score that I hope will eventually be available for purchase.  All in all, this episode did what it was supposed to do perfectly - it made me want more Arrow.

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