Arrow Is Gritty And Humorless But Has Abs So I’m Conflicted
By Alex Cranz
The superhero genre requires its audience to take a massive leap of faith. It’s about people, in costumes, fighting crime. You have to suspend a little bit of belief because we all know what actual vigilantes look like.
When a superhero property proudly embraces “realism” we have to suspend even more disbelief. Spider-Man is fantasy. A guy in a rubber suit and bat ears growling his way through a major metropolis and being friends with a police commissioner? Is also fantasy…or a one way ticket to a cop getting fired (and maybe institutionalized).
Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and Greg Berlanti’s Arrow aren’t realism. They’re gritty and grounded fantasy. And that’s cool. I love a little grit and I adore when a fantasy world has rules I already know. Extrapolating fantasy from the world in which we currently live is great!
It’s what gave us True Blood and Vampire Diaries and ever urban fantasy of the last fifteen years. The problem with Arrow is it insists it’s real life with a twist rather than fantasy with some grit. And in real life humor apparently flies out the window. This show is deadly serious but without the note of irony that makes it easy to swallow–or the earnestness that could make it endearing. It’s just sort of…there glaring at us.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t entertaining as hell. Yes it’s humorless and yes that can make parts of it tedious.
But it also has this guy doing parkour and shooting a bow like a boss.
I mean, in the first five minutes you have him racing across an island in shaky cam, setting off explosions and then a doctor saying “20% of his body is scars.” And to reinforce this scared Adonis image they then have him standing around naked covered in attractively applied scars and rippling muscles most guys don’t have without a coke and roids habit that will explode their heart in two years.
The show quickly gets into the plot which has his Gertrude style mom (because he is Hamlet?) marrying his dad’s old friend plotting…stuff. It would be irritating but Susana Thompson immediately makes everything interesting. If this show was just her quietly drinking and glaring while Stephen Amell posed and shot arrows and parkoured on a jungle gym in front of her I would still watch it because these are a lot of my favorite things.
But wait! It also has one of the best superheroines of all time on the show and she’s played by the pretty great usually Katie Cassidy! I mean yes the show is going out of its way to say her Dinah Lance will never become Black Canary and yes the Dinah’s she’s playing is a rote lady love interest instead of the best martial artists after Batman and Lady Shiva. And yes she’s a lawyer instead of something interesting like that aforementioned best martial artist ever, but there’s still time. It’s only the pilot. She could still secretly be Black Canary (I hope) or she could eventually become Black Canary.
It’s not like this first episode really went out of its way to develop anything besides Amell’s abs (guys they’re a national treasure and I won’t stop talking about them). Ollie Queen gets home and sees his mom with that old friend and gets dragged back into his old playboy lifestyle but also makes time to hunt down a bad guy whose name is on his list. Is he taking a note from Revenge’s Emily Thorne and going after all those who done his family wrong? Did he go crazy on the island and is systematically killing off all those rich people who WEREN’T stranded in hoodies in a tropic local?
We don’t know!
We have no reason to root for Ollie outside of being told we should and wanting to watch him parkour around town and shoot junk and makes eyes at Dinah Lance. He and the rest of the characters are thinly drawn and wrapped up in a very attractive and beautifully shot package. This is hands down some of the best action sequences on network television. Unfortunately it’s all in service to a story blindly chasing Christopher Nolan’s coattails. So instead of a colorful action hero we get a gritty Batman rip off.
- Side eye for the token chauffeur/bodyguard who’s a person of color. That trope went out of style in the 60s people.
- Do not get attached to bff Tommy Merlyn. Like Smallville’s Lex Luthor he’s a good friend destined to go bad.
- The suggestion that Ollie has PTSD is intriguing. Loved him sleeping on the floor in front of the window and the great mother/son moment that happens immediately afterwards.
- I’m not the only one that feels this is less Batman and more a testosterone fueled Revenge am I?
- If Dinah turns out to secretly being a vigilante on the side this will go from ab watch 2012 to must watch 2012.
- Yes I’m that shallow.