*mild plot spoilers*
DC Comics return to live-action primetime TV tonight after Smallville‘s departure left us with an empty superhero slot during last year’s fall programming season. Arrow is the CW’s latest foray into the world of DC and is a modern take on the fabled emerald archer Green Arrow, but with no association to the Smallville incarnation of the character. During my 2012 Comic-Con coverage for NerdRep.com, I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of the pilot episode that airs tomorrow, and fans are in for some comic-book fun.
The pilot is sleek, dark and strongly evokes Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins. Oliver Queen is portrayed as a very disturbed man who will certainly kill if the circumstances call for it which works within this story but is pretty big departure from most DC hero portrayals. There’s quite a body count in the pilot episode, including a shot where Queen graphically snaps a bad guy’s neck, directly in front of the camera. But the pilot does all the necessary things to entice you back for more episodes, including setting up multiple villains to hunt down, establishing a romance, and teases of future DC Comics characters appearances many of which have already been spoiled by the internets so search at your own risk.
However, the Arrow pilot episode did move a bit slow at times and could have used a bit more humor to lighten it up a touch. This is a very dark world that Oliver Queen inhabits and the producers are certainly not portraying the show as campy in any form. In addition while at times the pilot episode looks and feels like a movie at other times it also feels dreadfully like your standard CW show complete with badly lit/shot scenes that seem to throw the cast off their game.
Stephen Amell is serviceably charismatic as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow, minus the character’s trademark blonde Robin Hood goatee and hat. Amell has a lot of potential to grow in the role, and I hope we get to see some more of the wit and attitude that has made the character a fan favorite, because the Oliver Queen in the pilot episode is a bit too jaded and humorless. Katie Cassidy, who plays Laurel “Dinah” Lance (the future Black Canary) is grounded and likeable enough, but could also lighten up a bit before she dons the iconic Canary fishnets.
The plot of the premiere is fairly familiar to fans of the comic Green Arrow: Year One, or even Smallville, as both told origins that revolved around Ollie’s shipwrecked days on an island and how he was forced to hone his hunting skills to perfection in order to stay alive, and then his efforts to reintegrate into society after his return. The brief scenes on the island really stand out as highlights of the episode and plant some interesting seeds for the series. Also enjoyable are all the scenes with Oliver gathering his arsenal and creating his avenging outfit, which takes heavy influence from Justin Hartley’s Smallville version, but looks less cheap. And I actually really dig the choice of eye camouflage over the previous outfit’s Oakley sunglasses or the classic domino mask.
Arrow has some rough edges, but you can’t help but feel that if given some room, this show could continue to grow into something really cool. If the show can maintain and improve on the level of quality after the pilot episode, and fix some of the issues evident in the pilot itself, then the CW may have a long-term hit on their hands. Arrow is the right mix of gritty realism in a still decidedly comic book world, and that seems to be a combo that really resonates with current fans. This reviewer is down to see how far Arrow flies.
FINAL SCORE: 4/5
If you’d like an Arrow fix before next weeks episode, as an added bonus all Comic-Con attendees of the pilot screening got an exclusive print of the Arrow #1 comic book, but it’s now been made available to download in digital form here.