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Arrow: Pilot

Quentin: "I'll put out an A.P.B. for... Robin Hood."

I wasn't blown away. But I think I liked it.

However, there was a LOT of set up going on, which included our hero being stranded on a mysterious island in Asia that dispenses kung-fu and the ability to hack computers and speak Russian, getting rescued, turning into Green Arrow, setting up all the characters and their complicated relationships, beginning the hero's quest to take down a bunch of people on a list ala Revenge, flashbacks to the island, and they still managed to squeeze in a couple of decent and oddly brutal fight scenes that set the tone for this dark comic-book inspired series. I think they tried to fit too much into an hour... Sheesh, this should've been a three-parter.

I guess I should start with Oliver, since he is the pivotal character. For most of the episode he was stony faced and delivered his lines in a nearly emotionless monotone. Yet for some reason, I liked the actor, and to a slightly lesser degree, the character. Thanks to Smallville, we kind of already know Oliver Queen, which is good because they spent almost no time building up to him becoming Green Arrow. As soon as he arrives in the city he is already a hero complete with the resources and weaponry needed to fight crime. How he acquired that stuff so quickly hasn't been answered yet. I'll give the show the benefit of the doubt, since it looks like island flashbacks are going to be ongoing.

The rest of the cast were good, but no one stood out in particular. I liked Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and her father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) who both hold Oliver responsible for Sarah's (Laurel's sister) death. We even got to see Sarah being swept away by the ocean, but we conveniently didn't see her body (see Billie's Ten Rules of Television #10). Laurel and Oliver have a romantic history, but it looks like he wasn't a good person before he was lost for five years. Oliver's friend Tom did nothing for me, but he seems marginally ambiguous, so he could be a villain or an ally and I'm honestly not sure I care which. What we do know is that he is in an off-again relationship with Laurel.

Then there is Oliver's rebellious 17 year old sister Thea, nicked-named Speedy who apparently uses cocaine to compensate for her being left alone after Oliver and her father were lost at sea... does the nickname seem a bit too much on the nose? She at least seemed interesting, even though we didn't learn much about her. I could see their relationship being one of the strengths of the series moving forward. Then there is Oliver's mother, who is involved with her dead husband's business partner Walter, and used criminals to kidnap and interrogate Oliver about what he learned from his father about the family business. Gee, what a totally non-twisted family dynamic they have going.

For me, I think this feels a bit too much like a dark version of Smallville without Justin Hartley or Alison Mack, but with the Luther mansion intact. Maybe the producers were trying a bit too hard to sell the idea of the superhero. I guess you can't sell a Green Arrow pilot without seeing the titular hero, but maybe this pilot would've been better served without seeing the green hood. Let's hope next week is better.

2 1/2 out of 4 Green Arrowheads.

Samantha M. Quinn spends most of her time in front of a computer typing away at one thing or another; when she has free time, she enjoys pretty much anything science fiction or fantasy-related.


  1. Great review, J.D.!

    I'm not a bit superhero fan (the recent Avengers movie being a pointed exception), but this was pretty good. I like Robin Hood, so maybe the Green Arrow is the superhero for me.

    But about 45 minutes into the show, I started to have this terrible, terrible feeling. Was I committing to a long-term relationship? Smallville began in the last Ice Age and only finished recently. I'm not sure I want to watch The Arrow for the rest of my life, still clutching my remote in one hand and my social security check in another.

  2. Loved your comment, Josie. LOL. Especially as someone who wound up in an unexpected and extremely long relationship with Smallville.

    J.D., you hit it on the head. Although the lead was likeable and the show has possibilities, I really wish they hadn't tried to cram so much into the first hour. If they're going to give us a complicated origin story, why not give us the flashbacks more slowly over the first season? Why reveal that Oliver's mother was acting diabolical or that his father killed himself a little later, when it would have more impact?

    I was both disappointed and relieved that Justin Hartley wasn't cast in the Green Arrow role. I really loved Hartley as Green Arrow in Smallville, but I think they made the right decision in going new and going dark. But if they're going to start over and not remake Smallville, then they should freaking start over and not remake Smallville!

  3. Josie has her 2 brothers;

    Billie has her vampire slayer;

    And I have my Island.

    And we probably share one or 2 spaceships.

  4. Like Josie, I don't generally enjoy superhero movies/TV shows NOT directed by Joss Whedon. This was fine, I guess. It didn't captivate me, but I'll probably give it another shot. You know, it probably doesn't help I know NOTHING about whatever the heck this is based on. Great review J.D.!

  5. They did drop a blink-and-you-miss-it hint as to where Oliver might have picked up his training: The black and orange mask on a stick on the island. It belongs to a DC villain called Deathstroke, an assassin and mercenary.

  6. Honestly I ADORED this pilot. I thought it was thrilling, charming, and captivating on every level. Moreover, I loved the entire cast. I really can't wait to see more!

  7. As another one with a long and complicated relationship with Smallville, I wasn't sure how I was going to feel about this. I loved it.

    At first, all I could see were the similarities (was it a coincidence that the first villain was bald??), but I soon found myself caught up in the story.

    I agree that there was a lot in one hour. As I can't imagine they can keep this pace going forever, I am looking forward to seeing how the show settles into its rhythm.

    Great review, J.D.

  8. Josie, I loved that comment and it made me laugh out loud.

    Chris, I'm not sure how I didn't notice the fact that the villain was bald, nice catch.

    Nadim, I do share some of your enthusiasm for the show, it's just that the parallels to Smallville stood out a bit too much for me to look past them. However, if I had to compare Pilots I think this one was far better. I just hope they don't get into the villain of the week thing that plagued the first few seasons of Smallville.

    Trick, I noticed the Mask, but I didn't want to mention it because I know almost nothing about Green Arrow comic mythology. Still that is an interesting idea, thanks for mentioning it!

    Celtic, ... I'm confused.

    I want to thank you all for your lovely comments, and the positive feedback. I know I don't really respond to stuff as much as I should.


  9. J.D.

    I was speaking in code. Here's the decoding :

    Josie loves Smallville and I was thinking about Supernatural. Oops, I goofed here !! I owe you one. Indeed that made no sense. Crap. My joke fell flat.

    Billie loves Buffy, hence the vampire slayer.

    My Island is the one featured on Lost (Billie and Josie know how MUCH I love that one) (and that's an understatement) (a big one indeed)

    The spaceships ? Enterprise and hopefully Firefly.

  10. Thanks for the explanation Celtic, I guessed most of that. Enterprise and Serenity would be on my list, but I have three ships that I love, she goes by the name Moya.

  11. Hi everyone. I don't usually post but found the show interesting enough from a comicbook fan's perspective to invoke my two pesos.

    There was indeed a lot set up in just one hour. As a matter of fact three quarters of the way through I had to check my watch just to check this was not a 90 minute premiere, and, if you think about it, that is not a bad sign. Also, considering how pilots are picked, if we were the writers wouldn't we want to make this one episode as complete as possible? If only because there may not have been a second one (look up the Aquaman pilot with Justin Hartley - promising but never picked up.)

    Anyway, I have read through various incarnations of Green Arrow - almost all with Oliver Queen as the man under the hood, and know that under the right writer the character can really be something (Kevin Smith for example). Under the wrong ones though he comes off as a poor man's Batman, and that has been a long running complain. Now, how this show's writers will handle him is too soon to tell, but so far their only crimes are cramming too much into 40 something minutes and perhaps connecting too many characters too soon... or, and the flashbacks. I am sure we'll get plenty more of them in future, but I hope they are measured out. Flashbacks can be as much a writer's crutch as multi-coloured kriptonite. I must admit that I was impressed to see Green Arrow willing to kill to protect his secret and win the fight, especially seeing how unrealistic it'd be to expect all his shots to be tranquilizers or aimed to only wound. hopefully it should open the door for some debate on the distinction between heroes and killers seeking vengeance, and help set a different tone from Smallville and its clean cut principles on truth and justice.

    Finally, the writers seem keen on teasing the comic book fans with revealing tidbits. There was Deathstroke's mask for one, and Oliver calling his sister Speedy. I take this last bit as not associated to her drug use but a sign of her possible sidekick status in future - though I hope to be wrong. Green Arrow has always had sidekicks and the first and most important was named Speedy (Roy Harper), who later ironically became the first superhero to be a drug addict. This reminded me of the teenage girl Smallville's Green Arrow started to train as a sidekick somewhere around seasons 8 or 9; she was written in almost as an afterthought and the story dropped without any consequence in favour of I am not sure what - most likely something to do with Lana Lang. Anyway, another interesting detail is that Oliver Queen's has always been portrayed (in comics) as a serious, life-wrecking, heart breaking, family splitting womanizer too often unable to keep it in his quiver, and that's before and after becoming the urban Robin Hood. It'll be interesting to see how the show portrays considering that a superhero who cheats on women may not be appreciated by most viewers.

    By the way, I am not sure how to make an ID to post my comment so I'll introduce myself as Rod C to whomever is reading this.


  12. Great review JD!
    And very informative comment RodC, thanks!

    What can I say... as someone who's been fascinated by Robin Hood since childhood... I LIKED IT!!! :o)

    Ok, ok, I know he's not Robin Hood, but he's Robin Hood crossed with Christopher Nolan's Batman... I'm good with that!

    Personally I had Batman Begins on my mind while watching this more than Smallville... We've already got a full-grown man here, not a teen... and considering the years that have passed that might be a good thing for those of us who started watching Smallville when younger. (Seriously, would you be interested in a teen-superhero show now?)

    I too found myself checking my watch to be sure we were still within the 42' timeframe... chock-full of goodies! The only thing I know about Green Arrow comes from watching Smallville, so I didn't catch any of the nods to comic book fans, just the presence of Dinah Lance.

    What didn't quite convince me was the potential love triangle...

    Oh, and if Laurel and her sister were daughters of a police detective (yay for Paul Blackthorn being back on my screen!!!), how on earth did they move in the same circle as billionaire playboys?!

    Can't wait to discover more about the island...

  13. Clunky in places, but enjoyable nonetheless. My big hope is that this series does a better job with Deathstroke than Smallville did.

  14. I want Stephen Lang to be Deathstroke. That would be neat.

  15. Great review! Just FYI, They call Thea Speedy because that is the name of Oliver's sidekick in the comics, not because of her... extra-curricular activities.

  16. Like many of you guys here, superheroes are not my thing either. I like my heroes - super or not - a little more organic, such as Buffy Summers, Max Guevara and Sydney Bristow, and with more believable costumes, like Kiera Cameron, Angel and Spike. I mean, isn’t it ridiculous that Arrow actually paints his face to go into a fight? How much time does he spend putting that make up on? And taking it off? How people don’t see at least part of his face? How come people don’t freaking notice Clark Kent is Superman???

    Ok, moving on from my problems with Comics superheroes... For a while now Arrow has been staring at me on Netflix, and I finally decided to give it a try. I mostly liked it, but I’m not sure I’ll be coming back.

    The writers made a good job on stablishing several characters conflicts and backgrounds, which is not an easy task, but do I like those conflicts? Let’s see... The protagonists’ best friend has a thing going with the protagonists’ true love. No, thank you, already so not into that love triangle (and I don’t like Oliver’s best friend). The protagonists’ sister is on drugs because that’s how she dealt with losses. Man, drug storylines are so difficult to get right. The protagonists’ mom turns out to be one of the villains. Hum, that could be interesting, but the pilot had so much going on that that revelation was one too many, and so far she’s no Irina Derevko.

    I did like that Oliver was having an affair with Laurel’s sister when things went to hell. I loved Laurel’s line that she couldn’t be angry at her sister because her sister was dead, and she couldn’t grief because she was angry. What a complicated situation. That right there is the source of excellent drama, but can the writers pull it off? The soon-to-happen love triangle took me out of the Oliver/Laurel drama very quickly.

    I liked Oliver, but is he going to be so serious all the time? I was never a fan of Smallville, but I did watch it here and there, and if there’s one thing I absolutely hated was Clark’s never ending pose of “I’m carrying the weight of the world and it makes me such a sad person”. Lighten up a bit, dude.

    Oliver going after millionaires to make things right is interesting, he sure is the Robin Hood type of hero. Having that said, I quite liked the villain (for a pilot villain, anyway), which is a plus. My favorite character, though, was Oliver’s sister and that’s probably because I really liked the actress’ portrayal of her.

    All in all, this pilot reminded me of the pilot of Alias, in which there was a lot going on and twists abounded. Alias’ pilot was terrific, though, while Arrow’s was... solid, let’s say.


    - There were three Continuum actors on this pilot. :)

    - Man, Stephen Amell. Wow. Dude is hot. I mean, that work out scene? Wow again.

  17. Lamounier,

    I had a lot of the same problems with this episode. Not only that, but it was so jammed packed that the material could've been stretched to the first three or so episodes.

    That being said, nearly every single issue you mentioned having a problem with, doesn't end up being a problem. The love triangle is not the focus of the show by a long shot, Oliver does develop a sense of humor. Thea's drug story is really the beginning of her character arc. Laurel has had some ups and downs, but she's a pretty good character overall. They even address the make up later on down the line.

    Basically, I hope you stick with it. The second half of the season really does pick up nicely and the finale for season one is pretty memorable. I loved season two, and the current season is shaping up nicely so far.

  18. J.D., thanks for the reply. Good to know that the things I mentioned don’t turn out to be a problem. I’ll probably stick around for a little bit longer and see if it grows on me. :)


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