(MILD SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 BELOW)
(I HAVE NOT SEEN SEASON 2, SO NO SPOILERS FOR ME, PLEASE!)
Many of my friends have been pressuring me to watch this show for months. I was avoiding it for a couple reasons. First of all, it is on the CW, and I don’t think I’ve ever watched a show on that network. Second of all, regular readers know I’m not too pleased with DC Comics these days. My interest in their monthly periodicals is at an all-time low, so I couldn’t see getting interested in a show featuring Green Arrow. Even worse, while I like Oliver Queen just fine, Connor Hawke has always been my preferred GA, so I didn’t think I’d be interested in the show at all.
It turns out; I do still like the DCU. A lot. From the obvious stuff; like Helena Bertinelli’s transformation into the Huntress. Or the near-constant comic book references (Ted Kord fundraisers, The Winick Building, etc.), this is a show made by folks who really know the comic book universe. There is still a little bit of comic book shame, of course. When presented with the name “Green Arrow,” Oliver Queen pronounces it “lame.” Instead, the series refers to him as The Hood. Count Vertigo and the Royal Flush gang are here, but in a made for TV way. Can’t get too silly now!
Show runner Marc Guggenheim has written some good comics, and boy, he’s making sure that this show proves that he knows his stuff. I could sit here and list characters, concepts, and settings from the comics, but honestly? For those of you who haven’t seen the show, I want you to see it yourselves.
Don’t get me wrong; this is still a CW show. Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen seems to have one contractually obligated shirtless scene per episode. I’m not even kidding. The guy works out, gets chained up, and gets all sweaty at least once a week, often on an insane piece of workout equipment called a salmon ladder. I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but man, Amell does. Most of the workout scenes and many of the fights are clearly Amell himself, not a stuntman. Props where it is due, that guy is as dedicated to staying in shape as a real vigilante. Even better, by the end of season 1 he seems to be pretty comfortable in the Hood’s shoes.
I watch shows for the action, but I am a sucker for good romantic triangles and relationships. While Katie Cassidy isn’t great as Laurel Lance, she gets better as the season goes on. Interestingly, Lance’s character is at its strongest once she’s not spending every week being grumpy with Oliver Queen. By the time Colin Donnell’s Tommy Merlyn makes the situation a true romantic triangle, I found myself interested in the outcome.
One fascinating thing about the show is the split of characters and worlds. The Hood is doing the vigilante thing with the help of some supporting characters (no spoilers). Meanwhile, Laurel, her Dad Detective Lance, and Tommy, along with the Queen family (sister Thea, father Walter, and mother Moira) are making Ollie Queen’s life complicated in a more CW kind of way. (Did I mention that Thea’s nickname is “Speedy?” Worth noting?) Almost the entire cast starts the season a bit wooden, with the show really feeling cheap and teen-soapy. That changes as the season goes on. As the characters really dig into their roles, things get a lot stronger (in both plot and acting).
In particular, David Ramsey as Oliver Queen’s bodyguard Diggle (get the reference?) is a delight as he gets to know Oliver as the season wears on. Ramsey has a great rapport with Amell. Their interaction lends a great buddy-movie quality to the proceedings as Diggle becomes a near-Alfred type buddy for Green Arrow. He’s the rare television invention that I would love to see in the comics.
The special effects vary wildly from episode to episode. If there is a motorcycle or car chase, you can guarantee that people are wearing helmets or keeping their faces out of the frame. Sometimes the explosions look a bit too CGI. At other times, the explosions and gunfire look very realistic. From episode 1 on, the effects of the Hood’s bow are top notch. The bowstring snaps like a gunshot and the darting arrows zip through the air in convincing fashion.
This is not fine television. This isn’t The Wire or even LOST. But it is a fun, pulpy super-hero show that remembers its roots while serving a modern TV audience. This show is GOOD!
I haven’t gone into detail, but man, I am very, very excited to see more Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke the Terminator. I’m confident I’ll see Deathstroke in Season 2!