I just spent the last weekend watching Season One of Arrow. Regular readers of Eleventh Stack know that I consume a lot of superhero material in any number of mediums. Arrow might just be the finest television adaptation of a comic book hero I have yet to encounter. If you’re unfamiliar with the whole DC Comics Green Arrow mythos, here’s a quick summary. Oliver Queen lived a life of leisure as a rich, vacuous playboy until he was shipwrecked on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean. While there he learned many hard lessons, but chief among them was the value of life, and the inherent wastefulness of his previous bon vivant existence. Oh, and he also became a badass archer. You can apply this basic summary to both the comic book Ollie Queen and Stephen Amell’s amazingly kinetic television version.
While Arrow takes great pains to develop a strong supporting cast, Mr. Amell shines in the titular role. His character returns from five years of exile on that lonely island to exact vengeance on Starling City’s rich elite who continue to drain the wealth and vitality from its middle and lower classes. While Amell’s Arrow (also referred to as “The Hood” by Starling City’s police and media) does take on street criminals, his principal mission involves righting the wrongs wrought by a specific and mysterious group of super-elite rich folks from a list furnished to him by his now dead father. There’s more than a bit of class war in Arrow, but the show’s creative team turns that concept on its head a bit because Ollie himself dwells and walks among the city’s ultra rich. Like the Robin Hood of legend, he robs from these rich scoundrels and gives the money back to their victims.
Among the many fine actors in Arrow, David Ramsey and Katie Cassidy stand out. Ramsey portrays John Diggle, Afghanistan war veteran and Queen’s bodyguard. He eventually becomes his confidant and conscience. Ms. Cassidy portrays Dinah Laurel Lance, Queen’s erstwhile lover, and a continuing source of romantic angst for our hero. She’s also a crusading attorney for the poor and disenfranchised. She and her father, homicide detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), have deep and sometimes troubling ties to Queen that reverberate throughout this twenty-three episode run. Arrow uses these complex character relationships to take the focus off of the sort of zaniness and super powers you might see in a normal show in the genre, and place it firmly into the wheelhouse of gritty action and suspense. The tone of Amell’s Arrow feels more like Christian Bale’s Batman than the old Adam West version.
That does not mean we don’t get to meet other denizens of the DC Comics universe. While not always overtly named, the show offers up compelling versions of various DC heroes and villains to tangle with our hero. The action and fight choreography in Arrow delivers big budget thrills on a TV show budget, and the Vancouver cityscape becomes a character all its own, taking on the role of the fictional Starling City. Heavily influenced by Thai classic Ong-Bak and the parkour movement, Arrow’s fighting style takes advantage of this urban terrain, and includes plenty of acrobatic takedowns to go with the hero’s truly dazzling archery skills.
If you like action and a bit of melodramatic romance, Arrow nicely checks both of those boxes. I’m also not going to lie to you here–Arrow‘s cast is beautiful. I mean, really beautiful. Easy on the eyes indeed. So if you think watching beautiful people doing dramatic stuff in a fictional, superhero setting will work for you as well as it does for me, jump in! The hard part will come with waiting for Season 2 to arrive at the library!