Oct 16 2012 1:30pm

Arrow: Too Much Angst, Not Enough Charm

The main problem with Arrow, the CW’s new series which adapts the DC Comics superhero Green Arrow to the small screen, is that it isn’t charming. At all.

At his best, in the comics, Green Arrow is a modern-day Robin Hood. And not just because he wears green, shoots arrows, and steals from the rich to give to the poor. He’s also a magnificently smug bastard. He’s funny, arrogant, romantic, passionate, flirty, and theatrical. He believes in protest movements, civil rights marches, sit-ins and stand-ins and civil disobedience and his own righteousness above all. He fights for social justice as well as criminal justice. He forces his too spicy chili on his friends and cannot keep his dick in his pants. He’s a big, broad character with some very human flaws.

And obviously that character could work because that’s basically Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Iron Man, another billionaire with father issues who went through a life threatening ordeal to emerge with superhuman abilities and a new desire to use his power to make the world a better place. But instead of trying to make Oliver Queen into Tony Stark, which would have been awesome, director David Nutter and writers Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim, and Greg Berlanti go in the other direction and try to make him Bruce Wayne.

But even Bruce Wayne has more personality than Queen displays in the pilot. This isn’t star Stephen Arnell’s fault, he broods fine. He just never has a moment to be likable. The story starts with Oliver Queen returning to Starling City after five years shipwrecked on an island where he developed superhuman jumping and arrow shooting skills. The writers try to show that the deaths of his father and girlfriend in the shipwreck still haunt Oliver and leave him emotionally torn, but instead he just comes across as cold and judgmental of everyone, including his mother, sister, best friend, and ex-girlfriend (who, in a twist, is the sister of the girlfriend lost at sea and the daughter of the cop dedicated to bringing the vigilante Arrow down). The only person Queen shows any genuine affection for is his old housekeeper Raisa, a wise Latina in place of the usual magical negro. Why are we supposed to like this guy, even before he kills a crook just to hide his true identity?

Maybe, like Smallville, a clear influence on this series, Arrow is trying to tell the complete hero’s journey, from his angsty return to civilization to his emergence as a full fledged superhero. There are certainly hints of future plans in the pilot. There’s romantic and crime-fighting partner Laurel (Black Canary) Lance as Ollie’s conflicted ex-girlfriend. There’s villain and rival superarcher Merlyn as his roguish best friend. While the addition of sister is new, her nickname and her drug habit imply she will one day be his sidekick Speedy. Maybe by season four they’ll get to a point where episodes can actually be fun.

Really, they should have hit the ground running. If the show was about an established Green Arrow and his team taking down a superheroic analogue for a real life miscreant who the law cannot or will not touch week after week, with all the banter, spectacle, and pathos that implies, I’d be watching week after week. Basically, I think Arrow would have been better as Leverage with pointy bits.

But that’s not the show we have. What we have is a show that thinks that having fun and having a relationship are signs of weakness and frivolousness. We, the comic book fans, may know that Merlyn is headed for a heel turn, but Colin Donnell plays him with more charm, affection, and joie de vivre than Oliver ever has. If the show had been about this hard partying roguish cad learning to be a real hero, that would be a lot closer to the Green Arrow I know, and a lot closer to a show I'd actually watch. 

But Arrow is not Green Arrow. And he’s not Batman or Iron Man either. He’s just another brooding hunk who kills a never-ending series of faceless thugs with a bow, and I can’t bring myself to care.

Steven Padnick is a freelance writer and editor. By day. You can find more of his writing and funny pictures at padnick.tumblr.com.

Lee VanDyke
1. Cloric
Yeah, they kind of lost me when he killed the guy just to keep his abilities secret. I had the same problem with "The Cape." And Christopher Nolan's Batman, honestly. I like my superheroes to be the good guys. Killing someone just because he MIGHT cause you some inconvenience does not qualify you for the good guy team. I suppose I'll keep watching to see if they can turn it around, but as of right now, I'm rating mostly style, little substance.
Arie King
2. Arieh
While I agree for the better part, I must also say I'm looking forward to the second episode. It really had me moving at some of the flashbacks. Lets hope they will improve.
rob mcCathy
3. roblewmac
green arrow Barely protects his secert in the comic.
Denyse Loeb
4. domynoe
I liked it. And it was TONS better than the B&B reboot. Their beast wasn't even a beast! Couldn't even finish it. But Arrow? Looking forward to more.
wizard clip
5. wizard clip
@Cloric: I wasn't aware that Nolan's Batman killed anybody. In fact, isn't his refusal to execute criminals what leads to his fallout with the Society of Shadows in "Begins"? He certainly doesn't kill to protect his identity ( a tall order since by the end of "Rises" everyone seems to know who he is).

Now with Tim Burton's Batman, you have a valid complaint, and I had the same problem with it myself.
Shelly wb
6. shellywb
This was such a clone of Batman I wondered if they'd even looked at the comic. All he had in common with Green Arrow were the arrows. The most fatal flaw though was that it was boring. No one in my family wanted to give episode two a chance.
Joanne Center
7. thegloop
I am going to wait and see on this one before passing judgement. I actually enjoyed the first ep and I thought he got in a few lines, particularly the one at the dinner table where he basically asks how long dude's been boinking his mom, that show the character isn't just all brooding blah
john mullen
8. johntheirishmongol
Quit trying to figure out if a series is decent in one episode. Give it half a season at least
Matt Wright
9. matty42
I was under the impression that the maid was Russian?
wizard clip
10. wizard clip
I haven't actually seen Arrow yet, but in fairnes it took the Green Arrow character literally decades to find its feet in the comics. It wasn't until The O'Neill-Adams era that GA was anything more than, as they say, Batman with a bow
wizard clip
11. eaglesfanintn
I've got the first two episodes DVR'ed - I like to give series like this about 4 or 5 episodes to get its "sea legs". If it shows promise, I'll keep watching. If not, I'll cut the cord.
wizard clip
12. MikeR
I'm enjoying it. I might add that I have no familiarity with the comic other than having heard of the character "Green Arrow" before-- I don't buy and read comic books, never have-- so I'm not holding the TV show up against any kind of "standard." As far as angst, charm, humor, etc., the guy just got back from the island and is only getting started with his hero persona, so maybe he hasn't had much of a chance yet to chill out and get all charmy and funny and "magnificently smug"?
wizard clip
13. Steven Jordan
I also tossed this one after one ep... which I don't know how I sat through. I agree, this character is NOT Oliver Queen. Oliver was at his best when pointing out the problems of the world with his voice, not just saving it with his arrows... and THAT would have made for an interesting series. I'd rather see a hippie-Tony Stark analogue than this brooding buzz-kill with extreme jumping-bean skills.
wizard clip
15. Jabba the hut
I am upset with this show. At the begining was interesting. Soon they transform in a bunch of pretentious snobs showing abs and fashion.Three times I tried to see it again. I cannot. The tv show has more potential like a porn show than an action show.

Subscribe to this thread

Receive notification by email when a new comment is added. You must be a registered user to subscribe to threads.
Post a comment