Five Reasons to Watch ‘Arrow’

I’m a geek and proud of it. While exposed to the usual gamut of superheroes during my childhood – largely thanks to an older brother – my only knowledge of spandex-clad do-gooders was limited to Christopher Reeve doing the blue and red blur thing on the silver screen. Thankfully, I grew up and discovered the local comic book store. Ever since I first discovered Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman series in high school, I have been a huge fan of all things DC and Marvel, and everything in between. Despite being inundated with superheroes of all descriptions from various iterations of Hulk and Spiderman to the snarky awesomeness of Robert Downey Jr.’s Ironman, I was still super excited about the new Arrow series. Due to Turkey Eating Day in the States yesterday, there was no new episode of Arrow this week and I am in withdrawal, which is what prompted this post.

There are numerous reasons to watch the new CW Arrow series but here are mine: (may contain spoilers, you’ve been warned)

1. Dark and Deadly – my biggest gripe with the DC universe (not counting Morpheus and the Endless since they’re somewhat on the periphery of the universe) has been that it’s too ‘nice.’ Superman,  Wonderwoman, even Batman and Catwoman, who should both embody darkness, are rather gentle in their pursuit of justice. Batman – as brought to life by the introspective, brooding Christian Bale – is still on a mission of goodness and light, and doesn’t actually ever kill anyone (not with deliberate intent for selfish reasons unless they’re the arch villain). DC has the Justice League. Marvel? They’ve got the Avengers – spot the difference? I like Batman, I do but along comes Green Arrow or ‘The Hood’ as he’s dubbed in the TV series. Here’s a guy who’s on a mission and will stop at nothing to achieve his objectives. Originally designed as a left wing archery analogue of Batman, the TV series takes this darker ideal one step further in the pilot episode where Oliver Queen aka The Hood snaps a guy’s neck to protect his own identity. He killed a guy without hesitation, not to right wrongs, not for some greater good – nope, just to save his ass. I love this little moment of darkness because it makes the character more human, more real and gives the whole series a dark and gritty undertone.

2. Improved Backstory – I haven’t read the Arrow comics but according to the Green Arrow wiki, the backstory is a little wishy-washy. In the series we’re given a mind-blowing twist in the pilot that it was Oliver’s mom who conspired the destruction of the yacht for undisclosed nefarious reasons. The island flashbacks (brilliant!) also show a far darker experience than hinted at in the comics. The island really is ‘purgatory,’ not just a trial but a total deconstruction of self after which Oliver must rebuild his identity. Now doesn’t that make for a more compelling character than some dude washed ashore who witnesses slave labour and discovers an innate archery ability?

3. Dynamic Relationships – not the fluffy romance kind but the clashing of ideals, immediately apparent between Laurel and her detective father. This is definitely one of the best relationships in the series and I’ll keep watching just to see how Laurel and her dad resolve their issues since they’re both fighting for the same things in different ways. The family dynamic between Oliver and his mom is also intriguing and I cannot wait to see that blow-up when he eventually discovers her involvement in the destruction of the Queen’s Gambit. But my favourite relationship has got to be the burgeoning bromance between Oliver and his ex-body guard turned accomplice Diggle. It’s a great dyanmic because Diggle clearly has a well-established honour code while Oliver sometimes flounders in the grey area between good and evil.

4. Stephen Amell – This Canadian actor is incredibly versatile, playing a gay zoologist on ReGenesis to a (straight) male prostitute in Hung. I had no idea what to expect from this guy who first caught my attention playing werewolf badboy Brady in The Vampire Diaries. One word to describe Amell’s Arrow? Earnest. In every scene, whether he’s playing the playboy billionaire or about to kick some badguy butt, Amell clearly takes his role seriously and you can see in his facial expressions. Oliver has been through hell, he’s carrying a hell of lot on his shoulders and he’s juggling various personas to keep up the charade while taking on some heavy weight scumbags and risking his life on a near daily basis. Hard to believe this guy is so well-adjusted and not a sniveling wreck crying in the corner. Amell nails the tortured anti-hero without seeming hard and insensitive – quite the opposite in fact and it shows on that earnest face of his. The other reason to watch Amell in this series is for his torso (recently nominated for best new character on TV – yes, just his torso was nominated) because the guy’s musculature is rather impressive and he’s not afraid to show it off (see poster above ^^).

5. Kickass Awesomeness – Oliver Queen doesn’t have suerpowers. He’s human. His awesomeness comes from long hours of archery practice, even more hours spent pumping iron and dashing around the city honing his parkour skills (kudos to Amell for actually being able to do all the stunts they show in the series. He’s living the role, not just acting it.). The physicality of the show combined with the gadgetry only a billionaire could afford, makes for great entertainment and a pretty high body count (watch and learn Batman!).
CW has brought us shows like Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries – shows that offer up tons of eye candy, great one liners and a dash of darkness. CW likes to torture their characters literally (think Dean Winchester and his sojourn in Hell or the rather graphic bloodfests in Vampire Diaries with Damon strung up by the originals. Not to forget Oliver Queen getting sliced and diced on the island) and emotionally (far too many examples to list) and this makes for compelling drama. Psychopaths have never looked so pretty (Damon Salvatore, I’m looking at you) and the lengths people will go to for the ones they love have never been more extreme (Exhibit A: The Winchester brothers). Arrow has all of the above in spades as well as the extra geeky stamp of approval because of its comic book origins. Do you really need more reasons to watch this show?

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  • T.L. Bodine

    Ah man. My boyfriend is all into Arrow right now, but I just can’t get into it. I’m too attached to the Smallville rendition of Oliver Queen, I cannot get over the lack of Justin Hartley. Also, it seems like everybody’s just so whiny. Oliver and his kid especially.

    I might try to give it another chance.

    • Xaniver

      I was never a Smallville fan so I don’t have the Justin Hartley hangover so many do. Also, Oliver and his kid ? I’m assuming kid sister?

  • Wix Green

    Beautifully written and argued as usual, Suzanne. It really is a pleasure to read your work.

    However, I cannot agree with some of your conclusions.

    As an owner of the classic Denny O’Neill Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, (reprints, sadly – check the prices of the NM originals!), I can only say that, rather that being a repository for praise, Arrow is yet another crass and soulless example of rampant and cynical cultural iconoclasm.

    Not the biggest – Elementary, this year’s frankly insulting rehash of Sherlock Holmes is surely the biggest example, an international- incident inspiring example – but certainly up there with it.

    Watching Arrow made me feel like banging my 95 Theses about media on the door of Wittenburg church like some modern day Martin Luther.

    Thou shalt treat the old heroes with respect.

    The writers of Arrow have transgressed this. They’ve driven a lorry over a pumpkin, Suzanne.

    Arrow is beefcake and brawn, muscles and mood. He’s grim and gritty, full of vengeance. His muscles glisten and you can see the female population of America salivating at every pixellated celluloid appearance. You can see them booking their pelvis-splitting operations at the local hospital. The whiff of superheated oestrogen travels across the ocean like sulphur and brimstone.

    Yet, the original Green Arrow was an average looking symbol of morals and righteous boiling anger at the shocking state of late sixties/early seventies America.

    His words were important, not his looks.

    In those classic comics, the contrast between Green Lantern’s almost corporate, cold eyed acceptance of the way-things-are, the agent of the military/industrial complex, and Oliver Queen’s revolutionary, fist pounding, burning desire to change the world was the moment when the art of the comic transformed from cheesecake to serious social commentary and as historical moments go, these particular issues are the comic equivalent of the Declaration of Independence.

    Did the writers of Arrow not know this? They may as well have spat on those comics. I don’t know about spat, but they certainly drooled upon them, like the book burning primitives they are.

    There is updating mythos, Suzanne, and then there is sacrilege.

    And there is one more important point to stress.

    Where, Suzanne, is Arrow’s blonde goatee?

    Are goatee’s no longer appealing to today’s all-powerful younger generation. Do goatees no longer inspire? That pointed goatee IS Green Arrow!

    Remaking Arrow without that Goatee is like remaking Captain America without his shield!

    In my opinion, of course.

    Respectfully yours. Your friend (and comic fan) Wiz Green (Arrow). 🙂

    • Xaniver

      Honestly, I’m glad the goatee is gone 🙂 I think perhaps Arrow is for the new generation and thus appeals to me as it somehow manages to stand out above the slurry of recent Marvel and DC adaptations. In terms of socio-economic and political content, I think CW is downplaying that, wanting it to be more entertainment than social commentary especially considering the recent happenings in the States and the way ‘socialism’ is considered a swear word.
      Making Green Arrow out to be more of a modern day Robin Hood and less a political activist is ok with me. I watch to be entertained, not to be enlightened or preached at.
      As for the goodlooks of the show – that is entirely a symptom of the network (CW is known for choosing only the best looking actors) but is not nearly as insulting as the network’s new show Beauty and the Beast where the beast is a drop-dead gorgeous guy with a single scar marring his otherwise perfect chiselled jaw – now that contravenes the spirit of the original tale in a way that Amell’s brawn does not.

  • mary ann bernal

    Great post Suzanne – I love the program and was also in withdrawal for a new episode this week.
    Wiz Green – I disagree with some of your comments, but I will defend to the death your right to say them.

    • Xaniver

      🙂 Great to meet another fan!