Reviewed: by Tyler Olson
***The review below contains minor spoilers.***
When the CW first announced that it was bringing another comic book franchise to life with a Green Arrow series, most people thought they were nuts. Sure Oliver Queen was well known in their last hero series, Smallville, but otherwise the man in green was a small-time hero with a small fanbase. Although, it was clear right from the first episode that, not only did the CW choose correctly, they hit the bullseye as the series quickly became their biggest hit in years.
However, that didn't mean there wasn't anything to complain about. The similarities between Arrow and past popular superhero movies was very strong, especially the Dark Knight and Spider-man. Some fans loved the similarities as they made it easier to get into, but others found it felt unoriginal and a cheap knock-off. Thankfully, it didn't take long before the similarities faded as Arrow began to take on an appearance of its own. Sure there were still nods to the other series, but they became rare and short enough to be accepted by most.
Then there were the cardboard cutout enemies. While the story of Oliver, his friends, and his family, were growing beautifully, the enemies were just names, some very famous names with a short description, before they were quickly defeated. It was getting so bad that some fan favourite villains only got a few minutes of time on the screen before they were killed off unceremoniously. As the series matured more recurring villains with detailed stories emerged, but this problem never really got resolved since Oliver Queen was just too good at killing bad guys. As Oliver slowly evolves into a more heroic role, this problem will probably become less and less of an issue over time... we hope.
The first few episodes also had issues with telling the story, often resorting the narratives by Oliver Queen to explain what was happening. Although, he was alone at the time, so much happened in his past which we needed to know in a hurry, and there was lots of action going on that there wasn't any time for major dialogue, so it is understandable, but still annoying. Leastwise, this only lasted a few weeks since he soon found someone to explain it to.
Acting was also a slight problem in the first few episodes, as it is with almost every series, while the actors settle into each of their roles. This problem was even more complicated for Stephen Amell, who had 3 roles to play. At the beginning, it was hard to tell the difference between two of them; shipwrecked Oliver and the present day Oliver. Just as the other problems, these too were ironed out relatively quickly.
Sadly we can't say the same with the more minor characters, specifically Jessica DeGouw's Helena Bertinelli. Of all the more minor characters she had to be the most disappointing. Her back story and reasons for wanting revenge was great, but how her character grew after that, especially since Jessica made her feel like a cheap super hero from the 1960s when suited up. When she was just Helena, she wasn't too awful, but once she put on her costume it was another story altogether. This was very likely due to her inexperience, so maybe if, or when, she returns in season 2, her character will be a bit more polished.
Beyond those first episodes, the story and the major characters were mostly very well done, at times brilliant even. There were questionable character choices, and confusing turn of events, but most were intentional and only added to the events that took place in later episodes, especially the season finale. Actually, re-watching the past episodes with the knowledge that comes after makes almost every single decision makes sense, except the ones that are due to the weak villain stories, or events that are still yet to transpire. Most series have difficulties keeping viewers interested in repeats, but this type of story telling allows for a richer experience for fans who do re-watch them.
Surprisingly, the variety of the characters are quite balanced allowing fans to really connect with at least one of them. This also means that there will probably be at least one character that is annoying, but that does make it more realistic; not everyone can be alike. Each character also has a large role to play in the story as events evolve and shift around their decisions, even those who appear to be a supportive character will suddenly do something surprising to steal the spotlight. This allows the story to twist in very unexpected, yet believable, ways so it always keeps fresh and interesting.
Instead of starting the story from Oliver Queen's first steps of becoming a hero, we are actually placed half-way through it. This allows us viewers to immediately see Oliver in his costume and fighting villains, which is a complete reversal from what we saw in Smallville. The back-story isn't forgotten, though, and is told through flashbacks. Both stories are very interesting and easy to get immersed into. Sadly, the origin story never seems to get the screen time to fully blossom since so much time is spent on the present.
While the characters and story do a great job at giving fans something to get immersed into, there is still more to get the heart pumping.
The action scenes are always intense, with some of the best stunts on TV. While fighting and stunts are exciting, there is still work to be done on the shooting of those scenes. While some are fluid, most are choppy due to frequent camera changes, and at times the camera reveals too much of the stunt-double, making it obvious that it isn't the actors doing the fighting. While they are still exciting with these flaws, they would be even more enjoyable if they were shot better. It is a minor problem, but something that needs to be addressed in the second season.
Action isn't for everyone, though, and in true CW style, there was also still plenty of eye candy. Unlike most TV series where the women are the ones that show lots of skin, it is the men who show off frequently. Don't worry men, it's normally just them shirtless to show off the bulging muscles. While most of the women remained well dressed, the female actors were all still very attractive as well, especially Emily Bett Rickards's Felicity Smoak, who quickly became a fan favourite for both her looks and acting.
Even though the first few episodes may have been weeker than the rest, throughout this first season, there wasn't even one episode, even with the flaws, that would be considered a bad episode, which really demonstrated how amazing this season was. Although these great episodes still pale in comparison to the astonishing season finale. It very rare for any finale to lift us off our seats in excitement, then drop us to our knees in despair, while wrapping up the mysteries that littered the past episodes, yet still giving us something to look forward to in the fall. I can't think of a better example of the perfect season finale.
Of all the series that premiered this fall, this one is definitely the most worthy of the attention. Now only if they could figure out a better name for Oliver's hooded alias instead of 'The Hood'.