‘Arrow’ Pilot Recap: “We’ll Put Out an APB on Robin Hood”

It’s been more than a year since ‘Smallville’ finally went off the air. Hoping to lure back some of that comic book geek audience, the CW network premiered its new series ‘Arrow’, based on the DC Comics title ‘Green Arrow’, last week. Does this bolt fly true?

The show is written and produced by Greg Berlanti, creator of many primetimes soaps such as ‘Everwood’, ‘Brothers & Sisters’ and (most recently) ‘Political Animals’. If he seems like an odd match for this material, Berlanti also fancies himself a comics nerd. He was responsible for ABC’s failed superhero drama ‘No Ordinary Family‘ a couple years ago, and wrote the screenplay for last year’s big-budget flop ‘Green Lantern‘. That’s not a very impressive track record. Nonetheless, Berlanti has convinced someone to give him yet another shot.

The ‘Pilot’ episode is bog-standard origin story stuff. It’s a little bit of Batman with a touch of Robin Hood and a smidge of Robinson Crusoe mixed in. On a boating trip with his father and his girlfriend’s slutty sister, wealthy playboy Oliver Queen’s yacht sinks, leaving him the only survivor. Stranded on a deserted island for five years, Queen teaches himself some incredible survival skills, not the least of which is becoming the world’s greatest bow-hunter. This time alone also instills in Oliver a sense of purpose he never had before, and a burning desire to rid his home city of crime. (If you’re asking yourself what being trapped on an island has to do with fighting crime, you’re not alone.)

After his rescue by a fishing crew, Oliver returns to Starling City and takes up his old partying lifestyle once again, but this time only as a cover so that he can fight crime by night as a bow-and-arrow toting costumed vigilante. As a base of operations, he also builds a secret high-tech lair in an abandoned warehouse owned by his father’s company.

Conveniently, Queen learned some other useful skills while alone on the island, including parkour, kung-fu, computer hacking and how to speak Russian. No, none of this makes a damn bit of sense.

In the lead role, Stephen Amell (the rival gigolo on ‘Hung’) is hunky but bland and far too dour. Other important characters all have precious names such as his perky do-gooder girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy from the ‘Melrose Place’ reboot), his douchebag best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell from ‘Pan Am’) and his evil stepfather Walter Steele (terrific character actor Colin Salmon). In flashbacks, Oliver’s father is played by Jamey Sheridan from ‘Law & Order: Criminal Intent’.

Overall, the episode is pretty lame, but not quite as lame as ‘No Ordinary Family’ or ‘The Cape‘. I’ve never read a ‘Green Arrow’ comic book in my life and have no idea how faithful (or not) the show is to the source. What I find a little surprising is how violent the series is. The guy’s chief weapon is a bow and arrow, and he rather cavalierly kills a whole lot of people in the pilot episode. (I read on another blog some theorizing that the arrows are somehow special and only knock the targets unconscious, but there’s no indication of that in the episode. Oliver sure looks like he’s killing people left and right.)

Will this prove popular with the audience that inexplicably kept ‘Smallville’ on the air for ten seasons? I have no idea. It didn’t do much for me, and I don’t plan to watch again.


  1. I found the episode to be up and down, great and lame. I feel they tried to do too much in the pilot and some of the casting choices seemed odd to me, but hopefully it will improve.

    *Spoiler Warning* – Dinah Laurel Lance is Black Canary in the comics, but she’s supposed to be blonde. I believe Merlyn is one of Green Arrow’s arch nemesises as well, so something bad will likely happen to him.

  2. Tim Tringle

    All TV Could do to learn from the past an kick off their shows with a two hour premier. Later they can show the pilot as a two part episode. This used to be very common when i was growing up and has all but vanished in todays “commercial is king mentality” environment as has another great marketing tool of yore the “TV Theme song” which has also pretty much vanished in favor of having more commercials jammed into an hour (hah!) show.

    They could have focused on more on what happened on the island but they obviously are gonna keep going back to that well ala “Lost”. Really getting tired of writers being lazy and copying that shows formula.

  3. Tim, I agree over the loss of long pilots. The way advertising has gone with TV is, quite frankly, absurd. I was watching one of my favourite old series the other day, The Invaders, and I realised the episode run-times were often around the 55 minute mark. Why? Presumably they only had five minutes of adverts back then!!!

    It’s no wonder programs have lost their mood-setting title sequences now, in favour of a brief title flickering on (Falling Skies is a great example). The producers are clearly just trying to get an extra minute or two of story time because they’re so hampered by the amount of adverts. You’re lucky if an episode of something these days manages to make the 40 minute mark. 20 minutes of adverts per hr programming… It’s simply absurd. (And that’s in the UK, but I know you guys get it worse with even MORE adverts…)

    How many people now, are just recording and fast-forwarding through adverts though? I know I do. Why sit through e.g. two hours to watch two programs, when you could watch two programs and have 40 minutes to spare, or alternatively fit three programs into the same time??!

    It may seem a bit of a joke that we have to pay a TV license fee over here in the UK, but I must admit, at least the BBC doesn’t have adverts. It’s amazing what a difference it makes, even if I only watch a small number of their programs.

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