When I watched the screener of the Arrow pilot last summer, I was instantly hooked. I loved everything about it, the present day story, the acting, the added backstory, the way the producers were planning on telling a story within a story with the flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island. I noticed that the plot borrowed from Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, but I didn’t mind because it made for a great story and I was looking forward to enjoying every minute of it.
The second episode of the series lived up to all my expectations from the pilot and I was still fully onboard. I liked that there were nods to the comics, but nothing overwhelming to make someone like me who has never read them feel like I was missing something. We were getting to see different sides to the characters and learning their relationships and seeing Oliver through their eyes while we also got to see him finding his way as he developed his vigilante alter ego. It was compelling and it was great storytelling.
But then all of a sudden, it wasn’t. The show slowly started to lose me in the third episode. It was supposed to be a big episode because of the introduction of Deadshot, but I wasn’t feeling it. The episode felt more like a procedural on how to catch a serial killer than the journey of a future superhero. Things picked up again when Oliver’s cover was blown and he was arrested for his vigilante activities. There was a great twist when Oliver told Dig that he’d wanted to get caught just so he could prove that he wasn’t the vigilante because eventually people would notice the timing of his return and the vigilante’s appearance.
That was also around the time that Dig had a talk with Oliver about how he needed to be a hero too and not just a vigilante while the Royal Flush Gang was in town. “Legacies” remains my favorite episode of the series so far and I really thought it was going to turn the show around and get back on track to telling Oliver’s story and the supporting characters’ stories and so on. But once again, I was wrong. The next two episodes were devoted to The Huntress and Oliver’s instant love affair with her.
Admittedly, I was looking forward to the character and the episodes, but the arc that played out in them felt like something that should have happened over an entire season, not two episodes. It was rushed and not all that well done. Why should we care about Helena, this girl that we’ve met for five minutes? What’s going on with Laurel? While I’m not one of those people who feel like she needs to be Black Canary immediately and I definitely do not expect Laurel and Oliver to be a couple in the first season, I do feel like she should have more screen time than the guest stars.
The same can be said for Thea and Tommy and even Moira to an extent. I think I would have preferred it if Moira had remained the villain we suspected she was when she had Oliver kidnapped in the pilot. The dynamic of a mother and son living under the same roof and trying to repair their relationship as they unknowingly battled with each other for control of the city is a much stronger storyline in my opinion than that of whatever this mess is with Oliver and the Dark Archer.
Speaking of, I also think that if the show was going to tell the story of a Merlyn being the Dark Archer, it should have been Tommy from Day 1. Don’t get me wrong; I love Tommy, he’s become my favorite character on the show, but we all know he’s ultimately going to end up bad. The producers haven’t hid that fact. Instead, we have to suffer through the storyline of his father being bad (again, why should we care about this random guy?) and then ultimately, there will probably be a Smallville-esque twist where Tommy steps up to take his father’s place as the bad dude like Lex and Lionel Luthor.
The news that more comic book characters are coming and that The Huntress is already slated to return does not make me all that excited for the second half of the season. My biggest problem with the show is that it is lacking on the serialized storytelling and instead seems to want to focus on episodic storylines with comic characters. Once again, some have compared it to Smallville’s original ‘freak of the week’ stories from the first few seasons. I didn’t watch the show back then and I probably wouldn’t have signed on for this one either if I had realized it was going to have so many self-contained episodes.
But here’s the thing: I want to love this show. I want to care and I want to get to the point where it’s the kind of show that I’m sad it’s only on once a week and the seven days to the next episode feels like a small eternity. After “Legacies,” I thought that would be a possibility, but the next few episodes cured me of that. However, it’s still very early in the first season; episode 10 is slated to air this week and there are 23 total in Season 1. Maybe the producers will go back to the serialized story we were promised in the beginning and maybe all these new characters will be interesting.
Or maybe that’s just delirium talking from the flu I’m dealing with right now. Overall, I give the show a C for the first half and I’m probably being generous with that, but I really love the actors and the ideas of where this show could go with so much talent involved onscreen and behind the scenes. What do you guys think? Has Arrow lived up to your expectations? What would you like to see more/less of on the show? Tell us in the comments!
Arrow returns Wednesday, Jan. 16 at 8 p.m. on The CW.