The CW’s “Arrow” has been one of the most buzzed about new shows of the fall season and it’s (finally!) premiering next Wednesday. By now, everyone knows the plot is loosely based on the DC Comics’ character Green Arrow, also known as Oliver Queen, and the title role is being played by (the fantastic) Stephen Amell. But is this show that the producers and writers have repeatedly said will be nothing like “Smallville” worth all the attention that it’s getting? Two words: HELL YES.
I’m going to insert a quick disclaimer here and point out that my knowledge of comic books is virtually nonexistent, aside from knowing that they exist and people like them. I did watch “Smallville” and I love Justin Hartley’s version of Oliver/Green Arrow (in a way that is probably not healthy), but I knew going into this that the new show was going to be vastly different and it was going to tell the origin story of Green Arrow and honestly, that is the last time I feel any comparison or comments about the two versions need to be made. They’re completely different, let’s move on.
The pilot begins with a voiceover (the producers said there will be a lot of them) and we meet Oliver when he has been stranded on an island for five years. He’s a mess, physically and mentally, as he is rescued and brought back to his hometown, Starling City. His father, his girlfriend’s sister (who Oliver was cheating with) and several other people were killed when the boat they were on got caught in a storm and Oliver was the only survivor. But since he’d been gone for five years, everyone assumed he had died too so the world he’s going back to has changed a lot and so have the people in it.
Unlike the comic book version, Oliver’s mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson) is still alive and he has a little sister Thea (Willa Holland), loosely based on Oliver’s comic book sidekick, “Speedy.” While Thea is thrilled to have her big brother back, Moira seems almost wary of her son. Basically, she’s hiding something and Oliver senses it. Their reunion is happy, but strained. We also meet Oliver’s best friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), who I believe is also based on a comic character, but see disclaimer above. Tommy is happy to have Oliver back and he’s looking forward to getting back to their party boy ways together, but there’s someone else Oliver wants to see.
Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) was Oliver’s girlfriend at the time of the boat accident, but she’s not exactly jumping for joy to have him back because of that whole sleeping with her sister thing that he was doing. Laurel angrily tells him that she couldn’t mourn for either one of them and she’s sorry that he didn’t die (ouch!). Oliver, on the other hand, had a lot of time to think and he realized just how much Laurel meant to him and how much he missed her. (Comic book fans might be more familiar with Laurel’s first name, “Dinah” or her comic alter ego, “Black Canary. Watch for the nod to both in the pilot).
But Oliver has a lot more on his mind than just reunions with his loved ones. While he plays the carefree playboy in public, behind the scenes, Oliver is working toward becoming a vigilante. He’s got a long list of people (think “Revenge’s” Emily Thorne) that he wants to bring to justice and he knows that he can’t do that as Oliver Queen, so he takes on the hooded persona and goes after bad guys with a bow and arrow. It’s pretty badass and the workout scenes leading up to it are worth watching on repeat.
The creators of the show have admitted that they’re fans of Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight” verse and they’ve definitely sampled from both “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” for the pilot. It works. Oliver is dark and focused and a little scary at times (let’s just say he doesn’t share Batman’s rule about not killing people), but the story and the acting are so good that it is impossible to do anything other than root for Oliver, even if some of his choices seem a little questionable (I’m looking at you, Tommy).
Flashbacks to Oliver ending up on the island are weaved throughout the present day stuff and the transitions are seamless. There are two distinct stories being told and the writers do an amazing job with each of them, never once dropping the ball or making it feel like it’s just a giant information dump. Amell has a lot riding on his shoulders and he masters each nuance of Oliver and Arrow’s personalities. Katie Cassidy is beyond the perfect choice for Laurel. Her character has a lot of sides as well and she handles each change flawlessly. Plus, the chemistry between the two actors is off the charts.
If those aren’t enough reasons to watch the show, check out the video below that features the cast talking about the show as well as some clips from the pilot.
“Arrow” premieres Wednesday, Oct. 10 at 8:00 p.m. EST on The CW.