Monday, September 16, 2013

TV Show Review: Arrow - Season 1

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Engaging characters and a compelling story
Cons: A few subpar episodes and the island backstory
The Bottom Line:
Fresh take on Arrow
With characters you will like
Story that excites

"I Wear a Hood and Shoot Arrows into Bad Guys.  I Grade Complicated on a Curve."

Every May, it’s the same thing – I swear I am going to stick only with the shows I already watch and not start any new ones.  And every year when September and October roll around, I start several new shows.  Of the shows I started in the fall of 2012, there was only one I watched more than two or three episodes, and that was Arrow.

I wasn’t super familiar with this DC Comic character before I started watching the show.  As a result, I don’t know how much they have messed with the details of the character.  I do know they set things up perfectly in the pilot, so this newbie could follow the character and the story and hang on for the ride.

The story centers around Olive Queen (Stephen Amell).  Five years ago, he vanished in a boating accident and was presumed dead.  In reality, he washed up on the shore of an island and spent the years surviving.  Along the way, he honed his skills as an archer.

Now that he is back in Sterling City, he is going to complete a mission.  His father, also on the boat, gave Oliver a journal before he died, telling Oliver to take down these men who are abusing the citizens of Starling City.  And so Oliver uses his new archery skills to do just that, putting fear in the hearts of these often rich and powerful men with his alter ego, dubbed “The Hood” by the media.

Of course, his one man vigilante act is complicated by the people who are now back in his life.  His mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) is now running Queen Consolidated, the family business, with the help of her new husband Walter Steel (Colin Salmon).  His sister Thea (Willa Holland) is partying and getting into trouble much like Oliver did before he vanished.  Then there’s his best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Connell) and his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), relationships made more complicated by romantic feelings long forgotten and a blossoming love triangle.  Well, and Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) also wants to arrest The Hood.

But any good hero needs sidekicks, and Oliver has those, too.  Originally assigned as a body guard, it's not long before veteran John Diggle (David Ramsey) is helping out as much as he can.  Part way through the season, a third member of the team is added as computer expert Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) starts adding her expertise to the team.

While Oliver goes after the bad guys one at a time, he is only partially aware of a growing conspiracy against the city.  Will he be able to stop it?

What pulled me into this store from the get go is the characters.  By the time the pilot was over, I felt they were real and were already showing depth.  A few of the episodes didn’t play to this strength, but for the most part, I spent an hour each week delving into the lives of real characters.

Not to say the story isn’t strong.  I was just as interested to find out how Oliver would handle his latest problem or crisis or bad guy as I was in seeing the characters grow and develop.  Between the two, this was an hour of can’t miss TV most weeks.

As I already mentioned, there were a few episodes where I felt the characters were a little flat.  But if one week I didn’t care for the characters, the next week had me completely back on board.  It was a few episodes along the way, but it does keep the season from being perfect.

Then there are the island flashbacks.  Trust me, life for Oliver on the island for those years was not boredom and loneliness.  Each week, we get flashbacks to his time there and a building story there as well.  While my roommate, who I managed to hook on this show, loved this aspect of things, I wished we would spend more time in the now.  Maybe between Lost and Once Upon a Time, I’m wearing out on the back story approach to TV storytelling.  Even so, I did begin to get into even this aspect of the show by the end of the season.

The acting on the show is wonderful.  All the actors nail their characters every week, which is why I was pulled in by the characters so quickly.  With all the drama, this isn’t some light superhero show.  Yes, there are some light moments, but this is a serious drama with a superhero element to it.  The actors capture that perfectly and bring the right amount of seriousness to it.

Proving that this is more about the characters, this show isn't as special effects heavy as some shows in the genre.  However, when they do have effects, they are great.  There are plenty of stunts and fights, and here the show shines.

The 23 episodes of the first season are being offered on DVD and a Blu-Ray/DVD/Ultraviolet combo pack.  The shows themselves are in their native wide screen and full surround, which isn't much of a surprise, which isn't a surprise.  Also not a surprise is the inclusion of deleted scenes and a gag reel.  There are three featurettes, one of the creation of the show that includes interviews with the creators and cast, one of the stunts and fights of the show, and one with highlights from the Paley Fest panel.

The show was a huge hit for the CW, but if you happen to be one of those who has missed the boat, go get this set today and catch up before season two starts.  You’ll be done with season one of Arrow before you even know it.

Season 1 Episodes:
1. Pilot
2. Honor Thy Father
3. Lone Gunmen
4. An Innocent Man
5. Damaged
6. Legacies
7. Muse of Fire
8. Vendetta
9. Year's End
10. Burned
11. Trust But Verify
12. Vertigo
13. Betrayal
14. The Odyssey
15. Dodger
16. Dead to Rights
17. The Huntress Returns
18. Salvation
19. Unfinished Business
20. Home Invasion
21. The Undertaking
22. Darkness on the Edge of Town
23. Sacrifice

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