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Arrow: a Darker Queen Tale

October 19, 2012

Like many Smallville fans I was highly skeptical when the CW announced that they would be airing a new superhero series based on Oliver Queen. I figured, why bother, been there, done that? Oliver was a regular on Smallville and I found myself wondering why needed a whole reboot of his story in a new series. Then came Arrow.

I admit it, I’m falling hard for this series. It’s fresh, different, and darker than Smallville. Stephen Amnell nicely steps into the grand Oliver Queen tradition of happily taking his shirt off in every episode (so far) which of course doesn’t hurt. Amnell rather falls into the Supernatural boys book for me – he’s pretty to look at but he doesn’t get my motor revving – which is a good thing because it means instead of obsessing over the leading man, I can concentrate on the story.

This Oliver Queen is seriously screwed up. Having once been the party boy, after spending 5 years alone on an island and determined to survive in order to correct his father’s wrongs, Oliver returned to Starling City scarred, suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, utterly lost on how to relate to people, and full of vengeance. No longer internally the carefree poster boy for bad behavior, Oliver comes home to find that his mother had buried himself and his father and married Queen Industries CFO, a fact that he repeatedly loves to throw into his new “stepfather’s” face. Oliver is a sanctimonious pain in the ass to everyone he encounters. His under the surface rage against the world is rather refreshing to see on TV, especially after Oliver on Smallville ended up getting turned into a bit of a mope. Arrow‘s Oliver really doesn’t know how to relate to people anymore, nor does he know who to trust. My gut tells me that his body-guard might eventually get brought into his fold, but that won’t be for a while.

To further complicate his return, Oliver finds himself dealing with his ex-Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and her father whom both bitterly blame him for taking Laurel’s younger sister out on the yacht on the fateful night that it went down. Poor Oliver witnessed her getting sucked into the oceans undertow never to surface again and every day lives with the guilt that he couldn’t save her life. His younger sister Thea is a royal mess having been left behind and lonely and is embracing the empty life of a party girl. In a story twist, Oliver once called her Speedy – his protegé from the comics who got hooked on drugs, it appears that Thea is on that same reckless path.

The producers of this series promised that it would be grounded in reality, no super powers, or super power friends…well we’ll see how that goes considering that somewhere along the line Laurel is going to develop some serious super-sonic lung issues. I think my favorite line that showcases how grounded the show is came in the second episode “Honor, thy Father” when Oliver’s mother tried convincing him that it was time for him to take a seat as lead at his father’s company. His response (paraphrased,) “did everyone think that I magically earned my MBA in the past five years?”

The action sequences on the series are impressive. The stunt coordinators take maneuvers from parkour to help make Oliver appear more animalistic in his fighting skills. He’s got an impressive array of toys and gadgets and thanks to his years of living alone he’s not bogged down with worries of morality, if he needs to kill someone, he will do so. In this iteration, he doesn’t have Clark Kent sermonizing to him about walking the white line. Laurel works for the DAs office and as this mysterious hooded crusader is causing the scumbags that she’s trying to get behind bars to shape up, she herself finds this new vigilante to be fascinating.

By episode two we finally are seeing more to Laurel than just being a generic girl who Ollie had once wronged. We got to see a bit of the spark and attitude that makes Katie Cassidy one of her generations best, under utilized actresses, if you need evidence of that watch her Ruby on Supernatural season 3. I’m looking forward to seeing how they work on further fleshing out her character. If you’re having a hard time placing the Queen residence, it was previously used as Johnny’s home on The Dead Zone.

So far they’re doing a great job with building out a mythology, in the first two episodes we learn of the major events that made Oliver into Starling City’s secretive crusader and they are working hard to show the audience of a greater threat that hits an unawares Oliver close to home.  All I can say about that is, with Susannah Thompson as your mother, watch out, this former Borg Queen won’t take no for an answer.

Bottom line, Arrow is not Smallville and that’s a good thing. Not that aspiring to be like the longest running Superhero TV show of all time would be a bad thing, but by taking the series in a very different direction, the show is its own entity and not a knockoff. If you haven’t checked it out, watch the first two epsiodes which should be online, I think you too will be pleasantly surprised.

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