Arrow: Season 1 Review

Arrow is one of those shows that is consistently surprising. It started out rough, with dialogue that was hollow and acting that felt melodramatic and occasionally forced. But somehow, just part the halfway point in the season, it became something special.

The cast found their footing, the writers discovered the potential in their premise, and out of nowhere, I found myself enjoying Arrow more than any other network drama on television. It’s a wholly enjoyable show that just so happens to star one of my favorite superheroes, and there’s a lot to love about it.

The characters of Arrow are the best, and occasionally, worst, part of the show. For the first few episodes, I really wasn’t into the characters, and while Oliver Queen was an interesting guy with an even more interesting backstory, I just couldn’t buy into his character. And the many secondary characters, while likable, were the same; pretty faces to look at but rather boring inside.

I stuck with the show because I saw something under its flaws, something special, unique, and exciting. The premise alone was worth sticking around for, but amidst the corny dialogue and cliched superhero conflict, I could see what the writers of the show were doing. They were building up to something.

I really like the costume design.

And then things starting improving, and I found myself getting pulled deeper and deeper into the intrigue of the story, the dynamic between Oliver, his best friend Tommy, and ex-girlfriend (who he cheated on with her sister) Laurel, and especially the mysterious circumstances that left Oliver on a dangerous island for five years.

Even though the story didn’t keep me fully enthralled all the time, the numerous flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island did. It was here that actor Stephen Amell was really allowed to stretch Oliver’s character into someone you could root for, and his evolution from spoiled playboy to hardened killer is one worth watching without a doubt.

It is true that spoiled Oliver is somewhat irritating, but really, as a viewer, you know it’s just his old self dying away. And thanks to one of the coolest mentors ever, Oliver’s transformation is made that much more great.

Indeed, Manu Bennet’s mentor character Slade is immediately fascinating because you really don’t know who he is, but as his identity becomes clear, in a way that will surely delight any comic book fan, you find yourself entirely invested in this character.

Is Deathstroke just as evil as he looks? Or is there more to him than meets the eye?

Slade’s subdued aggression and tough demeanor act as a wonderful contrast to Oliver’s childish opinion on life, and I need to applaud the writers for the way they portrayed the relationship between these two men, as it’s truly a joy to watch it unfold over this first season.

However, not all the character are as great as Slade. While Oliver’s best friend Tommy Merlyn is easily likable, it’s not until he starts facing some serious conflict that he really begins to become a fully realized addition to the cast. Once he’s given the depth needed to become interesting, actor Colin Donnell takes the material willingly, and almost in a heartbeat, turns Tommy from a distraction into an integral part of the overarching plot.

Even Katie Cassidy, who plays stubborn reporter Laurel Lance, becomes someone you can’t help but love. While she has her fair share of throwaway lines of dialogue and annoying romantic conflict, by the finale of the first season, she becomes a realistic, lovable woman who not only surpasses mere eye candy, but becomes someone I can’t wait to see further fleshed out.

Arrow is not lacking when it comes to attractive characters

The same can be said for the rest of the cast as well. Oliver’s sister and mother are both given very little to do for the first half of the season, but then, somehow, they too become characters you love to root for. And Oliver’s sidekick John Diggle is just one of those guys you have to love, no matter what.

And thanks to flat-out adorable sidekicks like Felicity Smoak, who eats up every scene she’s in, and an abundance of shady, menacing villains, Arrow remains exciting and intriguing even when it falters. Much in part because of its storyline, which, like its characters, is not always perfect, but more often than not delivers where it counts.

If Arrow is to be applauded for anything, it truly is the evolution of its characters. If you can’t tell, nearly every person involved here started out somewhat bland, but by the end of the first season, became a fully realized person that, in my case anyway, you really feel like you personally know.

Arrow certainly has a Batman Begins vibe to it, as Oliver, who runs around as the masked vigilante known only as The Hood (fingers crossed he gets dubbed the Green Arrow next season) has just one purpose; to clean up the streets of his hometown Starling City.

Arrow certainly delivers when it comes to the action scenes.

The Hood is not afraid to kill, and it’s something that both alienates him from the local police and forces him to really analyze the moral situation he is repeatedly putting himself in. This creates a fascinating dynamic as the combat scenes are thrillingly exciting and brutal, but yet, as a viewer, we can’t fully acknowledge that what The Hood is doing is the best way to clean up the city.

Much like Oliver is tasked with drawing a moral line in the sand, so too does the viewer have to decide whether or not killing the dozens of corrupt business men and kingpins in Starling City is something Oliver should be doing.

While there’s not as much of a resolution to this as I would’ve liked, there had to be something left for Season 2, it’s just another aspect of this show I can’t get enough of.

Overall though, Arrow is one of those shows that, while not always great, is consistently surprising, and the things it does well are good enough to allow you to forgive the show for its occasional misstep.

Sure, the first half of the season isn’t really that fantastic, but by the time the season finale comes along, you’ll be so connected to these characters that you’ll wait with bated breath to find out who lives, and who dies. And the last five minutes of the finale are so good that they can easily be considered as some of the best drama I’ve seen on network TV.

This is a show that has had me laughing, gasping, and crying right along with the characters every step of their journey, and you’d be missing out if you didn’t give the show a chance.

8.5

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4 responses to “Arrow: Season 1 Review

  1. Great review William! I actually only managed to see 3 episodes and then lost interest. “pretty faces to look at but rather boring inside” Yeah that’s pretty much what I thought as I watched it, I mean Stephen Amell is such a beautiful man (a cross between Christian Bale and this male model I often see in fashion magazine), but he’s not a strong actor and neither is any of the cast. Oh I got the Batman Begins vibe too, and I think that’s what the show’s aspiring to. The action scenes are ok though, and I quite like the concept so maybe I’ll give this show another shot w/ Netflix.

    • I would definitely say it’s worth another look, as not only does Amell get drastically better as the show progresses, but everything gets more refined and entertaining. If you decide to watch some more, let me know what you think. πŸ™‚

  2. Your analysis is on the mark. By the way, it’s “bated breath,” not “baited breath.”

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