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A Darker Shade of Green: Reviewing Season 1 of "Arrow"
With Season 3’s recent premier, I’ve been binge watching Season 1 on Netflix, and am currently about halfway through the second season. I will admit to having very little knowledge of the Green Arrow comics, and my greatest exposure is only from watching “Smallville”. That being said, I’m going to apply what little knowledge I may have gleaned from other sources in my review, however inaccurate they may be, and I don’t mind a correction as long as it’s backed by actual comic book reference. Again, very little actual reference of knowledge, and if someone can refer me to a good continuity to start off with, feel free. If you want to avoid spoilers, please go watch the show and then come back to this review. Now let us journey, as the arrow flies, to Starling City, and the return of the prodigal son, Oliver Queen.
I’m not going to go through a breakdown by episode, but I will try to stay chronological to the series. So I’ll start with Oliver’s five-year “residency” on Lian Yu, and his return to Starling City. I am unware of how much in comic continuity that Oliver’s shipwreck on an island plays in actual continuity of the comics, or how long he was on there for originally, but I do feel like this is a good reformation for someone’s character that was clearly different from when he arrived. With the use of flashbacks usually mirroring the current situation and/or showing a different choice to a previous decision ties in nicely to the story, and we are able to compare him from where he was to where he is.
The adjustment of the name of the city from Star City to Starling City makes it a bit easier for it to roll of the tongue a bit. It also fits in well with all the bird references that connect to various characters. Other adjustments I’m going to probably gloss over as they come, because again I’m going to try to not let my brief knowledge constrain my review. I might comment on they as I remember or ignore for the sake of trying to keep continuity separate. Rarely do I enter into a comic book hero television show with so little foreknowledge to compare to as I did this one.
Oliver’s return to Starling City and his family, and his difficulty reintegrating back to his old persona and life, are portrayed fairly realistically and show that his actions have consequences, and sometimes those ripples do not appear until much later. I also enjoy the ability of characters to call him on his sometimes seemingly negligent attitude to life and limb, and other almost apathetic attitudes.
Establishing his vigilante alter ego as “The Hood” and his initial willingness to take lives contrasts greatly from other superheroes’ “no kill” policy. It also sets up problems for him later when he tries to change, and really emphasizes the gravity of the situation when the choice to kill is made.
Oliver’s love triangle between his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance and his best friend Tommy Merlyn was annoyingly overplayed at times, but useful, but I agree with ending it where they did before it got truly tiresome. The use of Laurel in terms of comparison of the two best friends and how much they've changed from their past selves and what kind of cataclysm it had taken for those changes to be wrought. Though we are initially under the impression for both Queen and Merlyn that little has changed, that proves to be false. Oliver and Tommy are revealed to be heroes in their individual manners.
The revelations of Oliver’s activities for each new character helps illustrate the changes that he has gone through since his return. John Diggle’s entrance was due to his own necessity, and his inclusion makes for a fitting partner, even as they later own lampshade the apparent tropes that there are perceived to fill. While I am always happy to see a display of diversity when it comes to the Armed Services, emphasis is almost always put on those with any sort of specialized training in terms of combat or highly classified role. There is more to the military than the sniper, the Rangers, the Seals, and there are uses for them outside the military.
I’m a bit in love with Felicity Smoak for her awkward witticisms and inadvertent innuendos, along with her portrayal of a woman in a technological field, of which the numbers are embarrassingly few. That she isn’t automatically the damsel in distress to be rescued, and does her own fair share of rescuing is also a joy to watch. She is also a bit of a subversion of the “Hollywood Hacking” trope where everything can be hacked, leading to the need to pull some break-ins in order to retrieve information.
I’m a big “Doctor Who” fan, and I love me some Captain Jack Harkness, so I was fairly giddy to observe John Barrowman’s role as Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy’s father and the Dark Archer that so contrasts so much from what I’ve previously seen him in. The serious, malevolent presence of Malcolm is noticeable and threatening, and we are very aware of the fact that he is not one to be trifled with. The deepening of his connections to the Queen family are chilling and sinister, and his actions in regards to the Undertaking are monstrous, but I don’t feel like he has beaten out Lionel Luther as the top “Magnificent Bastard” as of yet. Time will tell. In line with that, the casting of Alex Kingston as Laurel’s mother is awesome, and I find it a pity that those two didn’t get a scene together, even though I am aware that there would be no conceivable possibility as to why they would need to meet.
The Huntress as the daughter of a mob boss’s daughter out for revenge for the death of her fiancé is very in line with the darker edge the show is taking, and the parallels drawn between her and Oliver regarding motivation and ideology makes both the audience and Oliver question how far he’s pushed the line in regards to killing those that have failed the city. Both character’s descent into darkness provides a spotlight to where their paths diverged and whether or not they can redeem themselves at a later point, and just how far over the line they have travelled.
The addition of Roy Harper is one I’m going to touch on very lightly as I’m not sure about his connection in the comics, but I do hold some awareness of his potential importance as he gets integrated into the world of the Hood and as the personal Batman of the Glades. His actions and life reflect the formation of a hero aware of his responsibility to those around him and his capacity for compassion, despite however much he lacks in formal training. His role as a possible protégé for the Hood is one I’m looking forward to.
Tommy’s revelation of The Hood’s identity is relevant and rendered beautifully in terms of emotional realism, and gratifyingly puts a strain on his friendship with Oliver and his relationship with Laurel, comparing his inability to keep such a major secret from those he cares about. We start to see a transition from the Tommy we know to someone who begins to resemble his father, who he previously couldn’t relate to, but is now the only one he feels dependent on. It initially feels like the beginning of a setup for Tommy to later to take up his father’s dark mantle, but in the end he proves to be more the hero that his friend can become, and his death is the catalyst to guide Oliver back towards a path with less bloodshed.
Overall, this darker Emerald Archer is one we come to love, but we also hold out our hands to pull him back from the edge which he seems to be constantly tipping over. This introduction to the Green Arrow that is yet to come and we see being built before our eyes is a hero in the making, and as we continue our journey with him, and are confronted with further revelations of his time on the island of Lian Yu that was paramount in taking a selfish playboy and reshaping into a seeker of justice. His beginning approach of his attitude towards taking lives is something that watching him step back from in order to honor the life of his friend who died to save another is a journey that is worth witnessing. The initial perception of the vigilante The Hood as a killer, and a brutal one at that, will make for an interesting dynamic for his later heroics. The more comic book elements to come are just the tip of the iceberg, and hopefully the balance of characters will be handled well.