Arrow, week two.  The second episode is really the true test of a series.  The big money and careful attention that was put into the Pilot disappears in episode two and this is a better test of how a series will go.  So how did Arrow do?  The results are promising.

I rarely review pilots.  For one, pilots have been around since May and they’ve seen many eyes by the time the average viewer gets to see it.  In the case of “Arrow,” it was shown at Comic Con twice and just about every major critic out there had given their two cents before it even started.  Heck, one of our writers, sweetondean, got to screen it in Sydney and wrote up a preview for us.  What could I possibly add?  I’ll just give you my three word review.  I loved it.

At this rate, nitpicking for perfection is kind of pointless for a young series just trying to find it’s footing.  I could point out several flaws in dialogue (they really need to give Laurel Lance better lines) and some of the actions sequences can be a headscratcher, but that’s not why after two weeks I’m avidly hooked on this show.  It’s the style, the tone, and the main character himself.  As long as Arrow capitalizes on those strengths, it’s going somewhere.

Arrow’s tone obviously is straying away from the core Smallville mythos and going for a dark superhero theme.  That’s to be expected in story about a vigilante hero.  It’s not too dark though and is lacking a lot of the campy elements that weigh down the superhero genre in television.   I know that’s been a criticism of some, but I found movies like “The Dark Knight” to be too dark.  It’s not something I want on my TV screen every week.  So far, the driving force is more to fix injustice and the ills of society as opposed to outright wartime savagery, which is very common in the current Batman movies and another new television show, Revolution.  It’s because of this there is hope. I like hope.  I like my escapism not too heavy.

The production quality doesn’t look like a low budget feature and all aspects, the lighting, costume, sets, even the score, are all top notch.  There’s also the rest of the cast.  I’m still not sold on the best friend, Oliver’s sister, or his mother and stepfather, but I love his bodyguard John Diggle and Laurel Lance.  Katie Cassidy really shines in this role despite the crappy lines she gets.  It’s those little sparks between her and Oliver that are selling me.  Those two have a chemistry that is so hard to sell with most TV shows.  I also love that her law firm is CNRY.  You know she’s gonna be the Black Canary and that’s all there is to it.  I can’t wait to see her in that outfit.

These first two episodes are clearly focused on Oliver Queen and his justifications for becoming the Green Arrow.  The man certainly gives away a lot of internal dialogue with one pensive and sober look, doesn’t he?  I could spend a whole lengthy essay explaining the perfection that Stephen Amell brings to this role but I sense this is exactly why he snared the part.  I’ll share what I deem to be his biggest strength, he is as much of a brilliant physical actor as an emotional one.  The action and mystery behind the Green Arrow mythos cannot be sold without those physical abilities.  He’s sleek, very fit (the constant shirtless shots, prosthetic scars or not doesn’t hurt), and svelte. Without that, you’ve got something like the 1970’s Captain America standing in place in a goofy outfit waiting for what seems like minutes on end for a thrown shield to come back to him.   It won’t fly in today’s prime time TV.

Selling the vigilante hero is a very tough task, but so far Amell is rising to the challenge.  There are definitely deep wounds behind his character and his erratic behavior at times leaves us to wonder where he’s going with it.  I dismiss that though, for  vigilantes after all are hardly centered.  For Oliver, these wounds seem like they go long beyond the trauma of the island.  The frosty relationship between him and his mother obviously goes on long before he and his Dad took that ill fated trip in the North China Sea.  The question is, what happened?  Is she on that list of people he keeps in the journal?  What does that mysterious symbol mean that was in his journal and shown in the limo?  Hee, that’s exactly why they want us to come back next week.

 In “Honor Thy Father,” an obvious parallel ran between Oliver Queen and his relationship with his father and Laurel Lance and her relationship with hers.  Laurel especially has it tough given the fact that her Dad is a big detective and very overprotective of his little girl.  I especially adore how despite being at odds with each other, Oliver and Laurel’s Dad both want the same thing, to protect her.  They just have very different methods.  The episode’s intent was to show that Laurel is always going to have to fight to achieve that balance of respecting her Dad and forging her own path.  This is clearly the origin story for her becoming the Black Canary.  I hope it happens sooner than later, because she’s terrible in the courtroom.

Oliver has chosen to honor his father by dishonoring his memory.  All part of the rouse to cover his double identity.  I’m sure pop is in the great beyond smiling with understanding, but this will only continue to drive a wedge between him and his family.  It’s painful to watch him be so distant with his sister when in his eyes he wants to reach out to her.  I think she delivered a very effective blow when she took him to the grave stones of him and his father and confessed he was more fun to talk to dead that alive.  Ouch.  Of course he then chooses to open up to Laurel instead, but honestly, that led to the best scene of the episode.  The ex-boyfriend shows up after five years stranded on a island with a half gallon of ice cream and the need to talk?  No woman can resist that.  There’s that chemistry I was talking about.  Although the best part of that scene was watching John Diggle kick ass against China White.  Yowsa!

I really don’t have much to say about the bad guy that became the target of The Green Arrow this week.  I’m just getting to know Ty Olsson in Supernatural but I don’t think he made the best bad guy here.  He seemed exactly the same as last week, some rich guy in a suit with an entourage that has obviously been blindsided by this green hooded freak.  I do hope this show adds some variety to these dolts on Oliver’s revenge list in the weeks to come.

If I had any disappointments with “Honor Thy Father,” it was Oliver’s showdown with China White was way too short.  The chick can certainly hold her own, and it was nice to see Oliver meet his match.  Yes, two episodes in and the fact that Oliver can best everyone no matter how impossible the situation (and look good doing it) has become cliche fast.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one pumping fists when she talked to him in Mandarin and he replied back in the same language, “Make me.”  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one rooting for her to get away, and since she did we’re in for some awesome showdowns in the future.  That could be what happened in the comics too, but I will claim comics ignorance.  I don’t even read Batman or Spiderman let alone the Green Arrow.

All that aside, early episodes in a series are meant to focus on character exposition.  “Honor Thy Father” nailed it.  We have a better understanding of Oliver, but it’s obvious there are many more layers under that green hood that need to be exposed.  We know that whatever he’s fighting, momma is behind it.  And, the mystery of the island actually gets a cool twist at the end.  He’s shot through the chest by an arrow, fired by a man in a green hood.  Curious.  I must know more.  The producers have clearly done their job in that aspect as well.  Bring on episode three!

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