1. The pilot. This is actually from when the show first aired, shortly before I gave up on it. Luckily, binge-watching improved its watchability.
Okay, so Arrow has some good action scenes, including the now-obligatory use of parkour for violence. It’s when you actually think about the logic of the action that everything tail-spins. For instance, the parkour scene ends up with Ollie catching up to his assailant and killing him in cold blood to keep his secret identity intact. I know Green Arrow can get pretty vigilante-y, but maybe start at child molesters and work your way up to “Wrong place, wrong time, buddy.” And the climactic fight scene has Green Arrow (sorry, ‘the Arrow’, I guess) going up against a male model-y security chief, ending with him throwing an arrow into the bastard’s chest. Only we’re never given any indication that Male Model is a bad dude. He works for a bad guy, but does that merit an arrow to the heart? Maybe the producers should’ve thought about that before they made their adaptation about a guy whose principle power is sticking arrows into people.
Now the bad. It just continues this weird cottage industry of Green Arrow showing up on TV literally because he’s an off-brand Batman when DC has like twenty off-brand Batmans. Seriously, this show would work a lot better if it were about Nightwing. Everybody likes Dick. And whereas Smallville made Ollie one-half of an erstwhile World’s Finest, this straight-up wants to be Green Arrow Begins. After five years in vaguely Asian superhero training (apparently Asians still use bows and arrows, because Green AK-47 is a bad name for a superhero), Ollie returns home determined to reclaim ‘his city’, fighting the corrupt, yadda yadda. Basically, the first act of Batman Begins, since Hollywood doesn’t do third acts anymore, with Ollie fighting a never-ending series of Carmine Falcones. He has a mentorly Russian maid (who he speaks to in Russian to show how nice he is), a friendly black executive in his father’s company who is now married to his mom (those Lisa Ann pornos aren’t so hot now, are they Ollie?). There’s also a bit of Smallville in there, with an evil parental figure and a best friend destined to turn to evil (he’s involved with Ollie’s girl, so three guesses as to how that’ll roll out). The difference being, who gives a shit about Merlyn? Lex Luthor is an interesting character, but you can’t just say “they used to be good friends!” about any old antagonist and expect that to make them a great villain. It’s like at the end of Transformers when Optimus ‘revealed’ that Megatron was his brother. Yeah, you really blew my mind there, Michael Bay.
Let’s see, what’s new. They turn ‘Laurel’ Lance into, well, basically Rachel Dawes—she’s not even blonde. Only here, she was Ollie’s boyfriend, but he was cheating on her with Laurel’s sister when their ship sank and sis was killed in the midst of her tryst. That’s just gross. Even Nicholas Sparks wouldn’t try to sell a romance around “she has to forgive him for that time he slept with her sister and she died.” I mean, God, people wonder why we ship Black Canary with Oracle.
And I know the whole idea is that Ollie’s changed, but ten minutes after they’re reunited, he assumes Laurel wants to get back together with him, so he does a whole “no, I’m a heartless playboy who only wants sex” routine. Which wraps all the way around from “I’m nobly letting myself be seen as a douche” to “I actually am a douche” because you slept with her sister and she died. I’m pretty sure Laurel’s going to let the option on your dick expire.
Also, there’s a really bizarre tendency to put in fanservice, despite the characters not looking, acting, or being named the same as their comic counterparts. For instance, Ollie has a little sister. Harmless enough. Only he calls her Speedy, despite the fact that the character has no relation to Roy Harper or Mia Dearden. It’s like if there were an episode of Smallville where Clark called a farmhand Static Shock. Makes no sense, right?
Oh, and Ollie is given a black bodyguard who he has to ditch when he wants to be a superhero. The second time this happens, Ollie was at a party, passing by a container full of balloons, so I was like “Oh, he’s going to do something clever with all those balloons to get clear.” But no, the white guy just puts his black employee in a headlock (maybe some unfortunate connotations there). I’m pretty sure this is the point where, in real life, the bodyguard would quit and file a lawsuit against his asshole billionaire boss for physical assault. Besides which, where does this running gag of Ollie cleverly giving his bodyguard the slip have to go if they’ve already escalated to KO by headlock? I could see that working down the road, when someone’s in danger and Ollie has to put on his costume and apply his eyeshadow so he can save the day in the nick of time, but when he’s already willing to do it in the first episode just so he can meet an arbitrary deadline he gave a villain? Like, breaking into a bad guy’s lair and killing all his men wouldn’t intimidate the ‘Starling City’ underground if he did it twenty minutes past the “You’d better pay up!” deadline? He didn’t even say he would be there at eight o’clock, just that the bad guy had to pay by eight o’clock. He could come back a week later and do the superhero thing and still be well within dark avenger of the night parameters. Besides which, I thought Ollie’s whole thing was caring about the little guy. If he heard that Batman punched out Lucius Fox so he could go fight the Joker, wouldn’t he be going “Fuck you and your pointy ears, Bruce”?
But what really bugs me is this: We have no idea what Green Arrow’s motivation is. No kidding. He starts off a selfish playboy, right, on his way with his dad on a yacht to an island for Some Reason. The yacht ship-wrecks, possibly due to enemy action—although that makes the big storm quite a coincidence (either way, in fact). On the life raft, his father confesses Something to him—apparently that he and some other people are being mean to Starling City (not that this seems to be a big secret, with the first target on Ollie’s list being a guy facing a class-action lawsuit for stealing houses). Then daddy kills himself and another guy to give Ollie a chance to survive. Ollie lands on the island where Somehow he learns martial-arts and archery and becomes such a badass that if you touch him while he’s asleep he will throat-chop you the fuck out, man.
Okay. So why’s he want to kill mobsters, though? Is it revenge, because it doesn’t seem like the bad guys did anything to sink the boat? It’s not out of some social conscience, because why would being ship-wrecked alone on an island make him develop that? Is it just because his dad told him to? That seems like the only reason we have to go on. His dad told him to fuck with these guys, so he’s going to do it. Although why he should take the word of his dad about these people being corrupt, when his dad is the one who claims to be corrupt and then kills a man and then commits suicide… search me.
And I would actually buy “Living with nothing taught me to appreciate how much I had, and how little so many others had. I decided if I ever got home, I would fight the people who kept others down.” But the voiceover narration is more of a “Let me tell you something that is either blindingly obvious, that has already been revealed, or that’s about to be revealed.”
Sample line: “She was right. The island had changed me.” You don’t say.
I’m alright with there being some mystery about a character, but we have to understand their basic goal, that’s Drama 101. No one knows what the story is behind the Doctor and the Master, but the show articulates that the Doctor loves exploring and helping people, and that the Master wants to rule the world and kill stuff. That’s all we need. With Arrow, it seems like Ollie’s motivation is something they expect people to know about from the comics and/or Smallville. But they’ve changed the character and the context so much that you can’t really buy it in the same way. So that just leaves “yeah, he’s gonna fight crime now, why not? That’s the appropriate reaction to any situation. Mine cave-in? Fight crime as the almighty Mine-Man. Mother kill and eat your pet pig? Fight crime as the overwhelming Pig-Girl. Favorite show got canceled? Fight crime as the underrated Firefly-Boy.”
2. The second episode.
-We start off the episode with Ollie/Hood/Vigilante/Arrow/whatever fighting some thugs hand-to-hand, which seems to go against the premise of being an archer who shoots stuff with arrows, but what do I know. He does the you-have-citied-this-fail thing on a guy, but only threatens him into flying right and being chill instead of icing him.
-On the subject of Arrow killing. I don’t know. On the one hand, it’s more canonical than this Starling City/Laurel Lance bullshit, and if your premise is that you shoot people with arrows, you can either go the Saturday morning cartoon ‘he just shoots people’s guns out of their hands! Boxing glove arrows!’ route or you can admit that shooting a mook with an arrow causing him to pitch off a crane is going to leave something of a mark. So, a fair enough change. On the other hand, instead of just straight-up saying he kills people, they’re going to go kind of wishy-washy with him giving people umpteen chances to reform and later deciding killing is badong, which means if he’s pretty much an enormous hypocrite if he doesn’t turn himself in. Whatever.
-Scenes with the impressively miscast Laurel Lance, who doesn’t look, sound, act like, or answer to the name of Dinah Lance/Black Canary, who is only one of the founding members of the JLA. I find it hilarious that she was so rejected by the fandom, both as Ollie’s love interest and as the potential BC, that ringers were brought in for both positions. Sorry, guys, but if you want to write an epic love affair, don’t start with “my leading man cheated on me with my sister, resulting in said sister’s death, BUT TRUE LOVE CONQUERS ALL!” No. Just no.
-Also, what is it with comic book adaptations that change female characters’ entire looks/motivations/careers/personality/
-And here’s that patented Laurel Lance unlikability right there. Detective Harry Dresden shows up to place her under police protection, as she’s prosecuting a dangerous crime lord and he’s threatened her life to Dresden’s face, and her reaction is pretty much “UGH DADDY YOU’RE RUINING MY LIFE!” That’s one of the problems with this show that I will assume will be ironed out later; every scene ends in a shouting match and every character is bitter and pissed off at each other. Once the functional relationships set in, this should be a lot easier to take.
-Ollie’s random sister Thea gives him a long talk about how she resents him shutting her out and wishes he would open up to her. What does Ollie do? Go to Laurel, who he swore to stay away from because she’s Gwen Stacy and her dad’s George Stacy, and vents with her over ice cream. Wrong white girl, Ollie.
-Naturally, this is when Laurel is attacked by Triad assassins, but luckily bodyguard Diggle rushes in and shoots the bad guys. “Whoa, what is that thing?” Ollie thinks, seeing a gun. “That seems really useful.”
-Naturally, Det. Dresden then reads Ollie the Riot Act over… being with Laurel when she was attacked and employing the bodyguard who saved her? I get it, CW, disapproving fathers, forbidden love, but I can’t help but think that if a real cop talked this way to a millionaire playboy after said playboy was put in danger by the daughter, he would soon find himself Patrolman Harry Dresden.
-Nother visit between Arrow and the Failure of the Week, resulting in him forcing a confession and recording it on an MP3 Player Arrow. When Det. Dresden holds him at gunpoint, Ollie throws the MP3 Player Arrow so it knocks the gun out of his hand. Lucky the recording didn’t get damaged by being thrown hard enough to embed itself in a shipping container.
-Ollie draws a line through the name of the nogoodnik he brought to justice, which seems like it’d be rather suspicious if anyone found his Dad Diary. Maybe he should just put a smiley face next to it instead?
3. Random stretch of episodes.
-So far I’m giving this show low marks on reinventing villains in Nolanesque. The goal is to basically pull a Heath Ledger, taking an outre supervillain, keeping them recognizable, but making them fit into a more realistic world. Arrow’s choices are just boring. The Royal Flush Gang is a bunch of bank robbers in branded goalie masks who rob people because their dad lost his job in the recession. Firefly is an evil fireman with a tattoo of a firefly who dies after one appearance (better than him being an outraged Joss Whedon fan, I suppose). Deadshot—a pretty compelling character who happens to have a garish costume—is now a generic assassin who tattoos his victims’ names on his body. He doesn’t even have a mustache. NOT EVEN A MUSTACHE.
-And seriously, if we’re going to make fun of Riddler for sending clues to his own crimes, let’s talk about how stupid tattooing everyone you’ve ever killed on your body is. Say it’s summer, it’s hot, you want to go to a swimming pool, you go there, wearing your swim trunks, someone gets curious about all the random names you have tattooed on your body, they take two seconds to Google those names on their phone, OH, it’s a bunch of people who were all killed by the same mysterious assassin. Wonder if I should call the police? YES. Now you’re either in jail or never able to go swimming again. SMART, DEADSHOT, REAL SMART.
-But at least he’s not a cowboy like in Smallville. What the fuck was up with Smallville?
-And I’m sorry, it’s just dumb that Ollie Queen, billionaire playboy philanthropist, is supposedly a captain in the Russian Mob under his own name. He can’t wear a disguise and say his name is, oh, Batches Balone? Or, since Ollie is so recognizable, they fake that Diggle is the torpedo, giving him something to do?
-Also, what’s the point of Ollie’s crazy green Winter Soldier eye shadow? It seems like it would take a while to put on and yet whenever someone sees him with it, they pretty much recognize him instantly. So—does it just make him feel pretty?
—I do like that Ollie’s solution to talking to people who know him as both the Starling City Vigilante (yes, that’s a much better name for a superhero than Green Arrow, well done show) and Oliver Queen is to just talk to them while facing the other direction. Apparently it takes him a whole season to think of wearing a mask. Origin stories! Blammo!
-The worst thing I can say about this show is that it plays with some pretty interesting concepts, but never really engages with them. Moira Queen is involved with the Big Bad, but she’s one of those boring sympathetic villains who only KINDA wants to kill thousands of people. Ollie is introduced as a killer, yet (just like in Man of Steel) the show immediately backs off this to say he’s not that ruthless, he just kills people a little. If you’re not REALLY interested in telling a story about Ollie being a crazed vigilante, why did you bring it up in the first place, show? AND make half your series about flashbacks to Ollie becoming a crazed vigilante?
-And you know the joke, spearheaded by Grant Morrison, of Batman being a rich dude who dresses up in rubber to beat up poor people? Well, this show kinda plays with that in the Royal Flush episode. Ollie is devoted to only going after white-collar criminals and crime lords on his list, and leaves street crime to the police. Diggle—the black, middle-class guy—urges him to go after the Royal Flush Gang. Later in the episode, it turns out that the gang only turned to crime after they lost everything when Ollie’s father moved their jobs to China. So we’re sorta looking at the socioeconomic implications of this whole thing, but not really coming out and asking “hey, should a rich guy be shooting fucking arrows into poor people if they commit crimes?”
-Speaking of, Diggle and Ollie’s relationship can be interesting—they give good odd couple—it’s at its worst when it’s just Diggle being Rhodey and Ollie being Tony Stark and the wise, straight-talking black man telling the irresponsible white boy what he should do, being right all the time and Ollie just having to shut up and listen to him instead of being obviously wrong. It’s just like—yawn, because it’s supposed to be Ollie being a near-sociopathic war machine who’s on a crusade and Diggle being a surrogate for the audience who questions Ollie’s assumptions and them both coming at complicated, shades of gray situations from their own unique perspectives, not the Goofus and Gallant of superhero morality.
-Case in point. The series adapts Huntress, because this show is the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter of the Batman universe, but they switch Diggle to Always Right Mode and have him immediately complaining about Helena being a killer, bad news, etc. Like, dude? You know your boss hasn’t been using Nerf products this whole time, right? I’ll get to this more in another post, but gosh, I bet all the Huntress fans who tuned in to see their fave in live-action loved having her portrayed a psychopath who sleeps with Ollie only for him and Diggle to have a long talk about just what an irredeemable monster she is. After all, killing people because their names are in a book is one thing…
4. The Huntress
-Okay, short version: seemingly inspired by Ollie’s own vigilantism—although this point the show weirdly doesn’t go on—a guy in a motorcycle suit shoots a crime lord while he’s right next to Ollie’s mom, injuring her so that Ollie pretty much swears to kill the guy (remember that for later), until it turns out that the guy is Helena Bertinelli, the daughter of a crime boss who is getting back at her father for having her fiance killed. Which I suppose is a better origin than ‘I was molested as a child, NOW I HATE CRIME,’ and the show does make it clear she was gathering evidence on her father before her fiance died, that was just the impetus for her to start killing people herself. While Ollie is undercover investigating the Bertinellis, he falls for Helena because… they’ve both… had hard times? It’s pretty clumsily written, and you’d think that a story about two people falling in love because they’re both killer vigilantes would have them fall for each other after they find out they’re both killer vigilantes, not before. BUT ANYWAY.
-Oh, Helena almost gets caught because: 1. Helena and Ollie go on a date to an Italian restaurant. 2. Green Arrow and Huntress fight bad guys in said Italian restaurant. 3. One of the bad guys finds Helena’s cross there and assumes, not that she dropped it during the date, but that she is actually a killer vigilante. 4. It would’ve been hilarious if she HAD dropped it during the date, but yeah, total coincidence, she’s also the Huntress. 5. Whole thing is resolved by Ollie and Helena jointly killing the four thugs who take them prisoner, JUSTICE.
-So, Huntress’s story in both a lot of the comics and when she shows up in adaptations is that she’s much more violent and unruly than your typical superhero, making stiffs like Batman and Nightwing wonder if they should trust/be involved with her. So on the one hand, that is canon, but on the other, it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that she’s a woman and the more ‘responsible’ heroes she’s contrasted with tend to be men. And a lot of these adaptations miss the point that she eventually joins up with the Birds of Prey, is rehabilitated AFTER Barbara wrongly treats her like a loose cannon TO BE rehabilitated, and she basically ends up an amazing person.
-Also, the type of story I described works because guys like Batman and Nightwing have a strict no-killing rule, which is the entire point of them being contrasted with the murderous Helena. Ollie, on the other hand, doesn’t really have qualms about killing—this story is just pretending he does. Ollie talks a good game about only killing as a last resort, but his go-to move is launching huge arrows into henchmen’s chests. When we see he has a bunch of tranquilizer darts available that can knock people out instantly with no ill effects. If he cares so much about the sanctity of life, why doesn’t he just use those darts all the time, or appropriate the One-Touch Taser Wand we see the Dodger using in a later episode instead of beating the hell out of people?
-What’s worse: the show has Ollie briefly convincing Helena to use ‘his’ nonlethal methods of fighting crime—first time we’ve seen those getting a work-out—and she’s fine with it… until they go on a date, she forces them to sit together with Tommy and old-Ollie-flame Dinah, and Ollie’s tepid chemistry with Laurel is just too much for her! In a jealous rage, she decides that killing is awesome, with Ollie later saying that the look in her eyes convinced him she’s just too far gone. Not her actually killing people, mind you, but her being jealous over Ollie interacting with someone she asked him to sit with. I think the psychological term for this is bitches be crazy.
-Now, the two-parter throws in a lot of spackle to cover up the basic hypocrisy of the plot they’ve chosen. We’re told that Helena’s bad killing will start a gang war, unlike Ollie’s good killing, and this will result in a lot of innocent people being killed. Well, gang war starts, and it seems to be a bunch of bad people going to another bad person’s house, full of more bad people, and them all killing each other. Not seeing the downside here, Emerald Archer.
-Ollie, of course, shows up as the Hood—okay, so we can name him after his headgear, but not after the highly distinctive weapons he shoots all over the city, okay show—and not only saves Helena’s father from the assassins, but stops Helena herself from killing him. (This results in the elder Bertinelli getting his hands on a crossbow and almost killing Helena, by the way. THANKS OLLIE.) Which is just Ollie being a prick, really. After all, this is the guy who swore vengeance on his mother’s attacker until she gave him a boner (the attacker, not his mom—although, he does have way more chemistry with his sister than with Laurel, I’M JUST SAYING). And will later give the Count irreversible brain damage by injecting him with a deadly drug while the cops are already on their way to arrest him, his intention fully being to kill the guy. And will threaten to kill the Dodger when he refuses to surrender.
-Why does Helena’s father even keep a laptop full of incriminating evidence—supposedly compiled by a man he murdered, at that—in his house anyway? One little search warrant and he’s done.
-To say nothing of the fact that now he knows Helena is the Huntress, so even if he’s in jail, he can still send assassins after her or blab her identity to the press. Since Ollie’s moral code is fine with killing people who could reveal his secret, even if they’re just mooks, DOESN’T THAT AUTOMATICALLY MEAN THE GUY SHOULD GET AN ARROW? Like, how many ways can one guy be a hypocrite?
-Who is Ollie, in the end, to tell anyone how they should take their revenge? Imagine, say, a woman’s been raped and she kills the guy who did it. Now, I think most of us would say that’s justifiable, especially in Genre Fiction Land. She’s the one who was wronged, she decides the appropriate response. Okay, now say Spider-Man stops her before she can pull the trigger: “I can’t let you do it, killing is never okay, let’s let the police handle him.” Okay, a little controversial, but Spidey’s a stand-up guy—in his own life, he’s been wronged by the Green Goblin, Doc Ock, etc, and he never kills them. He has a morally defensible position.
-Now imagine THE PUNISHER steps in and says “hey, lady, I fully agree that killing is sometimes okay, but as someone who has no stake at all in this fight and wasn’t wronged at all by this guy, I’ve decided that you’re not allowed to kill. And in fact, I’m gonna be as condescending as possible and say that this is for your own good. Killing is bad for your soul. That doesn’t stop me from doing it, of course, but still!” That would be ridiculous, right? Which is why, in all these situations, Pun just goes “Plug the bastard. You can’t do it? Fine. Let me do it. Fuck this asshole.” Because it would be completely insane for him to set himself up as some arbitrary moral authority, which is what Ollie does.
-What’s REALLY sexist—and, you know, take your pick—is that none of the people on the List have personally wronged Ollie. He’s taking them all on out of this sorta civic duty/daddy issues thing, so you can see how this is coded as a rational male thing. Apparently okay! Helena is killing people out of her (wholly justified) rage over someone close to her being murdered and these specific people being in on it. Her response is emotional, female—in fact, her entire performance is all emotions and feeling, in contrast to Robocop Stephen Amell—and coded as bad. Imagine this same story being told with Ollie just being bros with a male hero like Adrian Chase/the Vigilante, who eventually goes too far and estranges himself from Ollie. Can you even picture it, or would this story even be worth telling without the cliché of the sexy dangerous bad girl who ends up being TOO sexy dangerous and our virtuous hero should probably date a kindhearted blonde instead!!!
-Now, I don’t mind a female character being portrayed negatively. It happens—not every woman is a saint, after all. But I do care about the thoughtlessness of this portrayal. Geoff Johns and company are writing this arc as if it’s just another Batman story, with Bruce/Ollie having a moral high ground that just doesn’t exist within the world of the story. Why not take a minute and explore what would happen if, for once, Helena hooked up with someone who was just as or even more violent than her? Why not have Helena be the one who leaves in disgust when she sees what non-stop killing has done to Ollie as a person? Why just regurgitate the same story that’s always told with Huntress when you’re supposed to be writing her in new, interesting circumstances—isn’t that the whole reason you made Ollie a killer in the first place? If you don’t want to do that, fuck it, bring in the boxing glove arrows. You might as well—at least those have kitsch appeal.
-By the way, since it turns out that someone was responsible for sabotaging the yacht and thus Ollie’s father’s death, I trust he’s going to take the guilty party to jail rather than even THINKING of doing something as untoward as killing them, just because they personally wronged him. Because if he were to do that, he’d be the biggest douchebag hypocrite of all time, wouldn’t he?
5. More Huntress.
—Okay, this one was done several months after the two-parter introducing Huntress, thus there was plenty of time to course-correct what they had done. So, did they? Ha. Ha ha ha.
-We start off with Helena going undercover at a strip club to kill a guy, natch. It’d be churlish to criticize Arrow for a little female nudity when, let’s be honest, the only way they could be more obvious with the scenes where Stephen Amell exercises with his shirt off is if they played Careless Whisper on a loop and put Vaseline on the lens like when Captain Kirk sees a pretty girl. But with the rest of the episode’s treatment of Helena, it just comes off as insulting. “I am the token bad girl! I’m just supposed to act psycho and be sexy!”
-As it turns out, Helena’s father, Sir Not Appearing In This Episode, pretty much got off the hook entirely with the legal system by ratting out his compatriots. So you’d think Helena could solve her whole problem by going to some mob guy and saying “hey, help me kill this rat” instead of having to threaten Ollie into helping her, but whatever. You’d also think the fact that Ollie’s pretentious drivel about Bertinelli facing ‘REAL JUSTICE’ having been proven a hundred percent wrong would affect his attitude towards Helena in some way. Nooope.
-Yes, this episode doubles down on the Psycho Helena stuff, making her almost totally unsympathetic and quite possibly a cop-killer. I’m not at all sure why you would take a popular heroine, one of the leads (in fact) of Birds of Prey, DC’s premier book for women, and turn her into an out-and-out villain when you could use any other villainess for the same thing. It’s like DC making a big to-do about Dick Grayson showing up in The Dark Knight Rises, then it turns out they’re just using the name for an alcoholic bum character. What’s the point?
-Not actual dialogue.
Ollie: So, Helena, with decades of comic book history to your name and two distinct incarnations, both of which have incredibly interesting backstories, what are you going to get up to in this, your return episode?
Helena: I thought I’d do some cliched bunny-boiler antics, you know, a little Fatal Attraction, a little Basic Instinct. I KNOW YOU LOVE ME, OLLIE! THAT’S A PRIORITY TO ME NOW FOR SOME REASON EVEN THOUGH I HAVE EVERY REASON TO HATE YOUR GUTS!
Ollie: Well, I guess you’d better kill something super-cute so we lose all sympathy for you as a person.
Helena: On it. *takes off Felicity’s glasses, boils them*
-Let’s review. On the one side, we have Mr. Bertinelli, who has killed countless people and the law has refused to punish him, which is Ollie’s whole deal. On the other side, we have Helena, who is completely obsessed with killing him, but you know, her heart’s in the right place or whatever. Previously, we had Ollie stop Helena from killing him supposedly for her own psychological benefit. HERE, HE’S WILLING TO KILL HELENA TO STOP HER FROM KILLING HER FATHER. Seriously, what the fuck is Ollie’s problem? And this is after Helena has protected Ollie’s secret identity. What exact reasoning does Ollie have not to let Helena get her revenge and then hope she fucks off? If she keeps killing people after that, yeah, sure, take her out then. But why would you want to continue antagonizing this woman instead of just letting her have this one?
-In case you think I’m harping on this too much, in, like, the very next episode, Deadshot, Diggle’s arch-enemy, shows up with government agency ARGUS hot on his tail. Ollie straight-up asks Diggle if he wants Deadshot arrested. Diggle says no, and from there on out, the plan is pretty much them murdering Deadshot because he killed Diggle’s brother. This is the exact same situation Helena was in, wanting to get revenge for her fiance’s murder, but for some reason, in Helena episodes Ollie is a moral authority with the highest regard for the sanctity of life, and whenever she’s not around, he has to really think about not killing a catatonic mental patient (no, seriously).
-Also—this is just a bit odd—in the Nu52, Helena is Bruce Wayne’s daughter from an alternate dimension. The show, obviously enough, uses the Helena Bertinelli incarnation, and cast her with a woman so pale, her next appearance was in a vampire show. Later, DC also introduced a Helena Bertinelli in their comics, but instead of looking like the character’s portrayal in the popular TV show where she’s a recurring guest, she’s African-American or something? I mean, okay, but shouldn’t this sync up a little? But then, we are talking about the company that spent approximately fifty years taking break-out character Chloe Sullivan from their Superman TV show and putting her in a Superman comic book…
-I’ve been wondering about this whole Laurel Lance fiasco (should your reaction to your estranged parents spending time together and getting along well really be “WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING?”). I kind of wonder if there was meant to be some built-in obsolescence with the character. I mean, she’s basically a sub-Katie Holmes version of Rachel Dawes, everyone’s least favorite Batman love interest, so surely someone had to know that there was a possibility she wouldn’t be accepted. And Black Canary has so many names that I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a plan to kill her off and reveal another character—Dinah Drake or whatever—who is THE Dinah while Laurel is just A Dinah. That’s what they did on Smallville, after all… with Jimmy Olson, of all people… and from what I’ve heard of the second season, that’s pretty much what they do with Black Canary. I’m imagining the producers meeting with Katie Cassidy. “Uh, sorry, it turns out the fans like Black Canary to be blonde and beating people up and flirting with Oracle, not having a strained relationship with her father.”
-I see apparently Alex Kingston is playing Dinah Lance, so the Possible Black Canary/Katie Cassidy character is Dinah’s daughter for some reason?
What’s the fucking point? Aren’t you just making things awkward for your supposed target audience at this point? Like it wasn’t weird enough having Black Canary be Dinah Drake in the Nu52—what is this, some fucking Chinese word puzzle now? I have to use the past imperfect fucking participle if I want to talk about a blonde in fishnet stockings who uses kung-fu? That’s cool, I’ll just go make a movie about our greatest president, Barry Lincoln. He goes by his middle name and he doesn’t wear a hat. Fuck you, that’s why.
-Oh, most hazardous job in Starling City? Being assigned to guard Laurel Lance. I imagine getting that detail being like that cosmonaut who went into space, knowing his shuttle was a death-trap. “No, Bob, your family needs you. I’ll guard her. Tell my mom I love her.”
-I can’t stress enough what a disaster Laurel Lance is as a character. I’m not putting all the blame on Cassidy—she’s miscast and doesn’t elevate the material, but what can you do with this stuff? She gets into a committed relationship with Ollie’s best friend and yet Cassidy’s supposed to get the audience to root for her to cheat on him with the man who already cheated on her WITH HER SISTER. That’s not an acting challenge, that’s a punishment in Greek mythology. Really, I’m not sure how at this point they could make the Ollie/Laurel pairing, their supposed endgame, more unappealing. Reveal Ollie has a thing for golden showers and Laurel is deathly afraid of pee?
-Oh, and Laurel is a ‘strong female character,’ so whenever the bad guys come to kidnap her so that Ollie has to rescue her, she gets in like one shot before they overpower her. I’m not kidding, in one episode, J. August Richards poses as a cop to get to her. She catches him in the lie, grabs a shotgun, takes a shot at him while saying a badass line about her dad being a cop—then she immediately runs out of ammo, so Ollie has to bust through the window and save her. Yes, Laurel, Starling City’s Most Threatened Woman 2011, keeps her shotgun loaded with one bullet. HOW CAN YOU NOT LAUGH AT THAT?
-By the way, when Alex Kingston showed up as Laurel’s mother and eventually was confronted with Laurel and Quentin demanding to know how she knew about Sara Lance bringing a hat with her on Ollie’s Incest Yacht… was I the only one who expected a tearful confession that all the women of Clan Lance had, ahem, gotten the shaft?
-Come to think of it, Paul Blackthorne’s a good-looking guy. Kinda got a silver fox thing going there. He’s got some gray in his hair, just like Hal Jordan, and we all know how Ollie is with that guy…
-Of course, I also want Amazing Spider-Man 3 to end with Peter accidentally being responsible for the death of yet another member of the Stacy family. “WHY DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME?” Andrew Garfield will scream to the heavens, before going to get a Snocone because, c’mon, you get numb to it at some point.
-On a positive note, J. August Richards shows up as an assassin who gets some good lines, has exciting fight scenes, is pleasingly eccentric, has an exotic gimmick for killing people—and he gets killed off at the end, while the show’s lame-ass boring version of Deadshot shows up a bazillion times. I mean, I’m sure Richards is in demand and all, but if Deadshot can come back from having an arrow shot in his eye, I want Gunn to come back from a fireplace poker in the chest.
-And I do like John Barrowman as Merlyn, just because there’s a pleasing dichotomy between Barrowman being a lovable Disney prince and Merlyn being a psychotic supervillain. He takes off his mask after a long day of murdering people and looks like he’s about to burst into song. Just terrific!
-“I may have furthered a plot to destroy the city today, but I also reconnected with my troubled son. And that’s the real victory.”
-You can’t tell me that one Undertaking meeting hasn’t ended with a group hug. You just can’t.
-This is an origin story, of course, so I assume Merlyn wearing an actual mask is going to eventually inspire Ollie. “Wait a minute!” Oliver will say, as the music rises in the background, “he wears a mask—people can’t tell who he is even if he doesn’t have his hood hanging in front of his eyes like an emo haircut—MY… GOD…!”
7. The Undertaking
-Let’s hear it for Tommy Merlyn, folks, the world’s only Ollie/Laurel shipper!
-Seriously, how many times has a person in the real world broken up with someone “for their own good”? I was actually kinda rooting for Tommy and Laurel, to the extent that they’re a much better match than Ollie and Laurel, but this whole thing of not crediting Laurel with making her own choices, as if the fact that Ollie’s still in love with her means she’s obliged to take back the sister-fucker, is not a good look.
-Nice homage to The Raid, though. I’ll say it, TV budgets can depict Green Arrow kicking a guy through a window far better than Superman kicking a guy through a building. Remember the finale of Smallville with the big Clark Kent/Doomsday fight they’d spent the whole season building up to, and there were less fisticuffs in that episode than there was Godzilla in the Godzilla with Heisenberg? A filler episode of Arrow has more action than that. Credit where credit’s due.
-You give Stephen Amell a bit of scruff and close-cropped hair, he looks like a hero. You give him JFK hair and shave him clean, he is five hundred percent douchier. EXPLAIN THAT, ATHEISTS!
-At the Starling City Police Department, rumors abound that Quentin Lance is a virulent homophobe based on all the times he’s heard curtly yelling “Queen!” Department therapy is mandated after he’d heard complaining about his daughter dating “that Queen boy.” (I am twelve years old, yes).
-Robert Queen: Son, I have to sacrifice myself to save you. There aren’t enough supplies for both of us. But before I die, here, take this List. It contains the names of those who are poisoning Starling City. You must stop them.
Oliver Queen: I will, dad. I promise.
Robert Queen: Also, Malcolm Merlyn is plotting to blow up the Glades and your mom is in on it.
Oliver Queen: Wow, really? Thanks for telling me! I’m getting the sense you saying that is gonna save me a bunch of trouble.
Robert Queen: Yeah, I suppose it is a bigger deal than a bunch of white-collar crime. I’m not sure why I led with the thing about the List. It’s kinda unimportant in comparison.
Oliver Queen: Yeah, I think I should table the List thing and concentrate all my efforts on this blown-up-Glades stuff. Otherwise, a lot of people could get hurt!
-Back to the Laurel thing: It’s a bit silly, but acceptable in comic book terms, that both Ollie and his eventual nemesis coincidentally happen to be really into archery. Ollie’s on-again, off-again girlfriend becoming a superhero herself? That’s real silly (let alone his kid sister maybe ending up as his sidekick). Wouldn’t it make more sense for Dinah to be entirely unconnected to Ollie until he starts shooting people with arrows, then she’s inspired by Green Arrow to become a vigilante herself and eventually they meet up that way? Why not hold Dinah back a bit, then introduce her later on like Roy, Slade, and Felicity? Replace the Helena two-parter with her origin and weave her through the rest of the season. If we wanna get really unconventional, let’s merge Laurel and Tommy into one ex-girlfriend character—Diggle is more a BFF to Ollie anyway, and I don’t think a superhero adaptation has done the whole “I wanna date you, but your dad’s my arch-enemy” thing yet.
-Okay, show, I get that it’s almost the finale and you want to ramp up all the drama, but c’mon.
Ollie: Once I’m done with this, I don’t have to be a superhero anymore!
Bruh, you haven’t even been named Green Arrow yet and you’re gonna call it quits? I don’t think so. And lol at him giving a speech to Tommy about how he’s getting out of the way and Tommy should patch things up with Laurel, then as soon as he finds a loophole in his whole daddy-issues-vow-to-save-the-city thing, he’s up Laurel’s snatch like she just texted that her parents weren’t home.
-I do apologize for at first assuming Tommy Merlyn’s character was a naked rip-off of Lex Luthor in Smallville. Instead, he’s a naked rip-off of Harry Osborn in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies. Only there, Peter’s best friend Harry’s relationship with MJ was long over by Spider-Man 2 and Harry was okay with Peter pursuing MJ (which, technically speaking, makes Peter TOMMY in this scenario), and instead of hating him and everything he stood for because of this little-known invention called self-respect, Mary Jane was clearly waiting for Peter until he made it abundantly clear that he wasn’t interested, and then she moved on, AND THEN he tried to win her back. You can still read some scumminess into Peter and Mary Jane’s actions in Spider-Man 2, but it’s kind of a fridge logic thing. With Arrow, if you’re rooting for Ollie/Laurel, you’re pretty much rooting for them to be in a relationship that makes them the worst possible versions of themselves.
-To descend into wankery self-promotion for a moment, which I try to avoid, but in discussing writing meta it’s somewhat inevitable… when you write a love triangle, or a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship, or whatever, you always end up privileging the protagonist, just because they’re the person the audience is asked to sympathize with and has sympathized with just be agreeing to watch your damn thing. So a lot of the time, when you have a hero whose happiness is contingent on “getting the girl,” we only see that goal—we want him to be happy, so we want him to get the girl, and it’s hard to stop to consider if the girl getting gotten will make the girl happy.
To go back to Raimi’s Spider-Man movies: who’s to say Mary Jane wouldn’t be happier with Harry than she would with Peter? They’re both decent guys, allowing for the fact that Harry had an absent mother and a father who was emotionally distant, and later a Power Rangers monster. Harry can provide for her better, he doesn’t risk his life fighting cephalopod-themed maniacs, etc. But we don’t root for Harry because we’ve seen Peter’s struggles, not Harry’s, and we want Peter’s suffering to end and for him to be rewarded for his good deeds. And of course, Mary Jane has a say in this, and she eventually chooses Peter, who behaved and tried to behave quite honorably towards her, so I don’t see a lot of people saying “why would Mary Jane ever take him back?”
The point is, in Arrow, with regards to Laurel, we’re given no reason to sympathize with Ollie and no reason to think they’ll be happy together. We spend a lot of time seeing Laurel and Tommy get closer, and be happy together, and care about each other—that’s the show’s text. It’s what we’re being shown. Laurel and Ollie having an epic love affair is totally an invention, it’s an informed attribute. If the intent was to show Laurel and Tommy just don’t work together, we should’ve been shown that, not them consistently loving and supporting each other. So this grand romantic reunion of Ollie and Laurel, for all the Imagine Dragons and well-lit making out, only serves to make Laurel look like an idiot and Ollie look like a cad.
-There’s still a lot of fun stuff in the Quiver Qrew infiltrating Merlyn Global with a lethal combination of drugged fast food, Felicity pretending to be gay for Tommy, younger sisters dating people so poor they’re forced to live in slight messiness, Windows product placement, and John Barrowman.
-For those wondering, no, Ollie doesn’t give Merlyn a chance to turn himself in or face TRUE JUSTICE. I really hope somewhere, Helena is making time with someone who truly understand and appreciates her totally understandable yen for revenge killings. Spin-off idea: Nyssa Al Ghul tells Helena she’s pretty and they kill drug dealers.
Ollie: Laurel, don’t go into the Glades, it’ll be very dangerous.
Quentin: Laurel, don’t go into the Glades, it’ll be very dangerous.
Moira: Everyone in the Glades, get out, there is an imminent terrorist attack!
Laurel: Guess where I am lol!
Are they trying to make us dislike this character? Is that the intent? Why would you give a character these actions, which result in someone’s death, and then expect the audience to feel any sympathy for them? I get it, that the entire point is so season 2 will be all “Ollie/Laurel! But Tommy is dead! GUILT!” and they’ll have to be apart and have UST because you can’t be in a stable relationship and fight crime (imagine, some day they might get MARRIED, upon which every 18-35-year-old will turn off the TV in disgust), but cripes.
-So Moira’s maiden name is Dearden, making Thea unofficially Mia Dearden then? Then why not just name her Mia Queen to make it clear which comic character she’s portraying, and not do some awful ‘Speedy’ nickname thing? Is there one male character on this show who’s gotten an arbitrary name change? I mean, they kept Deathstroke’s name as ‘Slade Wilson,” and I’d sooner believe a porn star’s christian name is Slammin McButts than I’d believe someone went through ten hours of labor to name their baby “Slade.”
-Apparently Felicity Smoak is meant to be Oracle too, just like Chloe Sullivan was on Smallville. Can we ever just get Barbara Gordon in one of these things? Like, will she even be in Batman Vs. Superman? That seems like an ideal place to have her—she could show up, tell Batffleck shit, at the end she’ll call in all the Justice League members who don’t have their own movies because DC doesn’t have their shit together. Is this, like, DC trying to sell Babsgirl? “Look, we know people are really fond of Oracle, but we won’t let them have that even in alternate universes, we’re just going to put a bunch of perky blondes in the Oracle role and Barbara Gordon WILL ALWAYS BE BATGIRL FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.”
-Wait—Chloe/Ollie ended up being the endgame canon on Smallville—like, married with a kid canon—and now Ollie on Arrow is hooking up with this very similar nerdy blonde hacker with a crush? That’s a little weird. Ollie/BlondeHacker has shown up in more adaptations than Wonder Woman.
-Oh, I forgot to mention, Roy Harper showed up. Here, he’s something of a mix between Tim Drake and Jason Todd, like the Diniverse Tim Drake, which is acceptable, as I don’t think he ever really had an iconic origin. (Something about his dad being a forest ranger who died in a fire, so Ollie adopted him because you could just roll like that in the Silver Age?) So making him a representative of the Glades, which is a major plot point, and a lower-class individual in a cast that’s largely rich people and the odd middle-classer, makes sense. No complaints.
-The whole Island Flashback subplot feels a little pointless, like it just exists to be spin-off within the old show and also set some stuff up for Season 2. I get that you can’t just drop him on an island for five years and have him say “oh, I taught myself kung-fu, what.” But I’d prefer a simplistic ‘I met a mentor guy, he got me started, then he peaced out and I spent like four years without any company and that’s my deal’ thing to five years of backstory. Like, apparently he didn’t spend all five years on the island, he just left for a while, then ended up back there and then finally was rescued for real? That’s some Gilligan’s Island shit right there. I imagine by season 4, Ollie’s backstory is going to look like “and then I found a time machine underneath the island, traveled back to meet Abraham Lincoln, he taught me that racism is wrong, and that’s how I became best friends with Diggle!”
-The show tries to do the whole Batfamily thing by having Diggle accompany Ollie to the final fight with Merlyn, but then Dig is almost immediately incapacitated and has to watch as Ollie and Merlyn go mano-e-mano. I get that the hero has to beat the villain in a fair fight, but you’d think they could pay a little more than lip service to the idea that Ollie’s strength is in the allies he’s found. Like, couldn’t Diggle handle some henchmen while Ollie goes after Merlyn, or could Ollie turn his back on Merlyn, who pulls a knife to stab him in the back, so Diggle shoots him to finish him off? You know, something.
-I think the big difference between Laurel and Felicity is that Felicity is this Marvel-y ‘part of the team’ character who happens to be a woman, so she’s a Quiver Qrew member first, and a love interest second. Laurel, for all the generic do-gooding she does, is pretty clearly there chiefly for dickings. So it’s somewhat reminiscent of the Great Lana Lang/Chloe Sullivan Split of the Smallville of old, but here, good sign, I think they’re going to recognize who the audience prefers and shift Felicity into the romantic lead position instead of stubbornly gritting their teeth and going “NO, CLARK AND LANA HAVE AN EPIC LOVE STORY, EVEN LOIS LANE IS CLARK’S SECOND CHOICE BECAUSE HE CAN’T HAVE LAAANNNAAAAAAAAA.” I mean, I’m not gonna give them a lot of points for that, because they set Laurel up to fail with the dead-sister-fucking and also what the fuck was up with Helena, but still, you’re not as weirdly sexist as you could be, DC.
-Speaking of, what the fuck was up with Helena? I’ve heard that there isn’t a definitive explanation of what happened to Merlyn after the fireworks, which makes sense after Deadshot’s treatment—
-Pause: Deadshot is shot through the eye by Ollie and left for dead, with everyone believing he’s dead, including Diggle, the guy crazed for revenge against him. Later he shows up living in a flophouse with one eye? Huh? I guess he just got up and walked off, thus avoiding capture, but then why would you assume he was dead? What, did Diggle think someone just grabbed the body as a keepsake?
-Unpause: Now, I could buy that Merlyn just went to jail and is keeping Ollie’s secret because, now that he’s destroyed the Glades, why should he want to stop Ollie? Technically, the Hood is doing his job for him. Although Ollie’s had a pretty consistent ‘you know my secret, time to die’ attitude—then again, he told his dying best friend that Merlyn was still alive, and I think lying under those circumstances takes you from Ratfink Sister-Fucker to Super Ratfink Sister-Fucker Jesus Can This Show Just Be About Sara Lance? Point is, if Ollie did kill him, while Merlyn was disabled—even to preserve his secret—that’s the exact same situation that Helena was in, wanting revenge against someone who also knows her secret identity.
-I kinda wonder how this season would play if you just skipped the Helena episodes, since Ollie’s characterization is so off in those. I don’t think there’s any important information there. Someone thinking of doing a rewatch, let me know.
-All in all, a good if somewhat uneven first season, good action, reasonable faithfulness to the comics, a largely decent cast, but with some glaring room for improvement. Alright, Netflix, bring on season two.
-When you think about it, the first season of this show is remarkably cynical. Think about it. The backstory is that a group of Starling City’s wealthiest and most powerful get together and decide to use their influence to end poverty and crime in their city. They gather blackmail information on seemingly all of the city’s white-collar criminals and organized crime, coercing them into helping. And apparently this doesn’t do any good? Maybe we could say that Merlyn wasn’t satisfied with the very real progress they were making, or that he was so psycho that he sabotaged their efforts to position the Undertaking to get revenge on the Glades, but still—Ollie shows up, starts going Death Wish on people, and that has an immediate, positive effect on the city. For a character that’s always been characterized as a liberal do-gooder, the subtext that vigilante killings solves everything is pretty conservative. Even fascist.
-For all that fandom enjoys him as an adorable meatball, Ollie can be pretty brutally manipulative. I’m thinking of him making basically a preemptive attack on the idea of him being Green Arrow. Whereas he was wracked with guilt over acting like a drunken playboy to get out of any non-archery obligations, he seems perfectly okay with 1. Giving Laurel a sob story about being a traumatized headcase so she won’t think he’s GA, 2. Throwing Quentin’s dead daughter in his face so he won’t Ollie is GA, driving the alcoholic detective to a relapse. This characterization of Ollie is buried pretty quick under him saying that being a lying SOB hurts him worst of all, but again, I’m interested more in the R-rated version of this show where underneath more admirable qualities, Ollie is a ruthless bastard who’ll do anything to get what he wants, rather than the PG-13 version where Ollie, choke, sob, has to lie to the people he loves.
-For a gritty, realistic take on Green Arrow, they’re pretty confident that someone could use a bow as a blunt instrument. And it’s played as a big deal when Merlyn breaks it—I’m like “of course it broke, it’s made of wood and you’ve been hitting people with it for twenty episodes.” Not to worry, Ollie says, he has a spare. One spare. Here’s an idea: Get forty spares. You use the damn thing to block lead pipes.
-So, they’ve got versions of Mia, Roy, and Dinah on the show—that’s about all the Arrow family (I’m not counting the Nu52, that’s like Pokemon after the first generation. Yeah, uh-huh, Raichu can evolve, RIGHT). All that’s left is Connor Hawke, the superhero with the name of an 80s action hero, and I gotta wonder how they would do ‘Ollie’s illegitimate son’ when Ollie is in his twenties. I know these CW shows run a long time, hell, Supernatural is on its tenth season, but still…
-Maybe he could be Ollie’s bastard brother? I’m not saying Moira fucked around with Merlyn—but if she did, could you blame her? On the one side, we have The Walking Dude, on the other side you have the Captain Jack that WASN’T in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The woman’s only human, folks.
-Oh, right, he has to be biracial. Uh, Walter Steele’s son from an earlier relationship and thus Ollie’s stepbrother? You can’t tell me a guy named Walter Steele wouldn’t name his kid Connor Hawke.
-CONNOR HAWKE: HE’S A COP, BUT THE ONLY LAW HE ENFORCES… IS HIS OWN!