“My name is Oliver Queen. After five years on a hellish island, I have come home with only one goal: to save my city.”Arrow Episode Introduction
When Arrow was first advertised back in 2012, I could not believe what I had just seen. The Sky network (or CW if you’re in USA) was about to release a show based on a character in the DC Universe that not many people had heard of, but one who I adored. That character was the hooded vigilante known as Green Arrow. Better yet, they were going to be using a similar origin story to ‘Green Arrow: Year One’ written by Andy Diggle, with art from Mark Simpson better known by his pen name Jock. The story for Arrow’s adaptation of the origin story is as follows:
Oliver Queen, a billionnaire playboy from Starling City and heir to the Queen family business and fortune, is left stranded on what he believes to be a deserted island after his father’s yacht, The Queen’s Gambit, capsizes in a storm, killing his girlfriend’s sister Sara Lance who is on board, and leaving Oliver, his father Robert and one other crew member left to float around in a rubber raft. Running low on supplies, Robert Queen then shoots the remaining crew member and then himself, leaving Oliver alone to survive.
After five years, Oliver returns home after being rescued, but he is not the same as he was five years ago. Honed with new skills, a new mission and the determination to see it through, Oliver Queen now hides his own secrets, as he begins to fight crime in a green hood, wielding a bow and arrow. However, he is not yet known as the Green Arrow, he is known as only ‘The Vigilante’ or ‘The Hood’, and Starling City police, including his ex girlfriends father, Quentin Lance, are constantly seeking to bring the hooded vigilante to justice, claiming that he is on the wrong side of the law, because of his habit of killing people with his arrows, but Oliver hopes to change that.
Season One showed us what a great, dark and gritty comicbook show could be, with plenty of drama which makes you remember it’s a CW show, but more importantly it gave us some great live action appearances of some of DC’s not so mainstream characters both hero and villain such as Malcolm Merlyn a.k.a The Dark Archer portrayed by John Barrowman, Floyd Lawton a.k.a Deadshot portrayed by Michael Rowe, Edward ‘Eddie’ Fyers portrayed by Sebastian Dunn, and even Count Vertigo portrayed by Seth Gabel just to name a few, although some of these characters differ greatly from their comicbook counterparts, such as Count Vertigo who is not a meta-human in this show, but is in fact a drug dealer who creates a drug that causes similar effects as Vertigo’s character in the comics.
This show brings us great action sequences in almost every episode with a great mix of martial arts used to create stylistic fight scenes that show us the power and prowess of Oliver Queen which adapts the character’s style really well from the comics. However, a lot of viewers seem to have the opinion that Arrow was not a faithful adaptation because it was “too serious” or “too dark” whereas the Green Arrow most people know from the comics is a lighthearted and humorous character that takes pride & joy in what he does.
What a lot of these viewers may not realise however, is that there is a long running series of Green Arrow comics written by Mike Grell that takes on a very similar tone to Arrow, which is where the show probably drew a lot of it style from. The series of comics dealt with a lot of real world issues such as oil spillages, hunting, and fraud which make the stories impactful and thought provoking. In a similar way, Arrow as a television show is very thought provoking, dealing with issues in the real world such as family drama, secrets between friends, loyalty, and regarding villains there’s a lot of extortion, bribery, cover up issues that get uncovered by Oliver and his team.
Stephen Amell, known for his roles in shows such as ‘Beautiful People’ (2005) and Rent-A-Goalie (2006), portrays the titular role of Oliver Queen in Arrow. His portrayal is brilliant, becoming a fan favourite over the recent years, since there has only ever been one other live action portrayal of the character in the television series Smallville (2001) where Green Arrow/Oliver Queen was portrayed by Justin Hartley.
Stephen Amell has gained much success from this show and has proven himself to be a perfect casting choice for the character, as the show is now ready to air it’s eigth and final season after over 7 years of wearing the hood, Amell has helped bring the character of Green Arrow into the mainstream and given the character a rise in popularity which has even made Green Arrow a household name.
Whilst Amell plays a more serious version of the character, there are moments when Amell is able to perfectly portray the witty humour and fun quips that Oliver Queen is known for in the comics. Making him a successful and brilliant portrayal of the character, which not a lot of people seem to understand in my opinion.
Not only did Stephen Amell succeed in popularising his character, but some of the other cast did as well. John Diggle, portrayed by David Ramsay, became so popular that he was adapted into the New 52 run of Green Arrow comics, making his first appearance in Green Arrow #24-Deadly Homecoming (October 2013). John Diggle is referred to as simply ‘Diggle’ which is a reference to Andy Diggle, who wrote the Green Arrow: Year One comic that the series draws a lot of inspiration from, especially during it’s flashback sequences which add to the story and gives us a nice transition between certain scenarios in Oliver’s present day whilst giving us an idea of how he became who he is today.
Felicity Smoak, portrayed by the beautiful Emily Bett Rickards, was a character in the Firestorm comics since 1984, but became a popular ally of Oliver Queen in the New 52 Green Arrow run, with a redesign of her character to resemble her appearance in the show, with a few differences to help her stand as her own adaptation of the character. Although she was meant to be nothing more than a recurring character, Emily’s portrayal of Felicity proved so popular with the viewers that she was made a series regular and a member of what will later become known as ‘Original Team Arrow’ or ‘OTA’ for short.
One issue I have with her character however, is that Oliver Queen seemed to have a pretty decent technological knowledge when he starts out, but when Felicity is introduced his skills seem to almost completely disappear making him seem dumb when it comes to computers and other tech. On the other hand, I really love her character and think she adds a moral opposite to Oliver which is sometimes a great opportunity for plot advancement and drama.
The casting and characters brought to us in this show are all incredibly talented and intriguing. From Laurel Lance, to Thea Queen and even Roy Harper, who so far isn’t in the role of his alter ego Arsenal. Not to mention Oliver Queens best friend, Tommy Merlyn, portrayed by the charming and brilliantly funny Colin Donnell who counters Olivers more serious tone when in the public eye.
Laurel Lance creates a perfect opportunity for drama in the series, after she shares a love interest with both Oliver and Tommy, despite her initial resentment for Oliver after he took her sister Sara on the Queen’s Gambit for an affair whilst he was still in a relationship with Laurel. However, Laurel and Oliver have an on and off again relationship throughout, as well as a similar relationship with The Vigilante, though still unaware of his true identity. Katie Cassidy brings a strong personality to the character, which in turn, makes the character a strong female lead in the series that later goes on to become a member of team Arrow, but not until a later season.
Willa Holland brings the character of Thea Queen to life, who is a reference to Mia Dearden from Kevin Smith’s Green Arrow #2 – Quiver Part Two (May 2001), as she is nicknamed ‘Speedy’ (a popular alias used by Mia in the comics) by Oliver, who in this show is her brother. This reference becomes clearer in episode 12 of season one titled ‘Vertigo’ when it is revealed that Thea’s full name is ‘Thea Dearden Queen’.
Overall this show is one of my favourites of all time, for its brilliant writing, the incredible cast, memorable characters and awesome action sequences, as well as the dark and gritty tone, which seems somewhat lighter than originally intended after shows like Marvel’s Daredevil stepped up the ‘dark tone’ a few notches. However, this show proved to us that the dark and gritty comicbook shows can become popular and are sometimes preferred over the lighter toned ones we’ve had in the past. Season one sets up the characters and the world of Green Arrow in a way that makes it unique to the comics, but with enough nods and references to keep fans interested.
Malcolm Merlyn was an excellent choice of villain for the first seasons ‘big bad’ as John Barrowman’s portrayal made him a menacing, mysterious and unpredictable character that built real tension to whatever scene he was in.
The choice of network being the CW, this show has plenty of drama which helps build the emotional scenes of the story that can really hit hard to viewers, making us feel excitement, happiness, or even upset. The writing and direction is incredible and the show later paved the way for more comicbook shows, many of which are connected to the same universe as Arrow, which is now known as the ‘Arrowverse’ or ‘Berlantiverse’ after the shows creator Greg Berlanti.
Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg have created something truly special, that brought comicbook television into a new generation and spawned multiple spinoffs that live in a shared universe, and with the final season of Arrow airing on October 15th 2019, the final crossover will prove to be a huge payoff for fans of this series.
Arrow Season One gets a 4.5/5 from me, because whilst it was an incredible start to a show I fell in love with from the second the premiere aired on my television, it does however feel like it’s more drama driven than I originally hoped for when I first saw the trailer.