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Thursday, October 11, 2012

To-the-Point Review of Arrow

Arrow premiered on the CW last night. I watched with low expectations but was nonetheless pleasantly surprised by what turned out to be an above-average hour of derring-do and angst-ridden super-hero drama.

Adapting the decades-old story of second-string DC character Green Arrow, Arrow's pilot tells the hero's origin in effective flashback form, adding just enough elements to freshen the familiar plot. In short, billionaire heir Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is stranded on a Pacific island for five years, forced to turn himself into a hunter to survive, and returns to the United States to take over the family business. There are hints that Queen's father, who didn't survive the shipwreck that marooned his son, was involved in some shady dealings - affairs that Queen the younger wants to put back in their proper order.

As might be expected from the youth-skewing CW network, Arrow features a gaggle of improbably sexy actors; fortunately, the feature players have the acting chops to imbue their characters with the necessary charisma and empathy to keep viewers watching for more than the eye candy. Oliver's ex, (Dinah) Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), is particularly appealing as a crusading young lawyer, and it's nice to see former Borg queen Susanna Thompson as Oliver's mom, Moira Queen.

The pilot's plot is straightforward, but I have to give the creators credit for catching me off guard with a significant twist late in the game. I'm not caught by surprise that often, and it's always pleasant to have dramatic expectations overturned.

For a superhero show, the physics of Oliver's feats are nearly plausible; as the titular Arrow, he uses a combination of parkour, fisticuffs and his facility with the bow to accomplish his goals. Director David Nutter gives the fight scenes room to breathe, and the editing is refreshingly clear, free of the recent disagreeable trend that reduces action scenes to a series of incomprehensible jump cuts and closeups. There's an art to stunt work, and it's nice to see these performers shine.

When compared to the CW's most famous super-hero drama, the recently concluded Smallville, Arrow is a more serious, more adult show, with less annoying characters and a protagonist who's already better drawn than Smallville's Clark Kent ever was, even after only one episode.

Arrow doesn't hit the bulls-eye, but it doesn't fly wildly off-target, either. I'll continue watching to see if its aim improves.

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