10 Reasons to Watch: “Arrow”
When I was growing up I was really into reading comic books, and watching The O.C. As you can imagine, I was a lady killer. For years, I thought the over-the-top melodrama of beautiful teenagers in big houses and the over-the-top action of comics would live forever apart. Then in came The CW, and an answer to my prayers with Arrow. At surface level it is a television adaptation of the Green Arrow comics that DC has been putting out for 72 years. But the show, right beneath that surface, is beautifully juggling and blending aspects of at least three trope heavy genres. There are a lot of reasons to love the show (especially considering it’s on Netflix!), but here at Snippets we will give you ten to get started.
1) It finally figured out how to tell an origin story. Movies based on comic books seem to think they have to spoon feed the audience. Every time there is a retelling of a story, there seems to be an unwritten rule that the first installment of the franchise has to dive into the origins of the hero. For some, like Batman Begins (WARNING: This could be the first of many Batman references), it is important. That masterpiece was setting up a new mythos and world. One that moves away from bat suits with nipples and toward a realistic, albeit gritty, reboot. Then there are others, like The Amazing Spider-Man, that don’t do enough. Now, I love that movie. I thought it was well executed, and the acting was on point. But, did we need it? The SAME story was told just a decade previous. It was great the first time, why not try and mix it up the second go around? Why do we need to be told how they got there? Can’t we just accept that they are a superhero and watch them do superhero stuff? Don’t we all know where Superman came from at this point? Do we need to tell it again? Am I asking too many rhetorical questions?
With Arrow, the origin story is amazing. It has some of the best arcs of the series. But I think I enjoy it so much because it is broken up and dispersed amongst the present. Little bite size pieces of what made Oliver Queen who he is that open up mystery and space for more questions. As the series has progressed, it has grown deft with its timing. Arrow always knows just how much to show of his time on the mysterious island before they cut back to modern day, always leaving you wanting more.
2) It laughs at the speed of The Walking Dead: Speaking of pace, Arrow‘s is breakneck. The writers room must be staffed by teenagers with no attention span. And I love them for it. Plots that would take other shows weeks, months, or even seasons to develop get neatly wrapped up in a single episode (two, tops). Characters that are in mortal danger in the first ten minutes of an episode are going on a date a half hour later. There was an entire season of Prison Break packed into one episode this season! This seems almost irresponsible at first. Surely they were going to run out of story lines soon. But the speed and abruptness of the plots end up harkening back to the comics of the Silver Age. Maniacal plans would be thwarted, and evil geniuses brought to their knees all within the span of thirty pages. The same thing is happening here, and Arrow is doing it well. Once you get used to how fast everybody moves it actually becomes totally fun. Especially on the rare occasion they bring up how many terrible things will happen to a character in a given month. You can hop in to any episode and be able to follow at least the action for a solid hour. It’s not as procedural as a show like Law and Order: SVU where you can figure out their logical next step, but neither is it as serialized as Breaking Bad, most of Arrow‘s plots only require forty-two minutes to conclude.
3) It knows its fans love references: One of the reasons Arrow can afford to plow through so many stories is because it has such a vast network of characters and arcs at its disposal. Arrow has been great about incorporating characters from the DC Universe into its structure. It is going for the gritty reboot, and seems wary of bringing on characters with super powers. This hesitancy hasn’t stopped the show from bringing in heroes and villains like Red Arrow, Amanda Waller, Deadshot, Deathstroke, and A.R.G.U.S, to name a few. For some of you, that sentence probably seemed like a bad lineup for a metal show, but to those familiar with the universe it should be all the convincing you need to check the show out. Even minor characters pop up and assume bigger roles. It also seems to be tying in with the Jeff Lemire run on the series (More on that run later). Arrow does more than just trot out DC villains for people to ogle. The show has started to build a world of its own, and has done a great job at adapting stories and characters to this televised universe. One of the most famous Green Arrow story arcs is when he finds his teenaged sidekick, Speedy, has become addicted to heroin. On the show, Oliver has a sister Thea Queen. Thea doesn’t exist in the comics (unless you count the comic adaptations of a TV show adaptation of a comic…which exists) but her nickname does. Everybody calls her Speedy, and, you guessed it, she gets addicted to some kind of lab-created party-drug a la E. (The pill is actually called Vertigo, and that in itself is a callback to one of Arrow‘s most persistent villains: Count Vertigo. I could make a painstakingly thorough list of all the references in the show, but somebody has already done that for me! I squeal every time they drop a name I recognize, and that means I squeal a lot. Which is good. Squealing = good.
4) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE ARE BEAUTIFUL. At the end of the day, The CW is no dummy. They know who watches their shows and why. Washboard abs are a prerequisite for everyone. Perfect hair and full lips are necessities for even the extras. Hell, most of the characters were models before actors (and sometimes it shows in their line delivery) I know I loved Gossip Girl for its everything-that-happens-to-me-is-the-end-of-the-world drama, but Blake Lively and Leighton Meister (hell even Penn Badgely) certainly don’t make it harder to watch. Arrow continues that tradition knowing that many tune in for the fact that Stephen Amell is shirtless for 80% of his screen time. Come for the immaculate jawlines, stay for the fun of the action.
5) The comic is so much better now.
Quick history lesson. A few years ago DC comics got together and said, “Hey guys, we need money. What’s a good gimmick that could totally backfire in our face?” The answer they found was the New 52 universe. DC completely rebooted THEIR ENTIRE BUSINESS and started fresh. New artists and writers on new plots of new origins of old heroes. For many it was a sign of end times, for many others (including yours truly) it offered a great place to rekindle your love for comics. A safe place to jump on for a long run. Some were (and still are) great (Batman, the surprising success of the new Aquaman, and Brian Azzalero’s Wonder Woman are prime examples) while others were…Green Arrow. The comic looked, read, and even smelled terrible. There was none of the old world Kevin-Smith-penned charm, the grizzled everyman with a sense of humor, the Robin Hood ripoff that knew how to crack a smile or a joke. Instead it was a spoiled rich twenty-something from Seattle that was fighting some really uninspired villains. Then Jeff Lemire took over. That news alone got me back in. Lemire is an exceptionally talented writer and illustrator that has written some beautiful works including: Essex County, the Sweet Tooth saga, The Underwater Welder, and successful runs on Action Comics, Animal Man, and Swamp Thing. He is twisted, and writes terrifying stories with heart. I love him. When he took over Green Arrow the comic has gotten realer, smarter, and just plain cooler. Plus the art from Andrea Sorrentino is breathtaking. It does a much better job at tying in aspects from the show. The island that Queen found himself on has appeared over the years, but the new comic does a great job at tying it in to his origin story, just as the show does. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy, his run started with Green Arrow #17.
6) Felicity Smoak…
Do you miss Gilmore Girls, but always wish the show had been set in the IT department? Wish no longer. Ms. Smoak could not be more adorable (although sometimes she is a little grating). She is constantly the source of the funniest lines, the quirkiest dialogue, and the cutest skirts. She is what you wish your Tech Department was like (unless you work in your company’s tech department…I’m sure yours is great) And most importantly, she brings some much needed levity to the show. Everybody needs to calm the frak down every now and again, and she is just the one to make sure that happens. The show needs her. WE need her. AMERICA NEEDS HER. Don’t believe me? Check out the above compilation and then we can talk.
7) Windows product placement is the funniest:
Many times throughout the show, somebody will be using a tablet, or a computer, or a phone. This is normal, people use these things. BUT EVERY DEVICE IS A WINDOWS 8 ENABLED DEVICE! What kind of town do these sheep live in? The funnier part is when and how they are shoehorned in. The pic I have here is from a scene that starts with Laurel shutting down her computer. The computer isn’t used or called to, but here we are staring right at her widgets. (Those are widgets right? Felicity?) Why? Because money. As long as you have a sense of humor about product placement, Arrow is going to keep you in stitches.
8) Rich hot people have it hard too:
Hot people drama is so much better than normal looking people drama. Like I stated earlier, I used to be a HUGE Gossip Girl fan. I ate that shiz for expensive breakfast, brunch, and dinner. But why? Well, a girl I had a big ol’ crush on liked the show. If I came out as a fan, we would surely have more to talk about! Is that terrible? Probably just terribly sad. (see also: Gilmore Girls for the same reason) And as the story goes, the girl and I lost touch, but I STILL LOVED THE SHOW. Maybe I just needed an excuse, but whatever. The plot lines hooked me, the fact that everything was treated as though it were the worst thing ever kept me watching. I just simply HAD to see what those rich Upper East Siders were getting up to (hint: it was always something to do with relationships). At least for two seasons, after that (like The O.C.) Gossip Girl got just too crazy for me. These shows, including Arrow, are, at their core, a soap opera. But then again, so are comic books themselves! They have ridiculous relationships filled with death, not-real death, faked death, comas, twins, evil twins, good twins, death of twins, twins in comas, long lost lovers, and eye patches galore. They’re like Days of our Lives but with mutants. When I realized this I stopped making fun of my friend (singular) that watches General Hospital still. I get it, to some degree. It makes (some) sense now. Still, I have no love for all you Grey’s Anatomy fans. Ultimately the relationships and thoughts about relationships either go nowhere or go on a ridiculous journey to nowhere. Either way, I’m tuned in, eating it up. Sometimes I worry that Arrow could fall into the two seasons till crazyville trap that has consumed my other loves, but this one seems to have a lot more going for it than just the adorable relationship of Seth and Summer (which I am now going to write an article on).
9) Woah there Violence!
For a show on cable, Arrow has some surprisingly great fight scenes. You would hope that a show based on a street level vigilante trained in crazy martial arts would pack a punch, but Arrow continues to surpass my expectations. Check out this fight scene. Sure some of it is a rip-off of the wonderful action movie The Raid: Redemption, but that movie was so good, I want to see it ripped off in everywhere. Even Family Feud…especially Family Feud. But Oliver seems to always be ready to throw down, hard. And if he can’t hit you with his fists? BOOM. ARROW’ED. Nobody is safe from the contents of his quiver. Also, especially in the first season, he was a huge fan of just dropping bad guys. Like, dropping them dead. Usually they were just body guards or hired goons, which when you think about it is worse: they are just working for a paycheck, not intentionally trying to blow up the city. There’s a difference Olly! Since then, he’s been making a vow to ease up on the killing. We’ll see how it goes (hopefully not well).
10) The POTENTIAL
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am a huge DC Comics fan. They were part of my childhood, and my not-so-childhood. I don’t pick fights when it comes to DC and Marvel, they both have great offerings and both have reasons to laugh in the other’s face. But it was the characters of the DCU are what got me into (and later, back into) comics in the first place. So the fact that they could tangibly bring in Dick Grayson, aka Nightwing, onto Arrow is enough to keep me tuned in. Just recently they brought in Grant Gustin to play Barry Allen’s Flash. This is huge for a couple of reasons: (and yes, I know this is a list within a list. Eat your heart out buzzfeed)
- The Flash has been killing it lately in media.
- His New 52 reboot is continually one of the better monthlies with some really great and inventive art.
- His story arc (and part of the reason we have the New 52) Flashpoint was just made into a great animated movie, which is pretty great. Check it out if you have time.
- He was arguably the best character to pick when playing Injustice: Gods Among Us. (this is a sublist of a sublist of a list. Do I win the internet for today?It went to that cat video? AGAIN??)
- The Flash has powers (duh) Up to this point, Queen Inc. has been keeping it superpower free for the most part. They have brought in baddies, like Deadshot and Deathstroke, that rely on training and fighting skills rather than flying or laser vision. And so far when they have introduced characters with powers (Black Canary I’m looking at you) they have found inventive/tech-centered ways around it. There isn’t much you can do to The Flash’s powers without making it REALLY boring to watch. Will he open up a door for other superpowers to be featured on the show? Or will his recently announced spinoff carry that weight, leaving Oliver and co. to battle ninjas and assassins? Either way, I am excited and you should be too.
- Who’s next? Batman? (almost definitely not) Wonder Woman? (ditto) While some of the higher profile clients may not grace the small screen, there is no reason to believe showrunner Andrew Kreisberg won’t continue his stellar ability to select the perfect DC character to slip in the story. He seems to always know how to pick the best character or reference, and how to seamlessly adapt them to the world of the show. It’s been fun to watch, and with Mr. Allen on his way in, it looks like we’re at just the tip (of the arrow).
Some stray observations:
- Arrow REALLY hates colors. He goes by ‘the hood’, ‘the vigilante’, and finally ‘The Arrow’ on the show. While he does wear green, why no love in the name? Too hokey? Your show is a soap opera with a quiver. Also, Black Canary goes by Canary. Definitely not as intimidating.
- There is an air of “will they won’t they” WITH EVERYBODY
- The show makes you want to ‘ship EVERYBODY
- Can I get jacked by only doing salmon ladders in an abandoned warehouse? Too lazy to find out. Somebody test the theory and let me know.
- Do I use way too many parenthesis in my articles? (hint: yeah)
Do you love Arrow? Hate it? Never seen it but want to chime in on the comics? Let us know what you think in the comments!
- Green Arrow #25 by Jeff Lemire (Comics Review) (sonsofcorax.wordpress.com)
- REVIEW: Lemire & Sorrentino’s “Green Arrow” #26 (comicbookresources.com)
- The Flash Making His Debut – Slowly – on CW’s ‘Arrow’ (variety.com)
- With ‘Arrow,’ Greg Berlanti Finds a Formula for Success (nytimes.com)