CW's ARROW Series
Premiered Oct. 10 2012
by Alii Nui
I shot an arrow into the air and where it landed I know not where.
--Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Longfellow sort of sums up the confused nature of the CW’s Arrow costume-hero series. Sure, it exists but where the hell is it going? Is it an action series, a soap opera, an old school MTV video? An hour long commercial for Abercrombie and Finch?
To paraphrase Juliet’s lament, wherefore art thou Arrow? In an attempt to answer that question, let us begin at the beginning.
Shortly after the character of Oliver Queen is introduced, not the DC Comics canon character but the one Stephan Arnell plays on TV, he’s stranded in a life raft with his father and some anonymous red-shirt. So, three men in a raft and not enough food. Sounds like a party game quiz, huh? Well, Queen’s dad solution is to shoot the red-shirt, push his sins of the father upon his son, then blow himself away. Bang. Murder-suicide, leaving Ollie horrified and grief-stricken.
I mean damn, get down. Get funky. Get back up again. As far as drama, how you gonna beat that even with a big stick?
So, after this testosterone-driven throw down the viewer is lead to believe that this is a no surrender/no retreat take-no-prisoners kinda action/adventure they can sink their teeth into.
Mmm, not so much.
Imagine Sam Peckenpaw’s classic The Wild Bunch spliced with scenes of a daytime soap-opera and that’s what’s served up for the rest of the pilot episode’s bash kit and series in general. Let’s keep the soap-opera description short because some of you may’ve just eaten and don’t want to throw up.
Ollie returns to Starling City to find his modern Medusa mother remarried. Oliver Queen is a White guy. So, his mom is a White chick. Her new husband is a Black Brit. Horrors! His sister is a seventeen year old whining pewling entitled princess escapee from the planet Horrible. His best friend is a dark-haired Eddie Haskell, without the subtle charm. And...and this is supposed to be the big kicker, his ex-lover is the sister of the woman he was cheating with on the yacht when it went down, stranding Ollie at sea.
And yet, its worse than it sounds, because with the exception of the actors playing the step-dad, Colin Salmon and mother, Susanna Thompson-- whom was great as the Borg Queen on Star Trek Voyager-- none of these ass-clowns can act their way out of a third-grade operetta. We’re talking sub-porn standard skills.
The sister and ex-girlfriend are particularly irksome, but, more on those two later.
Interspaced with the domestic crapulence are gritty and engaging flashback scenes of Ollie stranded on a remote island. The island scenes seem like something from a different and better series. Well-written, well-directed, well-acted, all the things missing from the Starling City scenes.
The rest of the plot involves Ollie trying to readjust and making nonsensical choices throughout. We meet his bodyguard. His Black male bodyguard. Played by the excellent actor, David Ramsey. At first, Ramsey’s character, John Diggle brings a whiff of magical Negro into the mix. But, the writers were being sly, Diggle is not some overly accommodating colored man from the Eisenhower Era. Dude is a self-contained and confident swinging dick whose job is to protect the rich boy but it ain’t about Driving Miss Daisy.
Thank you writers, feeling the love.
And, welcome CW to the second decade of the 21st Century. One complaint that can’t be made against Arrow is its cast diversity. People of color all over the place, and in roles beyond mere enablers. Wonders if Chris Nolan, Joss Whedon, and/or JJ Abrams will take note. Probably not.
The jewel in the dust is Felicity Smoak, an IT expert played with precision and wit by Emily Bett Rickards.
Rickards and Thompson are the only two principle female characters worth watching. All others are mere walking examples of the show’s sponsors hair and beauty products. And, ‘Tween-something generated faux angst. And, for some reason, the casting agents seem to’ve gone out of their way to bias toward horsey-looking babes. Why, is what you might call one of them mysteries.
Which brings us back to Ollie’s little sis and his ex. Let’s just all hold our noses and get through this part quick.
Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance. Ye gods, why have thine forsaken us? Cassidy, who is most likely a charming and lovely woman in real life, has the acting ability of a steaming pile of, well, let’s say cooked pasta. Somewhat pleasing to the eye if you’re starving but it just sort of lays there, flaccid. Like her acting. Man, she stinks on ice. The emotion range of a glass of boiled water.
The writers have chosen to present a woman in her late 20’s as someone who is emotionally 10 year-old. This is the epicenter of Arrows soap-opera leanings. Laurel crying. Laurel bitching. Laurel running to her daddy. And, oh yeah, she’s a daddy’s girl make no mistake. Laurel fucking Ollie’s best friend. Laurel sending mixed signals that make her seem either an are-tard or stupid or deranged.
You can hold my hand and carry my books on the way home but don’t sit beside me in the lunchroom or talk to me during recess.
Yeah, it’s like that. Swear to gawd.
And, yet, as much of a bottom-feeder as Cassidy’s Laurel might be, she’s trumped by Willa Holland’s portrayal of Thea Queen, Ollie’s sister. Holland’s lack of skills makes Cassidy’s scant abilities look like Academy Award Winner Dame Maggie Smith. Do yourself a favor, every time Thea comes on-screen plug your ears with wax and close your eyes. Do that and you’ll live a happier life.
Holland is anorexic, which apparently appeals to Arrow’s key female demographic. Her character has got the emotional development of a two-year old. One could be forgiven for wondering if Thea Queen is completely potty-trained yet. Self-involved to the point of being her own pocket-universe, alcoholic, drug abuser, me me me all the time me. Oh, and she feels competent to advise Ollie on his social missteps.
No need to wonder what that smell is. The dog didn’t fart, its Holland’s non-acting.
It may be that the writers script all of Thea’s lines when they’re down on codeine cough syrup. That would explain a good many things.
So, we’re back to the beginning. Where has the Arrow landed?
In a nutshell, its eye-candy for the ladies. At the start of almost every episode Stephen Arnell is exercising with his shirt off, or David Ramsey is exercising with his shirt off, or both are, well, you get the picture. For the guys, stupid skinny babes with horsey faces and lots of action.
The Arrow lands somewhere between mediocre and decent story-telling. It’s non-canon so fanboys and fangirls are not gonna be happy with the plots, but TV and films about superheros go out of their way not to follow canon so that’s nothing new.
If pressed, Arrow gets two and a half stars out of five. To bump it up to three stars get rid of Cassidy and Holland. Please. For mercy’s sake, please, before they try to act again.
THIS JUST IN--
John Diggle has medium-hopped and is now an official Green Arrow Comic character. Way to go Big John. Run Dead Shot down and bar-be-que his ass.
Alii Nui is an American writer and professional smart ass. Ignore him and he eventually wanders off.