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'Arrow' 1.03: "Lone Gunmen"

 

I have to admit, I was excited to see this new show. I’m a huge fan of superheroes and DC’s heroes in particular, and Arrow looked like it might fill the hero-shaped gap left in my viewing schedule by Smallville. But where Smallville was light and primary colors, Arrow is darker, more concerned with the difficulties of an ordinary man who experiences extraordinary circumstances and tries to deal with the hard spaces in between those two things.

I’m not sure about the voice-over. I know how necessary it is to move the show forwards, but it all seems a little overly-dramatic in terms of presenting us with Oliver Queen’s motivation. I think I’d prefer to see that rooted more in dialogue or action than Stephen Amell’s narrative throughout the episode, and it serves rather more to pull us out of that action as opposed to supporting it.

The first two episodes of the show provided the setup, and I feel like this episode was much more pertinent in terms of throwing us into Oliver’s life now he’s back in the land of the living. We’re introduced to Deadshot, who is dispatched fairly easily by Oliver, and also to one of the great influences on Oliver’s life where he was stranded on the island.

There’s quite a nice contrast between the flashbacks of weak, ineffectual Oliver and the man he’s become today. It’s interesting to see his transformation moving at the same pace as his exploits; the show isn’t giving us too much and I applaud their efforts to not give us too much all at once. The correlation between Oliver’s progress on the island and the skills he learned with how he uses them to enact vengeance and justice is actually somewhat comforting, and I’m enjoying experiencing them at the same time, as opposed to having lengthy flashback episodes.

One thing that confused me a little was the Russian connection. I’m somewhat bemused as to how Oliver became involved in the Russian mafia if he was stuck on an island for five years. And the show seems to enjoy giving us snippets of information that have no resolution as of yet.

I really like Diggle, Oliver’s bodyguard. The show uses him to provide commentary on Oliver as a man: “The white knight swooping in to save the disenfranchised. And all by his lonesome, with no help from anybody.” Oh, Diggle. You have a ridiculous name but I do like you. And it’s interesting that it’s YOU who seems to see Oliver for who he really is, suspicious and curious as to just what our Green Arrow is up to. The fact that Oliver saves Diggle at the end of the episode and reveals his true nature to the bodyguard is also interesting – I see definite sidekick possibilities here, embodied in a man who can provide a much-needed touch of reality to Oliver’s life.

Diggle’s background seems to be from a life of hard-knocks, loss and the sense that he has a strong sense of derision for the very people he works for. In a show like this, where Oliver belongs to a world that thrives on money, expensive clothes and loose morals, I think Diggle might be more than important in terms of keeping Oliver on track. If anything, I think he might be instrumental in providing a moral compass for the Green Arrow’s activities. And the contrast between Oliver and Deadshot was highlighted in terms of how far and how low a vigilante needs to go in order to enact their own particular brand of justice.

But these sorts of moral questions are always the most interesting, particularly when it comes to superheroes. I would really like this show to delve into them a little further along in the season; I know that Oliver struggles with the duality of his lives (as all heroes do) but I’d also like to see him deal with the duality of his actions. On the one hand, he throws himself into the persona of millionaire playboy with gusto, providing a cover for his nighttime activities, but I think it’s in his personal relationships that this proves most difficult for him. And it’s precisely that notion of duality that I want the show to explore because I think that is the most engaging nature and attraction of superheroes for most of us as an audience.

On the homefront, Oliver’s family life is, frankly, a MESS. His sister is going off the rails in a huge way; his mother unable to stop it. Oliver points out to her that she treats Thea in exactly the same way as his parents did him when he was growing up. He encourages a little more “parenting” and Moira attempts to provide just that. But in a show that focuses on the hidden, dual nature of our eponymous hero, it’s not just Oliver who has things to hide.

And god knows, I love me some Susannah Thompson, too. But she seems somehow uncomfortable with the role, as though she’s not yet figured out how to present a woman who is ostensibly a caring parent who struggles with how to raise a willful and troubled daughter, but who has this whole other agenda going on underneath the surface. I want to believe that Moira truly cares about her children, but at the same time I treat everything she says with suspicion.

Oliver also finds out about Tommy and Laurel’s relationship and sure, he has other things to think about but Laurel has provided quite a nice emotional centerpoint up until now so I’m sure THAT little discovery will come back to haunt him. “It is time to move on”, Laurel’s friend tells her, but I think the relationship between Laurel and Oliver is pretty clearly telegraphed as being our hero’s basis for change in his personal life.

Stephen Amell is charismatic enough to take us through action sequences and the emotional journey that Oliver’s on. There are some lovely scenes between Ollie and Thea where she rails against his “hypocrisy” as she sees it, but at the same time is rooted in her joy at his return. But he’s a changed man and this, I think, plays out far more in his personal relationships than it does in his exploits as the Green Arrow.

Amell plays the part of playboy with gusto, though, and he’s never more charming than when he’s being a rich ass. He also looks GREAT in a suit, which helps.

We’re also introduced to Felicity Smoak, which is a nice nod to the DC universe and Emily Bett Rickards, in two scenes, manages to be engaging, cute, funny and impossibly nerdy. I love that. The world needs more nerdy girls, in my opinion. I hope we see more of her because the chemistry between her and Amell was more convincing in two scenes than any of the others I’ve seen between Amell and Katie Cassidy. And now that Laurel appears to be interested in pursuing a relationship with Tommy, I have to wonder if Oliver’s personal life will take something of a back seat, or if they’ll feature Felicity in future episodes. I hope so.

I liked the similarities that were pointed out between Deadshot and the Green Arrow, particularly in justifying why they take lives. Oliver has a firm sense of righteous justice, whereas Deadshot takes them for selfish purposes. But going back to the theme of duality, it’s interesting to me that Oliver has more in common with a hired gun than he does with the people in the life he used to live. I hope the show explores this some more, as understanding THAT will probably help the audience understand more about the nature of our hero.

Someone on the internet told me that they saw the show as “Batman meets the OC” and, honestly, with the vast amount of pretty people in Arrow, I kind of agree. But isn’t that the point? I admit to being fascinated with the notion of superheroes being people who see the need for change and enacting that, not just in their own lives, but also on a much greater scale in a quest to right perceived wrongs against the general populous.

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