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TV review: Arrow’s pilot hits the mark for CW and Sky1
Stephen Amell stars in Arrow. Image Sky
Stephen Amell stars in this CW (in the US) adaptation of DC Comic's Green Arrow; bold and brash, it contains some archery that would make Legolas go weak at the knee. There's a massive gap in the schedule for a superhero serial, but can Sky1 fill it with this action-packed offering?
Stephen Amell is a strong lead who's far more believable as a crusader than that geeky bloke from Smallville. He kicks ass, shows a promising knack for humour and carries this pilot admirably.
Yet another series from America's CW network which concentrates on delayed adolescence. It's all good fun, but I can't help but feel that this fledgling American broadcaster might increase its pull if it commissioned for a broader audience. Then again, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.
A superhero based on Batman and Robin Hood? What's not to love? Especially if you're prepared to suspend disbelief while trading in dark overtones for some excellent action sequences (albeit with a rather 2D cast).
At the start of this pilot, we find toned and honed playboy-cum-stealth ninja Oliver Queen (the absolutely shredded Stephen Amell) stranded on an island in the middle of the China Sea.
"A superhero based on Batman and Robin Hood? What's not to love?"
Marooned when his father's yacht sank during a vicious storm, after five years of living like Bear Grylls, Oliver's finally rescued by fisherman and returns home to his family.
Time hasn't stood still while he's been gone; Oliver's shocked to discover his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) has married old family friend Walter Steele (Bond and Strictly's Colin Salmon), and that his sister Thea (Willa Holland) is a troubled teen.
But, as is often the way, the island changed Queen forever.
Gone is the egotistical and spoiled young posh boy who thought nothing of cheating on his girlfriend with her sister, and in his place we meet someone with a social conscience and a fervour for battling corruption and injustice.
A new superhero
Unfortunately, at this stage I have more unanswered questions than Lord Leveson.
Where has this sudden reversal of personality come from? Can you teach yourself taekwondo if you have a couple of years to spare? Can a green hood really replace a mask as a disguise? Queen isn't short of cash, so why is he scrimping on the most crucial part of a superhero's kit? Surely someone's going to recognise him sooner rather than later?
The writers seem to have avoided these and other questions for now in a bid to get the show up and running - which they've done effectively. We have our central characters, a handful of arcs and a pilot that is both exciting and visually stunning.
But aspects of Arrow are not quite as successfully realised as others. For a start, Oliver's love interest Laurel Lance (a nod to Superman's Lois Lane? Maybe comic aficionados can confirm) needs some serious work.
I don't envy actress Katie Cassidy's task of conveying Laurel's struggle over Oliver's return, without much help from the script.
Meanwhile Queen's slightly annoying mate Tommy (Colin Donnell) seems to exist only to provide a love-triangle - a trademark CW feature which was well-used in Smallville.
Is Arrow the superhero TV series you've been waiting for?
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- 88 %Yes - it's very enjoyable
- No - it's a silly show
Yet if the writers can nail these issues and create a more challenging nemesis for the Emerald Archer, then this could be the superhero show many of us have been waiting for.
Billed as a very different product to Smallville - the most notable show in The CW's short history - Arrow will delight many comic fans and drag plenty of TV civilians in as well.
The show is fast, fun and the final scene of this pilot throws us an interesting curve-ball. However, in the unavoidable comparisons with The Dark Knight film franchise, it falls short.
Of course this is inevitable on many levels. Christopher Nolan's trilogy is probably the finest example of comic-to-screen work in the genre's epic lexicon, yet where his Batman is edgy and threatening, Arrow feels slightly teeny.
It's undeniably entertaining, but also comes across as a bit too easy. Let's hope the producers are playing the long game.
- Verdict: Enjoyable. Arrow is one of the more promising pilots of the new TV season.
What other reviews say
Digital Spy - "Stephen Amell is a strong lead - physically impressive, appropriately steely."
Den of Geek - "The best thing about Arrow is its star, with Stephen Amell more than capable of playing the conflicted hero."
What people on Twitter said
@Stevieb0y - "Watching Arrow on Sky 1. So far it seems good. Hope it doesn't go all weird and try to be too clever like so many programmes these days."
@colinsalmon24 (Colin Salmon) - "ARROW 8pm Monday Sky 1. These are my Vancouver partners in full effect. Welcome to Starling City! Enjoy and be entertained."
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