It's the age-old story: troubled playboy billionaire becomes self-made crime fighter after a traumatic incident. But the heroic protagonist at the center of the CW's new action series Arrow bears little resemblance to a certain caped crusader that you may be thinking of. For one thing, this one wears a hood. And it's green.
In the wide world of DC Comics superheroes, the Green Arrow is certainly one of the more obscure ones, compared to the Batmans and Wonder Womans that have permanently permeated pop culture. But a lack of Hollywood attention also means that there's nothing to compare it to, so the CW has carte blanche to re-tell the origin story of the Green Arrow — that of socialite Oliver Queen, who returns home after being stranded on a deserted island for five years following a shipwreck that claims the lives of both his father and his ex-girlfriend's sister (more on those dramatics later).
Oliver (Stephen Amell and eight abs) struggles to come to terms with the reality of having to return to his old life after surviving for half a decade on an island (with no talking volleyball to befriend): his mother has a new husband, his sister has moved on, his bodyguard won't let him out of his sight, and he can't just snap back into his party-boy ways with old wingman Tommy (played with a pop of energy by Broadway transplant Colin Donnell). And then there's his ex-girlfriend Laurel (Gossip Girl's Katie Cassidy, looking mighty fine as a brunette), a lawyer who harbors a certain — shall we say, resentment? — towards her former lover after finding out not only that her sister died in the shipwreck, but that she got busy with Oliver just moments before the crash.
All that seems difficult enough for Oliver to process until he and Tommy find themselves kidnapped and facing present danger in an abandoned warehouse. Without spoiling too much, it's this act of crime that essentially spurs Oliver to do what he had prepped for during his tenure on the island: seek vengeance. Against a whole lot of people, it seems. And herein lies our superhero story! There's action, sex, intricate costumes, underground lairs and — if you're not tired of archers yet — plenty of crossbow action. Plus, there are at least two (!) killer twists at the end of the pilot that will definitely keep you buzzing until Episode 2.
Without a doubt, Arrow is poised to be the network's new Smallville, and it certainly seems like it's game for replicating the comic book mythos and twentysomething melodrama that made the Superman vehicle a smash hit. The show is carried by Amell, who brings a mysterious flair to Oliver that's surprisingly satisfying, even though we don't quite know whether his smirk is deceitful or playful. Oliver is a peculiar and guarded individual, but his heroics are endlessly fascinating, almost in the same unpredictable vein as a Jack Bauer or Ethan Hunt figure. Amell is of course supported by a number of supporting players (including his torso) who bring the comic book characters to life with unique pizazz. (Personally, I can't wait to see how Speedy and Merlyn emerge over the course of the show.)
It's no television groundbreaker, but for a superhero saga, Arrow is a solid entry that stands out among a sea of past failed attempts at television crime fighters. The pilot is a strong start (despite some expositional dialogue that's less than brilliant), and I'm already aching to see what happens in the second installment. And to create that much intrigue from 45 minutes of television is a feat that, in itself, is super.
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[Photo Credit: CBS]