Yeah, I know, my title sounds like a Steven Seagal movie. But trust me. If you’re not watching The CW’s new show Arrow, you should be.
Adapted from DC’s Green Arrow source material, Arrow takes those classic pulpy comic elements and brilliantly locks them into blisteringly precise action, gritty atmosphere, edgy storylines, and CW-style relationship drama. This is a high velocity show that relishes its comic book origins even as it transcends them.
Also, it has John Barrowman.
Exec producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg have crafted a gloriously entertaining, moves-like-a-bullet (or should that be arrow?) narrative that revels in its darkly wrought drama, and isn’t afraid to have an incredibly stylized blast.
As the show’s star, Stephen Amell, often tweets… thwick.
The set-up is this: billionaire playboy Oliver Queen is lost at sea when the yacht he’s on with his girlfriend’s sister, and his father, disappears during a storm. Five years later, out of nowhere, he reappears and returns to his home in Starling City.
But he’s not the same.
The show deftly blends flashbacks to the devastating accident, the aftermath, and the mysterious island on which Oliver was stranded for those five years. These scenes are interpersed with his present day reality: spreading fear and justice as Starling City’s bow-and-arrow-wielding hooded vigilante. He’s cleaning up the streets, following the plan set out for him by his father, who gave him a notebook full of names: those who deserved justice. The show has morphed satisfyingly quickly from attack-of-the-week into deeper, more challenging and dimensional territory, as conspiracies unfurl, and complex relationships become more apparent.
Berlanti, Guggenheim and Kreisberg, like a team of superhero lawyers, have a killer eye for hiring directors, including the always legendary Guy Norman Bee (also known for directing Supernatural, SouthLAnd and Revolution). The action is blistering and razor-sharp; the shooting, lighting and editing is hyper-stylized, hyper-real, full of comic book angles, stark shadows, and blinding light.
But it’s all rooted in the characters.
Oliver Queen, the dilletante turned superhero, played with Tom Cruise-like movie star presence by Amell. Laurel Lance, an idealistic lawyer and Queen’s ex, the girl he betrayed by sleeping with her sister, leading to the sister’s horrible death, is perfectly played with soulful, sly sensuality and sharp-edged grief by Katie Cassidy. Queen’s sidekick John Diggle is given gravitas and no-nonsense attitude by David Ramsey. Queen’s sister Thea is played to perfection by Willa Holland, who nails the complex emotions that drive that character. Colin Donnell does a great job as Queen’s beleaguered best friend Tommy. And the mysterious Huntress, AKA Helena Bertinelli, who is played with tormented, broken-hearted angst by the superb Jessica De Gouw.
These actors are all brilliant; luckily, the scripts are equally fantastic, thanks to the powerhouse writers room. The scripts are punchy, sharp, shot through with snark, easily balancing the past and the present, emotions and thrills, complexity and the simple pleasure of watching the vigilante deliver expertly choreographed smackdowns.
In short, this show is tremendously entertaining. Off the charts. A high octane blend off pop culture awesomeness.