‘Arrow’ Post-Show Analysis: Season 4, Episode 1: ‘Green Arrow’
It's fall, and we all know what that means: Arrow has returned and the gang's all here. That's right! Ollie, Speedy, Canary, Felicity, Johnny (Diggle), Captain Baldy, This City, they're all back. Everyone except Roy. Roy drove his car into the ocean or something. They return in "Green Arrow," an episode title that gives some indication of where things may end up. The episode is directed by Thor Freudenthal, with a story by Greg Berlanti and Beth Schwartz, and a teleplay by Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle.
The premiere brings the on-screen debut of a brand new season-long baddie, sets up a big mystery, sets up a new-old flashback structure and, guess what, establishes that Ollie's still a jerk.
Matt: Hi everyone, it’s your old pal and notorious Arrow grump Matt Wilson, back again to share yet another season of celebrating the biggest a-hole superhero around, Oliver Queen. And this time, I’m joined by the absolute opposite of an a-hole, my good friend, Chris Haley. Welcome to my spiraling descent into Arrow-based insanity, Chris!
Chris: Wow... I think I get your grumpiness on this show now. So we’re clear, this is the first episode of this show I have ever seen.
Matt: Be glad you missed the first season, at least. Be so glad. For the sake of not sending everyone running for the hills right away, let’s start with some positives, though.
Chris: Sure. I enjoyed seeing WWE’s Stephen Amell on another show! He’s pretty good at acting for a wrestler! I worry about how saving Star City will effect his ongoing feud with Stardust though.
Matt: He is super great at playing a guy who immediately says the meanest thing possible to his domestic partner, telling Felicity, “You have failed this omelet” when she went to the trouble to make him food. What a jerk.
But anyway, positives. I feel like this show has benefited a whole bunch by virtue of The Flash also being on. There’s a really nice sense of this taking place in a superhero universe, and not just because Barry shows up at the end in the cliffhanger we-won’t-let-you-see-who-died ending. The whole thing with the train that new bad guy Damien Darhk plans to blow up to destroy the train station coming from Central City isn’t just a nod to some other DC place. It’s a city we’ve seen in another show. Captain Lance mentions “Flash Day,” which was in that premiere. That stuff is really enjoyable.
Chris: Yeah, apart from wrestling the only place I’ve seen Stephen Amell was as Arrow on those episodes of The Flash he’s shown up in… where he was also kind of a jerk. Let me ask you a quick question, do people like this show?
Matt: According to the comments from the past three seasons of recaps I’ve done, yes. A lot. I’ve been told many times that I don’t take this show seriously enough, and also that smartphones were too invented before 2007, so back off, bro!
Chris: Follow-up question: Why? I’m not trying to be a smart-ass, but since I’m coming in fresh, and this show clearly has a lot of backstory and soap operatics at play, I want to try to get my bearings and understand what it is the people who like this show like about it so much. Do you have any idea?
Matt: I can tell you this: It has improved by leaps and bounds since the first season. It was far more soap opera-like then, and was built around a pretty flawed bad-guy-in-a-suit-of-the-week structure. Now, it’s more of an out-and-out superhero/action show with some CW young-adult drama thrown in.
I can also tell you the things that I enjoy. First, some of the characters are really likable. Sara Lance, who was grossly killed off at the beginning of last season (and is coming back for Legends of Tomorrow) was great. She’s what made the second season the best of the three so far. Dig has always been likable, and a sort of moral center of the show. I’d honestly prefer the show to be about him, even with his new Magneto helmet/MF Doom mask. (MF Dig!)
And lastly, this show does a pretty good job with cliffhangers. I wasn’t crazy about this one, with the mystery grave we’re definitely supposed to believe is Felicity’s in yet another possible fridging of a female character, but on occasion it really gets those right.
Chris: Okay, but none of those things really seem to be the kind of thing that would engender such a devoted fanbase, right? Also, let me be clear before this all sounds too sour: I enjoyed this fine. I mean, it definitely feels like a CW show. “Smallville worked, so why try to reinvent the wheel?” is what I’m sure someone at the network said at some point, but this definitely gave me Smallville flashbacks. This guy is a much better Green Arrow though.
Matt: Like Smallville, this show is getting way more comicsy as it goes, too. I mean, last season was all about Ra’s al Ghul and how nobody could say his name consistently.
Chris: Just like in the comics!
Matt: True. But I feel like the original formula here was taking The Dark Knight onto a Smallville frame, and so that’s how the first season felt. Now, you’ve got Damien Darhk, who really has that name, touching people on the chest and sucking their life forces out before sending bomb trains to blow places up. Say what you will about the structure of the show, at least we get that level of comic storytelling.
Chris: Didn’t some other bad guy with a whole organization of cronies try to blow somewhere up with a train in some other comic movie?
Matt: Oh, most assuredly, though I’m not thinking of it right offhand. I can tell you that this is like the fifth villain on Arrow alone who has tried to attack Starling (now Star) City with an army of goons. The Mayor did it, Slade Wilson did it, Brick did it, Ra’s al Ghul did it and now Damien Darhk is taking the same approach. That’s getting a little samey.
Chris: Okay, so even though we’re already well into talking about this, do you think you can sort of set up the status quo of the show for people who may be coming to this fresh as well?
Matt: I’ll try to keep it brief.
OK, so you’ll have noticed that Star City (which in previous seasons was called Starling City, but it’s been “rebranded” by the group of people that is running it, who I’ll get to in a sec) is in pretty bad shape. We know that because Ollie drives by some slightly dilapidated buildings at one point and gets all out of sorts about it. That’s most likely the result of multiple attacks from Malcom Merlyn (season one’s big bad), Ra’s al Ghul, Brick and Deathstroke. The people of the city have it rough, and their only recourse is to crowd the street with homemade signs like Springfielders.
Meanwhile, lots of mayors have been killed, Within days or weeks of taking office. So no one wants to run for mayor. That’s why apparently the city’s being operated by a cabal of a police captain (not the chief, not the commissioner, just Captain Lance), the comptroller, the district attorney and the head of emergency services. (Why is there no deputy mayor or city council? We don’t know.)
This is the time that our hero Ollie, who defeated Ra’s last season but sort of had to sell his soul to do it, has decided to bow out of the heroics game and go live in the suburbs while Team Arrow --- his sister Thea, Laurel/Canary and Dig, whose crime-fighting technique seems to be “shoots guys” --- go and try to clean up the city’s increasing crime problem, which is getting worst since Darhk showed up with his “ghosts,” who are killing all those people I mentioned (except Captain Lance).
Chris: Team Arrow seems really bad at their jobs.
Matt: A running gag from last season is that Laurel was a terrible fighter until Nyssa al Ghul taught her how to do it. This show loves to make its heroes incapable.
Chris: And people like this?
Matt: I guess there’s some value in seeing the good guys overcome the odds. There’s a lot of odds-stacking against Team Arrow. Take the implied death that ends this episode, for example.
Chris: So Team Arrow is John Cena, ok, I’m starting to get my bearings.
Matt: Oliver Queen is specifically John Cena in that we’re supposed to love him, but he’s absolutely terrible to everyone and sells out his friends all the time.
Chris: Hahaha! Okay, now we’re getting somewhere!
Matt: So do you feel more grounded in what this is all about? Did the island stuff make any sense at all?
Chris: Well, I’m pretty familiar with comics Green Arrow, so I assume that was something similar to his comic origins, right?
Matt: Sorta. Ollie was on a cruise in the South China Sea with his dad when the boat sank, and he washed up on Lian Yu, which translates to “Purgatory.” He was there for the first two seasons’ worth of flashbacks, then last season, Amanda Waller showed up and took him to Hong Kong for spy work. That didn’t work out, so we see him here going around doing some pre-Arrow superheroics when Waller shows up again, makes fun of him for his eye makeup (suggesting that he requires therapy just for being way into The Cure) and sends him back to the island on another mission.
See, they have to get him back to the island because that’s where he is at the beginning of the pilot. That whole gag at the beginning of this one where he’s running through the trees and then it turns out he’s just jogging in his neighborhood? That’s how every season starts. It’s a fakeout in every season but the first.
Chris: Okay, that about wraps Ollie up, now: how about the thousand other people they show in that “Previously, on Arrow” opening? The first person they show is Brandon Routh, who I know is Ray Palmer on this show, but when I saw him my brain went, “Oh! It’s Superman! Waitaminit...” And then there were a million other characters, and I’m pretty sure at one point Ollie was cosplaying as Kevin Costner from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Matt: For Green Arrow, that’s not too weird though, is it? And as an aside, before I get into who the various characters are, did you catch how big of a deal they made him announcing that his name is Green Arrow at the end?
Chris: Yes, which made me laugh out loud, and not just because of that goofy voice modulator he uses. It’s like, why on earth would anyone in that world go, “Oh wow... he’s really a beacon of hope now that he added a color before his name!” That only means something to the people watching the show, because that’s what fans have been waiting three seasons for them to start calling him, but in that world it has no reason to be a “DUN-DUN-DUNNNN” moment, right? I mean, there’s not some significance to the color green in Star City that I don’t know about is there?
Matt: No, but he is pretending to be a whole different person. I’ll get to that in a minute. But yeah, this show was super weird about calling Green Arrow by his name for the first three seasons. In the first, there’s even a scene where someone (Malcolm Merlyn) suggest the name Green Arrow and Ollie essentially says, “Pfft! What a DUMB name!” So he was “The Hood,” then he was “The Arrow.”
Chris: Not as bad as “The Red/Blue Blur” at least.
Matt: I really hated them calling him “The Hood,” though, just because the hood wasn’t even his most prevalent feature. He shoots ARROWS.
Chris: Call him The Green Bow.
Matt: Archer Murderer. Something. (He killed a lot in season one.) Anyway, last season, Ollie got outed as The Arrow by Ra’s, and to save his hide, Roy Harper, a.k.a. Arsenal, posed as the real Arrow and then faked his death. So everybody in Star City thinks the original Arrow is dead, and Ollie is some new guy, despite him looking, sounding and generally acting the same way as the first guy did.
Chris: Oh, okay, so Roy isn't actually dead, even though they show him get stabbed?
Matt: Yeah, he lived, though he basically drove off into the sunset last season. As for the other characters, there’s:
- Felicity Smoak, Ollie’s now-girlfriend and possible fiancee (how great/terrible were those proposal attempts) who used to work for Queen Consolidated in IT and now serves as Team Arrow’s tech specialist.
- Thea Queen, Ollie’s sister who is now Red Arrow.
- MF Dig (John Diggle), an Army vet who is trying to avenge the death of his brother. (Deadshot killed him, but at the behest of Hive, which is mentioned in this episode).
- Laurel Lance, a former assistant district attorney who is now Black Canary after the “death” of the former Black Canary, her sister, Sara.
- Captain Lance, their dad.
- Malcolm Merlyn, who was the big villain of season one, but is basically immortal and now kind of a good guy and also Thea’s biological dad.
And Ray Palmer “died” in an explosion at the end of last season so he can shuffle off to Legends of Tomorrow.
Chris: Why do these shows have such a hard time doing anything like the source material? Sometimes it makes me wonder why they want to bother to do shows or add characters that they don’t seem to have been interested in in the first place. I guess that’s kind of getting into a bigger topic than reviewing this one episode though.
Matt: Yeah, and I don’t really have an answer. Laurel’s real first name is Dinah, if that helps. (I hate that I know that.)
Chris: Haha okay, well I’m glad we sorted that out! So! Want to get into the show itself now?
Matt: I feel like we’ve covered a lot of it just in this discussion of all the backstory. Did anything else really stick out to you? How’d you like Neal McDonough as Darhk? I think he’s generally really good in stuff.
Chris: Yeah, I generally like him too, and he did a fine job here even if he did look kind of uncomfortable at all times. There was one point in that introductory scene where he was talking to the city leaders where he had his arms at his sides so awkwardly I was worried he was in some kind of body cast underneath his suit. Also, how obviously they switched to a stunt double for his fight scene with Ollie was adorable.
Another moment that really made me laugh was when Speedy shot that smoke arrow at the train station podium and it starts smoking weakly and then she said something like, “Everyone leave! It’s not safe here!” because, yeah, it’s not safe because you’re shooting arrows at a crowded public event.
Matt: You don’t think creating panic is a great strategy for a hero? She had another great/terrible moment when she was straight-up about to murder a dude right in front of the police and Ollie has to yell, “Speedy!” to stop her. Good save, bro!
Chris: Hahaha I feel like this show would be a lot more fun to watch with other people, but I also feel like getting other people to watch this show with us would be a hard sell.
Matt: Let’s Skype it for the next episode. Then we can at least laugh next time Ollie punches some criminal in the crotch.
But back to McDonough. Yeah, I don’t think he was at Justified levels here, and he frankly seemed a little bored, especially in the scene where it’s revealed that Captain Lance is (gasp!) working for him under threat of harm. Still, he’s great at being menacing. Even when he’s bored, he’s so much more effective than so many other of the villains this show has had before. Only Vinnie Jones last season, and possibly John Barrowman, are really close in the race. At least him being around for the rest of the season gives me something to look forward to, awkward arms and all.
Well, that and actually having someone around to endure this season with me.
Chris: Misery loves company! I have a hard time imagining John Barrowman being menacing though.
Matt: He did OK, but again, don’t go back and watch season one to verify that.
So now that we’ve laid a groundwork and worked through the premiere’s heavy lifting, I think we’re ready for a speedy (get it, like Speedy) 22 more episodes! We’ll be back next week with the second of those. Will it also be 3,000 words long? Come back and find out!
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