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The CW’s ‘Arrow’ Is A Fun, If Predictable Ride [Review] [SDCC]

Out of the five new television series pilots that Warner Bros. world-premiered Wednesday during Comic-Con’s preview night in San Diego, The CW’s Arrow received the most boisterous response from the packed crowd at Ballroom 20. I’d wager that it was partly from Green Arrow comic book fans reacting to seeing their favorite characters live on-screen, but even without any prior knowledge of the DC Comics characters, Arrow stands on its own as a slick, well-paced action-drama television pilot.We’re introduced to Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) in his iconic green-hooded garb as he spryly navigates the terrain of a seemingly deserted island. He’s a man who’s clearly been transformed from the billionaire, tail-chasing dude-bro that we meet in flashback sequences scattered throughout the pilot. We quickly learn that Oliver was involved in a shipwreck in the South China Seas with his father and a few others, including a girl named Sarah Lance. Oliver’s the only survivor to be rescued five years later and we see him struggle to return to the playboy lifestyle that his friends and family expect of him. Stephen Amell does a great job of balancing the vigilante with the young playboy alterego. I imagine that a number of audience members won’t mind his many shirtless scenes, either.

The character introductions in Arrow come fast and furious. There’s his sister Thea, who apparently is coming-of-age and learning how to party. Moira, his beleaguered mother, has remarried to family confidant, Walter. Laurel Lance is Oliver’s ex-girlfriend who just happens to be the sister of the girl who died in the shipwreck. Tommy is the best friend who can’t wait to take Oliver back into the world of money, booze, and girls.

It’s a fairly predictable cast of archetypal characters, which is probably my biggest quibble with the pilot. The plot moves at a blistering pace, which is great for keeping the audience engaged, but also doesn’t allow much time for us to grow attached to any of the characters or see any depth of personality. However, being that it was simply the pilot episode of a television series, it’s easy to give the show a pass for not spending too much time dwelling on the supporting cast.

People have likened Arrow to a television version of Batman Begins and they wouldn’t be too far off. The show plays Green Arrow’s origin story very dark and seriously. We catch glimpses of what kind of horrors that befell Oliver five years ago with the shipwreck and the time he was forced to survive on that islands. The Oliver Queen that emerges from the rescue is a driven man dead-set on righting the wrongs in Starling City. Unlike a certain other billionaire playboy-turned-vigilante, Green Arrow has no compunctions about killing to achieve his goals.

The action sequences are well choreographed and received enthusiastic cheers from the crowd as Oliver Queen acrobatically dispatched of masked goons with a series of martial arts maneuvers, arrows through the heart, and my personal favorite, the old neck-snap kill. There were some light moments in the screening too, like when Tommy tries to catch Oliver up on current events. A reference to the ending of Lost got the crowd chuckling as did a reference to the Twilight series that had many people whooping and applauding.

Oliver: Which girl?
Tommy: The one that looks like the girl from Twilight.
Oliver: What’s Twilight?
Tommy: Maybe you’re still better off not knowing.

Arrow does a good job of setting up an ongoing television series with enough elements of mystery (What happened to Oliver on that island?), drama (Will he get back with his old girlfriend, especially since she is now dating his best friend?), and goals (Oliver’s dying father hands him a black book list of corrupt white-collar criminals to catch) to drive further episodes. Fans are also treated to an “a-ha!” moment at the end of the pilot when Laurel Lance’s full identity is revealed. Above all else, the show is a younger, modern take on Green Arrow that should be well worth your TV time come fall.

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