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Arrow - First episode reviewed

Arrow

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 2 out of 5

ARROW represents one of the biggest new hopes on American TV, not least because its creators will be looking to translate the success of the recent glut of superhero movies on the big screen to the small screen. But also because it represents another DC Comics character who could form part of a planned Justice League movie should Zack Snyder’s Superman reboot Man of Steel take off.

However, on the evidence of the first episode the producers have their work cut out. The pilot was stupidly entertaining in places, yet just plain stupid at others.

It also didn’t help by conforming to the new casting technique of applying pretty faces to major roles (a la Vampire Diaries and its ilk) regardless of acting ability.

Hence, Stephen Amell in the central role of Oliver Queen (aka Arrow) demonstrated little in the way of charisma or emotional range, despite looking imposing physically whenever he got his shirt off. Can we really go the distance with a central character devoid, so far, of much personality? Amell is no Christian Bale; more a Dean Cain in waiting.

The same can be said for much of his supporting cast. Katie Cassidy, as potential love interest Laurel Lance, is bland and just ever so slightly annoying; Colin Donnell’s best friend Tommy is slick, smarmy but so far joyless, and Susanna Thompson and Colin Salmon as, respectively, Oliver’s mum and step-father just seem to be villains in waiting, and erring towards the pantomime.

Of course, it’s difficult to truly judge the show on the strength of its first hour given the requirements of set-up and character building. There was a lot to get in, as Oliver Queen returned from five years on a mystery island (during which he was presumed dead) vowing to right the wrongs being done to ‘his’ city.

In amidst all that, there’s back story involving his father’s role in his city’s corruption, numerous bad guys, a potential love triangle between Oliver, Laurel and Tommy and a last act twist involving his mother that revealed her to be Oliver’s biggest adversary.

But the big question remains whether we’re hooked enough to care given the volume of returning shows and new starters about to commence? The answer, sadly, errs more to the side of ‘no’.

There were other problems too. Although based on another popular DC character, Arrow conforms somewhat rigidly to the comic book template and, in particular, the worlds of Batman and Superman (with Oliver serving as another Bruce Wayne type, and Laurel a clear Lois Lane in waiting).

Given the success of the big screen incarnations of the former, especially, is there really room in the market-place for someone not offering anything different, and who is doing the same thing to an inferior standard?

The action is solidly executed and there’s a dark under-current and a cold-blooded brutality under-pinning proceedings that could be worth sticking around to see developed (although the 8pm time slot seems generous given all the bullet-riddled bodies and arm and neck snapping). But one suspects that this will be the type of show that treads a very careful line between remaining teen-friendly and possibly catering for an older demographic.

As such, Arrow feels like inferior comic book making by numbers and that might not be good enough to sustain its run (even though it has now been picked up for a full season in the States).

Arrow airs on Sky Living on Monday nights from 8pm.