Monday, July 28, 2014

Midway through Arrow, season 1

When I went to a Nerdist Writer's Panel, Moira Kirkland, who works on Arrow, said something along the lines of, "Well, it's on the CW, so no matter what else is going on, our main characters have to go to a party in the third act." Which got a big laugh AND is also pretty accurate to what I've seen. Mostly, I watch the show at the gym.

I'll say this for it: Arrow makes very motivating gym watching. (It's right up there with Kacy Catanzaro's qualifying run for American Ninja Warrior.)

Before I watched an episode, I heard that Arrow was good, though a little heavy on cheesecake. To be fair, the cheesecake was a little more even-handed than usual, with Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen) sharing top-billing with his abs. Also, given the fact that WB/DC haven't had any luck with anything but the Christopher Nolan Batman movies--and the general success of more mopey YA literature--it's no surprise that this version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is awfully po-faced a lot of the time. Has he always been so emo?

(Also, it's funny to me to see so many actors who I recognize from other beloved and often short-lived nerdy tv shows. I'm curious to what extent casting for these roles is about getting a person that the audience will already recognize.)

But all that to the side, I'm surprised by how interesting and fun the show is. Who knew that a superheroic riff on Robin Hood would have such staying power? Of course, that's part of the appeal today: when we in our own world have to deal with massive inequality, the idea of a rich kid going after the criminal wealthy has a certain obvious resonance.

The Batmanization of Oliver also has some clear appeal, since so much of the story revolves around family issues: Oliver lost his dad and is dealing with a mother with secrets and a younger sister with issues; his best friend has trouble with his dad; his ex-girlfriend has issues with her mom and dad, etc., etc. Very smartly, all of these individual problems are interwoven; for instance, Laurel Lance's dad is a cop, so in addition to their family issues, both of them have issues with Oliver Queen AND with the Hood.

(Though I should add that I'm especially a fan of family complication stories. For instance, Smallville was not a great show by any measure, but every time Clark and his father had a heart-to-heart about their relationship, I sat up.)

So we have universal family problems, plus contemporary issues.

And some mystery. Rather than just give Oliver Queen a mind-altering exile on an island, the show has wisely made the island a big part of the story. Call this the "Lost-ization" of the show: while Oliver's life as superhero of Starling City goes on, we sometimes get stories of what happened to him on the island and what he did. Which nicely combines the pleasures of the origin story (watching a soft rich kid learn about the hard things) with the pleasure of a superhero quest/mystery story (where Oliver tries to clean up the city).

Also: there's always some big party with pretty people. So there's that going for Arrow as well.

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