ARROW TV REVIEW
by Jen Frankel
After a violent shipwreck, billionaire playboy Oliver Queen was missing and presumed dead for five years before being discovered alive on a remote island in the Pacific. When he returns home to Starling City, his devoted mother Moira, much-beloved sister Thea, and best friend Tommy welcome him home, but they sense Oliver has been changed by his ordeal on the island.
It remains to be seen of course if ARROW will please the fan boys in the long run. It has a lot of the elements that the lovers of the Batman franchise demands: dark visuals (literally speaking), a hero with a "very specific set of skills," and portentous lines intoned with extreme seriousness.
Will it be enough, though, to change the minds of fans of SMALLVILLE who lobbied against the absence in the cast of Jason Hartley as Oliver Queen? Canadian Stephen Amell has credits, largely on Canadian shows like Heartland, and a slew of featured roles on major American network shows.
The premiere of ARROW didn''t go too far to show me he has a lot more going for him than killer abs, though, but it's hard to judge. ARROW takes itself very seriously. It's hard to see it mixing up the emotions, like showing a little humor once and a while. We're already dealing with a dead dad whose image has been tarnished by corruption and/or accusations of the same, by an ex-girlfriend still wounded by young Queen's infidelity with her sister, a laundry list of enemies to be punished, and a mother who may be homicidal.
It's all heavy stuff, but I'm not entirely sure it will be either interesting or engaging in the long run. There are just too many tropes here: the young man who has been "changed" by his time away while everyone thought he was dead, the secret identity taken on to fight crime and bring justice to a whole city, the super-amazing physical abilities gained also in secret and also while away, and the big left turn taken by a former compassionless playboy. It's a bit too Batman, and a far cry from the nuances given the character in the SMALLVILLE take.
It's good to see Colin Salmon (Resident Evil, Prime Suspect - UK) a phenomenally talented and charismatic British actor, in another regular series role, and he plays well opposite show wife and Queen's mother Susanna Thompson (Once and Again, Star Trek:Voyager). They have some fine angry chemistry, and there's a potential there for some messy plot development and misdirection.
Katie Cassidy gets a lot of attention, for fan boys because of her stint as "Ruby" on Supernatural and for the more mundane because of roles on Melrose Place and Gossip Girl. But she does bring real life to what's often a thankless kind of role: the girl in the hero's life who has to stay ignorant or risk losing the romantic tension.
The presence of a sister for Queen(Willa Holland, another Gossip Girl alum) ups the potential ante too -- will she be an ally or another person he must keep in the dark?
If ARROW can find its own way, out of the Batman cliches and into its own identity, it might find an audience. Otherwise, the only ones who will watch are those who just can't stand that Nolan is finished, and can't get enough of the guy in the shadows with the hate-on for baddies.