Arrow: 101 Pilot Review
Reviewed by James Wynne
Note: I have never read the “Green Arrow” comics, so my reviews will be based purely on the series itself.
Arrow’s first episode is – if you’ll excuse the pun – a bit hit and miss. It doesn’t bother wasting too much time throwing you in to the action, with an opening montage of Oliver Queen free-running through the wilderness of some Island and eventually coming upon the boat that will rescue him from his own private hell. This ‘origin’ part of the episode is all dealt with before the show’s title card is even brought out, and this did have me worried that the details of what went on during the five years he was absent would be left well alone, in favour of him hurriedly donning his Robin Hood-like guise and fighting Starling City’s ‘bad guys’. Instead, the episode does detail some of what went on – utilising the flashback formula to do this.
This is where the episode definitely hits its marks. After the boat that Oliver, his dad, his dad’s friend and Oliver’s girlfriend’s sister are on has capsized, in a manner not that dissimilar to the Titanic, only the former three are left alive – drifting in the open waters. It’s at this point that Oliver’s father, Robert, chooses to divulge his secret; he’s not who he says he is. We don’t find out exactly what he reveals to his son – only that the nature of it prompted his dad to take his own life, and his mystery friend’s as well. It’s obvious this ‘secret’ will feature as a part of the series’ main narrative, with Oliver acquiring a list of people from his father that need to be dealt with. One name that appears to have been left off is Oliver’s own mother, Moira.
About midway through the episode, Oliver and his friend Tommy are abducted by a gang in a van. Tied to a chair with zip ties, Oliver is questioned about what happened to his father and anything his father might have told him before he died. It’s at this point that the episode really goes off the boil. Insinuating that he will kill his attacker, it’s pointed out to Oliver that he is tied up and therefore unable to do anything of the sort. Lo and behold, he pulls both hands from behind the chair, with a smug, “Not anymore”. It’s a ridiculous contrivance, it really is. He had no sharp tools on him (we see both hands are empty); we see that his hands are firmly tied together; there is no visual indication of him making the slightest bit of effort to get out of them – it’s as if the ties just melted away. What follows his mystical escape is an extremely laughable action sequence. Three men with guns, given fair warning that this armless guy is now loose, and not one of them lands a single shot. After taking down two of the guys, using one as a shield against the other’s bullets, he’s standing there as the easiest target in the world and the last guy chooses to run in the other direction. So, cue the chase down narrow hallways, with the fleeing tyrant turning round to shoot plenty of times, but continuing to miss. Then, he takes his shot while Oliver is running across a walkway just up ahead, and still fails to hit his marks. He’s worse than my mum on Call of Duty. Of course, he runs out of bullets after all of this, and has his neck snapped for his troubles – “Nobody can know my secret”. It seems not a single effort was made to portray this as a convincing escape, with the focus instead on making Oliver’s feats look ‘cool’. It does worry me slightly. If the series’ creators can’t think of an actual explanation for him getting himself out of zip ties, and deflecting bullets better than Superman, just how much will they struggle with the series’ bigger plot developments?
It turns out that this gang of kidnappers were hired by Oliver’s own mother. It’s an intriguing revelation, but I can’t help but wonder why it’s been revealed so soon? Moira didn’t feature in more than a handful of scenes, and considering we’re just getting to know these characters, the impact of her being involved in the same dark deeds as Oliver’s father is considerably less than it should be.
The episode’s second action sequence is also a cause of frustration. After deciding to deal with someone on his list, Adam Hunt, Oliver confronts him and his goons in a parking bay. Taking them out, he then draws close to Adam – in fact, they’re faces are inches apart. Concealed by nothing more than a hood and some crude face paint around his eyes, Oliver goes unrecognised. He’s a billionaire; his face is one of the most recognisable in Starling; it’s barely covered up by his hood and Adam still doesn’t have a clue who is staring him in the eyes.
Best Scene: “What’s Twilight?”
I liked all the references to modern television and film – stuff that Oliver’s not been around for. However, as someone who is – shall we say – less than fond of the popular vampire saga, Tommy’s response to Oliver not knowing what the hell “Twilight” is – “You’re better off not knowing” – was one hundred percent appreciated.
Verdict – 5/10 (Average)
It’s the action that really lets this episode down – and there’s a lot of it. The choreography is way off the mark and even some of the redeeming character drama feels a little superficial. The series has some definite potential and its approach isn’t that far off – it’s just the finer details that need to be worked on.