The new Arrow series has started broadcasting. On the one hand, it's a clear successor to Smallville, and on the other, it's a lot more. Spoilers follow.

Arrow is, of course, Green Arrow. Green Arrow's own ancestry is clear - he's part Batman, part Robin Hood, and that's about all there is. However, the character has been around since 1941, and has recently started to surface from the depths of DCs stable of obscurity, with appearances in Smallville, and now his own show.

The first episode was solid - the performances by all the actors were good, there was a bit of development as well as setup, and there was even a nice twist at the end - the outline was basically Hamlet, it seemed, where the hero's mother remarries after his father's death, but in this case, the mother is more involved in the bad side of things than the man she married. There are plenty of calls out to the gathered mythology that goes with Green Arrow, including a mention of "Speedy", his original sidekick, now a nickname for Oliver Queen's younger sister, and the appearance of Dinah Lance, who in the comics is Black Canary.

It's clear that the series is aimed at the people who used to watch Smallville (the pilot was even directed by David Nutter, who directed the pilot of Smallville, way back when). It picks up, tone-wise, more or less where the older show left off, albeit a few tones darker - which suits, since Green Arrow is a few steps toward Batman, not the boy-scout world of Superman. There's none of the high-school stuff of early Smallville, either - the audience is presumed to have grown out of that. There are also already mentions of drink and drugs, and it's very clear that Oliver is going to take a more anarchic, more violent approach than Clark Kent ever could.

However, early Smallville was very much around the Monster of the Week. In this case, two episodes in, there's no sign of a single thing that's not purely mundane - neither the villains (businessmen of shady kinds and their associates) nor Oliver himself have anything resembling a superpower. That interests me; it's still clearly a superhero story, and it'll be fascinating to see how - or if - they work in the various bits of the DC mythology down the line. There's no evidence that I've seen one way or other to suggest that any of the rest of super-powered DC continuity is in place.

Once more, I find myself picking up on visual and thematic references to other stories. There's all the background of the character from the comics, and there's Smallville. There's the Hamlet shape of the pilot episode. But there are also clear inheritances from Lost, and it's not just the island where Queen was for 5 years, it's the bit-by-bit reveal of a layered backstory. I'm reasonably certain, though, that unlike Lost, the actual story is known here, and what look like inconsistencies are being addressed, one by one.

It seemed unlikely, for instance, that a pampered young man, washed up on a desert island, could develop the archery skills Oliver Queen displays. But at the end of the second episode, we see he's not alone there, and the mysterious other figure on the island has a bow. Indeed, he or she shoots Oliver, and thus one of his many scars (shown often in the obligatory shirtless scenes) is explained. It's also very unlikely that Oliver developed the ability to speak Mandarin all on his own, and I fully expect that to be explained down the line.

It's not so much that Oliver is an unreliable or untrustworthy narrator as that he's not a narrator at all; despite seeing things only he sees and even his memories, the point of view is firmly external. Thus far, I'm enjoying Arrow, and I hope it maintains the level of quality it's started with.

Posted by Drew Shiel at October 22, 2012 2:24 PM

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