By Conor Plosia
Comic books seem to have become contagious in modern society, from the bookstore to the movie theaters, clothing to TV screens. Some of the first adaptations of comics were on the small screen, and there’s a long-standing tradition of campy TV programs and their loyal fans. But in the age of the Nolan Batman films, a darker, more serious tone has come to reign supreme.
Arrow is a Greg Berlanti and co. production; some will remember Berlanti’s work on Green Lantern starring Ryan Reynolds. The film wasn’t well-received, critically or publicly, and this set back the Warner Brothers and DC Films plan for a larger DC Universe. But Berlanti stuck around DC world and was a driving force for Arrow, which stars Stephen Amell as Green Arrow/Oliver Queen.
Arrow is a dark and realistic interpretation of the classic green-hooded archer story, and it has some striking similarities to the Nolan Batman films: the realistic basis for the show, the father/son connection to the “saving their city” motivation, the love interest is a lawyer from the past, and the rich playboy by day, violent vigilante by night character. But there are important differences, too: there’s a cast of fresh faces, a strong writing team, and decent TV production value – including the cinematography, which captures green light in almost every scene to keep us in the Green Arrow world.
The show utilizes classic DC villains to face off with a humbled and changed Green Arrow. Clearly there is a market for B-level DC Comic characters on the small screen, and the writers are taking advantage of it by incorporating The Flash into the second season. Glee Actor Grant Gustin has been cast as the red speedster, and although he has only been a TV actor for a short period of time, he is climbing the proverbial mountain quickly.
Stephen Amell provides a strong and reserved performance as the title character, a silver-spoon trust-fund baby who got stranded on an island. He promises he will clean up the city his father admits to corrupting (right before committing suicide on a stranded lifeboat). On the island, Slade Wilson/Deathstroke (played by Manu Bennett) trains Oliver, but also gets him wrapped up in a political scandal, and we see the footage of his past experiences on the island interspersed simultaneously with the present in Starling City.
The real conflict of the show lies not between Green Arrow and the villains he has to face throughout his vigilante excursions, but whether or not he feels he should be “saving the city”. He devotes his efforts to his father (who may be partially to blame for the city’s downfall). He knows not whether his efforts are avenging his father’s death or if he’s simply acting out a vigilante’s criminal fantasy. It’s Oliver’s uncertainty that sets him apart from the modern “heroes” of comic books: he is not afraid of murder to save his life. He isn’t living up to anyone’s standard of a hero, something he makes quite clear over the course of the first season.
What does Arrow have in store for its loyal fans this upcoming season? More villains, more plot twists and a new layer for Mr. Queen? The latest press release for the Season 2 premiere, “City of Heroes,” mentions that Oliver has left his Starling City after the events of the Season 1 finale, and now his crime-fighting companions are attempting to have him return and put the hood back on. I can only hope that the new season, premiering October 9th, will be on par with the first.