ARROW: Season 2 Review
The CW’s ARROW is quite possibly the best superhero/comic book adaptation to hit television in, ever! The makers behind ARROW, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg, successfully merge the commercial elements for creating a successful franchise, with the fanboy elements which make the origins of said franchise stays true to its comic book roots. And they do all this without being bound by the limitations of that very same medium. In terms of artistic liberty, the makers use the content from the comics that serve their story, even if ‘that’s not how it actually happened’. And it’s brilliant.
The show features billionaire playboy Oliver Queen’s return to society, 5 years after being presumed dead, only to reveal that his time was spent on a mysterious Island. As he reunites with his family and picks up where he left off 5 years ago, it becomes apparent that he has another agenda, that he isn’t the same man who shipwrecked on that Island. The storytelling and narrative format of ARROW is genius, using a split narrative of present day, and the 5 years on the Island using flashbacks. It’s almost like having two distinct narrative stories running concurrently through out each episode; sometimes the flashbacks connect to what’s happening in present day, other times it’s a separate story that plays out over a span of a few episodes.
During an almost death bed confession after being shipwrecked, Oliver’s father tasks him with the job of cleaning up their corrupt city, something that apparently his father had a hand in creating. So Season 1 of ARROW focused on this mission of Oliver’s, his transformation from a douchebag player to the somber and serious crime-fighting vigilante that he must become. Most of it playing out like a teenage soap opera, as expected from THE CW, with jilted girlfriends, a secretive mother, a spoiled sister, a judgmental best friend and a knowledge that the people around him aren’t who they seem. It took a while, but eventually the Series grew to be an original story with engaging storylines each week, and never settling on its laurels, or repeating the same formula again and again.
After carving out a murderous path of corrupt beaurecrats that led our hero to more questions and a devastating loss of a loved one, he swore never to kill again. This was a very important supplement on the usual Origin story. Superheroes are always shown to be uber righteous right from the get go, but there is never any progression of logic or circumstance to get them to that point. MAN OF STEEL did a great job fleshing that out for the superhero archetype, (my Review here) however, most TV Series adaptations of the same genre fail to provide that key element in a hero’s development. It’s also a continuous battle for Oliver not to revert back to his murderous ways, as Season 2 deals with. With the resurfacing of a long thought dead enemy, Oliver is challenged on every front; physical, emotional, and intellectual… never quite being able to match the brute’s strength. While contemplating ending this villain once and for all, its the show’s very own version of The Scooby Gang, who has to continuously bring him back from the brink and remind him why he vowed never to kill again. This ‘killing’ theme is further punctuated by Oliver’s girlfriend, and the TV Show version of Black Canary, Sarah Lance, who herself justifies killing her enemies, while Oliver opposes that viewpoint.
Season 2 of ARROW deals with a lot more mature themes such as this. Betrayal, death, secrets and revelations have become a cornerstone of the show. In a way, this mirrors the comic medium a lot. Just when you thought a character was known, a crazy twist connects their story to another sub plot that was never before imaginable. It’s a great achievement of the show to be able to blend comic book concepts so easily in a live action TV Series format. The comic book source material helps, as incarnations of everyone from Black Canary, Deathstroke, Ravager, Solomon Grundy, The Huntress, The Flash, The League of Shadows (Assassins) and a whole lot of others make appearances during key storylines of the show as well. Despite these hardcore references to comic book canon, the show is still left very accessible to newcomers as a generally dramatic show, without being overburdened by source material.
ARROW also happens to be the one show I’ve experienced in recent times, that diverges so far from it’s initial procedural format, without being convoluted. No one episode follows a pattern of story, no ‘villain of the week’, while still maintaining a conclusive story to each episode, a moral and a theme that ties itself into the story and pushing the story and characters forward in a way that’s engaging, relevant and incredible to watch unfold. Stephen Amell has taken brooding to the forefront of television, and includes himself in the annals of legendary brooders such as Russell Crowe. Amell also has the uncanny ability to cry, in the manliest manner ever, out-machoing any other onscreen crier on television. The supporting cast of this show is too good to be true. Every character is written in a way that leads true depth to the show, while not letting them become caricatures of themselves. The realism in a show dealing with super strength villains is something that Nolan’s Batman Franchise has brought forth, and here’s hoping it’ll stay.
Season 2 provides a conclusive end to one chapter of Oliver’s Queen’s Green Arrow character, known in the show only as ‘Arrow’. However, there is still 3 more years of Oliver’s life on the Island that needs t be accounted for. This is also another built in concept for the show, giving at least 5 Seasons worth of material for them to write in, as the show continues. Not to mention plot lines and possible other story lines that have already been mentioned and set up as existing in this world, however, not fully explored, such as R’as Al Gh’ul, the corrupt and criminal city of Bludhaven, the tie ins to the new Flash TV Show, and least of al is the covert spy organization known as ARGUS, which was shown to have definite ties to Oliver’s past in the Season 2 Finale. ARROW’s writing has to be THE best TV Series writing that I’ve ever experienced. Adding to that how the makers also utilize comic book characters to fit the story of this Universe makes me wonder why these guys aren’t in charge of creating a cohesive shared universe between the other DC Superheroes. Although, with the premiere of THE FLASH coming next Season, looks like they are.