Arrow: Pilot Review

Oliver Queen was a rich playboy, then he was stranded on a deserted island for five years. He returns to “his city” with a new found similarity to Robin Hood – green hood, bow and arrow and a grudge against a list of names whose wealth he promptly starts redistributing.

My first pilot of the American 2012-13 season, one I was rather looking forward to at that, and it turns out to be rubbish. There was so much wrong with this pilot it’s hard to know where to begin.

1) The casting. Relative unknown Stephen Amell manages to faintly remind you of a lot of other people while singularly failing to have much of a presence at all. He often seems to be aiming for Christian Bale’s Batman/Bruce Wayne, but unfortunately he principally reminded me of Chris O’Donnel’s Robin/Dick Ward. Meanwhile the rest of the cast is equally budget despite crying out for people who could bring depth and subtlety.

2) The characters. In Stephen Amell’s defence he was trying to play about half a dozen different characters, maybe if the writers pick just a couple of them, he’ll have an easier time of it. The rest of the characters are also straight out of the cliché pile, fun loving best friend, dad’s creepy business partner moving in on conniving mother, grizzled police detective etc etc. The only sparks were the younger sister, who got the only realistic feeling speech of the whole thing and the bodyguard who was saved from being inflicted with terrible dialogue because mostly he just raised his eyebrows.

3) The plot. Do you know anything about Batman? Then you know the plot of this.

4) The detail. Outside of the plot is all the ‘gubbins’ that links the plot together, filling in between the beats that the story needs, getting characters from A to B and filling in backstory. It’s rubbish. I wasn’t clear on whether the guy had been on a desert island by himself, or in a ninja training camp. It wasn’t that I found that an interesting mystery, I just assumed it was pure ineptness on the writers’ parts. Oh and as for someone who is plastered all over the news disguising himself by wearing a hoodie… don’t get me started.

All of these factors are beautifully highlighted in the stunningly horrendous narration that you can hear a bit of in the trailer above and runs the whole way through the pilot. The charisma-less actor delivers the entire thing in that flat, emotionless drone without the faintest indication of any coherent character. As the voiceover isn’t going to be used to add a route to the character’s inner thoughts and emotions, it’s left just explaining the plot, which isn’t necessary as everyone works that out within the first 3 minutes. It’s just an energy draining monotone rambling over the top.

I don’t even know who this was trying to appeal to. I’d assumed it was going to be a bit “Batman for teens”, but the complete absence of any sense of humour rules that one out. The plot and lack of talent meanwhile kills it for ‘grown ups’. Maybe if all you want to do is look at a nicely sculpted bloke without his top on this would work, but there’s ways to get that without having to put up with the awful dialogue. It’s dull, it’s predictable, it’s badly put together and it is completely and utterly lacking in both coherence and fun. Mind blowingly rubbish.

Arrow starts on Sky 1 on 22nd October

Other Reviews
I’m apparently entirely alone, most other critics seem to think it was marvellous.

TV Addict – The pilot does an admirable job of balancing action sequences (of which there are several), romance (the seeds for a juicy triangle are planted) and the kind of dysfunctional family drama one might expect to find on a show like REVENGE.

Clique Clack – I went into the pilot for CW’s ‘Arrow’ with expectations of it being pretty awful and full of teen angst. As it turns out, it’s none of that, and so far it’s the best pilot I’ve seen for the 2012 fall season.

Huffington Post – “Arrow” doesn’t reinvent the superhero drama for television, but it reminds you how much fun a straight-up rendition of the classic elements of the genre can be.

The Upfronts – The CW

After a brief delay I finally get to the last of the channels to announce their line up – The CW. The network continues to fill it’s schedule with teen-friendly monsters, superheroes and teenage angst. I’m not judging mind you, I’m quite partial to those genres.

What’s out

Another clean sweep of cancellations of things I don’t watch. One Tree Hill bowed out after nine seasons, while H8R, Ringer and Secret Circle didn’t make it to season 2. I thought Secret Circle looked ok for the teenage witchy thing that it was, but Ringer’s pilot at least was so badly written and cheaply produced that even Sarah Michelle Gellar couldn’t make me give the show a chance.

What’s Back
The only show I actually watch on the CW is Supernatural, which is renewed for its 8th season, but to be honest, I haven’t actually watched much of season 7 yet due to the somewhat relentless misery of it. Gossip Girl is also renewed for its 6th and final season (the first couple of series were a guilty pleasure, but I didn’t go back to it). The Vampire Diaries is another massive hit for the channel, but I didn’t get past the worse-than-Twilight pilot. Nikita is also renewed, which I didn’t watch because I felt I’d probably be better off watching Alias if I was going to watch something like this.

Also renewed are the new version of 90210 (if it doesn’t have Luke Perry in it, it’s not worth watching) and Hart of Dixie, which I thought was awful. Left hanging a bit longer is The LA Complex which I haven’t seen yet.

What’s New
Arrow – Based on DC Comics’ Green Arrow series, the trailer looks to be doing exactly what it needs to be doing, a reasonably dark and gritty “Batman light” type superhero seeking vengeance thing. Just with a bow and arrow. I’m not exactly excited about it, but I am intrigued.

Beauty and the Beast – Beauty is a detective, Beast is a doctor with Hulk tendencies. there’s not much to go on in the trailer, the only opinion I can really have at this point is that it overuses power ballads.

Emily Owens, M.D. – Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter – a label I’m sure she never gets tired of) stars as a slightly quirky new doctor. I like the actress a lot (she’s been in The Good Wife and short lived Off the Map) but I think the internal monologue voiceover and perky backing music may be more than I can take.

Cult – people are becoming obsessed with a TV show, and the show now seems to be spilling over into the real world. The synopsis is mind twisting but original and interesting, the trailer (this poor quality one is the only one I could find and it may not stay around long) looks weird, creepy and intriguing. This is definitely one of the shows I’m most curious about for the new season.

The Carrie Diaries – a prequel to Sex and the City, describing Carrie’s transition from suburbia to Manhattan. No trailer is available in the UK, so I’ve no idea about this. But not being a fan of Sex and the City or of anything set in the 80s, I’m not optimistic.

The Futon Critic
The CW official site
TV Addict – Snap Judgements