BY MIKE HUNTLEY
While we all know superheroes to be huge box office business at the cinema, they have also been widely successful on the small screen of television since the 1950s with THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN starring George Reeves. From there, BATMAN became a pop culture phenomenon in 1966 with Adam West in the cape and cowl, punching out his famous group of super villain rogues every week. WONDER WOMAN made her TV debut in the 1970s with the lovely Lynda Carter. Even Marvel had success with THE INCREDIBLE HULK on the small screen. Television also had successes with THE GREEN HORNET and the kid superhero SHAZAM!. A SUPERBOY TV series occurred in the '80s. We got an awesome yet sadly short lived TV series for the fastest superhero out there with THE FLASH in 1990 starring John Wesley Shipp as the crime lab specialist Barry Allen, who got struck by lightning one night, giving him super speed and becoming the fast running superhero after his police officer brother was murdered. Superhero television found a hit with LOIS & CLARK: THE NEW ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN starring Dean Cain and Teri Hatcher as the iconic comic book couple, which lasted four seasons during the mid-late '90s. During this time, superheroes became very popular in animation with BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES, SUPERMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES, SPIDER-MAN, and the X-MEN.
After LOIS & CLARK got cancelled on CBS in 1997, Warner Bros. decided to go back to the Man of Steel's early years with SMALLVILLE on The WB starring Tom Welling as the would be Superman, Clark Kent. SMALLVILLE became so popular amongst superhero fans or non-comic book readers that it lasted a total of 10 seasons, the longest running superhero TV series to date. During SMALLVILLE's 10 year run, WB tried other attempts at bringing popular DC Comics heroes to the small screen. The first attempt was BIRDS OF PREY in 2002 that played off of the Batman mythos and characters by having it where Bruce Wayne/Batman and Selina Kyle/Catwoman had a daughter named Helena Kyle/Huntress (The Earth II Huntress. Earth 1 Huntress is Helena Bertinelli and was on ARROW) who was taken in by Barbara Gordon after Catwoman was murdered by a mysterious killer. Barbara Gordon who used to be Batman's sidekick Batgirl had lost the use of her legs after Joker shot her. Then, a young runaway teen named Dinah Lance (who's the Black Canary in the comic books but was the Canary's daughter in that show) joins the team. BIRDS OF PREY only lasted 14 episodes due to fans not liking the show for not actually being a Batman series, and plus it was in a weird time slot. WB's 2nd attempt was AQUAMAN, which starred Justin Hartley as the king of Atlantis, but didn't make it past the pilot. But, this kinda worked out since SMALLVILLE took in Hartley to play Oliver Queen/Green Arrow to basically be Batman's replacement in the wider DC Universe they were building in season 6 since they could not use Batman due to Christopher Nolan not wanting Batman to be used outside of animation and comics while he was making his DARK KNIGHT trilogy.
SMALLVILLE closed its doors in Spring of 2011 with Clark's destiny finally coming full circle and him becoming Superman, which also brought an iconic foe back from the dead with Michael Rosenbaum coming back to play the evil Lex Luthor. Before SMALLVILLE ended, The CW was considering making a show dealing with Dick Grayson before he would become Batman's sidekick Robin, but that was quickly squashed by Nolan and Warner Bros. Pictures. Since The CW did not have the rights to use Batman as the front runner for a TV series due to his popularity in the cinema, they decided to take a character who had previously been introduced to their viewers in SMALLVILLE and use the influence of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, which has been used as a blue print for various superhero movies coming out now to bring The Emerald Archer to the small screen in a much darker comic book reimagining known now as ARROW.
Billionaire Oliver Queen used to be the spoiled trouble making rich kid until he got stranded on an island out in the China sea for 5 years after his father's ship sank, killing his girlfriend's sister who he had been screwing around with. Queen is finally rescued and brought back to his hometown of Starling City. To his surprise, things have changed. His mother is now married to his father's work partner and friend Walter Steele. His younger sister Thea is now a troublesome teen who's into drugs and partying way too much. His best friend Tommy Merlyn is now sleeping with his old girlfriend Laurel Lance. But, Oliver has come back with a mission: to stop the criminals who plaque his city and to honor his father's dying wish by righting his wrongs. But, to do this, he must become something else. After him and his buddy Tommy are kidnapped by some masked thugs, Oliver manages to kill them while his friend lays unconscious. He tells Detective Quentin Lance that a man in a green hood saved their lives. Queen dons a green outfit he had from the island and uses his bow and arrow as his weapon to take down the rich crime lords, drug dealers, and psychopaths that rein the city at night. Things take a turn when his mother hires ex military man John Diggle to be her son's body guard and driver.
Oliver soon brings on Digg as his ally to help him clean up Starling City. Queen battles various villains from the DC Universe such as Deadshot/Floyd Lawton, Count Vertigo, The Royal Flush Gang, China White, and the Dark Archer who will be Oliver's greatest foe yet.He will also have a complicated relationship with another vigilante named Helena Bertinelli/The Huntress who will stop at nothing to kill her mob boss of a father for having her fiance' murdered. Felicity Smoak who works at Queen Consolidated also becomes an ally for Oliver as his computer hacker and gadget maker. While The Hood puts out many fires, the biggest threat is yet to come. A threat that will forever change Oliver and the citizens of Starling City.
Meanwhile, we see what happened to Oliver on the island while flashing forward to the present. On the island, Oliver meets Yao Fei who teaches him how to survive. It turns out that mercenaries are on the island ran by Edward Fyers. Fyers has Queen tortured by a man named Deathstroke and constantly torments him physically and psychologically. Oliver also meets a member of the Austrailian Secret Intelligence named Slade Wilson who teaches Oliver how to fight like a warrior and trains him. Joining Oliver and Slade on the island is Yao Fei's daughter Shado who teaches Oliver how to shoot a bow and arrow. But, just when Oliver, Slade, and Shado think that Fyers is the end of their problem, they realize that there's more to this island than they ever thought.
I absolutely love the first season of ARROW! This has become my favorite show on television besides the animated Cartoon Network series BEWARE THE BATMAN. I think the thing I love most about this series is that it took a very realistic approach with the character. I do remember originally being upset when I found out that this was not going to be a spinoff of SMALLVILLE, but I am so happy that they decided to reboot the character into a heightened real world. There's no super powered characters on this show, but we all know that will change in season 2 with The Flash coming to Starling City, yet the producers are still taking that in a very grounded way in the vain of MAN OF STEEL where we got to see what this world would be like with super powered people in it. But where SMALLVILLE was a telling of a superhero before the costume, this is the telling of a hero who wears a costume and lives a dual life. We do get characters in masks like Huntress or Black Canary. Granted, the hero isn't going by his superhero name yet, but we're getting there. I love that this series makes us comic book readers think one thing due to our knowledge of the characters and yet surprises us by not going that way.It creates its own mythology much like SMALLVILLE did, yet doesn't drag things out as much as that series had done. Arrow hits the ground running. Our hero has allies. He does have a complicated love life. He does have enemies both as himself and as the vigilante.His journey as a vigilante has had huge consequences on his family's life, on his friendship with Tommy, on his past relationship with Laurel, and even on his alliance with Digg and Felicity.
Another thing I love about ARROW is seeing the DC villains make their first live action portrayals. We get Batman baddie Deadshot in the 3rd episode! And the whole thing of him lacing his bullets with poison was genius! We get Count Vertigo who was totally reimagined to fit this series. Instead of being a guy in a cape and wearing a device over his eye that distorts visual perception to make his victims feel dizzy and sick, he's a psychotic drug dealer named The Count and his drug is called Vertigo, which gives people the dizzy effect. We also get another Batman baddie with Firefly/Garfield Lynns. Instead of being an arsonist dressed in a fire proof bug suit, he's a scarred ex fireman who sets other firemen on fire in revenge for them leaving him to burn to death. The Royal Flush Gang who are popular DC baddies. Instead of a rich family literally dressed as playing card characters who have flying cards to get around on, they are a family that lost their home and have to steal to survive and wear masks that have playing cards painted on them. Deathstroke who in the comics is Slade Wilson but here is Slade's partner Billy Wintergreen who betrayed him to work for Fyers. That's not to say that Slade won't still become Deathstroke and end up betraying Oliver and lose an eye. And then we have the Dark Archer/Merlyn. Many fans know that Merlyn is Green Arrow's arch nemesis. He's the yin to Oliver's yang. Batman has Joker. Superman has Lex Luthor. Green Lantern has Sinestro. Spider-Man has Green Goblin. Professor X has Magneto. Arrow has Merlyn. I'm just so happy that they didn't go with the Merlyn that I was thinking they were going to. Great set of villains.
I do appreciate that Oliver and Laurel's relationship didn't take the rocking chaiir routine like Clark and Lana's did on SMALLVILLE, or Peter Parker and Mary Jane's did in the SPIDER-MAN trilogy. In the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance is the vigilant crime fighter Black Canary and has a passionate relationship with Green Arrow. But, it turns out that the producers of ARROW are going a different direction with Laurel being in love with Tommy and someone else being the Black Canary who is connected to Laurel's past and to me actually makes perfect sense and I hope they make her the one for Oliver in season 2. Felicity also has a crush on Oliver, which is obvious. She sorta reminds me of Barbara Gordon with being a computer genius. Barbara Gordon, known best as Batgirl, ended up becoming Batman's computer hacker when she lost the use of her legs, becoming the wheel chair bound computer technician Oracle. But, Oliver does have a brief romance with another vigilante. That vigilante being Helena Bertinelli aka Huntress. In this show, Helena is after her father who was a major mob boss. In the comics, Helena is after the man who murdered her father. I'm not the biggest fan of making Huntress a straight up psychotic FATAL ATTRACTION-esque villain to Oliver. But, then I remembered Faith on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL, who began as a villain but then reformed herself into becoming a heroine. Hoping that happens with Huntress in maybe season 2. She sorta reminds me of Catwoman/Selina Kyle, which is funny because the Earth II Huntress is Catwoman and Batman's daughter. With Huntress and Black Canary on the same show, a DC fanatic like myself could only hope we'd get Oracle so they could form a Birds of Prey team, but that won't happen due to CW not being allowed to use Barbara Gordon and due to the fact that the BIRDS OF PREY series from 2002 failed. They do mention Dick Grayson/Nightwing's new home of Bludhaven, but I doubt they will use him for the same reason, which is a damn shame. I'd love to see this televised DCU be able to do what SMALLVILLE couldn't. You never know, with Fox picking up GOTHAM, maybe, just maybe they could reach a deal to use Barbara Gordon or Dick Grayson. Don't think it'll happen though sadly.
The introduction to Green Arrow's future sidekick Roy Harper, aka Speedy, or Red Arrow, was good. In the beginning, I thought they were going to make it where Oliver's sister Thea would become his sidekick due to her nickname being Speedy but I'm glad that's not the case. Personally, I couldn't stand Thea in this first season. She was the typical whiny rebellious teenager who is into drugs and using her wealth to just party. But, I do like that they took her in a better direction towards the end of the season. Her relationship with Roy changed things. Roy starts off as the street kid who steals to get by. He lives in the Glades, which is the poor side of Starling City in the same way that the Narrows was the poor section of Gotham City in BATMAN BEGINS. Roy kinda reminds me of Jason Todd who was the 2nd Robin to Batman. After Arrow saves him from a psycho who is killing off people in the Glades, Roy decides he wants to fight the criminals and make a positive difference.
Detective Quentin Lance's crusade to take down "The Hood" became a little repetitive after several episodes, but I dug that he started to mellow out and became more of an unlikely ally to Green Arrow, so much so that it almost costs him his job as part of the Starling City Police Department.
Overall, ARROW- THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is a must watch for superhero fans especially if you love characters like Batman. Oliver Queen may have began as a Bruce Wayne ripoff in the comics, but thanks to shows like SMALLVILLE and now with ARROW, Oliver Queen/Green Arrow is his own hero who starts out as a lone vigilante who kills and steals from the richly corrupt and transforms into the hero that was laying just beneath the surface of that Hellacious island.
I definitely recommend you buy this season on Blu-Ray/DVD or through iTunes. You can also stream the first season on Netflix.