CW's "Arrow" evokes both Green Arrow and Batman

Green Arrow has had something of a television resurgence in recent years with new generations being introduced to him on "Brave & The Bold" and "Smallville", and now he's headlining the CW's most-watched-ever new show debut. I was excited for the premiere because the creators of some of my favorite things, Marc Guggenheim ("Young X-Men", "Eli Stone") and Greg Berlanti ("Everwood", "Eli Stone") created it.

What they've come up with is sort of a GA/Batman hybrid, heavy on the Batman. The setup is mostly familiar to comic book fans: Billionaire playboy Oliver Queen gets shipwrecked on an island for five years. While there, he becomes an expert archer and a martial arts badass. When he's finally rescued, he returns to Starling City with a list of names of the powerful and corrupt who he must take down as a dark nighttime vigilante. By day, he keeps up the playboy facade so that no one will suspect his true purpose. Unlike either Batman or Green Arrow, Ollie has a family in this version: a dad who was in the shipwreck, a mom who's remarried to dad's business partner, and a little sister he's nicknamed "Speedy".

Stephen Arnell is engaging as Oliver Queen/Arrow with a distinction between his playboy and vigilante sides that reminds me of early "Batman: The Animated Series", and a lot of the watchability of the show comes from him and the other young actors playing his sister, his ex Laurel Lance, and his best friend Tommy Merlyn. (I also love poor doomed Jamey Sheridan as Ollie's dad.) Unfortunately, the villain in the pilot is a cartoony mobster type and the two main police detectives have no personality whatsoever, even though one of them has good reason to hate Ollie (not adequately explained until almost the end of the hour).

My only major complaint is that I hate that Ollie is a killer. As I mentioned, he somehow learned ninja skills on the island, and during a kidnap attempt shortly after he returns home, Ollie deliberately breaks the neck of one of his attackers to keep his Arrow mission secret. I think superhero characters usually work better when they're above that -- Punisher and Wolverine being a couple of exceptions that prove the rule -- and that's especially true of the iconic DC characters. I could maybe forgive the scene if Ollie seemed tortured by it or if there was some indication that he was working to find a different path, but he seems utterly remorseless.

Still, I liked this better than early "Smallville" (not to mention the New 52 GA) and I certainly will watch it for a while and see if some of the characters improve and if maybe it wouldn't kill them to add just a touch of humor. Based on their names, some of the supporting characters have the potential to evolve into familiar names, and as you can see in the trailer above they'll be using DC's Huntress, Deadshot and Deathstroke too.


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