October 10, 2013

THE SKED Season Premiere Review: “Arrow”


ARROW:  Wednesday 8PM on CW

ARROW didn’t lose a step in its second-season return, with little sign of the season-premiere-itis often afflicting serialized shows that have to dig themselves out of the plot twists forced by the previous season’s finale.  The potential was there, since the episode began with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) having renounced his superhero-ness, a road that we knew would need a U-turn in order for the series to continue.  But the script, by Arrow co-creators Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim (story by the remaining co-creator Greg Berlanti), loaded in enough intrigue to keep the hour hopping while we got there.

Some months had passed since the Season 1 finale’s destruction of The Glades, the low-income section of Starling City that had been targeted by evil mogul Malcolm Merlyn, now deceased, with some reluctant help from Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson).  Moira’s last-minute confession had saved some inhabitants of The Glades, but hundreds still died, as had Oliver’s best friend and sometime rival Tommy Merlyn–inconveniently, soon after Tommy had seen Oliver in the arms of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who’d been the true love of one or the other over the years.  Wracked by guilt, Oliver returned to the island where he’d learned his Arrow skills, but quickly enough, he was brought back by cohorts Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards).

Oliver returned to a Starling City with more than a few changes.  His club was now being run by his sister Thea (Willa Holland), with boyfriend and amateur crimefighter Roy (Colton Haynes) among her employees.  Laurel had switched from Legal Aid to the DA’s office (and no longer wanted romance with Oliver, at least not this week), while her father Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) had been demoted from detective back into uniform.  Queen Consolidated was on the verge of being taken over by Stellmoor International and its steely-eyed head of acquisitions, Isabel Rochev (guest star Summer Glau).  And, of course, there were a new passel of criminals causing havoc in town, vigilantes who modeled themselves after “the Hood” and sought vengeance for the destruction of The Glades.  No sooner could you say “Thea’s been taken hostage!” than Oliver had put on his Robin Hoodie and picked up his high-tech arrows.

For an hour that was necessarily heavy on exposition, the script and the direction by John Behring kept things in constant motion, including mercifully quick flashbacks to Oliver’s original time on The Island (we get it, it made him who he is today) and a few seconds of the new Starling City vigilante who will presumably turn out to be Black Canary.  The big change this season appears to be the decision to reduce Arrow’s body count by having Oliver preserve his victims for arrest rather than killing them.  That kind of family-friendly move isn’t necessarily a bad one (making its protagonist less lethal didn’t hurt Terminator 2), but hopefully won’t water down the intensity of the show’s action, which added a couple of strong sequences in the premiere, especially an assault on Queen Consolidated that gave Oliver a swashbuckling rescue of Felicity.  The episode also ended with the Big Moment of Oliver deciding that as he forsakes killing, rather than being known as “the Hood,” he’d rather be… cut to the series logo.

Arrow is an example of a show finding its proper tone and voice over the course of a season.  Starting off with far too much Island time and a fixation on Stephen Amell’s shirtless calisthenics, the series developed its ensemble (with especially strong support from Ramsey and Rickards, who wasn’t even supposed to be a regular at first), found a sense of humor, and relaxed into more serialized plotting.  Right now, it’s doing the superhero thing a lot more effectively than Agents of SHIELD, which so far is really about just two of its characters and structured as McGuffin-of-the-week stories–although in fairness, SHIELD is just getting started itself. Arrow will certainly be around for a while, as one of CW’s few legitimate hits, and is being used this year as lead-in to The Tomorrow People, itself a series that in need of some creative growth.  Its start-up pains behind it, Arrow seems capable of holding its bow for some time to come.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."