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Arrow S01E03 – Review

By: Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg (story)

The Story: If arrows work so well against bullets, how do you explain the Spanish empire?

The Review: As a show grows, it usually does one of two things: keep on doing what it does best or constantly trying new things in an attempt to reinvent itself—or perish.  Following my usual pattern of analogizing things to NBC sitcoms, I give you two examples: 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation.  At some point, 30 Rock embraced its weirdness and never looked back, perhaps to its detriment.  Parks and Rec, meanwhile, continues to evolve week by week.

In the end, Parks and Rec remains nearly as solid as it began, while 30 Rock has waxed and waned as it struggles to find new variables to fit into its comedic formula.  Arrow will do well to emulate the P&R strategy.  It simply cannot sustain itself with a weekly pattern of Ollie taking down yet another scummy CEO in an urbanized “Monster of the Week” format.  Thankfully, we see the show continuing to take steps to break up the rut before it digs itself too deep.

The entrance of Deadshot proves that there are bigger foes to fry than corporate honchos, and that greater use of the rich well of DC lore is in the works.  But the writers must be much, much more adept at using that resource if they want to put it to best use.  I dare to say that if Deadshot has any popular appeal today, it’s almost certainly due to Gail Simone’s brilliant conception of his amoral, Dean Martin-esque casualness towards his profession.  We get pretty much none of that here, reducing him to a dangerous, but lifeless marksmanship rival for our hero.

We also see some attempts to branch out storylines separate from the core that is Ollie.  In these instances, the writers make too little effort to deepen the relationships between the supporting cast, making any kind of conflict or resolution among them almost ignorable.  Thea and Moira’s mother-daughter tension is hardly original to begin with, even with their luxurious surroundings, and whatever reconciliation they reach towards the third act works only from Willa Holland and Susanna Thompson’s strength as actors, not from any real value in the scene itself.

Same goes to Tommy and Dinah’s budding relationship.  That they had a fling behind Ollie’s back surprises no one, not even Ollie (making the big bean-spilling in his new club that much less affecting), but Tommy’s genuine affection for Dinah may surprise you.  Actually, “surprise” may be too strong a word; let’s say that it gives you some pause.  After all, we didn’t get to see much of Tommy’s philandering ways to make his sudden vow to go straight all that impressive.

If the show really wants to go in a new direction, it should pay attention to the potential it has set up itself.  Now that Ollie has given the relationship his semi-blessing and he’s come to some kind of understanding with Dinah himself, the show should have the guts to avoid any lame love-triangle nonsense in favor of a long-term friendly trio, with Ollie as odd man out, until an occasion to bring Ollie and Dinah together inevitably arises.

Besides, Arrow continues to demonstrate its willingness to try new things at this early juncture to keep the show from falling into old habits.  The cutesy “we both know what’s going on here, but we just won’t talk about it” thing between Diggle and Ollie finally gets thrown out.  Ollie may have a new flame and ally in the I.T. nerd seemingly too self-conscious of her own awkwardness to realize she has a sexy bod, making any lack of social graces (“Right, but [your father’s] dead—I mean, he drowned—but you didn’t, so that means you can come down to the I.T. department and listen to me babble.”) irrelevant.  Even more interestingly, a strange, but potently tense kind of trust begins to simmer between Detective Lance and the vigilante he’s trying to shut down.  Develop all of these things, and the writers may have an original show on their hands.

Conclusion: Some missteps here, some strong steps there, and in the end, you get an episode as solidly entertaining as the last.  There is a lot of potential here, and unlike in a movie, it’s not too late for the show to capitalize on it.

Grade: B

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: - I appreciate Dinah’s instinctual window-minimizing when bestie Joanne sees her reading the latest news on Ollie’s endeavors.  I’ve had to do the quick-draw minimize myself, although I’ll spare you the inglorious details of what I was laughably failing to hide from whom.

- I was rather taken aback at the woman whom Deadshot shot in the back, but I suppose in a society striving for gender equality, women are just as likely to be injured bystanders as men.

- Kate Bishop used it, Zatanna used it, and now Dinah uses it, and still the use of “self-defense classes” as an explanation for being able to nonchalantly take down trained thugs with no sweat rings as false and lame as ever.

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8 Responses

  1. What’s wrong with the “self-defense” class explanation? Its legitimate. You learn how to defend yourself and deal with guys who may try to hurt you, like street thugs. How is that not a good explanation?

    And hey, Zatanna kicking butt is never something I mind, although I suppose with the way her magic is portrayed she could afford to have a weakness of some kind…

    • I think my general disagreement with the “self-defense class” bit is that it’s often used to explain how an otherwise ordinary person can suddenly fight back against experienced thugs and, more often than not, trained martial artists.

      I did like that Zatanna had some physical skills beyond her magic. It’s just prudent, if you ask me.

      • I thought it was awesome that a) they had “Laurel” displaying such hand-to-hand combat skill already in these early episodes and b) that they don’t paint her as a dummy, she read Ollie and what he already knew about her and “Tommy” with a lot of ease.

        Now, don’t ask me why or what she sees in Tommy, except that this is the CW and we need a little romance and drama. And also we need an origin story for Tommy to become Ollie’s nemesis. I just hope that for the sake of her character and my patience they don’t drag this romance for too long on this season.

  2. Good review.

    I don’t think Deadshot is dead for a couple of reasons. First, he’s WAY too significant a character/potential foil for Green Arrow to kill off this soon with NO character development.
    Second, one of his tattoos had the name “Andrew Diggle”. Later in the episode, John Diggle’s sister-in-law refers to the murder of his brother. No way is this coincidental.

    I’m liking this show a lot more than I thought I would… so far.

    • I’d love to see how the show explains Deadshot’s resurrection, but yes, I’m sure you’re right that he’ll come back.

      I completely missed that connection between Andrew Diggle and John Diggle’s dead brother. Great catch!

      And yeah, it’s surprising how this show is turning out. I really thought it would be a drag to watch it from week to week, but I actually sit through it very pleasantly.

      • Awesome spotting on the Diggle connection. Deadshot is too big of a character to die off so quickly. I was kind of disapointed with the overall delivery of Deadshot in this episode. The promo pictures ended up looking much better than the final product on screen.

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