By: Moira Kirkland & Lana Cho (story)
The Story: Representing a client gets easier if you have a strongman to bully the opposition.
The Review: Did I ever tell you I once had acting aspirations? I should be careful to mention that I never once say myself as a movie star. With my face, mainstream appeal was about as remote as walking from New York to Metropolis: it doesn’t matter how much you work at it, it’s just never going to happen. While I did the usual gamut of improv workshops, community plays, and sketch shows to church socials, I never had success that meant a career change was in order.
Anyway, all this is to say that I can recognize good and bad acting when I see it (although if it’s any good, I’ll be damned if I can actually replicate it myself). Maybe this is a sign of my acute self-consciousness as an actor, but I actually experience vicarious embarrassment for the people on stage/screen when they stink. So far, I haven’t really had (much) cause to do so on this show, but this episode did feature a few cringe-inducing moments.
This may have nothing to do with the actors themselves. I find myself squirming just as much when the scripting sounds silly, awkward, melodramatic, or completely non-credible, and the actors force themselves to make their words sound natural. We nearly lead off with such lines: “Starling City [pregnant pause] is dying. It is being poisoned by a criminal elite who don’t care who they hurt as long as they maintain their wealth and power.” Aside from resembling the vague, impotent ramblings of an Occupy protester, the lines just reek of scriptedness. You can tell it’s written, which makes it less convincing, less capable of keeping you in the show.
I think the lines also suffer from one of the show’s worst habits: making assumptions rather than genuinely developing its stories. Maybe we can get on board the whole “city is dying” bit if we’ve actually seen some actual suffering among Star City’s people. We’ve gotten some highly general allegations (dumping toxic waste into the river, that sort of thing) and poor treatment of certain individuals, but equating that to the city’s demise just sounds like excited doomsaying.
This may be a tall order, but the writers really should try to avoid old superhero hat tricks and use their medium to its best advantage. Instead of reducing Dinah’s role to a receptacle of all dirt “the Hood” (as Ollie’s vigilante persona is getting to be known in some circles—Lord knows why) can dig up, why not poach off the popularity of legal dramas by really making use of Dinah’s job as an attorney? This is just an example where the show has all the potential to be a different kind of CW show, but squanders it by relying on tried-and-tested formulas instead.
Where the show has really distinguished itself is in its humor. This is not the silly, twinkle-in-your-eye humor that usually graces such medium dramas, nor is this the snappy, too-witty-for-its-own-good banter that teen soaps (e.g. Buffy) popularized. The comedy here comes closer to the self-aware, awkward humor you’d find on modern sitcoms. Tommy’s mockery of pop culture in the pilot was a good sample, but Felicity (hot I.T. geek) offers a pretty excellent showing of her own. In addition to the rather awesome slashed-throat noise she makes to Walter when she thinks he’s firing her, she nails lines like these with pitch-perfect timing:
Assuring Walter she can get his task done, “I’m your girl. I mean, I’m not your girl. I wasn’t making a pass at you. Thank you for not firing me.”
Despite its shortcomings, the show keeps earning my confidence by proving that it has no fear of upending the status quo on a moment’s notice, even at these early stages. I won’t give away the ending, but suffice to say, I really thought we’d get a longer spate of episodes before the series rocked the boat by taking that particular direction. The consequences are intriguing, aren’t they?
Conclusion: It’s a bit of a red flag that my favorite thing about Arrow has little to do with its titular hero or his mission, but again, it keeps itself in my interest by consistently trying new, if minor, things.
- Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: - You know, I don’t recall if before Batman Begins anyone even addressed the voice recognition problem for superheroes. Now it makes for a pretty important/awkwardly hilarious part of the filmed superhero genre.
- As a writer, I almost wanted to bang my head against the wall when the show cut from the Lances’ observations that “the Hood” is a killer to the flashback of Ollie’s moral dilemma of killing a chicken. Well, meat is murder, after all.