By: Lana Cho & Beth Schwartz (story)
The Story: The awkward moment when a father and daughter realize they’re after the same man.
The Review: In all my television-viewing years, I don’t remember a time when the WB (now CW) had a real, big hit on its hands. It never had a beloved sitcom like Friends or an anchor drama like Law and Order. If the network ever won an Emmy, it was rare and far in-between. Seeing as how I’m in the business of guessing at things I have no direct experience in, my theory is that WB/CW shows never really manage to take risks that break them free of old formulas.
Arrow provides an interesting case in point. A mix of different genres, it doesn’t really excel in any one, nor does it manage to balance its various stories well. The characters generally feel like second-grade, cookie-cutter carbons of other, more famous figures. The show often seems to take plotlines from a recycle pile of stories, gives them a good buffing, then integrates them into an episode. It all comes across as vaguely knockoff, like clothes from Gorgio Armooni.
At bottom, Arrow is a superhero show trying to disguise itself as a semi-serious thriller. It reveals its true colors, however, by the cartoonish way it portrays its villains. Cyrus Vanch, recently freed from detention despite his connection to “human trafficking, drug running, racketeering, and at least 52 different homicides,”* goes to his lawyer’s house and offers him a hug, stabbing him to death as he does so. It makes you more inclined to laugh than anything else, which is a problem because it doesn’t feel like the scene is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.
All this tends to make Starling City’s finest look hopelessly inept. I have a problem with the fact that neither Dinah, an experienced attorney, nor her dad, a skilled detective, can get anywhere in without Ollie’s illicit help. This episode actually attempts to explain away some of that by revealing to Det. Lance the corruption within his own department, but that still doesn’t change the fact that both Lances end up resorting to a call to the Hood to get their work done.
If the show has a strength, it’s the same one shared by a lot of its CW peers: warm, casual moments between its twenty-something-year-old characters. As Tommy escorts Dinah to a food and wine tasting, she informs him she’s even wearing her “fat pants” for the event.
“I don’t want to know what those are, do I?”
Granted, the humor is simple and mostly silly, but it’s also about the only time the show achieves something resembling normalcy, or a tone that feels credible and convincing.
Sometimes the line between bad acting and bad writing gets very blurred, but my sense is that Arrow’s actors are fine, but struggling to sell the heck out of some very unconvincing scenes. The moment Moira threw the notebook Ollie confronts her with into a fire should have set off all sorts of alarms for him, but instead, he stubbornly insists to Diggle that he “knows her,” repeating “She’s my mother,” in a defensive way that only makes Ollie sound like—and there’s really no nice way of putting this—an idiot. I suppose that’s the only way Cho-Schwartz could rationalize Diggle investigating Moira on his own, although it’s troubling that the show can never allow one character to have a big moment unless it’s at another’s expense.
Conclusion: Although the show’s increasing integration of its cast and various genres provides some potentially interesting moments, “potential” is very different from “actual.”
– Minhquan Nguyen
Some Musings: * While I appreciate the use of the number 52 as a DC reference, that is a preposterously high number of kills for anyone to escape without evidence in the modern world.
– I do like Ollie’s reaction when Tommy reveals that Dinah’s been working with the Hood: “What? You’re letting her work with that crazy person—she can get hurt, Tommy!” He might as well have added, “I can’t believe you, you selfish jackass—my God, don’t you even care?” As they say, the best defense is a good offense.