Antonio, Gordon, and I return to review the next five episodes of Arrow season 1 in the next installment of the Basement Road Show AV Club. It’s like a book club, minus the clothes? Well, technically, you can stream Netflix from the comfort of your own home wearing as much or as little as you like. Again, we are reviewing the beginning of the show Arrow to see how far the show has come or fallen. In case you missed it, check out Episode 1 of the Basement Road Show AV Club.
Danno: Where episodes one through five had very fast pacing and kept the story moving forward, I feel at least episodes six through eight slowed that pacing down and detracted from the main story arc to focus on getting Oliver to fight actual crime, like stopping bank robbers, and then the two-episode focus on the Helena/Huntress story. What do you think about that?
Gordon: I think what it really comes down to is the biggest struggle — and why you’ve seen a lot of especially streaming networks go away from this 23 episode format — is that it’s just too much content. There has to be this weirdly elastic pacing where sometimes it’s break neck, other times it’s really slow because they’re ultimately trying to load out that time.
Antonio: I think that there needed to be some slow down on it. Introduce some more characters and try to develop the existing characters as far as their personalities and what-not. My personal big issue is the whiplash. It goes from “Oliver’s killing everyone, stop it” to “Oliver doesn’t believe in killing anymore.” I think he kills the one guard when he’s getting kidnapped and that’s about it. And that is a huge tonal shift. In the Helena/ Huntress arc: “Oh yeah, killing is bad and what-not.” Like i said, huge whiplash considering what we’ve already seen.
Gordon: I do agree that the Helena arc is super jarring and very hypocritical. It seems once the introduce Diggle, they want to try and build up Oliver’s moral compass and kind of solidify that very quickly. And it just comes across as unearned. We have the episode with the Royal Flush gang. We’re trying to build up that, “Okay, you’re going to go fight street crime now. And we’re not gonna kill people or we’re going to try not to kill people and redeem them.” And immediately the next episode, he’s like, “Yeah, Helena, we don’t kill people here.” And it’s like, “Dude, we’ve just watched you for like six episodes. Come on, we know what’s going on here.”
Danno: To somehow make up for the slowing that we feel in six through eight, episode 9 really kicks us right back in and escalates things very quickly with the introduction of the Dark Archer and the reveal of his identity as Malcolm Merlyn. Do you feel that maybe they revealed this too soon, or — given the character’s history in the comic books, was it smart to go ahead and get the reveal out-of-the-way?
Gordon: So this is kind of interesting. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the comics, the Dark Archer is Arrow’s take on the Merlyn, who’s really the Green Arrow’s biggest nemesis. He’s the classic Marvel Cinematic Universe villain of: he’s like the Green Arrow but bad. In the comics, actually, his identity — who he actually is — is tommy. Tommy is the Merlyn in the comics. So I thought this was actually really interesting, in that they establish Tommy as a character. Anyone who’s read the comics is like, “I wonder if he’s going to become the Merlyn one day, and we’re going to have the deal with him.” And it’s just like, “Psych, why do you think we hired John Barrowman?! Here he is. So actually, I really liked the reveal at the time. Now, I’ve seen so many seasons of John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn that it loses a bit of luster. But still, I really like the character. It is interesting that they reveal him so early on, but you definitely are already getting the sense that Malcolm Merlyn is up to no good. So I think it sort of fits with what they’ve established so far in the story.
Antonio: So I’m coming at this from a different perspective because I’m not familiar with the Green Arrow comics, really, the Green Arrow as a character — aside from this show. Don’t get me wrong, John Barrowman’s great, but I think it’s a little bit too fast. I think there could have been a couple — maybe an episode, maybe two more — of the Dark Archer being the menacing villain.
Danno: In episode nine, the fight between the Dark Archer and Oliver is (in my opinion) incredibly shot and comes off as terribly brutal against Oliver. Maybe I’m a bit of sadist or something, but I really enjoy fights where our heroes get beaten down. I think giving our hero a seemingly insurmountable challenge raises the stakes of the battle. Gordon, what our your thoughts on this fight?
Gordon: Big fan! I agree with you. I like seeing the hero lose or at least be in a situation where he has something he has to work towards and overcome. And I think it does a good job of setting two things. Number one: Oliver up to this point, he’s had all the answers. And he’s been able to just get by by being so incredibly skilled. This is the first time he finds someone who’s tougher than him. And two, it does a good job of setting up that this is the big villain. Everyone he’s fought up until this point has been chump change. This is now the real deal – someone who is really gonna test him as he moves forward. I love that part. And yeah, the way it is shot — the choreography and everything about it is great. Especially archer versus archer. I’m a huge bow geek. I think archery is super dope, so getting to see two people duke it out like that is really cool.
Antonio: I don’t think the fight was that much of a beat down, as far as the entire fight goes. Yes, it ended poorly for Oliver’s favor, but I think a split second decided that. And maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m just really analytical about things, but I feel that if Oliver replayed the fight in his head even once, he’d be like, “Okay, let’s take this opportunity to learn and grow from it, and be ready to kick his ass next time. But he just kind of sulked, and I’m not a big fan of that. But the scene in and off itself: chef kiss, it was beautiful.
Danno: In these episodes, I’d say the best actor — or at least the one I enjoy watching the most — is definitely John Barrowman. The way he delivers his lines and interacts with other characters is both menacing and mysterious. He’s already been revealed as the man behind the evil plan to some extent, but I still want to see him and known more about his character. Antonio, would you agree with that, or is there another actor in the cast in these episodes that really stands out to you?
Antonio: I think that John Barrowman does a fantastic job at setting that pace, if you will. We know that something’s going on. We know that Malcolm has got some cards he’s holding close to this chest. He’s not necessarily what he seems. That is one of the things I enjoy about him being the Dark Archer, and being unmasked as the Dark Archer. He’s playing the political long game, but also he’s got the skills to take Oliver in a fight. And that combination of things I feel is going to make him a great villain.
Gordon: I feel like there’s a lot of the hype around John Barrowman. I do really like John Barrowman, but he’s probably one of the most experienced and well-known actors on the show. I think someone, who probably gets overlooked a bit — as far as their acting performance — is definitely the guy who plays Detective Lance. I think part of it is just because his character is an easy character to hate especially in season one. but I think he does a really good job of delivering a lot of emotion and power behind his lines — very believable. You really feel like his character is dealing with all this bottled up emotional trauma and all these feelings he has toward Oliver and his family because of what happened to Sara. I really like a lot of his performances especially in these early episodes.
Danno: Talking about who we think is a good actor, I’m going to move to the other side of that spectrum. In episode eight, Oliver and Helena are standing Sara Lance’s gravesite, and they both — to me — look so stiff as they deliver their lines. I notice in other episodes, Stephen Amell delivers certain lines with this same stance, where he’s got his hands as fists and they’re sitting still at his sides, almost like he’s flexing his biceps. I realize not everybody talks with their hands like I tend to do. I’m actually taking with my hands right now, but something about the way he holds them just seems way too stiff and fake. Antonio, what do you think about that?
Antonio: You touched on Oliver and Helena, and I think it’s the other side of that coin that has the bad acting. I feel like her casting choice and the way that she portrays her character comes off as really hammy. I feel like almost everything that she did, almost every line that she delivered felt a little bit more played up than it needed to be.
Gordon: I think the biggest thing that stands out to me is they’re trying to sell this relationship between Oliver and Helena that’s starting to develop; this spark or chemistry or whatever you want to call it. And I don’t feel anything looking at it. I don’t feel there’s any sort of chemistry. What they’re trying to sell me, it’s just not there at all. And I do think that comes a lot from Helena’s actress, who I genuinely don’t feel is particularly strong in these episodes. I know she does come back in later seasons and I think it’s a bit better — if I recall — when she does. But in these first few episodes, I remember thinking, “Wow, this is who they got to play the Huntress. This is just disappointing.” This is a really interesting lesser-known character the comics. And I was really not a fan of this arc for that reason.
Danno: This has been the Basement Road Show AV Club. Join us next time, we’ll be talking about episodes 11 through 15. Let’s see what the continuing adventures of Arrow are.
Gordon: Okay, but hold on, real talk here. So when Oliver gets shot by the Dark Archer, and Diggle somehow gets him to the hospital and cleans him up, he tells them it’s been a motorcycle accident (despite the fact that he had two arrows in his back). I mean, what is going on in Starling City?! Does it just happen to be the perfect mixture of all the people who are literally the worst liars ever mixed with people who are also the most gullible individuals ever? I mean, Oliver doesn’t even come up with good excuses. “Oh, sorry, my liquor distributor called. I guess I have to leave the family brunch. Sorry about that, mom.” Like who believes this? Who’s like, “Sorry your liquor distributor had an emergency and you have to leave in the middle of brunch.” I mean, what the hell?! Who would think that this is a viable excuse? And no one thinks like, “Hmm, maybe we should just figure out where Oliver spends his time.” Like no one thinks like, “Hmm, there’s something fishy here. I bet we could get to the bottom of this.” They’re all just like, “Well, at the very least, if he is a lying asshole, he’s just an asshole. Who cares?”
Arrow is a television series developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow, created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. The series premiered in the United States on The CW on October 10, 2012. Arrow follows billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who spent five years shipwrecked on Lian Yu, a mysterious island in the North China Sea, before returning home to fight crime and corruption.