Dave, Antonio, Gordon, and myself join together to bring you the first episode of the Basement Road Show AV Club. We watch things and talk about them. It’s like a book club, except we don’t talk about postmodernism. To celebrate the ending of the show Arrow, we have gone back to its humble beginnings starting with the first five episodes to see just how far the show has come… or fallen?
Danno: So guys, what do you think about the premise of Arrow?
Gordon: I think it’s got a really strong sort of introduction. It really establishes itself well. A lot of shows, especially in their first season (I think) – it’s going to take a while to sort of get going and really set what the tone is. But Arrow kind of gets after it right away. Oliver’s back, he’s got the list, and he’s going to shoot rich people with arrows.
Antonio: Yeah, something I do appreciate about the show is – and correct me if I’m wrong – but I feel like when this show hit networks, there wasn’t really anything like it; as far as the dark, gritty, seedy underbelly of hero shows; where you see somebody who’s kind of fallen, and they are the vigilante, if you will. As opposed to the guy coming in to save the day. You’ve seen some origin stories like Smallville showing the character come up, but nothing necessarily like the character being on the darker side of vigilantism.
Danno: Speaking of Smallville, one thing that Arrow definitely differs from it would be the pacing of the show. Smallville – I think – had a very slow burn to it, whereas Arrow, as Gordon said, it really sort of jumps you right in and gets things started.
Gordon: Yeah, I think one of the things that works for it is that you establish this list of people that he’s kind of going after, and he doesn’t even really understand why in these early episodes. But it gives sort of the villain-of-the-week sort of mentality that you might find in other shows, especially other CW shows that have come out. Supernatural started this way. But it gives it a more immediate purpose. You can definitely feel from episode 1 it’s working towards something and it’s moving very quickly, even with other elements starting to get introduced. In these first five episodes, we see Walter starting to get suspicious of Moira and what she’s doing. We see the introduction of Malcolm Merlyn, John Barrowman’s character. Already, tons of moving pieces and a lot of things that wet the appetite and make the audience want to keep watching.
Dave: I feel like, again, piggy-backing off of that: they also start to give us teases of other really, really big DC characters really early on. Right in the opening scene, we see Deathstroke’s mask. We see Deadshot in episode 3. These are fairly popular, well-established characters from different parts of the DC universe that they’re bringing in for this.
Danno: And speaking of characters – looking at just the main characters that we meet even starting in episode 1 – what do you guys think about those? I know, we have a lot of honestly really strong characters that all play a vital role in this first part of the story.
Antonio: So, I’ll go ahead and say that I would totally watch a two or three season show just about Diggle in Afghanistan. I would totally watch a show about Ollie’s mentor on the island. I’d totally watch a show about him. A lot of these characters that are introduced do their job very well. They establish who they are, their motives. They make you care about the individual characters, not necessarily about how the interact with Oliver. And I think that’s great, and that puts those characters in a position that makes us – not necessarily empathize – but want to know more.
Gordon: Yeah, totally. I think something that a lot of shows tend to struggle with in the early episodes that Arrow doesn’t is trying to define their cast and really establishes for the audience: here’s what our characters are about. I think a lot of show runners tend to sort of think: we have these supporting characters and they’re sort of a blank slate and we’re just going to see what happens with them. Whereas Arrow – from the get-go – you know who Tommy is from pretty much the first episode. There’s no way you don’t have an idea of: here’s his archetype, here’s what his motivations are, here’s what he’s trying to do. And same goes to all the characters. Laurel is really great; she has a lot of really good scenes early on. Even charters like Moira and Walter, they all have their own motivations and their own personalities that really shine through really well.
Danno: So let’s talk about the stunt work and the action sequences in these first five episodes. Anything that stands out that you guys want to specifically talk about?
Dave: For a CW TV show, which is not a super high budget channel or production or whatever, the choreography is significantly better than it has any right to be.
Gordon: Honestly, this is better stuff than some of what Netflix ended up putting out with some of the Marvel shows. I’d rather watch these fights than I would watch any of the fights in Iron Fist, to be honest. Definitely something to be proud of, and I believe they ended up winning some awards actually for some of the stunt work and choreography in the first few seasons. Really, two: what I like about it is they do a lot of different stunt work. It’s not just fights, but they’re doing parkour work. They’re doing other stuff with that and it’s pretty well-shot for the most part too.
Danno: Well-shot, but sometimes using a lot of cuts, which I know is something we see even in movies now-a-days. You do a ton of cuts in order to make the stunts a little bit easier to film, rather than doing something with a wide-angle lens and actually having a straight shot with stunts happening on it. It’s much easier to do a bunch of different small shots, but that can – at times – hinder the impact of the stunt work.
Gordon: Yeah, I think where the cuts really hinder the show is, honestly, during the flashback sequences when you combine it with that sort of goofy shaky-cam plus filter that they seem to put on everything.
Antonio: Oh yeah.
Dave: I feel like they do that shaky-cam in the flashbacks to try to let us know: he’s on an island. Everything is rough. Everything is bad, but it definitely works to the shows detriment, I feel like.
Antonio: So, the flashback sequences in the first four episodes when the camera is really shaky and everything visually looks like you’re sick, those instances were when Oliver was not in a great place. And once he gets a chance to collect himself a bit; it’s not really shaky, it’s not really that bad visually. I think it’s there to show: he’s just in a bad place.
Danno: Does anybody want to talk about Stephen Amell’s narration through this show?
Gordon: Oh boy, do I ever! So, I don’t think Stephen Amell’s a bad actor. Although, he’s certainly grown a lot since this first aired. But I don’t know if it was the director or someone just said, “You’re not allowed to inflict any emotion or personality into this narration at all. You just have to read the lines in as wooden a way as possible to convey what’s going on here.” And it’s just bad. It doesn’t add anything to the story. It doesn’t sound particularly good. It sounds like something that was come up with after the fact and recorded after the fact. And it just doesn’t work at all. And I’m glad that it is something that mostly (spoiler alert) disappears from later seasons.
Danno: And any comments in regards to – this show has a lot of action sequences and in those sorts of things, you get a lot of sound effects, a lot of foley work of things smacking into each other – any comments regarding the different sound effects that the show Arrow uses in its fights.
Antonio: So, I just have a brief thought on that. You do see in episode 3 and 4 – I believe – Oliver gets into a melee battle with his bow as a weapon; (first off, who brings a bow to a knife fight) the really bamboo sound. It sounds like something you’d hear in a Japanese six grade kendo class. Just two bamboo swords thwacking against another. And I don’t think that’s the sound that really should be played there.
Gordon: Yeah, I would agree. And also the sound effects whenever he draws his bow and knocks an arrow and fires: they’re all very over the top and exaggerated and don’t sound real.
Dave: I feel like they’re also really loud in the sound mix.
Danno: So that’s what we thought about the first five episodes of Arrow. Join us next time, we’ll be talking about episodes six through ten.
Antonio: Okay, but seriously. I just want to talk about something real quick. Does no one in this entire ass show know how the fucking law works? Even Laurel says in episode four, “I didn’t become a lawyer to break the law.” But seriously, every fucking episode, she breaks the law. Just fourth amendment rights being trampled on every single episode. Illegal seizures, illegal confessions, confessions under duress, even illegal – like on the train scene, where Oliver gets the evidence from that guy. Even that’s just illegal as shit because there’s no warrant involved. At one point, Laurel’s like, “Oh wait, a polygraph’s not admissible in court.” Bitch! Everything that you’ve done in this show is not admissible in court because you got that shit so fucking illegally. And no one says anything about it because no one – even the lawyer – hasn’t gone to fucking law school!
Danno: But she looks good doing it.
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.