‘Arrow’ Is Way, Way Better Than The Promos Would Have You Believe

Everything about Arrow looked bad. It looked like Dallas with more archery and fistfights. Each trailer pretty much just reinforced that it was going to be a train wreck.

And there are some problems. But the pilot is much, much stronger than I expected, and the show itself has some genuine promise. There are spoilers underneath the jump, so the short answer is: Stream the pilot, make your own call, but overall, I found it to be a pleasant surprise.

It’s surprisingly dark, much more than I was expecting. Ollie Queen is not shy about breaking a thug’s neck or planting an arrow in somebody’s chest, but that’s really just the start of things. The end of the episode features Ollie’s father killing a man and blowing his own brains out just so his son will survive.

The show is anchored by Stephen Amell, who it must be said was not done justice in the previews. Amell has been toiling in TV bit parts for years and has real talent, and actually between himself, Paul Blackthorne (who plays a Starling City detective and will be the Captain Stacy of this particular story), and David Ramsey, who brings a quiet comedy to his short amount of screen time, they manage to elevate the material quite a bit. He manages to sell both Ollie as a badass and Ollie as a person with actual feelings.

Which brings us to the two possible problems in the show. First of all, the dialogue on this show ranges from the clumsy and exposition-laden, to the cliched, to the terrible. Everybody in Starling City apparently likes to recount, in detail, things they already know to other people who already know it. The characterization outside of Ollie ranges from cartoonish to flat; when his drug-snorting kid sister whines about how nobody was there for her when Ollie “died”, and by “died” we mean “was stuck on an island where every day was a struggle for survival for five straight years”, you just want him to slap her.

This is manifest most in Tommy Merlin, who is written to be a douche, and, well, that’s it. Colin Donnell isn’t really asked to do much more than be incredibly irritating, and the end result is a character you’ll want to be a pincushion before his first minute of screentime is up. Similarly, you won’t give a crap about Ollie’s romantic life, because you don’t get why he’s even interested in the woman he’s pining for.

That said, the show can be both thrilling and funny. Basically, whenever the characters stop talking and actually start doing things, the show takes off.

It sounds like I’m down on the show, but I’m not. I’m watching the next episode. I’m actually interested and excited to see the next episode. Of a show. On the CW.

I’m even more surprised about that than you.