Over the past decade, many super hero TV shows have been launched, and many, if not all, have failed. Heroes had a successful first season, but famously collapsed under itself for an unremarkable finale, The Cape lasted on NBC for a total of 10 episodes, and David E. Kelley’s Wonder Woman was never even picked up.
The superhero genre has worked across many other mediums, yet has had a difficult time finding its voice on television. So when Arrow was announced in May, no one really talked about it. This serialized superhero drama based off DC Comic’s Green Arrow which will be airing on The CW has all of the necessary ingredients to fail; but by the time the pilot airs, people will be talking.
Arrow stars Stephen Arnell as Oliver Green, a twenty-something son of a billionaire. After spending five years on a desert island after surviving a devastating shipwreck that also took his father’s life, he returns home to see his world changed. The city his father built is run down, his mother has married a new man, and his child sister has grown up to be a drug addicted party monster. Armed with new-found survival skills and a list of men responsible for the demise of his city, Oliver Green takes on the identity of a mysterious caped man to take down those who have wronged him.
While the synopsis checks off every single superhero cliché in the book, the show takes a very gritty, yet soap operatic, take on the genre. The pilot is paced almost perfectly, ping-ponging between necessary exposition and excellently choreographed fight scenes.
Arrow breaks down the wall of quality between itself and other network superhero dramas with how expensive it looks. The CW has always had a very low budget feel, even with flagship titles like Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, yet Arrow could easily run on any of the “big four” networks and no one would bat an eyelash.
Some of the jokes fall flat (still making Twilight and Lost jokes in 2012) and a few characters could easily be eliminated or brought on later. To make a strong pilot, the show must achieve three things: set up a universe, create conflict and be self contained. Arrow passes all three with flying colors. Now let’s just hope it keeps up this momentum, or even survives longer than any other superhero show.