The CW's new Green Arrow TV show premiered last night, and they basically threw in everything. There's the love triangle. There's the tortured brooding character, on a dark mission that involves not wearing a shirt. There's a long stint on an island that's so thick with plot twists, the show actually name-checks Lost. And yet, it all mostly worked: Oliver Queen is a badass again.
The pilot starts off with a man in a green hood skittering his way along a series of rocks to get to a mountain peak. On the peak, he turns and fires an arrow into a pile of sticks on a beach, and they explode like they're a mobster's car. On the ocean nearby some men on a fishing boat see the explosion and say something in Mandarin to each other that must translate to, "Hey look! There's a huge explosion. Let's sail towards it," because one scene later, the guy is rescued. (But not before we pan over a Deathstroke mask with an arrow through an eye hole. Deathstroke!)
The man is Oliver Queen, who was believed to have perished in a shipwreck along with his father, Robert Queen, and sundry others, whom we'll get to later. In a hospital room, Oliver looks out of a window as his mother, Moira, talks to a doctor. The doctor tells her about his injuries, which include multiple fractures and "scar tissue over twenty percent of his body." Let me tell you, people, nineteen of that twenty percent has to be from his ass to his knees, because we see the rest of him and it looks just fine. CW superhero show fine. Moira walks up to Ollie and talks to him. He turns. The audience jumps back and cowers because he has now adopted the creepy detached serenity of a serial killer who is still rolling his last victim's tongue around the inside of his mouth before he swallows it and tries to speak. He will continue to act this kind of "normal" for the rest of the episode. Strap in, folks. Moira, for some reason, seems reassured, and hugs him.
In the next scene Oliver is being driven to his home in America in a car with what I believe are British Columbia license plates. When he gets in he grabs a mysterious box from the car and greets various staffers, including a maid named Raisa who he seems close to and who — let's hope — is his Alfred. He then turns to find Walter Steele, his dad's business associate who happens to have the name of a Green Arrow villain from the comics. He greets Walter with his bone-chilling smile and eyes that seem to be on stalks staring out of the pit of hell, and turns to his mother with the slightest change of expression which clearly means, "Why is this man in my house?" She giggles nervously and asks if he wants to go out to see a production of Hamlet that night (not really) — but the moment is saved by Oliver's sister, Thea, coming down the stairs. For the first time Oliver takes on an expression that doesn't inspire terror, and hugs her warmly. He ruins the moment by whispering "You were always with me," and mothers across America clutch their babies a little tighter without knowing why.
We cut to an office, which we are told is a legal aid office by two bantering, extremely-casually-dressed young lawyers. One lawyer, named Laurel Lance, explains that they're going after someone named Adam Hunt! He's bad! But he has money and they don't! Just then a broadcast interrupts their banter. I wonder what legal aid office has a constantly blaring television, but the two women just drop everything to watch TV and learn that Oliver Queen has been rescued. He was presumed dead, the reporter says, after having been lost at sea with his father, and a woman named . . . Sarah Lance.
Over at the Queen residence, dinner is going even worse than can be expected. Tommy Merlyn (another villain in the comics, but here Ollie's friend - Or Is He?), is explaining that Ollie missed such and such teams winning the Superbowl, a black president, "And Lost? They were all dead. I think."
Ollie nods and smiles because dead people on an island are so funny to him, randomly makes some remarks in Russian like a normal person would at a family dinner, and then says, without expression, "I didn't realize you wanted to sleep with my mother, Walter."
And it's official. Oliver Queen's first on-screen kill is dinner-table conversation. Moira awkwardly explains that she and Walter are married, and that they didn't do anything that would disrespect Ollie's father. Ollie says that he's fine with it, and then asks to be excused in such with such roiling creepiness that you can actually hear the other actors peeing on the floor a little.
To further prove his fineness, Ollie sleeps shirtless on the floor in front of an open window in the rain, flashing back to the night the boat sank. He's in the sack with Sarah, when suddenly the entire cabin turns upside down. She looks up at him blankly, and then gets sucked out towards the water like someone had taken hold of her ankles. Which, during the course of filming that scene, someone probably did. Next thing Ollie knows, he's in the water and his father hauls him into a lifeboat.
The next day, Tommy comes to take Ollie around town. Ollie wants to see Laurel. Laurel, as it turns out, is not thrilled to see him, since he was dating her when he snuck off on a boat with her sister. She starts off pretty polite, and talks to Ollie about the Adam Hunt case, with him warning her that Adam Hunt is a big deal, and she might not want to get involved. Ollie gets to the point and tells her to blame him for the affair with her sister. She informs him in no uncertain terms that she does blame him for that, and for much more besides. She wishes he had died instead of Sarah.
She shares that opinion with the mysterious people who kidnap Tommy and Ollie in the next scene, killing a bystander in the process. Ollie flashes back to night of the shipwreck again. His father, in the raft, is feeding him water, over the protestations of the other man in the raft. Ollie's father yells that if only one of them survives, it's going to be Ollie. The other man doesn't look happy with this, and I can't say that I blame him. Ollie wakes up and is tazed by people asking him what his father told him. "He told me I'm going to kill you," Ollie says. I swear to god, he actually says that. And then he follows through, because this isn't Smallville, where a supervillain will obligingly kill himself or fall into a coma or lose his memory. This is Starling City (Yes, not Star City. Starling City. Why? I don't know.), and superheroes kill here. They don't, however, keep a close watch on their unconscious best friends, and the way that those friends open their eyes a little too quickly.
The kidnapping has two main results. The first is that Ollie tells a police detective that a guy with a green hood saved him and Tommy. (The police detective is a complete asshole in ways that are inexplicable until you learn his name is Quentin Lance.) The second is Ollie gets a bodyguard named John Diggle (I expect named after Andy Diggle, a Green Arrow writer), who he either ducks or knocks out whenever things get interesting — and who is therefore completely irrelevant to this episode.
The plot for this particular episode arrives late, and it arrives inside the mysterious box that Ollie brought with him from the island. It's an old book full of names, one of which is Adam Hunt. What follows is the scenes most often seen in the trailers for the series. Ollie attacks Adam Hunt and shakes him down for money. Adam doesn't pay, so Ollie steps out on his own welcome home party to attack Hunt in his office building. (On the way he fights Constantine Drakon, another villain from the comics.) In a clear example of class warfare that I have to say the old goateed Ollie from the comics would have hated, he kills all the body guards, but leaves the rich guy who started all the trouble alive and unharmed. He does, however, shoot what I can only describe as a Hacker Arrow into the guy's wall, which subsequently transfers $40 million from Adam's account to the accounts of the people suing him. (The lead plaintiff is a D. Didio. Well-played, DC.)
Ollie heads back to the party where he has a quick conversation with Laurel (she still hates him), Tommy (he does everything but slap Ollie and announce that he knows everything, but Ollie just smiles at him with his dead-eyed serial killer face), Detective Lance (Ollie messes up and pretends he doesn't know Adam Hunt, even though he mentioned Hunt to Lance's daughter), and finally his sister Thea.
Thea, whom Ollie gave the nickname Speedy, is on drugs. (Roy Harper: "What the hell, people? I was on drugs for like, one issue in 1971. Will you never let this go?") When Ollie spots her buying them and tells her to leave the party, she does something that, upon reflection, makes her the most endearing character on the show: she whines like a family dog tied up outside an ice cream store. She whines so much, she should have her own vintage. She whines like a fly trapped between two panes of glass. This kid can whiiiiiine. This is a seventeen-year-old billionaire heiress with a, by all accounts, loving mother, and a brother who has spent half a decade as a castaway saying how she did "the best I can do, with what I had to work with." Ollie just steals her drugs, dumps them, and wanders on.
At last we come to the final scenes of the episode. The ones that should be ended with the music going, "dun Dun DUN!" Most series would be happy with one — but Arrow is so jam-packed, the pilot fits in three. That's just how this series is.
The first scene invovles a man I don't think we've seen before coming down some steps and saying, and again, this is actually what he says, "The police haven't identified the men I hired to kidnap Oliver, and they never will." The only way saying all this would make sense is if that guy is actually a police officer wearing a wire in order to gather evidence against the other person in the scene. That person is . . . Moira! She turns away saying that it's okay. She'll find another way to find out what her son knows.
The second is another flashback to the raft. The other man has commandeered the rest of the supplies and rations them out while holding a knife. This would have been a good idea, except the supplies won't feed everyone, and Ollie's dad brought a gun. He shoots the man, then turns to Ollie and tells him to survive, then shoots himself.
And the third is Tommy and Laurel meeting up in an alley. Tommy smarmily talks about how they hooked up while Ollie was "dead." Laurel says that it was a mistake, and now she has a purpose. She walks off, and the camera pans up, showing that Green Arrow has been listening in from above like a big psycho-killing, green-eye-shadow-mask-wearing stalker. Tommy yells after Laurel, "Dinah Laurel Lance, always trying to save the world." Dinah Lance? In a Green Arrow story? Get right out of town.
In the end, I liked this more than I was expecting. I only really like Green Arrow when he's Shaggy Beardo, a politically belligerent forty-something and DC's last surviving hippie. And I still think that using that character would have made for better and more original TV. But though Arrow has the usual usual klutzy exposition and over-the-top melodrama that CW superhero shows have, I like the fact that they're keeping up a mystery regarding Ollie's time on the island. I like that they packed the episode full of everything they could possibly think of. And I'm hoping they actually have Deathstroke appear somewhere in the series. If he does — he better have a goatee.
Next episode, though, it looks like the villain is China White, the villain in Andy Diggle's Green Arrow: Year One. We'll see what she has to offer.
And if you'd like to see our beginning estimates of Arrow, check out this episode of We Come From the Future. We definitely got the abs right.