The final pilot that I managed to see in the recent 4 day weekend of fandamonium that is FanExpo was Arrow, the newest show based on a DC Comics superhero character after the end of Smallville which chronicled the story of a young Clark Kent as he grows up to become Superman. Many attempts to get something else off the ground in television have been tried since the success of that show and so naturally they are often compared to Smallville and I am sure that many will be in the years to come. Attempts were made to do a Smallville spinoff of the Supergirl character which appeared on the show, as well as an unconnected Robin story which follows the same formula of a young Dick Grayson before he came to be trained by Batman. All of which seem to have fallen by the wayside. So the fact that Arrow managed to make it as far as it did is something of a feat in and of itself.
What I think contributed to Arrow getting itself off the ground is that it didn’t try to trade off the success of Smallville in the same way that previous superhero origin story attempts have. Despite the fact that the character of Green Arrow appeared in Smallville and would eventually become a main character in its final years, Arrow doesn’t seem to take the easy way out. It cast new actors in the roles of Oliver Queen and Dinah Lance when it could have easily brought them over and pleased the fans of both Smallville and many comic book fans as well, but it didn’t. The show attempted to stand on its own and tell its own story in its own way. For that, people should be grateful.
This is not to say that I am not a fan of the idea of a shared universe or that I don’t want to see what I like about characters I have followed for a long time represented on screen. I do. But as a writer I understand that this isn’t always the best way to go. Part of developing a TV show or a movie which has a built in audience is making sure you don’t alienate any potential new fans you can create by telling a story not steeped in too much history. That’s one of the fundamental lessons of a show like Smallville. The story of Superman is not a new story, people know the origin and they have seen it represented in so many different ways. Smallville took what that history and gave it a different tone, a different viewpoint, and weren’t afraid to have a sense of humor about it.
In watching the pilot of Arrow, I think that seems to be a lesson which the creators seem to have learned well from and taken to heart. They seem to have great respect for the character’s history in comics, as well as his importance on Smallville, but it’s by no means an ode to the fans who love him already. Fans of the character and of DC Comics characters in general will definitely appreciate the show and the respect the character is given, but there are all kinds of aspects which even a casual fan or someone who isn’t a fan at all can enjoy. You have the hero with the cause worth fighting for, an unrequited love story, the importance of family and the question of how that is defined, and most of all you have humor.
All of these elements are portrayed quite well by Stephen Amell, and yet the other characters are no less interesting or well thought out. Each of the characters have their own problems and their own struggles to face that don’t rely on Oliver Queen to be told, but ultimately I think what will make the show work is how his alter ego the Green Arrow will interject himself into those problems and help them solve them to come out better for it, much like the show seems to have done.
So does Arrow hit its mark? With pin point accuracy.