Monday, 7 January 2013

Arrow Review: How good is Arrow's aim now?

When I gave my review of Arrow's pilot back in August after seeing a special preview, I was very much encouraged by the show's potential. Now the show has had time to breath and flesh itself out with nine full episodes having aired. The show has also been picked up through to the end of this season at the least and that generally boads well for a series as a lot of them don't manage to get that far before being taken out, much like the Aquaman pilot or the much publized Wonder Woman show which appears to be getting a revival after a whole new team gets a crack at it.

So with the show's return coming on January 16th, I thought I would check in and see if my opinion has changed much since my initial assement. There were a lot of good things about that pilot, snappy dialogue, a well thought out premise, a willingness not to bank on the previous success of the Green Arrow character on Smallville. All of which is far from forgotten as you get into the proceeding episodes. What concerns me however is that the episodes don't seem to gel as easily as they did in the beginning.

Now I am well aware, that the pilot is not the show. Much in the same way that you can't judge a book by its cover, you can't guarantee the success of a show based on the strength of its pilot. However as any good TV executive will tell you the pilot is supposed to give you a sense of what the show is about. A well formed pilot then should be reflected in future episodes then. Unfortunately, it seems that the writers have stumbled on following up with a lot of those elements.

Most shows live or die on their ability to go one of two ways when it comes to storytelling. Either they have good strong episodic stories in which only the characters journies carries over from episode to episode as a subplot, or they have a strong character drama driven story as the main plot which makes the individual episodes' only purpose to drive the characters' journies forward as the subplot. Arrow seemed at first to have found something of a middle ground when it came to those two ways of telling stories. There was the strong episodic elements which was the list of names Oliver had to bring justice to, and the family drama which could inform the hero's journey.

It seems however that those in charge of the show were too concerned with being pigeon holed that they've tried to branch out way too early and haven't properly established the main story. They want the ability to go anywhere but they haven't quite figured out what their first desination is yet. In a world where corporate greed and the power of the 1% is of great concern to the public, a show about a vigilante fighting back for the little guy is perfect for the times. This article about the changing face of television springs to mind as the perfect reason why they should have stuck with that as the focus of the show, however instead they have taken to expanding the universe through guest star after guest star after guest star.

But The CW is known for its teenage drama driven stories and that really hasn't been properly explored in Arrow. What came off initially as a genuine divide in the Queen family's ability to connect with each other is now getting somewhat repetative subplot. Characters keep referring to the island Oliver was trapped on but that started to become somewhat tired after episode 2. If you want to go with your strengths and push the drama angle, why is Oliver not going after the drug dealer who supplied Thea with cocaine in episode 1? That serves both to clean up the city, allows for drama, and moves the hero's journey forward.

How good is Arrow's aim now? It's a little shaky but they're still focused enough to hit somewhere near the target. Despite what I see as issues with the show's basic structure I think that it still has some pretty solid elements that are worth sticking around for. They may not be as cohesive as they need to be in order to go long term, but they're a lot closer then many other shows have been at this stage in their series.

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