Thursday, 11 September 2014

TV review: Arrow, season 1

Oliver Queen [Stephen Amell], billionaire member of the Queen dynasty, has spent the last five years stranded on a tropical island, with everyone thinking he had died when his father’s yacht sank, along with his father Robert, and his girlfriend’s sister Sara. He’s just been found alive, and he has changed. He’s a man with a mission, to clean up Starling City. Using archery.
“My name is Oliver Queen. For five years I was stranded on an island with only one goal – survive. Now I will fulfill my father’s dying wish – to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this, I must become someone else. I must become something else.”
The season has an overall arc, as the heinous plot Roger Queen was party to is slowly revealed. This arc is woven into bad-guy-of-the-week episodes, where the anonymised Oliver, known as The Hood or as The Vigilante, picks off the bad guys who have "failed this city", one by one. The timeline slices back and forth, to show Oliver’s transformation on the island, from spoiled playboy to hardened killing machine. This transformation is very well done: initially, I wasn’t even sure it was the same actor. But getting well-muscled, a cropped hair do, and a rigid stance, makes for a whole new Oliver.

This is entertaining, in a dark, violent, morally ambiguous way. Hell, it’s not even ambiguous: Queen has earned the name "Vigilante". For this reason, I actually find the island scenes more interesting, as I don’t feel quite so complicit in cheering on the homicidal psychopath cleansing the city of other homicidal psychopaths.

I find the “civic patriotism”, all the talk of “my city”, rather weird, though. This identification with current domicile is foreign to me: I’ve moved a lot in my life, and am not “rooted” to any one place. I’ve asked others, however, and they do claim to understand the feeling (of “my city”, not of turning into a random psychopath cleaning it up).

I’m looking forward to season 2, if only to find out the rest of the island story – oh, and also what Oliver does next in Starling City, having sort of fulfilled his father’s dying wish about it.

Worth watching.

For all my SF TV reviews, see my main website.

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