Beats the heck out of me. But I’m inclined to call “Arrow” the best live-action superhero series of all time. And yes, we’re not quite half-way through the CW network show’s second season.
But the gritty and stylish Greg Berlanti-developed series, featuring Stephen Arnell as millionaire crimefighter and adventurer Oliver Queen, who uses gimmicky arrows and amazing trick shots to fight crime, is tops.
Believe me, I didn’t expect to go into this fall season liking “Arrow,” the DC Comics-based show about a Batman-style vigilante in its second season, better than “Agents of SHIELD,” the TV beachhead for the Marvel movie universe.
And yet …
Crowning “Arrow” might sound like heresy for people who loved the simple pleasures of the 1950s “Adventures of Superman” series or the camp 1960s classic “Batman” or even more recent ventures like “Lois and Clark” or “The Flash” or “Birds of Prey,” all of which have their strong points.
But no, “Arrow” is better than all of them, a truly satisfying experience for comic book fans.
I was a little worried about “Arrow” when it was announced by the CW a couple of years ago. The Green Arrow character had been a nice addition to the network’s “Smallville,” the 10-season show about the growing years of Superman and, for me, marked when the series finally got interesting. The Clark and Lex theme of the show was always good but the writers were just too coy for too long. And I have to say I was kind of ticked off when they never actually showed Clark in the suit, even in the final episode. It all reeked of superhero shame.
But despite some coyness of its own – “Arrow” instead of “Green Arrow” as a title – “Arrow” has the courage of its convictions. The series put millionaire Oliver Queen into a green hood right from the word go and put him on the path to avenging criminal activity. He’s surrounded by an engaging supporting cast.
And the series has aggressively set about building its own universe, adding characters like Black Canary, Slade Wilson, Huntress and, this week, Barry Allen, a young police scientist who’s not yet the Flash. The character, as played by Grant Gustin, is apparently destined for his own CW show. If it’s handled like “Arrow,” we’ll have another classic on our screens.
“Arrow” has some problems, certainly. But it feels like they recognized most of them early.
Chief among them is Katie Cassidy, cast as Oliver’s ex-girlfriend Dinah Laurel Lance, who comic fans know is destined to become Black Canary, a tough-as-nails hero and companion to Green Arrow.
But it’s almost as if the producers decided early on that the character and actress combination was just too … I don’t know, awkward? Cassidy seems like she would never for a moment be believable as a street-fighting gal. The show has introduced a new Black Canary, Dinah’s sister, played by Caity Lotz, and she’s more believable.
The cast is pretty uniformly good, from thinking man’s hunk Arnell to David Ramsey as Dig, Oliver’s cohort, to Emily Bett Richards as Felicity, Oliver’s Gal Friday and tech guru who deserves all the online worship she gets.
The show flips back and forth from Arrow’s exploits fighting crime in present-day Starling City (an inexplicable change from Star City in the comics) to five years earlier, when Oliver was shipwrecked on a not-even-remotely-deserted island and learned his survival skills.
The first season gave us an Oliver on a mission to clean up his city and willing to casually kill bad guys. The second season has Oliver pursuing a less murderous campaign. Heck, he’s apparently even about to start wearing the mask seen in the photo at top here.
All the while, “Arrow” is adding characters and mythology and feeling stronger and stronger.