I’m a HUGE Green Arrow fanboy. I have more Green Arrow comics than any other superhero or other character, and Green Arrow is the only superhero that I actually have single issue comic books for. I own a silver Justice League Green Arrow ring. My OTP is Green Arrow/Black Canary. I’m going as Green Arrow for Halloween. I seriously LOVE Green Arrow.
Inversely, I really don’t love Arrow.
If you’re unfamiliar with what I’m talking about, Arrow is the new superhero show on the CW that is replacing 10-year success Smallville. We’ve moved from the realm of powers and Lois Lane to a more Batman-esque style of superhero story, in the “millionare with a costume and tech” way. This is a bit expected to me: with the success of Nolan’s Batman films, as well as Iron Man, superheroes with the power of money are indeed in. Nonetheless, I was optimistically excited when I heard about the TV show on my favorite character; Green Arrow isn’t exactly well-known, and my fav tight-wearer getting some limelight is never a bad thing. However, after the months passed, and I saw the trailers, I realized just how deconstructionist the show would be, and not in the good Alan Moore way. Still, I put my fanboyisms aside, and continued to give it the benefit of the doubt.
October 7th came around, and the pilot premiered. TV usage and schedule conflicts kept me from watching it live, so I watched it the next day. After about half the episode, I quit, thoroughly put off. It is here that I will tell you all why.
Now, keep in mind, some of these reasons will be based on how big of a GA fanboy I am, and therefore, you shouldn’t take them at the same value for yourself as I do for me. However, if it were just a matter of nitpicks with differences in canon and this show, I wouldn’t have given up.
- Arrow is unnecessarily dark and dramatic.
While GA was certainly created as a copy of Batman in the 40s, the Emerald Archer has never been dark. Confident, flirty, and brash, Ollie has basically been everything Bruce isn’t emotionally. So, when I watch Ollie have the attitude as if he were constantly recovering from both a break-up and a concussion, it speaks volumes to me about what the creators are trying to do. However, the unnecessary darkness of Arrow isn’t just seen in Ollie. The rest of the show reeks of the cynicism, corruption, and anger, that we all attribute to Batman, which screams profit pandering. In the Nolan films, it works; Batman is a dark character, being based off of a nocturnal character, and being dark by nature. It doesn’t work in the context of GA, though, who has always been upfront and expressive. You may argue that there’s room for interpretation, but there’s a difference between interpretation and just flat changing for the sake of profits.
- Being stranded on an island does not make you an expert in combat and insertion.
GA’s origin story has always been the same, at the base level. Ollie, a spoiled playboy, is stranded on an island, and learns to use a bow for survival. The details change based on the era, but the island and the bow always are the same.
What that DOESN’T mean, however, is that Ollie is suddenly trained in hand-to-hand combat, field medicine, speaking Russian, and hacking. For whatever reason, the writers expect us to assume that everything he knows just happened to him while on that island, which is terribly. Now, I concede that they may be building up to an explanation later, but if that’s the case, they’ve done a shoddy job of giving us reason to believe that. Everything he does that shouldn’t make sense is so seamlessly inserted into the story, if we’re supposed to have our attention drawn to it being odd, it’s not working. Besides, no superhero goes from being normal to the best he is; even Superman learned as he went.
- You can’t change key influences of a character and have the same character.
There is no Dinah in this show. If you don’t know, Dinah Lance, a.k.a. Black Canary, is a superhero in DC continuity, and Ollie’s long-time romance. This has a profound impact on Ollie throughout the years, not only because they’re both superheroes, but because she’s more or less a female version of Ollie, though a bit serious. This was a dynamic unrifled with for years, because it worked. Now, we have Laurel. She’s a lawyer, of all things, which removes dynamics between them that were expressively a part of the relationship in the comics. Her personality is completely different, which only makes sense in the context that, so is Ollie’s. And, finally, any hope at they would have the same relationship is ruined by the “sleeping with my sister” plot. Basically, Laurel is supposed to be Dinah in name for the sake of the comic book fans, but in no way else. This fundamentally changes GA in a way that didn’t need to be changed.
As if that weren’t enough, Ollie’s parents are dead. Yes, Batmany, I know. But it comes into play more than you would think, and not in the “my parents are dead so I’ll be a superhero” way, but in the “huh I’m the heir to a multi-million dollar company that I have to run on the side” way. Having his mother be alive, and remarried, removes this characteristic so drastically that GA is fundamentally a completely different character in this show.
- Arrow is rather shallow in writing.
Whether it be forced plot development, single scenes that have no impact on the story, or skewing of reality for modernization or drama, there’s many a part of Arrow that makes the entire episode feel insincere. There’s no real flow to the story, as if everything happening were supposed to get the most extreme reaction out of you. I don’t see how a segue from Russian to remarriage is supposed to feel natural, I don’t see how his sister doing drugs is important if it’s not mentioned again (even if she’s supposed to be Speedy, which I find laughable), and I don’t see how we’re supposed to believe that a taser is just used as a torture device when most people already know that a taser temporarily paralyzes it’s victims. It’s all for shock and emotion, and has no depth whatsoever.
As an adaptive work, Arrow is absolutely terrible; as it’s own piece of fiction, it’s mediocre. I’m not usually one to put adaptive merit over individual merit, but if the whole purpose of shows like these is to make superheroes more accessible to a mainstream audience, I can’t imagine a single person who’s never read Green Arrow before will be satisfied with anything they read now; the dark edgy archer they’re looking for does not exist in any comic book with the same name. Now, on it’s own, I still find the show to be lacking in any entertainment value, but because I write for fun, I have a more critical eye when it comes to storytelling. I’ve run into a fair number of people who watched and enjoyed it, and their opinion is no less valid than mine. The trend I find is, the more involved you are in comic culture and/or the more experienced you are with writing or storytelling as a career or hobby, the less you’ll like Arrow. Overall, though, I can say firmly that I won’t be watching another episode anytime soon, and I will not be disappointed if it gets cancelled.
EDIT: In regards to the first point, I forgot that much of Mike Grell’s work is indeed rather dark, which somewhat renders my point inert. However, I still hold that the majority of GA content is more lighthearted than Arrow.