We’re finally doing the interconnected superhero shows on the CW channel known as the Arrowverse! This is the start of a very, very large undertaking, so I won’t be doing everything in a marathon format. Like with previous series, I’m going to take breaks because holy crap there’s a lot to this. As of writing, the Arrowverse consists of 34 seasons across 7 different series (sort of 9), and also two web series (each with two seasons). Holy shit. And they all start crossing over with each other later on? I’ll figure out the best way to do that when I get to “Heroes Join Forces,” because “Flash vs. Arrow” is more like the two main actors cameoing in each other’s show during the same week.
Where was I…? Right, Arrow season 1! I was stoked when this series was announced, because Green Arrow is one of my favorite DC superheroes. I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this series’ interpretation of Oliver Queen–gone is the left-winger with goofy facial hair and a love of chili so hot it would kill Martian Manhunter. Now he’s “Batman Lite,” which is… certainly a decision when you apparently can’t introduce certain characters because Daddy Warner Bros. has final say on what happens (see the introduction and immediate squashing of the Suicide Squad later on). I don’t hate the take–after all, Batman is also one of my faves–but he’s practically a different character completely that just happens to share an origin with Oliver Queen from the comics (at least until they rebooted the comics to make him match up more with the show, a thing I love so much, he said sarcastically). But enough preamble; let’s dive into the first episode of Arrow season 1 and see what this show is setting up!
The appropriately named “Pilot” is the pilot episode. It opens with Oliver Queen (Mr. Stephen Amell, AKA former WWE wrestler Stardust’s mortal enemy) being found on the remote island Lian Yu where he has been for the last five years. YUP, HE’S BEEN ONLY ON THIS ONE ISLAND FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS! HE DEFINITELY DIDN’T LEAVE A FEW TIMES AND, HYPOTHETICALLY SPEAKING, JOIN THE RUSSIAN MOB, OR ANYTHING! Anyway, Oliver is the only survivor of his family’s ship sinking, which means two important characters died: his father, Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan) and his girlfriend’s sister who he was totally banging, Sarah Lance (played in this pilot by Jacqueline MacInnes Wood and later replaced with… um, never mind, SHE’S TOTALLY DEAD AND WON’T BE REVEALED TO BE ALIVE OR ANYTHING). He goes back to his family’s mansion in… ugh… Starling City, and reunites with his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), and his sister, Thea Queen (Willa Holland), AKA Speedy. Her middle name is a thing from the comics, I’ll get there soon enough. Also there is Raisa (Kathleen Gati), a housekeeper who is mildly important later. Turns out Mom’s remarried to Dad’s business partner, Walter Steele (Colin Salmon), and Oliver’s not a fan. Soon enough Oliver reunites with childhood friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), but also with Oliver’s ex and Sarah’s sister, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who hates Oliver for cheating on her and bringing Sarah to her death.
Oliver and Tommy get kidnapped by thugs, but Oliver reveals he’s a ninja and beats them all to death while Tommy is unconscious. Oliver lies and says he was rescued by a man in a green hood when questioned by Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), Laurel and Sarah’s dad. He’s not a fan of Oliver because of the whole “you killed my daughter” thing. After this, Moira hires John Diggle (David Ramsey) to be Oliver’s bodyguard, but Ollie gives him the slip pretty easily. Setting up a base in an abandoned Queen Consolidated building, we see that Oliver is a master with a bow. Turns out Ollie was given a mission from his father before his death: right the wrongs he made and save Starling City. Oliver has a list of names, and the one important to this episode is Adam Hunt, a man that Laurel is building a case against. Donning the hood, Oliver orders Hunt to give his millions to an unknown bank account or else. Hunt does not take this well, and uses his connections to get mercenary bodyguards as well as police protection. Doesn’t stop Oliver from breaking in, beating the crap out of everyone, and using a tech arrow to steal Hunt’s millions, giving it to the people he hurt.
The episode ends with three teasing bits of information: Laurel and Tommy are sort of dating, Laurel’s full name is Dinah Laurel Lance, and the thugs who tried to kidnap Oliver were hired by his mother to find out what he learned before his father died.
We get a little bit of the series’ early framework of flashing back to 5 years ago with Oliver surviving the boat sinking and having to watch his father commit suicide so that Oliver could live, but it becomes more clear that’s what the show is doing after this episode. I gotta say, I was hoping that season 6 would have flashbacks to season 1, but whatever. Oliver’s struggles on (and off) Lian Yu often have some connection to the problem he is facing that week, which is fun. It gets a little ridiculous down the line, but right now it’s in the sweet spot.
I’m not normally going to review these series one episode a week, because that would take a little under 13 years to get through. Yes, I did math for that. Anyway, the reason this episode gets its own entry is that we just got introduced to a bunch of characters, and I wanted to talk about who they are based on from the comics. Oliver is obviously the Green Arrow, albeit a version that could reasonably say, “I am vengeance! I am the night!” Thea Dearden Queen is loosely based on Mia Dearden, one of Green Arrow’s sidekicks, who first appeared in Green Arrow #2 (2001). Her code name was Speedy, of course. Not the first Speedy, but we’ll get to Roy Harper eventually. Thea’s got a bit of a drug problem, possibly a reference to the infamous “My ward, Speedy, is a junkie!” comic, Green Lantern/Green Arrow #85 (1971). The mayor of NYC actually commended DC for the story, so it was kind of a big deal. Anyway, Thea’s a long way from becoming a costumed vigilante, but Laurel has an even longer journey. In the comics, Dinah Laurel Lance first appeared in Justice League of America #75 (1969)… sort of. Long story short, the previous Black Canary–first appearance Flash Comics #86 (1947)–was Dinah Drake, and the Black Canary that joined the Justice League was changed to be her daughter, Dinah Laurel Lance. To make matters more confusing, the show will eventually introduce Dinah Drake, who is not related to Laurel in any way. John Diggle was created specifically for the show, but his name has comic book roots. Superhero origins tend to be touched up from time to time, and Arrow pretty heavily draws from the Green Arrow: Year One (2007) limited series, written by Andy Diggle. Hey, isn’t it revealed later that John has a brother named Andy? Cute.
Tommy unfortunately has a villain’s aura about him, although we eventually find out that has nothing to do with him. In the comics, a longtime nemesis of Green Arrow is Merlyn, who first appeared in Justice League of America #94 (1971). He was an archery themed villain, but he didn’t really have a backstory or real name. The current incarnation of Merlyn in the comics was revealed to be named Malcolm Merlyn, but we’ll get to that guy probably next week.
So is that all the major players? Lemme check who and what is left… I hate the name “Starling City” because Oliver’s city in the comics is just “Star City,” although the name will be clunkily corrected later. Quentin is loosely based off of Larry Lance, husband to Black Canary and father to the other Black Canary. Sarah–name later changed to Sara–is an original character but we’ll talk about her in a different season. Laurel’s friend Joanna De La Vega (Annie Ilonzeh) is based on Joanna Tanner, a cousin of Black Lighting. Oliver’s parents had bigger roles in the comics after the series changed to more match the show, so nothing really noteworthy there. Walter Steele appeared in one Green Arrow comic as an extra. And Quentin’s partner, Lucas Hilton (Roger Cross), was a cop in the comics that Green Arrow and Black Canary worked with back when the couple was married. That’s just about it, I think… Oh! Deathstroke’s mask is seen on Lian Yu! Enh, I’ll talk about Slade when he eventually shows up.
Next: Episodes 2-4
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