Flashes of Intrigue in ‘Arrow’

Comics and television don’t have a history of playing well together. Sure, cape-free titles like “The Walking Dead” or “The Boondocks” have decent runs, and while these are assuredly good comics, they don’t have that certain je ne sais quoi, this ambience of superheroes, that somehow seems over-the-top in any genre beyond the dot matrix.

Courtesy of The CW

Courtesy of The CW

Comics have translated acceptably to children’s cartoons, but they can’t quite catch the adult market demographic that the books are actually being written for. Argue with me all you want — “Smallville” wasn’t very good, and so far, I’m unimpressed with “Agents of S.H.I.E.LD.” At the end of the day, throwing superheroes onto the small screen has been pretty difficult, and few shows have done it well.

The CW’s “Arrow” is one of those shows.

I’ve already written a review about “Arrow’s” first season, so I’ll just brush over it here: it was good, but not great. It had the usual superhero show pratfall of trying to dumb down superheroes and powers to give them “real,” pedestrian origins, in order to make them more palatable for the ordinary audience. It had the usual CW pratfall of weird, unnecessary makeout scenes, uncompelling romances, and lots of shirtless dudes with bodies made of solid marble working out as sweatily as possible. In spite of that, it was an enjoyable little trip into the DC Comics’ universe, and it introduced a lot of the unknowing public to the character of Green Arrow.

Frankly, Green Arrow is a strange choice for a standalone TV show. The character started as a Batman rip-off (complete with Arrowcar and Arrowcave), an orphaned rich kid named Oliver Queen with trick arrows instead of a utility belt. The character came into his own after the Golden Age of Comics, when he lost his fortune and gained left-wing sensibilities, maintaining an amusing comic tone while facing serious threats. But at the end of the day, the character wasn’t broody like Batman, powerful like Wonder Woman, or even patriotically relatable like Superman. But even so, a crack team of directors and writers, including DC’s creative director Geoff Johns, came together in Season 2 of “Arrow” to convert the show from a vigilante piece that shyly danced around the topic of superheroism to a full on DCU showcase.

Last week, the show came back from its hiatus in full force, with an expectantly bland midseason premiere — the plot is building up to a considerable climax. Stephen Amell continues to shine as “The Arrow” (so close), now sporting the character’s trademark green domino mask. Moving forward with our lead season-two villain, actor Kevin Alejandro’s alderman Sebastian Blood, who moonlights as cult leader Brother Blood. Blood is an interesting choice of villain, generally a foe of the Teen Titans, but the character has translated well to his television persona.

Courtesy of The CW

Courtesy of The CW

The midseason premiere was mainly story fallout from the previous ten episodes of the season, which featured an incredible departure from the first season. DC references were piling up in droves — things as small as the hospital named after Blue Lantern Saint Walker, to things as big as the sudden appearance of Green Arrow’s longtime love interest, fellow superhero and all around badass Black Canary. Solomon Grundy, Slade Wilson, Professor Ivo — these are niche references people and I for one couldn’t be happier about them.

One of the biggest additions to the story was the appearance of Central City Forensic Assistant, Barry Allen, played by “Glee’s” Grant Gustin. Comic fans were incredibly skeptical — Barry Allen is the secret identity of the second Flash, blond-haired, blue-eyed Scarlet Speedster whose powers certainly don’t lend themselves to good television. Gustin didn’t look like Barry, and he was incredibly young for the role, but, frankly, he knocked it out of the park. The character was always running late. He was clumsy. Dopey. Gustin carried himself perfectly — so well, in fact, that although he suffered a mysterious particle accelerator accident just before the hiatus, he still comes up frequently in show, if only as a topic of conversation.

Furthermore, while CW had slated the Flash to get a backdoor pilot, Barry’s warm reception in “Arrow” permitted the green light for a full standalone series, presumably premiering in the fall.

With “Arrow,” “The Flash,” and “Hourman” (a DC brawler who gets temporary superpowers from a drug called “Miraclo” — which sounds a lot like “Arrow’s” Mirakuru) all set to run on CW, and NBC and Fox prepping for solo series of “Constantine” and “Gotham” respectively, DC could conquer the airwaves once and for all, and that’s a-okay with this geek.

 

RECOMMENDED: Back from its mid-season hiatus, season 2 of “Arrow” offers a lot of eye candy and intrigue for fans of DC’s most famous characters.