Third-episode verdict: Arrow (The CW/Sky1)

The BarrometerA Barrometer rating of 1

In the US: Wednesdays, 8/7c, The CW
In the UK: Mondays, 8pm, Sky1
In Canada: Wednesdays, 9pm, CTV2
in Australia: Nine Network. Air date to be confirmed

And we have another winner from the Fall 2012 season. Arrow, somewhat unpromisingly based on a comics strip character virtually no one has ever heard of and who isn’t that much cop anyway, on a network with minimal viewers and that’s been almost exclusively targeting young women with the likes of Gossip Girl and America’s Next Top Model for years, has managed to turn in the closest we’ll probably ever get to Batman Begins: The Series.

As I noted in my review of the first episode, the show has its flaws, not the least of which is its entire premise, for which we can blame the original comic – a millionaire playboy, Oliver Queen, running around town, redistributing wealth and fighting crime after learning survivalist skills on a near-deserted island, with only a bow and arrow as a weapon. It also has an embarrassing voiceover, which ruins from the outset almost any real sense that the show might have some decent writers behind it.

But so far, it’s proven to be a remarkably good and tense watch. Stephen Amell is proving surprisingly charismatic as Oliver Queen, sometimes very Zen, sometimes very party boy, as the role needs it; it has excellent action sequences; the residual Smallville visual resemblance left behind by director David Nutter in the pilot episode has fortunately been exterminated; it has strong characters, both male and female, and it’s doing well at developing its supporting cast; it’s slowly dripping through back story and format, without descending into the formulaic; Dinah Lance, former Arrow girlfriend, and, judging by the third episode, still set to be the future Black Canary is being served well, as is Thea Queen, Oliver’s sister; there are some genuinely exciting cliffhangers; and it’s keeping most of the possible comic book implausibilities to a minimum.

True, some of them are still feeding through. Oliver Queen, stranded on an island for five years, not only has the physique of a protein-shake addict eating five whole chickens a day, but is somehow gifted with a computer hacker’s ability to search police databases and do forensic analysis – yet still needs to go to IT support to recover data from a damaged computer. Comic book villains China White (Martial Law‘s Kelly Hu) and Deadshot (Michael Rowe) turned up in the second and third episodes respectively, with Hu having to endure a white wig while Rowe got wrist guns and a targeting monocle – while that’s nothing compared to what their comic book characters have, it did somewhat ruin the show’s attempts to be gritty and realistic. There’s also the backstory involving Queen’s mother, which is feeling a bit silly already.

We also have Paul Blackthorne, who while a decent enough actor in shows like The River, The Dresden Files and The Gates, here seems to be having trouble believing the whole thing, never quite immersing himself in the role – something Strictly Come Dancing‘s own Colin Salmon is managing to do marvellously as the Green Arrow’s new step-dad.

But despite these failings, the show is just about as good as you’re going to get from a comic book show on The CW, easily trumping Smallville and pulling off the almost unimaginable feat of making Green Arrow look cool.

One to watch, if you like a comic book action show with at least a bit of thought put into it.

Barrometer rating: 1. Of course, the Barrometer might be biased since John Barrowman’s going to be a recurring star, starting from the fifth episode.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.