Pilots are glossy, shiny and new. Last week’s pilot for Arrow, The CW’s biggest hit in years, was all of those things. But the truth is in the second episode – it’s when the characters get fleshed out, the budget comes down to normal levels and the series begins to figure out what the week-to-week will look like. So where does that leave Arrow?
Let’s bitch it out…Still in remarkably good condition, surprisingly enough. The show likely isn’t going to winning any Emmys in the near future, but for fans who enjoyed the pilot, ‘Honor Thy Father’ shows no demonstrable dip in quality or consistency. In fact, it’s probably one of the most complementary second episodes of a (semi) serialized show I’ve seen in some time.
So what works? A lot of things, as a matter of fact. Stephen Arnell’s performance as tortured billionaire heir Oliver Queen continues to passably address both his quest for vengeance as well as his difficulty readjusting to regular life. Some of the scenes are clearly played for comedy, though the undertones of anger, disappointment and irritation from his mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson), sister Thea (Willa Holland) and new step-father, Walter (Colin Salmon) are pretty evident. It’s a nice balance for a show that seems to be aiming for that delicate balance of pathos and comic book action.
On one hand, it’s understandable that Oliver’s family wants him to have matured and grown during his five year exile on the mysterious island. At the same time, however, their expectations that he become a responsible member of society in only a week is ridiculous. But this is their coping mechanism, and for a show that’s not aiming for high drama, Arrow is doing well to demonstrate that struggle. I particularly enjoyed the scene between Thea and Ollie at his “grave” when she cruelly told him she felt closer to him when he was dead.
The only person who accepts him, it seems, is former girlfriend, Laurel (Katie Cassidy). The two have obvious chemistry and the late-night ice cream confession goes on just long enough to light the sexual sparks before China White (Kelly Hu) and her generic henchmen crash the party. The subsequent fight scene (though poorly edited, clearly intended for the ADHD crowd) demonstrates that Arrow has a good sense of timing – knowing when to move on from scenes, although I could do with fewer “You need protection”/”Daaaaad, I’m a grown woman” scenes between Laurel and her frustratingly one-note father, Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne). If the show needs to dial down the pulpy bits, it should cut here first.
- The case of the week against Martin Somers (Ty Olsson), a minor crime boss who controls drug shipments going in and out of the dock, is interesting enough that it doesn’t feel like a drag every time we focus on it. The fact that Arrow is working the same case, and China White is involved in the larger scheme (as a representative of the mysterious Triad) helps to make this a lot more palatable
- We learn some more minor tidbits about evil Moira’s involvement in dad’s death: she meets with a man (in a not so inconspicuous limo) who carries a book with the same logo as the one Ollie finds in his dad’s journal on the island. Question to fans of Green Arrow comics: what is this a hint of? Let us know in the comments marked by the word ‘SPOILERS’ (for those who don’t yet care to know)
- I’m digging the banter between Ollie and bodyguard Diggle (David Ramsey). The street smart military vet is clearly going to figure out his client’s double lifestyle sooner rather than later
- On the flipside, I’m still unsure about Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell): he briefly appears at the groundbreaking ceremony so that Laurel can brag about her night with Ollie (that’s cold beyotch!), but aside from that, his only other function is to look disappointed along with everyone else when Oliver drunkenly photobombs the event. He’s the most likely candidate to figure things out after Digs, but he’s considerably more dangerous. Keep an eye on this one
- Finally, your “skin of the week” rating: moderate. Last week’s salmon ladder training scene (in which he jumped a bar up rungs shirtless) was Argument #1 for having the ability to pause live TV. This week we get some mild workout scenes before Arrow does his usual routine (shooting red shirts and revealing another ridiculously souped up electronic arrow: this time a recording device!). The show might need to flash some more Laurel skin to keep the boys happy after all this Arnell man-flesh on display
So that’s the follow-up. What do you think of the series now that you’ve seen more of what the week-to-week structure will look like? Is the show sounding off Smallville bells in your head, or does it feel like its own beast? After dealing with drugs at the docks (another Batman Begins plotline), what rip-off will it make on Batman next week? And finally, if you could unravel one mystery (Moira’s mystery involvement, the island attacker who shoots Ollie in the shoulder, or why Detective Lance is such an angry man), which would it be? Hit the comments and let us know.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW