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Arrow to the heart

My husband and I spent the last couple of weeks watching the first season of Arrow, and finally got to the season finale last night.

We actually weren't sure if we would make it all the way through the season. The first seven or eight episodes were just terrible. The first couple established Ollie's M.O. and reason why he was now a vigilante, but it also dealt with his return from his five-year stint on the desert island, as because of that, there were tons and tons of long scenes with this character or that character pouring his heart out, or trying to explain why he couldn't pour his heart out. It was poorly written, banal, and repetitive. In addition, most of the main characters were either uninteresting (Ollie, Moira) or unlikeable (Laurel, Thea). By the eighth episode, whenever a talky scene would commence, either my husband would get up and wander off or we'd go "blah blah blah" over the dialogue (him doing the men's dialogue and me doing the women's dialogue). There were two whole episodes in which we didn't actually hear any of the dialogue except for the scenes where they were discussing how to track and capture the bad guy, and the show didn't suffer for it.

But after the eighth episode, the show picked up. While they did come back to the same relationship themes a number of times, the dialogue wasn't as maudlin, and the season storyline started to come together. As they started to focus on the big conspiracy Ollie was trying to unravel, they moved away from the angst, and they even ignored some characters for a while (Thea in particular - I didn't even notice she was gone until she suddenly reappeared about four episodes later).

And now, I warn you, spoilers, in case you care.

Interestingly, the strength of the season was not the hero. While you're rooting for Ollie, the interesting character is Malcolm Merlyn, the apparent humanitarian who's the evil mastermind behind the Undertaking, the master plot. While it's obvious from the first time he appears that he's the big bad boss, you're not sure why, and his actions are not always evil: some of the things he does are sincerely considerate and good. What he's doing, and, more importantly, why he's doing it is revealed slowly, and you feel sympathy for him at the same time you realize that he's gone pretty insane. He was a beautifully constructed character. (It helps that he was played by John Barrowman. He does evil very well. And he has one extremely intense stark-raving-mad scene that will just blow you away.)

There are two characters that I would count as my favorites from this show. The first is Quentin Lance, the police detective father of Laurel, Ollie's ex-girlfriend. Quentin is the paladin, the man who believes that he has to protect his city and the only right way to do it is by enforcing the law. Thus, he hates the Queens (Ollie's billionaire family) because he knows they feel they're rich enough to be above the law (and for other reasons I'm not going to go into here) and wants to bring Green Arrow to justice because he's a vigilante. However, he's not stupid. When they find the corpse of a man killed by an arrow and one of the policeman says, "He was killed by the vigilante," he immediately says, "No. This a black arrow. This is a copycat killer." He doesn't allow his vendetta against the Green Arrow to blind him. Throughout the seasons, he tries to balance his duty with his devotion to the safety of his daughter and his attempts to allow her to live her own life, and he doesn't always succeed. Beautiful character.

The other is Tommy Merlyn, Malcolm Merlyn's son, Ollie's best friend, and eventual boyfriend of Laurel. He begins the season as he's always been, a billionaire playboy with no sense of responsibility or moral compass, but throughout the season, he develops, as he has to deal with Ollie's return, his feelings for Ollie's ex-girlfriend, being cut off from his funding by his father, and so much more. While the rest of the cast zoom past him, he has to deal with often getting only second best from the people he thought were closest to him. And rather than collapsing in on himself, he grows and matures. And, as it always happens in these shows - I should have seen this coming - the one that everyone always just assumed would always be there is the one that dies, sacrificing himself to save the life of the woman he loves, the one who just rejected him to be with the hero. His death made me cry - the first time I've cried for a character in the first viewing of an episode of any show since the Doctor's death in "The End of Time".

So, the verdict is: great show; just steel yourself for a terrible ride for the first eight episodes. The rest of the season is very worth it, and I'm told it just gets better from here.



( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 23rd, 2014 10:35 am (UTC)
I admit I watch Arrow because I knew John Barrowman was in it. And well, I can't disagree, the beginning is boring and bland as hell. First time round, I stopped at the fifth episode. I came back to it this summer, because of Malcolm and because I absolutely loved Tommy and his character development (also, Lance).

You'll see, it gets much better. And season 3 has been great so far (like the midseason finale. OMG! It's really really strong). Like, I've been hooked up on it since the beginning and no major nope episode. I hope the quality will stay consistent.
Dec. 23rd, 2014 09:37 pm (UTC)
We are very excited for season 2 - everyone tells us that it just keeps getting better. We are very glad that we stuck it out through the first half of the season.

I am so sad that Tommy is gone, but I'm glad he doesn't come back (I peeked at the IMDB listing to see if the actor reappears) - some writers I know could learn a lesson from this show about letting characters that die stay dead. Of course Malcolm's coming back - he's Green Arrow's archenemy and there's no way he actually died.
Dec. 23rd, 2014 02:03 pm (UTC)
Good to hear the show picks up and has some pretty great characters! Especially if they're played by John Barrowman… :D

Edited at 2014-12-23 02:03 pm (UTC)
Dec. 23rd, 2014 09:52 pm (UTC)
I could watch John Barrowman all day. He's just fantastic.
Dec. 24th, 2014 07:54 am (UTC)
This so much :D
Dec. 23rd, 2014 03:45 pm (UTC)
Hubby and I were discussing this earlier and I have to agree - it is terrible when you root for the bad guy. *Sigh*
Dec. 23rd, 2014 09:50 pm (UTC)
I really don't know why the hero is so uninteresting. He's just really bland. At first I thought it might be because his actor was terrible, but he got better as the season went along. (He's still not great, but at least now there's some emotion in his lines.)

It kind of reminds me of Grimm - the main character there is also very bland and uninteresting (though the actor is fine). Unfortunately, that show is not holding my interest. We just finished season 3, and we're not sure we care enough to go on to season 4.

One thing, though - Barrowman has some screen presence! He was awesome to watch!
Dec. 24th, 2014 01:16 am (UTC)
Yeah, the beginning of the first season is super meh. I'm glad you were able to get past the bad start and make it to the good stuff. The second season is really good. I was always amazed that there was something good and entertaining in every episode.

John Barrowman was also the reason I started watching. It's so fun watching him play a villain, but it's great that Malcolm isn't evil for evil's sake. He has good reasons for the Undertaking and Barrowman conveys is really well.

Oh man, I love Quentin. He doesn't get as much screen time as he should, but it's always a joy to watch him when he is around. I really grew to like his character in season two, so I really won't go in to it, but he's every much the hero Ollie is, even more in some ways.

Were you amused to see Alex Kingston on the show? Her American accent is a bit shaky, but I just love the fact that Laurel's parents are Harry Dresden, a wizard, and River Song, a bad ass. :-)
Dec. 24th, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
Oh, now you've really got us itching for season 2. Any recommendation about Quentin is very enticing.

Now that's fodder for fanfic, the daughter of Harry Dresden and River Song. ;)
Dec. 25th, 2014 03:47 am (UTC)
You might enjoy the third episode of the second season then. Quentin teams up with the Arrow. It kind of reminded me of a buddy cop film. :-)

I think I saw a fanfic where Malcolm Merlyn was actually Jack, though I haven't seen anything about Dinah being River, but I wouldn't be surprised if one exists.
Dec. 25th, 2014 07:09 am (UTC)
Oh, now I'm doubly excited to receive season 2 in the mail on Monday! :)

Malcolm Merlyn is Jack. Hm. It's hard to imagine how Jack becomes insane and evil like that.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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