Four Color Television - Arrow Season 1 Recap

Arrow Season 1

My name is Oliver Queen. For five years I was stranded on an island with only one goal: survive. Now I will fulfill my father's dying wish - to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this, I must become someone else. I must become something else.

In October of 2012 when Arrow Season One premiered, the CW was only one year removed from the ten-season run of “Smallville” which featured a relatively faithful adaptation of The Green Arrow played by Justin Hartley who now stars on the NBC drama “This is Us.”  Hartley was incredibly popular with fans of the Emerald Archer, and it was surprising to many fans when talks with Hartley broke down and audiences were informed that the role of Oliver Queen would be portrayed by a man named Stephen Amell.




The premise is simple, Oliver Queen is a spoiled rich kid who gets on a boat with his father and the girl he’s sleeping with behind his girlfriend’s back so they can take a cruise to the south pacific, but the boat sinks and the only survivor is spoiled brat Oliver.  After promising his dying father that he will save Starling city from the forces that corrupt it, Oliver spends five years maturing on the island of Lian Yu in the Pacific before returning home and assuming the mantle of a hooded Archer who is out for justice.
The series formula is equally simple.  Each episode features a storyline set in the modern day with Oliver confronting a villain who appears on his father’s list of people who “failed Starling City.” The A story in current Starling City always echoes something that happened to Oliver on the island and we have a flashback to those events woven into the episode.  There are standalone stories, but there is always an overarching season plot that ramps up after the mid-season break.
Season One Starling City Plot:  Not yet known as The Green Arrow, Oliver Queen masquerades as “The Hood,” keeping his identity a secret from his mother Moira, sister Thea, step-father Walter, ex girlfriend Laurel Lance; as well as her father Detective Quentin Lance and best friend Tommy Merlyn.  Unable to wage a one man crusade against the underworld of Starling City, Oliver soon gets help from his bodyguard/new best friend John Diggle and computer genius/gal Friday Felicity Smoak. Oliver’s crusade catches the attention of a dark cabal of rich socialites who have been planning “The Undertaking” a nebulous attack on the city that will destroy the area of Starling City known as The Glades.  The architect of the undertaking cannot risk the interference of The Hood and arrives in force to stop him.  With archery and combat training of his own, Malcolm Merlyn is an even match for Oliver – so he needs another way to take him down: the testimony of his own mother who worked with Malcolm in planning the undertaking.  The season ends with a final showdown between Oliver and Merlyn as the city tears itself apart because of an artificial earthquake started by Malcolm.  In the aftermath of the first season Moira Queen is in prison, Tommy Merlyn is dead and Oliver Queen is so affected by both events that he returns to the solitude of Lian Yu.


Season One Flashback Plot: Oliver was found on the island by a man named Yao Fei who taught him how to use a bow and arrow as well as how to protect himself from the dangers of the island before eventually Oliver was kidnapped by Edward Fyers, a mercenary with plans to start a war between the east and west by shooting down American planes as they flew over the island of Lian Yu which it turned out was a Chinese prison.  Oliver escaped and was found by Slade Wilson who taught him even more of the combat skills he would use upon his return to Starling City.  Eventually Yao Fei, Oliver and Slade attacked Fyers’ camp to free Yao Fei’s daughter Shado and destroy the missiles Fyers intended to fire.

Feel free to fall down the Island Flashback rabbit-hole on YouTube. Thanks to user Chris GM51, you can start right here...    


I attempted to watch Arrow when it first premiered and didn’t even make it to the fourth episode before giving up.  As a fan of Green Arrow comics I was thrown off by the differences between the comic character and the version in the series and it was not until The Flash premiered three years later that I decided to give it a second chance.  In my second viewing it was the charming performance of David Ramsey as John Diggle that kept me going until the mid-season when the show really picked up and became more watchable.  The scenery chewing John Barrowman’s arrival was the mid-season shot in the arm that the show needed, and for some viewers I imagine he arrived far too late.
What works about Arrow Season One is the slow building of Team Arrow, the introduction of Colton Haynes’ version of Roy Harper (Speedy, then Arsenal in the comics) and the island flashbacks that feature Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson and the affable Stephen Amell who is far more engaging than the present Oliver Queen portrayal allows him to be.  When the show leans heavy on DC comics lore, as it did in the few episodes where we were introduced to Helena Bertinelli as the assassin known as The Huntress, it really shines.  This attention to the comic lore is what eventually leads to the premiere of The Flash two seasons later.
What doesn’t work about Arrow Season One is the continuous resentment of Oliver by the Lance family, particularly the ever-gruff Quentin Lance as portrayed by Paul Blackthorne; the near constant secrets within lies within secrets nature of the Queen family, the character of Tommy Merlyn, and the strange choice to have the Queen family mansion use the exact same location as the Luthor family mansion from Smallville.
The good news is that Season Two is a much more solid year of television and doubles down on all the good things about Season One while jettisoning almost all of the bad.  The bad news is that as the Arrow cave gets more full of heroes, we see less and less of Amell’s Oliver doing his best American Ninja Warrior impression on the salmon ladder. By the way...

Next Week: Season Two of Arrow featuring the series’ best villain to date and a two-part special episode that sets up the next DCCW TV Series: The Flash.

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