For Christmas this year, I was given the DVD set of the first season of Arrow. My Young Man knows I like the character Green Arrow, and the trailers we'd seen looked intriguing. And the sight of Stephen Amell's bare chest didn't hurt any, either.
So I was looking forward to a superhero with a bow and arrows, fighting crime in Starling City.
Well, I've just finished watching the whole season, and - wow!
It's not just superhero with bow and arrows fighting crime; it's a lot more interesting than that!
First of all, I was impressed with Stephen Amell. He seemed at first to be fairly unemotional (as you might expect from someone who'd been stranded on a remote island for five years), but as the series went on, and the flashbacks telling the story of his time on the island continued, I started to notice just how good an actor he is. It's instantly obvious that the privileged playboy who washes up on the island and has no survival skills whatsoever is not the same as the competent, self-contained man who returns to Starling City, and as the season progresses, you can see Oliver on the island gaining more confidence and competence gradually.
Then there's John Diggle (David Ramsey). I very often like the sidekick better than the hero, and Diggle is lovely! And he's a man with great integrity, who tells Oliver straight when he thinks he's wrong (and Diggle usually turns out to be right).
This was where it started to get interesting for me - when Diggle started asking Oliver what sort of superhero/vigilante he wanted to be. It wasn't as simple as going out and taking down the bad guys. Sometimes, Oliver needed someone to watch his back. Sometimes, the problem was such that Oliver had to let the police handle it. And it's good that Diggle has his own agenda (going after the murderer of his brother) and his own romance (with the widow of his brother).
There were the practical problems, too. It's a great idea to have your superhero HQ hidden under your nightclub - but what happens when the building inspector wants to check that everything is up to code?
Oliver's romantic and family life is pretty tangled, too, with his ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance, and her dead sister Sarah (or did she die?) who was on the Queen's Gambit with him when it sank - whose father is the detective who is obsessed with bringing "the Hood" to justice. He argues for the Law rather than vigilante justice, imperfect though the legal system is - and he's the one who points out that the vigilante has killed 26 people, near the end of the season. Even if they were all bad guys, that's still 26 dead bodies, who had families and lives to live.
And then there's Oliver's mum Moira, who is implicated in all sorts of bad things with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman oozing charm and villainy), who is the father of Oliver's best friend Tommy, who is going out with Laurel now.... And Moira is now married to Walter, who worked for Robert Queen (Oliver's dad), who died when the Queen's Gambit sank. Walter is another lovely character - and he seems to be one of the very few good guys, despite the posh British accent which usually means that the character is a villain in US shows.
And if all that wasn't enough there's Thea/"Speedy", Oliver's little sister, who gets into trouble, then starts to get more serious, and meets Roy Harper, who was Speedy in the comics, and comes from the Glades. It's not just very rich people fighting each other for the soul of the city - Roy is a working class bag snatcher and thief from the worst part of town. He wants to find out who "the Hood" is, (because "the Hood" saved his life) and he cares about what happens to his city, too.
And I haven't even mentioned Felicity yet, who is awesome - a computer geek who gets more and more involved with Oliver's crime fighting as time goes on. I think I'm right in saying she was only supposed to be in one or two episodes, but was so good in the part that they kept writing more for her to do.
It's also a cast with a lot of racial diversity - Walter is black as well as British, and another businessman, Frank, who has been doing business in China, is Chinese. Oliver also has Chinese friends back on the island (he wasn't all alone for five years - it was a lot more complicated than that). In The Longbow Hunters, there is a character called Shado, who is Japanese, and was brought up by the yakuza. For the purposes of the series, she's now Chinese, but still an awesome archer. (But they do keep shooting arrows off into the undergrowth on the island, and they never seem to go looking for them again, and they never seem to run out either....) There's also a bad guy in The Longbow Hunters called Fyres, and that's the name they've used for the main bad guy on the island.
And it's a cast with women who talk to each other - Laurel has friends and colleagues, and Thea talks to her mum (or has screaming rows with her, but that counts too).
And now I've got to the last episode, where all the pieces are thrown up in the air, and Starling City will never be the same again - so I'm really looking forward to what they do with that in season two.