Arrow Reviewed

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The Hero Myth is marbled throughout all cultures and all ages, it's part of the fabric of human civilisation. There are Freudian, Jungian and other various anthropological links to this myth everywhere from the beginning of recorded history.

In the 20th and 21st centuries nowhere has the classic myth of the superhero who will save us from evil, while making his own painful journey, been more evident than in the comic book


The latest to be adapted, Arrow, now seriously glammed up has arrived as a TV series, screening in the UK for the first time last night on Sky 1 HD and allied channels.

If you need a brilliant action sequence or two, some ridiculously good looking people, and a fairly edgy script, Arrow hits the target on all counts.

Ok, Shakespeare it isn't, but Warners have really excelled themselves – the pilot is already the most-watched on the American CW network in three years.

Arrow for TV has a Grade A comic book pedigree. It is executive produced by Greg Berlanti (Green Lantern, Brothers & Sisters), Marc Guggenheim (Green Lantern) and Andrew Kreisberg (Fringe). David Nutter (Smallville) directed and executive produced the pilot and is based on the character created by DC Comics.

Without spoiling the flashback reveals to come, the basic story is about a playboy richkid, Oliver Queen, whose story starts when he washes up on a deserted island.

Hedonistic Oliver never gave much 'back' to society and has rivals and enemies. After a boating accident, Oliver was presumed dead and lost at sea, but, unknown to the world, has survived on the island for five years. Oliver had a talent for archery and using his own initiative builds a bow made out of spare parts of a broken generator.

Finally, he is able to get off the island. Once home using his vast fortune, he begins to create various trick arrows to use under his new mantle. He wears a green hood and green eye makeup to disguise himself. Ollie becomes very left wing in his political views and outspoken, unlike Bruce Wayne or Clark Kent. There is nothing private, fake, or mild mannered about our Ollie.

What's also different about the updated Arrow is that the development of the superhero in media, representing our longing for rescue, revenge and rehabilitation, often matches the issues of the times and no more so than with this version.

The Hero myth is a very elemental allegory about the developmental journey of a boy into manhood, how he is going to contribute to society, how he will prove himself, how he will wrestle with questions of power, competition and ethics, and how he will defeat malevolence. Oh, and whether having this horrible hairy hero-ey secret and a badboy reputation he will end up Getting The Girl. Many media academics have written doctoral theses about Superman and Batman too complex and learned to go into here, but what I think is interesting about Arrow is the shift in emphasis to the updated enemy compared with his predecessors.

In the movies, it is often Other Super Beings who Superman has to defeat, sprinkled with the odd rescue from natural disasters. In Batman, we see Our Hero has moved on and, in line with US public concerns about low level crime, which began to increase dramatically post war, has taken up arms against ordinary street crime, and later, begins successfully dealing with the allegorical 'evil genius' which equates to organised crime on a larger scale. Both seem upstanding Republican types, Superman raised in the simple, hardworking hick town, Batman, self made, from humble beginnings, avenging his murdered parents

The interesting thing about Arrow is that the culture has moved on – Oliver is unashamed about his wealth, but puts it to good use. He has a list of rich, powerful, corrupt and ruthless people who are perverting democracy, and is working his way through it by destroying them in various ways. Interestingly, his first attack includes the removal, by remote wi-fi, of $40m from a corrupt, murdering political candidate's account. Bruce and Clark had masks and mysterious shapeshifting powers, Oliver Has The Technology.

Of course, the mythology must stay true to certain genre-specific markers. Our hero must be physically attractive – tick: Stephen Amell, 31 year old Canadian actor who plays the lead bristling with six pack and smouldering set jaw, his provenance includes Closing The Ring opposite Shirley McClaine and stints in TV hits like Heartland and 90210.

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As I've said above, Oliver does not seem to have the same sort of superpowers as Batman and Superman. Would it be just too analytical to believe that the creators know that a disgruntled public, battered by economic recession and various scandals that have perhaps removed many people's naivetes about the Rich and Powerful forever, need a hero who can go up against the baddies, not in some fantasy suit, toolbelt or vehicle, but with self disclipine, training and good old fashioned human grit? We'll see...apparently he does later build a series of Arrow type equipment and vehicles but I'm guessing the suspension of disbelief won't be hard.

Because for those who would like to see a fairer, more peaceful World, the 'magical thinking', infantile person who longs in vain for a supernatural being to come and fix things still feels powerless. Arrow offers the prospect of a superhero with human powers.

And there's also the more shallow, but nevertheless gratifying level to the TV version of Arrow – the tried and tested: good vs. evil, good wins.

Technically, it is beautifully shot, the action sequences are among the best I've seen on TV or even in movies, very, very entertaining.

Looking forward to the rest of the series.

Rhiannon Daniel is a former journalist and TV writer, musician and psychotherapist.



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Read 3681 times Last modified on Friday, 08 May 2015 16:26
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