Arrow Rewatch: Season One – Episode One: Pilot

It’s always good to learn from your past, so with that in mind, we’re going to have some rewatches here at Comics Culture, taking a look back at popular movies and TV series. We’ll be praising, criticising and reviewing, plus giving you an insight into some of the easter eggs that inevitably find their way into these shows and films. On the way will be revisits to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Justice League Animated Series, but first, the show that has revitalised superhero TV: Arrow

Oliver Queen, son of billionaire Robert Queen, is rescued from the island of Lian Yu, looking bedraggled and beaten, but sporting a natty beard, a deadeye when it comes to the bow and arrow and probably an unquenchable desire for some deodorant. Arriving back in his hometown of Starling City, we’re told, via helpful newcast exposition, that

Image via The CW

Image via The CW

Oliver was a bit of a douche before his toddled off to the high seas with his dad. Far more serious is the grim physician who tells his mother, Moira, about the catalogue of injuries he’s sustained during his five year absence. He arrives home to meet his mother’s new beau, Walter, played by the ever reliable Colin Salmon, and is openly hostile for him jumping into his father’s place (and bed). He’s also reunited with his sister Thea (Willa Holland, looking much better with long hair), and re establishes their obvious bond within a matter of seconds. It’s a testament to Stephen Amell that he can successfully show each of these relationships meaning to his character in the space of just a few seconds.

We then see who will turn out to be the significant other in his life, as Laurel Lance is given her introduction as a defence attorney, championing the cause of the “little people”. In this instance, she’s taking on the episode’s big bad, Adam Hunt, one of several corrupt businessmen who will find their way into Oliver’s sights. He’s swindled lots of ordinary people out of their money, and is the type of guy the comic book version of Green Arrow would take great pleasure in dealing with. Let us also not a forget the significant plot device of a family dinner, allowing all said protagonists to be in the same room at the same time, and also introduce Oliver’s BFF Tommy Merlyn. Poor old Tommy will meet with an untimely end later in the season, but at this point many were tipping him to be Green Arrow’s rival archer Merlyn. We all know how that turns out. Oliver has continuing dreams about what happened to him on the Queen’s Gambit, and then decides to get back out in the world, taking a trip with Tommy into Starling City, and meeting up with Laurel. Cue lots of doe eyed mumbling from both sides, which eventually ends with her giving him the two fingers over his apology for not staying in touch and for Sara’s death.

Then, the tone of the episode takes an abrupt change. it all of a sudden turns quite violent, as Tommy and Oliver are attacked by mask wearing thugs who tranquilise them and gun down an innocent witness. Oliver awakes to a taser in the face and the men demanding to know what Robert told him before he shuffled off the mortal coil. Oliver busts out of his bonds, then proceeds to bust some heads, in an action sequence the first and second series would become famous for. He scarily breaks the neck of the final thug after a high octane chase, taking great care to ensure Tommy sees none of it. He then uses this opportunity to start sewing the seeds of “The Hood”, the name by which Arrow will first become known. He feeds this line to Detective Quentin Lance, who not only happens to be the man investigating the botched kidnapping, but also Laurel and Sara’s father. He makes no attempt to hide his disdain for Oliver or the Queen clan, immediately setting up a degree of tension that’ll last much of the first two series.

Next to be introduced is everyone’s favourite non-Green Lantern, John Diggle, who is teed up as Oliver’s bodyguard.

Image via The CW

Image via The CW

Within minutes, Ollie has established he has no desire to be nursemaided and scoots off, decamping to his father’s former shareholding in The Glades, which will soon become The Arrowcave (which does NOT sound as good as The Quiver, which is what it’s sometimes called in the comics). Cue lots of construction of what will become Team Arrow’s base of operations, and some workout and target practice time for Oliver. He then sets his sights on Adam Hunt, dispatching his henchmen in a very Dark Knight-esque sequence (only with lots of killing), and demanding he deposits mega bucks into a mystery bank account. Needless to say, Hunt doesn’t play ball, and hires extra protection while demanding Lance and the SCPD jump to his tune.

Oliver is roped into attending a party in his honour, thrown by Tommy, which he obviously wants to get away from as quickly as possible to teach Hunt the error of his ways. He spots Thea palming some questionable substances and while trying to lecture her, gets told her life isn’t as carefree as he thinks it is, the first hint of the tension that will rise over the next two seasons. Oliver then bumps into Laurel, and here openly lies to her (and the viewer), about Sara’s death. They still have feelings for each other, but Oliver knows that letting her get too close, he risks losing her, so puts up the Bruce Wayne front again of being a dick to his nearest and dearest. Diggle though isn’t fooled, and when he tries to stop Oliver leaving, gets his backside handed to him (this would never have happened if he was a Green Lantern – bah). Hunt meanwhile is pulling up the drawbridges, along with police help, but to no avail as Oliver despatches his security. After a brief scuffle with his chief henchman, Oliver is left lying in Hunt’s office, hood down as the police barrel up the stairs to confront whatever is going on. All tension disappears though as Oliver gets up in seconds, high wires it down to the adjacent building (conveniently the venue for the party in his honour), then has a brusque exchange with Lance, who openly blames him for Sara’s death.

Image via The CW

Image via The CW

Oliver is revealed to have siphoned off the funds from Hunt’s accounts, ruining him, and transferring that cash to the people who Hunt had stolen from. Oliver symbolically crosses his name off his list, and Laurel advises the beneficiaries not to reveal their new found wealth. Tommy uses the opportunity to put the moves on Laurel only to be given the brush off, as a green clad Oliver watches on, providing a closing narration before the pre credits sequence.

For Five Years (Flashback sequences):
Though not technically a flashback, things obviously start off, on Lian Yu, with Oliver sprinting through the undergrowth, looking to signal the fishermen who will turn out to be his rescuers. It also shows he developed his archery skills on the island (and, as we find out later, elsewhere too) and establishes his abilities to be more than just another “tough guy”.
Later in the episode, we meet up with Queen the elder and his son, and not-Caity-Lotz Sara, Oliver’s bit on the side who will, amazingly, completely change her appearance and height up until the point Oliver rediscovers her on the island almost a year later. This is all a precursor of course to the fateful sinking of the Queens Gambit.
The sinking of the Queen’s Gambit is seen in the next flashback, with Oliver at first getting jiggy with Sara, before a surprisingly good recreation of the Poseidon Adventure leads to him being chucked overboard and Sara being flushed into the filthy clutches of Professor Anthony Ivo (more on him to come in season 2).
Next we have a brief glimpse of Robert Queen telling his son he didn’t build Starling City, rather, he failed it (this will become a common theme), while they sit in a tempestuous ocean with dwindling supplies. Robert also make it clear to Mr. RandomOtherSurvivor that Oliver will make it out of this at their expense. Sucks to be that guy.
That guy is next seen with a knife in his hand as Queen the elder makes plans for his son to survive. Unbeknownst to Oliver or Other Guy, Robert has stashed a gun about his person, and when it dawns on Mr. Expendable his time his up, he can only look surprised as Robert blows him away, then, shockingly, turns the gun on himself.

You Have Failed This City (Mistakes and WTF moments):
Nobody questions Oliver lugging a battered wooden case with symbolic writing all over it, not his mother, her new lover, his sister, or crucially, customs, who would no doubt want to know why a man who has been declared legally dead and disappeared in mysterious circumstances would be in possession of a bow and arrow set.
Sara Lance is played by a completely different actress (Jacqueline MacInnes Wood) in this episode, than the one who would make the character so popular through her black leather buttkicking, Caity Lotz.
During the fight in Hunt’s office, Oliver is left unconscious on the floor with his hood down, as the police approach. There’s follow a brief “oh no” moment when it looks like his secret identity could be busted – but was that ever really going to happen in the first episode?

Give That Man a Mirakuru (Brilliant bits):
An establishing shot that has become famous: The image of Deathstroke’s mask impaled on wooden stake on the beach, along with an arrow through one of the eye holes, foreshadows both Slade Wilson’s transformation into the eponymous antagonist, and his subsequent need for his dashing eyepatch.

Image via The CW

Image via The CW

Oliver’s opening monologue. He manages to do intimidating without the need for a Batman esque Bale growl: “I’m returning, not the boy who was shipwrecked, but the man who will bring justice to those who have poisoned my city.”
It’s easy to forget just how gorgeous Katie Cassidy is in the first season. Now, no one knows exactly why she looks so different in season 2 and 3, and rumours abound about plastic surgery, but she has herself said that Laurel’s eventual battle with substance abuse (and the weight loss that goes with it) was the reason she decided to lose a few pounds herself. Regardless, it’s a shame, because she looks a million dollars in this episode.
Oliver’s initial fight and chase with the thugs who abduct he and Tommy is both impressive and visceral, and for a TV series, breaking a guy’s neck is pretty strong stuff, but it does underline how serious Arrow intends to be.
Oliver’s “training montage” sets up the Arrowcave, establishing the set that will become very familiar. His target practice with the tennis balls goes a long way towards establishing his skill as an archer, particularly for those unaccustomed to the character.
“She looks like that chick from Twilight,”
“What’s Twilight?”
“You’re so better off not knowing.”
Lance’s line: “did you even try to save her?” to Oliver during the party shows the obvious disdain he shows towards the Queen family, and does a lot to show his conviction towards protecting Laurel. It’s also great acting by Paul Blackthorne.
The piece of music playing while Hunt finds out his company’s funds have been drained, and showing Oliver transferring the money from the mystery account into those of the people Hunt had scammed is wonderfully emotive and also shows Oliver’s “Robin Hood” side.

Robert Queen’s Notebook (Comic Easter Eggs):
The initial shot of Oliver sprinting through the jungle is lifted from the comic books, and his long hair and beard (which is more than just a hint of blond), mirror’s Green Arrow’s comic book look more than Oliver’s actual crimefighting gear.
The surname of Oliver’s best friend is Merlyn, also the name of a DC Comics villain who is a direct enemy of Green Arrow.
John Diggle was an original character created for the show, but such was his popularity, he was eventually incorporated into DC Comics New 52 reboot of Green Arrow. Diggle’s military background also closely mirrors that of John Stewart, who in the comics is an ex-special forces trooper who becomes a member of the Green Lantern Corps.

The Trick Arrow (the pre credits scene):
Random henchman appears discussing how the abduction of Oliver and Tommy didn’t go to plan, and suggests hiring more mercenaries to try again. Shockingly, Moira Queen says there are “other ways to find out what my son knows”, setting up her duplicity that’ll come back to haunt her at the end of season one.

Arrows Out of Ten:
8/10: A strong start for Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti’s baby, which perhaps only suffers from trying to wedge in so many new characters in the pace of 40 minutes. Stephen Amell nails the character straight away, but perhaps channels a bit of his inner Batman when finally donning the hood. The whole thing has a bit of a Batman Begins feel to it, but that’s not necessarily a bad move when trying to present an audience with a world they can both relate to and believe a superhero like Arrow can exist. The pre credits scene sets up the series trademark shocking moment, which will be mirrored by its sister show The Flash in the future. Overall, a great start.


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