Arrow Season 1 Review: From Mediocre to Super

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The CW’s next series based on a DC superhero could have gone a number of ways, but ultimately came out on top.

The season can be pretty easily divided into three parts, both in terms of story and quality. When Arrow first premiered it was a decent but not great superhero series. The beginning of the season had some solid moments, and the standout episode An Innocent Man, but early villains like the Huntress and the Royal Flush Gang really did nothing for the series. The acting and writing were barely better than a soap opera, yet it still tried, perhaps too hard, to be like The Dark Knight. The only thing that really kept it afloat was the superhero aspect of the show.

Then came the middle of the season. Starting with the episode Year’s End, which introduced Malcolm Merlyn as the Dark Archer, things began to improve. We got much more interesting villains with the likes of Firefly and Vertigo going toe-to-toe with Oliver. The hero began to express more emotion, as Stephen Amell improved with each episode. The best episode of the season at that point, The Odyssey, finally put some focus into the island flashbacks, and gave us one of the best characters on the show, Slade Wilson.

But the final eight episodes. It felt like the show totally became something new. With the characters developed, he end of the season was nothing short of epic. Starting with the spectacular Dead to Rights, and all the way up to the finale, Arrow became the superhero series everyone wanted it to be. The acting massively improved. There was less melodrama and more subtle emotion. The characters grew and evolved, while the action was breathtaking. Merlyn became the perfect foe for Oliver to take on in the end.

Arrow was always about a superhero who wasn’t sure what he was fighting for, and by the end of the season that became a fun show to watch. With the insertions of Felicity, Slade Wilson, and others, it became comic booky but not hokey. It was fun while though provoking, which is exactly what a superhero series should be.

Although there was still one problem, the island. The flashbacks to the years Oliver was on the island constantly had me debating with myself over whether I liked them or not. Sometimes there was literally no development, but then Slade Wilson became so much fun to watch. If there is one thing that really needs to improve next year it’s this. Frankly I’m more excited for when we are just following Oliver in the present, but the stories there do need wrapping up. But let’s not let them go on until season five.

Still though, the developments of the finale have set up for what will likely be a darker sophomore season. A significant portion of the city is destroyed and Oliver’s best friend is dead. I can’t wait to see how Oliver deals with these developments next season. The same goes for Roy, Laurel, and countless others.

So overall, this was a very successful first season. It didn’t start out great but it certainly got there. Grade: B+

By Matt Dougherty

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