Friday, 19 September 2014

I hope I haven't failed the city

No one will ever accuse me of being with the times. I don't watch much television outside of for background noise such as when I'm doing something like writing.

But recently, there have been two shows I've been keeping up with because of strong word of mouth from people I really respect and general impressions. The first of these was Person of Interest, which I already wrote about. The second is Arrow.

You can't blame me for being skeptical, can you? I've always been a Superman fan, but Smallville had nothing about what I enjoy about the character. From all early impressions, this looked like it was going to be more of the same, but "gritty" (now there's a buzzword I can do without) and "modern" (another word that means nothing) while staying in plot purgatory for nine seasons where maybe something might happen.

I'm only halfway through season one, but wow. I was entirely wrong.

So, it does start the way I figured. Oliver Queen becomes a dark anti-hero without any regard for life or even bystanders outside of his simple-minded quest for revenge after being stranded on an island for five years without hope. His family and friends are spoiled rich kids without any real problems and their lives are fairly boring on top of it. The plots are pretty simple, Green Arrow chooses a name on his list, robs the target blind or threatens them, kills a bunch of nameless thugs, then disappears into the night.

Not the best start, in my opinion.

But then, everything slowly starts to change when, after five episodes, Oliver's bodyguard, John Diggle, is let into the operation, and basically becomes more than a bodyguard, but also the moral compass Oliver lost while on that island. He slowly opens up, trusts more, values life and gives chances, spreads his crusade out into the general crime world, and becomes a quite likeable hero instead of the villain he was fast becoming.

It's actually a new wrinkle to the Batman-style vigilante formula, which usually has the character degrading over time, losing sense of the difference between the cape and the identity. Oliver starts out as two separate people, one a careless playboy and the other a murderous vigilante, and both quickly become a good man who will risk his life for the innocent and right wrongs. Both end up becoming heroes and the same person. This is the exact opposite of the whole "Batman is the real identity" thing, as Green Arrow is not Oliver Queen and Oliver Queen is not Green Arrow. They are one and the same.

But it isn't just Oliver that grows and changes. Every character on the show from Oliver's sister Thea to his jerk best friend Tommy Merlyn start at one point yet are constantly moved on to another. Real people, real lives, real challenges. Not everyone steps up and does the right thing, but they constantly try and they all constantly change. In a lesser show, it would take until about season seven to even get to the point I'm at now in the show-- I can only imagine what is to come next.

On top of this, Arrow is a comic book show done right. It does its own thing, its own twists, its own chances, ideas, and risks, but still respects the source material enough to both nod to it and use it for its own ends. Unlike another recent comic book show that pretty much utilizes none of this (I'm shielding you from its name), Arrow is not afraid to admit it is what it is.

I'm not afraid to admit I was wrong, especially when pleasantly surprised as I am with this.

On top of it, I recently learned that the same people are behind a new show based on The Flash! Talk about great news!

Here's hoping both shows have a long shelf life and show exactly how much comics can offer those looking for a good story. As far as I'm concerned, it's a surprising amount.

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