On the eve of Marvel’s Daredevil series premiere, I wanted to spend some time talking about another superhero TV series that you really should be watching: Arrow. It’s probably one of the best shows on television right now, and yet it often feels like no one is paying attention to it. There’s always plenty of chatter about certain shows – like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, House of Cards, Doctor Who, etc. – some of which have legions of podcasts devoted to recapping every episode or nugget of news. Arrow isn’t even part of the conversation, despite the fact that is infinitely better than other TV shows based on comic books (I’m looking at you, Agents of SHIELD).
But perhaps I should back up a bit and explain what this show is and why you should start watching it.
Arrow is the story of the DC character Green Arrow, who falls into the Batman archetype of superheroes: in other words, a billionaire who fights crime. Tony Stark also falls into this category, except instead of dressing like a bat, he puts on a full-body suit of armor. Oliver Queen – the eponymous Green Arrow – goes out at night dressed vaguely like Robin Hood and takes on criminals with – if you couldn’t guess – a bow and arrows. Before he began his career as a vigilante though, Oliver spent five years shipwrecked on an island in the South Pacific. He comes home a changed man. His friends and family remember him as a carefree rich kid, but now he’s brooding and serious and scarred, both physically and emotionally.
Much like the Nolan trilogy of Batman films, the Arrow TV series is fairly grounded in reality. From a production standpoint, I’m sure this makes Arrow cheaper to make than its special effect-laden sibling, The Flash, but as a viewer this also makes the entire premise and cast of characters more relatable. Oliver Queen is just an ordinary guy devoid of any superpowers, although the actor that plays him (Stephen Amell) is supernaturally ripped. Likewise, his adversaries are normal criminals and assassins. Well, one or two might have extraordinary strength and endurance (courtesy of an experimental drug), but they’re the exception not the rule. Even so, Oliver doesn’t have impenetrable skin like Superman or a mutant healing-factor like Wolverine. When he gets hurt, it has meaning and consequences. And of course, whenever Oliver isn’t off fighting criminals as The Arrow, he has to contend with all the problems that come with being a young billionaire: relationship drama, family discord, and the possibility of a hostile takeover of his company, Queen Consolidated.
I don’t want to say much more about the specifics of the show because (1) spoilers, and (2) I want you to go watch it yourself. But I do want to allay some fears non-comic book fans might have about watching Arrow.
First of all, you don’t need to have an encyclopedic knowledge Green Arrow or even the DC comics universe to enjoy this series. In fact, it’s probably better that you don’t. Foreknowledge about DC’s cast of characters – especially the real names of heroes and villains – will almost certainly spoil some of the plot twists and reveals throughout the series. When my girlfriend and I were binge-watching Arrow this past Fall, neither of us had much history with these characters. I can personally attest to this positive experience. As much as I like to geek out when I’m in on a reference, I like being surprised more.
You also don’t need to be watching every other DC-based TV show or movie to follow the events of Arrow. Right now, Arrow exists in its own universe separate from Man of Steel and the upcoming Batman v. Superman, and the only TV show that crosses over is The Flash. The first two seasons of Arrow stand entirely on their own, the although the current season (3) has had a couple light crossovers with The Flash, they’re mostly unnecessary… Which is good, because honestly I find The Flash to be incredibly boring every time I watch it. With both a Supergirl and Teen Titans series in development, however, this could all change. I hope it doesn’t though. As much as I love the interconnected nature of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, sometimes I wish parts of it were more isolated. The MCU is great when it allows movies like The Avengers to happen, but as I noted in my post about Guardians of the Galaxy, it can also be a millstone around the neck.
As a longtime Marvel fan (ever since I was a wee child watching Spider-Man and X-Men cartoons on Saturday morning), I honestly can’t believe how much I enjoy Arrow. I’ve never had much affection for the DC heroes outside of Batman, but since I started watching Arrow, my interest in their roster of characters has increased dramatically. In fact, I would have started reading Green Arrow comics months ago if the current “New 52” version of the character was more like the Oliver Queen I know. That feels like a big missed opportunity.
I really hope Marvel has been paying attention to Arrow. I guess we’ll all find out once Daredevil arrives.