Title: Arrow: The Complete First Season
HTS Overall Score:79
Superheroes are great fantasy and just plain fun. After all, who doesn’t love a great superhero story? Obviously the masses wouldn’t argue with that statement, as we’ve recently seen major reboots of comic book heroes become smashing box office successes. Of course these films have astronomical budgets and big star power to pull-in audiences. Take the most recent Batman Trilogy. It grossed more than a billion dollars. Think about that for a minute: over ONE billion dollars! If that isn’t fanfare, I’m not sure what is. The translation of superheroes from the big screen to weekly appearances on television screens hasn’t always been easy. There have been numerous flops. Anyone remember The Cape? “Ugh” is right. Of course we’ve had some popular ones come our way, with both Smallville and Heroes being recent ones that come to mind.
Arrow is a show based on the popular long-running DC comic book series called Green Arrow created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp. The Green Arrow made his first appearance 72 years ago... back in 1941. Supposedly Weisinger was inspired by Batman and there are quite a few parallels between the two characters. In fact, I’d also say that the Arrow isn’t too dissimilar from Spiderman, either. They all lead secret lives, conveniently protect the ones they love at the most insanely opportune times, and fight evil while maintaining bristly and contentious relationships with the public and local authorities. What makes the Arrow unique is an underlying anger that, on occasion, leads him to kill his opponents as opposed to rendering them helpless. So, with that background let’s dive into a review that will hopefully keep some intrigue intact for those of you that missed Arrow on the CW and are planning to watch it on Blu-ray.
Stephen Amell plays a trust fund playboy named Oliver Queen living in Starling City. He is lost at sea with his billionaire father following a violent boating accident. While floating in a life raft at sea, Oliver’s father realizes survival is hopeless for all but one of the survivors. He kills everyone except Oliver and confesses his history of corrupt business practices before dying. He leaves Oliver a book of names that details a host of Starling City citizens that are up to no good. He tells Oliver to right the wrongs of his family and bring down those doing harm to Starling City.
For the next five years Oliver is stranded on a remote island, with one goal in mind: survive. He is thought to be dead, until one day he’s recused and returned to Starling City. Of course Oliver’s time on the island was trying and difficult, leading him to return home with incredible fighting skills and the amazing ability to accurately shoot a bow and arrow. Not exactly a Tom Hanks Cast Away scenario. It doesn’t take long for Oliver to acclimate to his old life in Starling City and he soon converts one of his father’s abandoned warehouses into his own superhero Head Quarters. He builds an immaculate lair where he fashions deadly arrows, sets-up high tech computer technology, and performs physical exercise and training feats that would humble all but the most insane Cross Fitters. Donning a green hood and a bow and arrow, Oliver secretly begins taking down criminals left and right. Some are spared while others are killed. To his credit, Oliver gives most of them a chance to atone for their wrongdoings, but most ignore his warnings and find themselves out of work.
Along the way several important characters are introduced. Laurel the lawyer (Katie Cassidy) is Oliver’s ex-fiancé and the daughter of Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne). The Detective – who frequently looks dehydrated and disheveled – can’t stand Oliver’s exploits and makes “The Hood” (as he calls Oliver’s alter-ego) his number one target. Of course The Hood and Detective Lance cross paths on numerous occasions and begin to develop a love-hate symbiotic relationship. Then there is Tommy (Collin Donnel), Oliver’s childhood best friend who happens to be in love with Laurel. Tommy and Oliver’s relationship is fascinatingly friendly and contentious.
Over several episodes Oliver’s identity as “The Hood” is slowly revealed to a few characters, one of which is named Diggle (David Ramsey). Diggle begins the series as a Queen family bodyguard and eventually becomes The Hood’s assistant. In many ways Diggle is similar to Bruce Wayne’s Alfred: A voice of reason. However unlike Alfred, Diggle is muscular, able to wield a gun, and all too eager to mix-it-up with some nasty criminal elements. At the end of the day, Oliver’s semi-secret identity helps to keep his character human and believable (however there are quite a few moments where other characters should easily be able to identify The Hood but simply don’t).
Arrow: The Complete First Season is an epic 972 minutes spread-out over 24 episodes. And the truth? It’s quite good. In fact, it’s very good. While I had my doubts after watching the first four episodes (the storyline felt endanger of becoming stagnant and predictable), the series totally took off and stayed fresh and exciting right through the finale. The acting is generally spot-on and character interplay is excellent. Of course Arrow has moments of television-drama cheese involving corny scenarios, overly selfish and accusatory dialog, and villains that are head-scratchingly good at throwing round-house kicks. But in some ways that kind of cheese only adds to the series’ charm. One of the show’s finer presentation elements is the slow unraveling of Oliver’s time spent marooned on the island through periodic flashbacks. These flashbacks not only explain how Oliver acquired his physical abilities, but also serve as a riveting second plot line. It all makes for great story telling and helps to keep the primary present-day plot fresh and moving forward.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news/arrow3.jpg[/img]Warner Bros. delivers Arrow with a solid 1.78:1 1080p MPEG4 AVC encode. The presentation has a lot going for it, with a few hiccups here and there. Images throughout the 24 episodes are generally sharp and pleasing to the eye with moments of excellence and dynamic pop. Colors are crisp and typically neutral, with pure whites accentuated by a surrounding softness (think: angelic glow). Blacks are deep and inky with a few instances of notable crush, particularly in shadowy scenes or images where characters are wearing all black clothing. Fine details, especially those of the characters’ faces, vary between jaw dropping sharpness and a somewhat soft and slightly blurred appearance (which, in the case of facial features, leads to a waxy appearance). Skin tones throughout the series are natural.
The biggest knock on the Arrow’s presentation is the on-again off-again presence of grain in the picture, mostly noticeable in the background of images. While flashback scenes have a purposeful grain, many present-day scenes (both light and dark) present a mild grain that can be somewhat distracting. Don’t let this minor hiccup deter you, however, as Arrow’s picture quality is typically very good.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/news//Arrow4.jpg[/img]Above average and closing-in on excellent. That’s the best way to describe Arrow’s DTS-HD 5.1 MA presentation, especially considering we’re talking about a sound mix designed for television audiences. The series has a definite front-stage heaviness that is wide and spacious, largely driven by the warmth of Blake Nealy’s (The Pacific, The Mentalist) score. Directionality is spot-on with some surprisingly dynamic moments during action sequences that find sound movement across the sound stage. Surround channels are invited to the party to great effect. While they aren’t used as heavily as we’ve become accustomed to in Hollywood blockbusters, they have their place and add to the overall ambiance of the series. On the sub front I’m happy to report that LFE is present and digs rather deep (at times), with quite a few scenes that will drive your subs to a happy place.
An apparent unevenness in the audio presentation holds Arrow back somewhat. There are moments where certain sounds (such as gunshots, for example) are simply lacking in depth, coming across rather thin. Dialog suffers a similar fate. While centered and always intelligible, it lacks a throaty thickness and depth.
• Arrow Comes Alive!
• Arrow: Fight School/Stunt School
• Arrow: Cast and Creative Team at the 2013 Paleyfest
• Unaired Scenes
• Gag Reel
Arrow is an exceptionally refreshing television series - admittedly I was more than pleasantly surprised over its 24 episodes. The story of Oliver Queen’s past, his growth into superhero status, and the trials and tribulations of those around him are great fun. The acting throughout the series is very good and effectively sheds that “television” feel at times. And both the audio and video presentation is quite good, with audio being the better of the two. It’s fairly easy to recommend Arrow, especially for fans of television action-dramas and viewers looking for a little escapism every now and again.
Starring: Steven Amell, Katie Cassidy, Willa Holland, David Ramsey, Susanna Thompson, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Emily Bett Rickards
Directed by: John Behring (4 episodes), Guy Norman Bee (3), Nick Copus (3), Eagle Egilsson (3), David Barrett (2), Kenneth Fink (2), Michael Schultz (2), Glen Winter (2)
Written by: Greg Berlanti (27 episodes), Marc Guggenheim (27), Andrew Kreisberg (27), Wendy Mericle (5), Beth Schwartz (5), Ben Sokolowski (5), Lana Cho (4), Moira Kirkland (3), Geoff Johns (2), Jake Cobum (2), Drew Greenberg (2)
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Runtime: 972 minutes
Blu-Ray Release Date: September 17, 2013
Buy Arrow: The Complete First Season Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Watch It!