Team GATV Roundtable: So How Good Is Arrow? Part 1 Team GATV Roundtable: So How Good Is Arrow? Part 1
The writers of GreenArrowTV gather to assess Arrow so far. Team GATV Roundtable: So How Good Is Arrow? Part 1

The tale of your friendly neighborhood emerald archer is up for a People’s Choice Award this year and for good reason. Arrow is popular and pulling in strong and consistent ratings, living up to a singular tradition on its network and making a case for comic book properties to thrive on the small screen as much as the big one. What’s more is the show is getting a fair amount of notice in both the traditional media as well as many corners of the [insert trendy slang name for the internet of your choice here].

With the show on winter hiatus, the GATV staff decided to offer some insight and reflection on the series over the next few weeks to tide you over until its return. Hopefully, this will kick off some discussion of your own and we certainly welcome any insights or questions you feel like sharing to keep up the dialogue.

We’ve broken our discussion over the next four weeks into three main topics :

  • Week 1: Reaction and analysis of Arrow so far, Part 1
  • Week 2: Reaction and analysis, Part 2
  • Week 3: Comparison with other comic adaptations
  • Week 4: Expectations and predictions for the rest of Season 1

To kick things off, Team GATV sat down to discuss what we like about the nascent series, what have been some challenges, and if the show has lived up to its hype and recognition.

We’ve all seen the first nine episodes. What is your impression of the series so far?

CRAIG (Webmaster/Editor-in-Chief): For the most part, I’m impressed and pleased with the show so far. So often we’ve had attempts at comic book inspired TV series in recent years that were so bad they didn’t even make it past a season. Stephen Amell, particularly, was a huge surprise, as were some of the characters that we didn’t originally “know” from comics lore. I like that the producers seem to have had a plan and also appreciate that they let things happen rather than saving every major beat for Season 6.
MATT (Writer/Reviewer): The series has definitely been one that is not afraid of what it wants and must accomplish, but I have to wonder just how plotted out the season is and what the thoughts are of the long term. I’m quite surprised with the speed of events through the first nine episodes. Green Arrow has a relatively limited rogue’s gallery and we’ve already seen the bulk of the significant people involved in the history of his books, which is both refreshing to see them not waste time but a bit head-scratching to see how they can stretch things out.
CRAIG: I feel like the show is still finding itself, and seeing what works. The show we’re watching right now probably won’t be the show we’re watching in a year, and I’m okay with that. As the writers and producers learn and see which characters or situations work and which don’t, I think the series will evolve.
DEREK (Writer/Reviewer): Just comparing episode one with episode nine, there’s been a big shift in how the stories are told and even the overall tone. The first episode was this gloomy, uber-serious action drama, playing up too much of its Batman Begins inspiration and taking itself so seriously — like those heavy-handed voiceovers — that it was hard to get enjoyment out of it. It was a well-done pilot, but I don’t see that being an “iconic” pilot that we’d look back fondly on. As the show has progressed, though, it’s branched off and explored more lighter and comedic elements, embraced the possibility for cheesy, familial warmth, and is much more colorful with its characters and comic book elements. It still takes itself seriously and is certainly a dark take, but it doesn’t feel pessimistic and it’s continually more enjoyable.
MATT: I like that the show isn’t given over to too much melodrama or too much action, which surprises me coming out of the pilot. It’s still finding its balance — which I thought “Year’s End” did a good job of — but it’s doing an effective job of being more than just a comic book show or a drama with trappings of comic book source material (Smallville).
DEREK: It reminds me a lot of how Fringe unfolded, actually. A well-made but lacking first season ultimately revealed a bigger plan that came together to become one of the sci-fi TV greats in season 2. I expect Arrow to eventually flourish the same way.
ANDY (Writer at companion site KSiteTV.com): Personally, I’ve found the show magnificent. There are several things that I have enjoyed in this first run. In particular, the addition of some great and intriguing DC Characters and Arrow’s take on them, introducing these characters to people that, perhaps, aren’t comic book fans. While some episodes have been better than others, the story has been doing a remarkable progression with the main character, Oliver Queen, and for the majority of the other main characters. One of the reasons has been the great cast. To me, this is a rare thing, to have a 100% great ensemble of actors that portrays these beloved characters well, which is actually one of the things that I loved Smallville for.
STEPHANIE (Writer/Episode Guide Archivist): I have been highly impressed with the quality of the first nine episodes. From the fight scenes to the high stakes to the twists and turns and surprises, it has kept my attention. Oliver’s struggles with his family and having to reintegrate himself into the world have been interesting and unexpected. I am enjoying how Arrow is not solely a comic book show nor only an action show nor only a drama. However, I feel almost as if it has been eight episodes of repetition since the pilot. Nearly every week, Oliver has been going after a criminal, starting with prep and then ending with a throw down. Don’t get me wrong, I am enjoying Arrow and I understand it’s only nine episodes in, I just feel like there is room for diversity in story lines in the future.
DEREK: Yeah, we’re not even half a season in and I’m already beyond tired of corrupt rich guy fights that end with the “You have failed this city!” mantra.
CRAIG: “You have failed this city!” already needs to be retired. I agree with Stephanie about the family. As I pointed out about the characters that didn’t even exist in the comics, I really like Thea a lot, and I find Moira to be very interesting. She is not a mustache-twirling villain nor is she helpless, either. Just way in over her head. I’d have to say the casting of Susanna Thompson also helps “sell” that character to the audience; she is amazing.
ANDY: Moira is one of the more complex antagonists that this show has and I certainly agree that Thompson’s beautiful performance does help a lot with that character. The family aspect is actually one of the reasons why I prefer this interpretation of Oliver Queen than the actual comic roots where he doesn’t have a family.
DEREK: The family drama is what definitely saves it from the repetitiveness of the action stories, sometimes. Giving him a surviving mom and sister — and stepfather! — was one of the best decisions thus far. It gives way to some soapy (but meaty) human stories that flesh it out beyond the action stuff. It’s like getting a “Luthor family” show but with a more heroic spin on it.
CRAIG: I realized at a certain point that if [this] Oliver Queen were a character from Smallville, he wouldn’t be Ollie. He would be Lex, trying to get out from underneath the shadow of his father’s sins. He even has the right house for it.
DEREK: I still feel like they’ve kind of gone in circles with Thea, but it seems like they’re saving her for future stories. Everything between Moira and Walter has been a great surprise, though.
ANDY: Well, with everything we know now about the upcoming run, it did make sense with what they did with Thea in the first 9 episodes.
MATT: I agree about some of the repetitive quality of the show up to this point, but I also get the feeling that they recognized that in the concept and are starting to plot ways around it. That said, I find that they really need to start developing their supporting characters more and more. The show has been far too Ollie-centric as far as his quest is concerned. I like that Ollie is a strong character to hang things upon but I feel we’ll need to see more out of the lives of those around him to be invested in the show for the long-term.
ANDY: As a new freshman drama show, it has quickly become one of my favorite TV shows. The first 9 episodes of the season have definitely lived up to its hype since the first casting announcements and Comic-Con. To me, a first season is all about taking some risks and see what the results are and from there, improve or look it over again, which is not a bad thing. As the season progresses, I think “Arrow” as whole will bloom even more and find its stability.

We want to get into character discussions, so let’s move on to the next question so we can start diving into the nitty gritty…

What were your expectations of the series going into the pilot and how were they met?

STEPHANIE: Only having encountered Oliver Queen from Smallville and from the trailers, I expected it to be a high action, slightly dark show, which it definitely is. I expected it to have a slower origin story for Green Arrow, but the pilot surprised me in its boldness. I suppose the occasional island flashbacks are Arrow‘s form of the origin.
ANDY: My expectations were pretty high and I would even dare say that the first episode exceeded those expectations and left me wanting more. I wanted to find out more about characters like Diggle, who I felt was actually cheated by very limited screentime. His scenes had already been released in that CW interview he did and the one or two new scenes with him were quite short. It was pretty much out there that Diggle was going to be a huge player in this story and I was expecting to see a lot more of him. I was very uncertain about Quentin Lance and Walter Steele because they didn’t come off as intriguing at first. Moira and Thea were things that went beyond my expectations.
CRAIG: I expected — or hoped for — a good TV series that resembled eras of the Green Arrow comics that I liked. I think the pilot met them. In some ways, the pilot exceeded my expectations in that it left me with speculations and questions. Was that Deathstroke’s mask, and why? Is Laurel’s sister alive? Is Laurel’s mom the Black Canary somewhere? Why did Moira do that to him? All of those questions stuck with me after seeing the pilot.
MATT: What were the specific eras of the books that you liked?
CRAIG: I see a bit of the Grell era within especially, though there were also some shots in the pilot that looked just like Green Arrow: Year One. I was also surprised how some of the atmosphere and feel of some of the Green Arrow/Black Canary short stories in World’s Finest from the late 70’s/early 80’s seemed represented here in the show.
MATT: For the most part, I got what I expected out of the pilot, something darker, grittier, and more mature than the version of the character we got on Smallville. I was also a fan of the Grell stuff from the comics and the pilot did well to approximate the tone and focus of that era.
STEPHANIE: I did not at all expect the production quality to be as good as it is, making it look like a mini movie starting with the pilot and moving into every week.
MATT: Particularly the way David Nutter shot the action. Being honest, I don’t feel the show has since quite matched the way the action was shot in the pilot.
DEREK: You know, I was a bit let down by the pilot, actually. I gave it a decent review because, in terms of what it was, it was well-done. I can’t argue with the production values and choreography. But my own sensibilities tend to lean more towards Marvel’s fun and colorful Avengers-series tone, rather than the dark grittiness Nolan’s films have inspired.
MATT: It’s funny you mention Marvel. I went into the pilot with an interesting perspective: I had written a script for an adaptation of Marvel’s Hawkeye a few years ago that brought things down to street level, so I was interested in how Arrow stacked up with my thoughts on a guy with a bow & arrow fighting crime. There are some similarities in approach but the show goes for a darker feel. It was obvious that it was influenced by Nolan’s take on Batman, which whether you love it or not is just a reality of the way comic properties are viewed in Hollywood right now.
DEREK: I knew from the trailers that it’d be dark, but I was hoping we’d get some fun, sarcastic and wise-cracking Green Arrow like we got in Justice League Unlimited. I was probably being too oblivious in thinking that, but was still a little disappointed when I saw him breaking people’s necks and refusing to show much emotion. I reluctantly accepted the idea that this is a more realistic exploration of just how screwed up a guy with his experiences could be. After about four or five episodes in, it clicked with me and I really got invested in what’s a rather fresh take on the superhero origin — actually showing the long progression from merciless vigilante to idealistic superhero.
ANDY: That is a perfect expression. I like that.
CRAIG: I’m not entirely convinced that we’ll never see wisecracking Oliver Queen on this series. He’s been through a lot. The moments where we get to see Oliver happy are the best moments of the show. I still say him taking his mom out for Big Belly Burger was one of my favorite moments.
MATT: The influence of the targeted audience of the network was more evident than I expected, though, giving the show still more of a fantasy feel than the gritty noir of something like The Shield.
STEPHANIE: That influence is something that I have found very apparent with Amell being shirtless nearly every week, but I have also found it diverges from that, being a little more adult than what I always think of as “The CW high school girl audience,” especially with Oliver attempting to reshape society and snapping people’s necks.
MATT: It’s a little less mature than I had hoped but leans more toward the Nikita end of things than it does just about every other show on the network, which is a good thing. I have to wonder what a show like this would look like on a network like FX, though. Would it be as focused on the air of rich fantasy or would it be down in the rainy streets with Ollie cracking heads more often? Would the emotional content be given even richer exploration than sort of the big brush strokes it’s getting right now?
ANDY: I think the network is taking notes because I do feel that, with shows like Arrow, they are starting to re-shape the image that people in general think of The CW.
CRAIG: I actually think that Arrow is in a perfect place and a network that will push it. Yes, maybe with being on The CW we get the love triangle drama that is not needed, but as far as being in a place where young people can get into it, The CW is perfect. Stephen Amell is someone that young audience knows now, and really, this is the first time since The Vampire Diaries that they’ve had that just about right mix.
STEPHANIE: I feel like if Arrow were on another network it would be Dexter-esque. They’re both working for the “greater good” taking down the criminals in society with their own outside-of-the-law methods with guidance from their fathers. It seems that Arrow glamorizes it more, in the sense that Oliver has a nice family to return to and doesn’t act quite so illegally.
CRAIG: I don’t think I’d like a Dexter-like Arrow any more. But then again, I’d be okay with a toned-down Punisher for TV, so what do I know?!?!
DEREK: I do hope that Arrow lightens up as it goes along. If it follows along the similarities to Nikita, I think it can; that started out with most of the characters fairly cold and solitary, and even as the stories grew more complex, the characters grew warmer and things just felt more fun. I still think JLU is the best representation of superheroes taking the characters and stories rather seriously but still feeling colorful and fantastical.

Let’s spin this right into our next question, delving into characters…

How well do you feel Stephen Amell is doing in the lead role?

ANDY: When he was first cast back in January/February, I had no idea what to think: a completely new face to me. When we started seeing clips, interviews with him, and the communication he has with his fans on his Facebook page, my faith in him was solidified.
MATT: The guy is genuinely compelling and likeable.
DEREK: I’ll be honest, I think I already decided I’d like him just based on how excited he’s been for the role even before the show started. The guy is Arrow‘s best publicist.
CRAIG: The thing that has impressed me so much is how much Stephen has put into the role. I’m not convinced that he sleeps. Tweeting, doing videos for fans, interviews, working out, training… he does not take this job lightly. And more than anything, it seems apparent to me that he loves the show and appreciates his fans. I can say that appreciation thing about all of the cast, really.
ANDY: His level of commitment and devotion for what he does is what I like the most about him.
STEPHANIE: Anytime I see a video or interview with Stephen Amell he seems so friendly and charming and I expected the playboy side of Oliver to incorporate that, but it hasn’t really been shown.
MATT: I want to see them incorporate more of his natural personality into the role and into his acting.
ANDY: I think he’s doing a remarkable job-
MATT: “And thank you for remarking on it.” Sorry.
ANDY: -with this character on so many levels. He brings so much emotion to the part. The vigilante is the illustration of pain, the suffering and anger he carries from his 5 years on the island. But he can be this bright, funny guy and peaceful when he isn’t the vigilante. Amell can go between the two in a heartbeat. I don’t feel like there is anything to scratch my head over regarding Amell’s ability in the lead role.
STEPHANIE: I think he’s doing well with what he has to work with. Having gone through a lot of Amell’s past work for the “Where Do I Know You From? Files,” I saw a beautiful diversity with his talents, so I know what he is capable of and I hope Arrow gives him the opportunity to display some of that.
DEREK: He has weak moments, but generally they’re far and few between. His voice is not fit for voiceovers at all, for example. It didn’t help that the lines were kind of awful. He seems to have a good grasp of the character, and though he hasn’t had the chance to show *much* range, he’s shown that he’s capable of it.
MATT: I wasn’t very familiar with Amell before he was cast for the show, but I had managed to see him in a couple of episodes of Private Practice. I’ll be honest, I thought he had the look, but I found him kind of stiff on that show so I was a bit concerned of how well he’d do on this one. Some of that stiffness is still there and there are times when it does throw me off a bit. It’s hard to distinguish what is an acting choice and what is less-than-quality acting with what he’s doing in the first part of this series.
STEPHANIE: It’s reasonable that Oliver is distant and often lacking obvious emotion because of the island and being separated from his family so a semi-stiff performance works for that.
CRAIG: In a way, that stiffness works for his character. He’s been through a lot so he is visibly uncomfortable, and that might be what Stephen is trying to convey.
MATT: I’ve seen this PTSD rationalization floated about. I can see the logic in that but it doesn’t always read that way on-screen. But I saw more of his natural personality in his performance in “Year’s End,” so I have a feeling the stiffness as acting choice argument holds up.
CRAIG: There are moments, especially when Oliver lightens up, that Stephen shines. How realistically can anyone bellow “YOU HAVE FAILED THIS CITY” without busting out into laughter?
STEPHANIE: For being the lead of the show, though, I don’t connect with him at all. On the other hand, his performance as The Hood is certainly commendable.
MATT: Maybe an obvious question but does that detract from the show for you not being able to connect fully with the lead?
STEPHANIE: A little bit. TV shows that I thoroughly enjoy watching I find myself forming a strong attachment to the characters and being really invested in their story, but that hasn’t happened with Arrow. While I do like watching it, I guess I just haven’t found my aspect of investment yet.
MATT: That’s an interesting phenomenon that I’m seeing by a number of people I’ve chatted with about the show. It’s especially true of the fans I talked about Smallville with all the time when that show was on. They can’t find a way to invest in Arrow yet like they did with that show. Some have said it was because of Amell, others just a general comment on all of the characters so far.
CRAIG: It’s strange, because Arrow has more characters than Smallville does, but I feel with Smallville‘s first nine episodes it was impossible NOT to have a favorite. Here, as much as I love, say, Felicity Smoak, I don’t see people rushing out to create the Felicity Smoak Fanfiction Archive just yet. Now, that could quite possibly change as the series goes on. As it stands, while there are some great actors and interesting characters in the supporting cast, it might almost be too much of a good thing, and too many different good things. We only seem to get a minute or two with most of the supporting cast. With “Year’s End,” Tommy and Laurel seemed forgotten almost entirely until about 20 minutes into the show.
MATT: I think a lot of it does come down to the relatively narrow focus of the show on Oliver and his quest up ‘til now. In some fashion, I like that, but it’s also limited the rest of the world growing into a full-fledged breathing world of its own.

I think this is a great segue into our next questions. First…

Who has been your favorite character on the show during this early run?

CRAIG: I think it would be hard to have a favorite character who is not Oliver, but Moira is definitely up there. I could say great things about several characters, but since you asked for just favorite I’ll leave it at that.
STEPHANIE: Going in to the show, I really wanted Laurel to be my favorite, but she has been stuck too far in the background or only as a love interest lately.
ANDY: That’s how I wanted to feel about Laurel, too. I always assumed she would be my favorite female character, but she hasn’t been given that much, not like Thea. Thea is someone close to my age, someone that I can relate to very well. Not the drug part, obviously, but her struggle as a teenage kid. I see the point where she is right now very well.
DEREK: I’ve found that I like performances more than the actual characters, if that makes sense. Like, I’ve been surprised with how much I enjoy any of Colin Donnell or Willa Holland on screen, but I’m not particularly invested in either Tommy or Thea as characters.
MATT: I fully sympathize with where you’re coming from. I’ve enjoyed a number of things Donnell has done but I can’t say I’m fully invested in Tommy as a character yet.
CRAIG: I’m not that invested in Tommy, either, and I think part of that is because it’s a tough role. How are we supposed to like the douchebag? When the show tries to humanize him, I still think “he’s a douchebag” so it’s hard to get into it. I still am not sure I understand why his father cut him off, except for the excuse to reveal that John Barrowman is his father. I do like Colin Donnell though, so maybe he can turn it around… it’s just really hard to redeem a character who is built and introduced as slimy. Few characters aside from Dick Casablancas and Damon Salvatore have pulled that off.
MATT: I know Barrowman talked about trying to teach Tommy a lesson by cutting him off and brought up some stuff about wanting Tommy to be more like Oliver. Personally, I haven’t seen that in the show yet. Despite Oliver’s experiences on the island, he was pretty douchey before and hasn’t really done much publicly since returning outside of his Arrow activities. I’m not sure why Malcolm would suddenly hold Oliver up as a standard for his son to live up to.
STEPHANIE: I completely agree with the idea of performances versus characters. Tommy is probably my favorite character solely because of Colin Donnell. I find him to be such a great contrast to Oliver and I’ve been enjoying his occasional humor and sweet side with how much he is trying to get into Laurel’s good graces. I would love to see more scenes between him and Oliver.
ANDY: If I had to pick one favorite male character, it would actually be Tommy. His introduction as this fun, charming, relaxed rich boy is what I have enjoyed so much. What surprised me, though, is that we hadn’t seen much of him until “Muse of Fire” and “Vendetta,” and then his character arc changed completely. He has been put in a hell of a situation thanks to an unexpected obstacle that he can’t really fight against.
MATT: Much as I like Oliver, I would have to say my fave character on the show so far has been Diggle. I like what he represents for Oliver and he feels like the most fully-lived in character. He has history and David Ramsey has nailed everything about him so far. I look forward to where they go next with Dig because I do think they need to do more with him than just be the moralizing voice for Oliver. And I’d love to see him do things out in the field rather than just hanging back at base.
CRAIG: Even when he had less to do on the show, his reactions said it all. I agree with you so much and I think the show is on the right track to do well by him.
DEREK: I think Quentin Lance is up there for me, but again, that might have more to do with liking Paul Blackthorne in the role than the character alone.
CRAIG: There are a few cases where there are really good actors in roles that haven’t gotten a chance to blossom yet. I’m still shaking my head about how my favorite of last year’s Charlie’s Angels, Annie Ilonzeh, is just hanging around as Joanna with nothing more to do than to tell Laurel she needs to go out more. This woman is a good actress; use her! But then again, that puts the ensemble up to around a dozen right there, so I imagine that’s counter productive. Katie Cassidy is another example of having someone you know is good and not using them enough. But, maybe that is the plan, and a slow burn, like Oliver’s lightening up. I do think she embodies a lot of “Dinah Laurel Lance,” but we haven’t gotten a chance to know her beyond what happens when she’s around Oliver or Tommy.

Conversely…

Who has been your least favorite character so far?

CRAIG: It may actually be Laurel as she is currently presented, but there is potential to move beyond that. Can I pick Eddie Fyers, simply because of my bias that the guy needs a mustache?
MATT: From us bearded folk, that’s an affirmative. For me, hands down, it’s been Laurel. Katie Cassidy is wasted in a role poorly written, for the most part, so far. She’s nothing more than a love interest or the daughter of the cop trying to bust Oliver. It just serves to make the character uninteresting when she doesn’t have desire and drive of her own. Everything about CNRI so far has seemed incidental and surface. And without a direction for Laurel, any chemistry or connection between her and Amell has practically been non-existent. That’s not good if they’re setting these two up as such a well-known couple from the source material. “Year’s End” gave me some hope that a large part of that has been because of Amell’s decision on how to play Oliver’s PTSD. But I’m worried about them going forward.
DEREK: Laurel is the simple answer. It’s not about her being annoying or offensive like other romantic interests tend to be, it’s blandness through-and-through.
MATT: Not that she hasn’t had some fun bits with Colin Donnell.
ANDY: To me, it’s Quentin Lance and his hatred towards Oliver, especially in the first few episodes. I’m sorry, you can be as pissed as much as you want, but I don’t accept accusations of Oliver being responsible for your child’s death, an uncontrollable tragedy that wasn’t anybody’s fault. Sure, Oliver shouldn’t have cheated on the man’s daughter with his younger daughter but I have a hard time accepting that type of accusation. I can’t imagine what a father goes through when he loses one of his children. Accusing someone for murdering their child without any proof and putting an accident on a person’s shoulders like that, especially when you are a member of the police force, is not right.
CRAIG: I think we’re supposed to hate Quentin half the time, so I’ll let that slide, at least for me.
ANDY: You could be right. Maybe it’s more his actions that I dislike than the actual character. The thing is that, after Oliver was cleared in “Damaged,” Quentin hasn’t been featured enough for me to change my opinion. I do think that Blackthorne is doing a phenomenal job portraying this hard detective while still being a loving and caring father.
MATT: I’m not sold yet and I know I’m in the minority here. Blackthorne doesn’t really seem to know what to do with the part. As much as I enjoy him as an actor, it’s a big part of why Quentin Lance is my second least fave character. At one point, he feels like he’s trying to play a cop in a hard-boiled ’40s noir. The next, he’s playing it straight. We’re supposed to believe he’s been crippled by his daughter’s loss and yet it rarely ever reads until they need a moment for him to be angry at Oliver. I think there are just writing and characterization problems with Lance I can’t get past yet.
DEREK: In Quentin’s defense, the appeal for me is that he kind of embodies “the jerk has a point,” a trope you don’t see that often. I feel bad for the guy when Oliver outsmarts him, because he does have a reason to be chasing down a murderous vigilante and be pretty pissed at Oliver.
STEPHANIE: Probably Thea. She has had a few good scenes but I have become annoyed that she is presented as a stereotypical sassy teenage partier. I wish they would put her into a more relevant storyline. I love that they included a younger sister for Oliver because it shapes his character, but Thea herself needs something to do instead of telling him to open up and talk to her.
MATT: Willa Holland has a great presence, but we’re seeing Thea repeat herself already and not in a reinforcing fashion. It comes across as not knowing what more to do with her.
ANDY She has this way of being both this voice of reason but, at the same time, that annoying part as well. But to me, that is what makes her character feel so real at the end of the day.

How effective has the show been in using guest stars and/or guest villains?

CRAIG: It really depends on the situation. I don’t feel we got to see much of China White, for example. Obviously, Helena was used a lot, as was Malcolm Merlyn. It’s a mixed bag; I can go either way on that answer.
ANDY: They have been doing really well on both casting these great guest stars and using them. Some have been used better than others; for example: Jessica De Gouw as Helena was 1000 times better used than Michael Rowe’s Deadshot and even Kelly Hu’s China White, who has had more fight scenes than actual dialogue or developing scenes. We are talking about China White, the main antagonist in Year One. She should had been better developed in my opinion.
MATT: I guess we can reframe the question as who has been your fave guest star or guest villain, and how effectively have they been used?
CRAIG: I’d have to say Deathstroke, but we haven’t seen enough of him, and I’d like to see more.
MATT: Deathstroke, obviously, portends quite a bit for the series going forward.
DEREK: We really haven’t seen enough of Deadshot, Deathstroke or China White to judge, which seems to be a trend. The guest villains aren’t used as “spotlight” villains, they’re more supporting characters. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s a problem or not.
MATT: I like what they did with Deadshot. I look forward to his return and a deepening of his character. For a threat, though, I enjoyed him.
STEPHANIE: I’ve been rather disappointed with how quickly the guest villains have come and gone and how little their threat has been focused on. It almost seems as if Oliver has not had a worthy enough opponent because he quickly takes them down.
DEREK: On one hand, we don’t really get invested in them as characters — villains or not — so it’s almost a bit random that these oddly colorful and comic book-y characters come and go. At the same time, having China White in and out makes the world seem bigger while still keeping the focus squarely on the characters, so that might be a good thing in the long run.
STEPHANIE: [Having] Helena around for two episodes, I found her presence very awkward and forced. Her character definitely had potential and I liked her backstory but it just didn’t play out enjoyably for me.
DEREK: I still stand by what I said about Jessica De Gouw in the reviews. I didn’t feel as though she was strong in the part, and Helena only barely touched her potential as a character in her second episode. She was a big disappointment for me, and I hope future “guest heroes” presented in the same way are handled and cast better.
MATT: I got more out of Jessica De Guow in “Vendetta” that I needed than I did in “Muse of Fire,” but yeah, I’d have to agree that she wasn’t the strongest actress. Aside from the rush job on the romance and that childish dinner scene, though, I liked the character of Helena a lot.
CRAIG: That dinner scene really kind of ruined Helena for me a bit. I feel like the relationship was forced and rushed, but that put a bad exclamation point on it. I think the end result – showing Oliver how much he has grown – was a positive from the episode, though.
ANDY: The good part is that Helena can be fixed in future episodes. Sure, it did get a bit rocky but it can be fixed for the people who did have issues with Helena.
DEREK: John Barrowman was a casting coup, and that’s playing out well thus far. Malcolm as Dark Archer is something I’m most excited about.
ANDY: He does portray an intriguing and wicked antagonist, which is my cup of tea. While I do think that the reveal in “Year’s End” was maybe way too predictable and not a good cliffhanger, it was still nice.
STEPHANIE: I am still waiting for Barrowman to do a little more before I decide how I feel about him as a guest star. He’s basically been standing or sitting around in a menacing-like manner, which works for his character but I can’t say how effective that has been yet, but him as the Dark Archer is promising.
MATT: As for a villain, Barrowman is far and away the tops. Though she’s really more a recurring character, my fave is Felicity Smoak. I like the energy and the comic relief she brings to the series.
STEPHANIE: I think she has been utilized well. I like that she is not questioning the guys for bringing her all this strange stuff to look at and providing some lightness to the show.
MATT: For the most part, particularly with Walter, she’s been used effectively, though I have mentioned before that I hope they don’t make her the all-knowing Oracle character to turn to for technology. I want to see her abilities be far more realistic. She’s obvious intelligent and knows a lot, but I’d rather see them show her how to network for an answer than just automatically know what something is or be able to get an answer in less than a minute. Oliver turning to her to figure out about the origin of Merlyn’s arrow in “Year’s End” stretched credulity for me.
CRAIG: With the guest stars, definitely Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity. Colin Salmon and John Barrowman are also great, though.
DEREK: I think we can all agree that Felicity is awesome.

And for your money…

What’s the best dynamic or relationship going on the show?

CRAIG: I really, really want to say “Oliver and Diggle,” but I’ve got to go with “Oliver and Moira.” Again, going back to that Big Belly Burger scene. I think the two of them can learn from one another, just like Oliver has learned from Diggle and become a better person.
STEPHANIE: Oliver and Moira have a very strange mother-son bond. They’re both keeping these huge secrets from one another because they truly care about the other. I think Moira is a fascinating character, in general, with her knowledge and “schemes,” as well as standing up to Malcolm. To see her have a maternal side with Oliver has been nice.
ANDY: I would say Moira and Oliver is one of them, but the fact that he has had more quality time with Diggle actually passes the relationship between Mama Queen and Ollie. What Diggle does for Oliver and the level of trust and respect that they have built up for each othe is one great dynamic.
STEPHANIE: The relationship between Oliver and Diggle is interesting because Oliver brought him into his world with good intentions, and in the beginning, Diggle was not at all interested in that. Now, he seems to be warming up to Oliver and I wonder how their relationship will continue to progress.
MATT: Ollie + Dig offers the show its heart, its drive and purpose. Derek mentioned it best in one of his reviews, bringing Dig into the fold got rid of the awful voiceover narration and it gives them the opportunity to explore the intentions of Oliver’s quest aloud with debate.
DEREK: I never saw that one coming going into the show, but they play off one another so well, and you could see the show improve from the minute he became in the know. My favorite relationship. I also enjoy Moira and Walter’s little game of secrets, because even though it’s not malicious, it’s still meaty, character-driven drama. They genuinely love each other, and *that’s* the driving force behind them going behind each other’s backs to get the truth, in a weird way. I like that a lot.
MATT: Moira and Walter are one of the more interesting supporting aspects of the series. I think both Colin Salmon and Susana Thompson are doing some nice, subtle work that is helping to flesh out the background of the show more. I like that we have them to turn to outside of Oliver’s ‘A’ plots.
ANDY: I know that I will probably be questioned regarding this but one relationship or dynamic that is ONE of the best ones on the show is absolutely Helena and Oliver. Despite the ending that we received in “Vendetta,” I believe in that relationship. I can feel the respect and emotions that the two of them have together. Even if they are at a rough spot right now, I believe in this relationship more than I do in Laurel and Oliver.
MATT: I think this all bears the question — because I’ve seen a lot of people complaining about it online and referring to the show as Gossip Girl-like as a result — are the romantic relationships really necessary to the series?
CRAIG: I’m not sure. Since it’s The CW, maybe? But they need to be organic. I think with Helena, for example, they kind of rushed things, with hopes of a Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman-type epic romance… and those things don’t come along that quickly, too often. I felt like the Oliver/Helena chemistry we had in “Muse of Fire” was rushed so quickly by “Vendetta” that I was already over it by Part 2.
ANDY: The way that “Vendetta” ended made up for that rush for me.
STEPHANIE: I think romantic relationships are necessary for the sake of allowing us to see other sides of the characters that we wouldn’t otherwise see. But when the relationships become too much of a distraction from the core of the show, then that is definitely a problem. I wouldn’t mind some romantic drama in there as long as it was balanced and wasn’t too drawn out.
MATT: Especially with a long-form series. They are part and parcel with the whole human experience. The worry is when they become the sole focus of a show.
DEREK: I’m always game for them, it’s just a balancing act. Some shows work with it being very dominant — I was incredibly invested in the love story in Chuck, for example — but I don’t think relationship drama in Arrow has been too overbearing in the least. I wasn’t a fan of how imperative the awkward dinner in “Vendetta” was to the action plot, but other than that it’s been well done in terms of the balancing act. I will say that, aside from Moira and Walter, there hasn’t been a romantic relationship I particularly *care* about or root for. It’s just that none of them have annoyed me, either. Though, I will say I’ve been pleasantly surprised with Tommy and Laurel together. I’m not “rooting” for them or anything per se, but Donnell and Cassidy have good chemistry and I don’t think their subplots have been too over-the-top sappy or dramatic like you’d expect from a CW show.
ANDY: The only issue with the Laurel and Tommy relationship is that I feel that I need to see more of it to like it even more. Right now, I think it’s at a stable and natural point but it needs to expand.
CRAIG: As far as dynamics go, my backup answer is “Felicity Smoak with ANYBODY.”

END OF PART ONE

That closes the first half of our reaction and analysis of this opening frame of Season 1 of Arrow. Take a spin with us next week as we jump into the plots of the series, debate how the action holds up, and share our favorite and least favorite episodes of the early run. And yes, Part 2 might just come in purple.

As always feel free to share with us any questions, requests, or insights of you own in the comments section below. You’re also all welcomed to throw in your Arrow thoughts on our Arrow forum!

Matt Tucker Editor/Senior Writer/Reviewer

Matt Tucker is a stage and film actor, writer, Seattleite, comics nerd, sports fan, and aspiring person. Someday, he’ll be a real boy. He's an editor and senior writer for KSiteTV network (GreenArrowTV, DaredevilTV) and the sports blog Sonics Rising. He's also Movies/TV editor at SmarksOn. Follow him on Twitter at @MattBCTucker.

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