Arrow Season 4 is Set Loose – S4 Ep1 Review

Season 4 of the CW series Arrow kicked off last night with a (insert arrow noise here). But while the show continues to hit its mark, is this adaptation of the DC Comics character, the Green Arrow, for you?

Making the switch:

Adaptations of any kind are difficult. The idea of taking a story originally designed for one type of medium and translating it to another, completely different, format presents several built-in obstacles. The biggest – and surely the most debated – challenge is trying to deliver the essence or core of the original story in a way that preserves it for its existing fans while opening up that same material to new ones. Add the transition from panel to screen or book to game and a lot can be lost in translation.

Comic book adaptations can be particularly messy due to the nature and style of page and panel storytelling. In a comic – no matter how stark or ernest – everything is hyper exaggerated and stylized. The format offers a wonderful opportunity to witness artistic collaboration that’s a little unlike any other form of mass entertainment. You get to see a story told in different ways simultaneously: a writer scripts and lays out the dialogue while an artist – or several – turn that script into its visual version. Comic book art gives the illusion that you’re not just reading the book, but you’re also watching it all happen one frame at a time. This gives the artist the chance to pick out the most interesting perspectives, guiding the reader through the story’s look and feel. The words in those panels reveal the thoughts and drama surrounding its subjects while cutting out the bits you really don’t need or want to hear.

This works great for the page, but too often the translation to film or television ends up being overly cheesy and painfully unrealistic (to see it done to near perfection, read Alan Moore’s Watchmen then see Zack Snyder’s film). Comics work best when over the top and soaked in every color of the rainbow, but that doesn’t work well for live action film or TV. So does Arrow favor the real world or the page and panel?

Cheese Level: Velveeta 

The short answer is page and panel. Arrow embraces all the silly, nonsensical dialogue and action that make the books great while turning down the ridiculous dial just enough that you can still buy in. All its elements, costumes, dialogue and drama, are over the top and, at times, completely unbelievable. But what the show’s creators have done to offset this is to cast a group of people who seem to truly want to fill the shoes of their comic book counterparts. Stephen Amell – follow him on Facebook and Twitter to see what I’m talking about – doesn’t just play the Arrow, he is the Arrow when the cameras are rolling. Actors actually caring about their work is an intangible that doesn’t get enough attention.

Sure some of the wardrobe has too many buckles and lacks a sense of functionality, but in the books a hero’s look was an extension of his/her character and the show simply holds true to that aspect. If you don’t like cheese, this might not be for you. If you enjoy a spirited story told by an enthusiastic cast, keep reading.

More of the same:

Season 4 opens months after last season’s events with Oliver and Felicity in the throws of domestic bliss. Our hero’s new found normality seems to agree with him far more than even he would have expected while his former team tries to hold the line in the battle to protect Starling City. Enter a new bad guy, and the excuse, leading to the romantic duos inevitable homecoming. But the fractures still exist between Oliver and his ex-compatriots, making the reunion a slightly cold one.

“Often times, the only way out is through.” Amanda Waller

Immediately there’s a hint of tension between Oliver and Felicity after he discovers she’s been helping the old gang remotely and in secret the entire time they were away, but thankfully that is just a blip on the story’s radar. Most of the focus goes to the introduction of Arrow’s newest baddie, Damien Darhk. Played by Neal McDonough, Darhk is basically a more modernized version of previous villain, Ra’s al Ghul. So the stage is set, from antagonist to drama to setting, most of season 4’s early reports read very much like what’s already behind us. That sounds like a problem, but what’s been recycled here is the good of past seasons and not just a rewriting. When you go to your favorite restaurant you order one of your favorite meals, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Something new:

Now, not all of what’s presented in the first episode resembles the past, there are some pretty solid twists laid out in the closing minutes setting the hook that keeps you salivating until next week’s offering. Another aspect that feels new is the pacing. You can’t judge a show on a single episode much like – I know I say this a lot – you can’t judge a book on any one chapter, but this first episode moved between the intertwining elements very nicely, never lingering too long or cutting things too short. Despite Arrow hitting the 70 episode mark yesterday, this new season feels, well, new. The refresh button has been hit and it looks like everything has benefitted, both the old and the new.

Those left behind:

It would be easy to pick any episode of Arrow apart based on overly dramatic dialogue or it’s characters propensity to repeat bad, emotional decision making. But to judge something, you need to know, or at least have a basic understanding of, what the storytellers are trying to do. If you see a friend’s swimming pool, do you tell them it’ll make terrible toast? Of course not, you judge based on its purpose. A crappy toaster makes terrible toast. So you can’t knock an over the top dramatization for being overly dramatic. Whether you like that kind of show or not, you have to hold it up to its intentions, not your personal preferences. The latter is used when filtering the success or failure of those intentions.

Where this first chapter left me wanting more is in the flashback department. Quite often butchered, flashbacks in many cases only slow things down and, at best, distract you from other parts of the story. But in Arrow – much like in Lost – they exceed informing and offer a clever extension to the show’s characters. That and some of the early drama feeling a little rehashed are my only gripes.

 

Arrow Season 4 is Set Loose – S4 Ep1 Review Reviewed byMichael Pellegrini on . The Good:
  • Stephen Amell & cast
  • More of the same
  • The new bad guy
  • Fun story
The Bad:
  • Recycled drama
  • Flashbacks an afterthought
Episode 1 hits the mark, tying up loose ends and delivering new challenges for our heroes to face. Like last season, the Fun Factor is set to high and the cast deliver characters worth your interest and time. Arrow continues to feel like a wonderful tribute to its printed source material. Rating: 4.2

In Closing:

Episode 1 hits the mark, tying up loose ends and delivering new challenges for our heroes to face. Like last season, the Fun Factor is set to high and the cast deliver characters worth your interest and time. Arrow continues to feel like a wonderful tribute to its printed source material.
Fun Factor 90%
Storytelling 85%
Look & Feel 85%
Selling the Drama 75%
84% Really Good!
The Good:
  • Stephen Amell & cast
  • More of the same
  • The new bad guy
  • Fun story
The Bad:
  • Recycled drama
  • Flashbacks an afterthought

User Rating:

80%
(1 votes)
Episode 1 hits the mark, tying up loose ends and delivering new challenges for our heroes to face. Like last season, the Fun Factor is set to high and the cast deliver characters worth your interest and time. Arrow continues to feel like a wonderful tribute to its printed source material.
Fun Factor
Storytelling
Look & Feel
Selling the Drama
Really Good!
The Good:
  • Stephen Amell & cast
  • More of the same
  • The new bad guy
  • Fun story
The Bad:
  • Recycled drama
  • Flashbacks an afterthought

User Rating:

4/5
(1 votes)

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About The Author

Michael Pellegrini

Michael is a classic example of a child trapped in an adult’s body – and I use the word “adult” very, very loosely. With interests ranging from comic books and movies to theater and fine art, Mike has followed humble journalistic beginnings that have led to interviews, reviews, news write-ups and opinion – though it’s ever changing – pieces covering those same interests. All of that brings us here, to a site where a community of like-minded geeks can inform the rest of the world on the topics we adore.

And on the personal side of things, Michael squeezes time for his lovely wife and house full of dogs between all the comic reading and video game playing.

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