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‘Arrow’ Series Premiere Review: “Pilot”

Arrow Series Premiere Review
The CW

The green-hooded archer avenger has arrived! ‘Arrow’ hits it mark well in the first episode of the series, as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) returns from a shipwreck and a five-year absence on a deserted island, intent on bringing the corrupt of Starling City to justice via the costumed, archer persona known as “Arrow!”

We’ve been anticipating the series for a long time now, particularly with its array of DC characters to be introduced over the course of the first season, so how does the gritty, real-world take on the costumed archer measure up?  Is the concept a little too ‘Batman Begins,’ or does ‘Arrow’ successfully hit its target as the next great superhero TV series?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Arrow’s series premiere episode!

A lone figure races through the jungle, displaying impressive acrobatic abilities before reaching a cliff, and spying a fishing boat in the distance.  Sparking an arrow off a rock, the man fires at a pile on a distant shore, igniting a massive explosion that catches the fishermen’s attention.  The men arrive on the beach to see a haggard Oliver Queen waiting for them, having spent 5 years waiting.  In voice-over, he explains that to survive he needed to forge himself into a weapon, and return to bring justice to his city.

While news reports hail the miraculous recovery, doctors explain to Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) the many grievous injuries he must have suffered in his time there, preparing her for the reality that he might be a very different person than when he was lost.  Together, they return to the Queen mansion, Oliver toting a mysterious green box, as Queen Industries CEO and former family friend Walter Steele (Colin Salmon) welcomes the man home.  Oliver largely shrugs off Walter and even his mother, eagerly greeting his maid Raza and his sister Thea, or “Speedy” (Willa Holland)

Meanwhile at their law firm, Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) laments the difficulty of bringing a class-action lawsuit against corrupt Starling City bad guy Adam Hunt, when a nearby news report brings word of Oliver’s recovery, in the process reminding her of her sister Sarah’s death in the same boating accident.

Oliver cleans himself up, noting how unrecognizable everything feels, as he flashes back to the night on the boat before things started going wrong.  There, a visibly drunk Oliver cavorts around with Sarah while his father Robert (‘Homeland‘s Jamey Sheridan) imparts some advice.  Back in the present, Oliver’s friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) greets him, catching him up on current events during a somewhat tense family dinner.  Oliver correctly deduces that his mother and Walter Steele are now an item, and asks to be excused even as they attempt to explain they mean no disrespect to the late Robert.

That night, Oliver sleeps by the window as a storm rages, reminding him of how years ago the approaching storm interrupted a romantic moment between he and Sarah, tipping the yacht and pulling her deep into the ocean.  Making it to a life-raft with his father and the Captain, Oliver watches the boat go down in flames as his father urges him to let Sarah go.  In the present, Oliver wakes and nearly strangles his mother, before realizing where he is.

The next day, Oliver retrieves a stone with Chinese symbols from his box, and interrupts Speedy and her friend (doing drugs!) to give it to her, as a symbol of how he’d hoped they would one day be reunited.  Later, Tommy takes Oliver on a ride through the city, noting the worsening conditions following Queen Industries’ factory shutting down, as Oliver asks to be taken to see Laurel.

Laurel is none too pleased to see him, blaming him for her sister’s death, while Ollie attempts to make at least some measure of apology for getting involved with Sarah after previously having been with Laurel.  The reconciliation going about as well as they’d expected, Oliver and Tommy depart, only to find themselves tranquilized and kidnapped by several armed men in skull masks!

When Oliver comes to, the men demand to know if his father survived on the island, or told him anything specific, but in mere moments Oliver breaks free of his bindings and quickly turns the tables on his attackers.  Displaying incredible fighting and acrobatic ability, Oliver personally takes down the last of the fleeing attackers, noting that no one may know his secret, and snapping his spine.

The next day, Oliver describes to Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) how a man in a green hood mysteriously saved both he and Tommy, though the detective seems skeptical.  Later, Oliver researches Adam Hunt when his maid Raza brings him dinner, and he swears to her that he wants to be the man she always believed he could be.

Later, Oliver’s mother Moira introduces him to his new bodyguard John Diggle, a former military man who vows to protect him very closely.  No sooner than he finishes that sentence however, has Oliver already slipped out of the backseat of the moving car, and set up shop in an abandoned Queen Industries factory!  Forging arrows, assembling workstations and training both body and mind, Oliver begins his work, noting how the kidnapping forced him to move up his plans of introducing the mysterious hooded archer.  Oliver reveals that his father left him with a list of names, wrongs that needed righting, chief among them one Adam Hunt.

In a dark parking garage, Adam Hunt walks with his security entourage, plotting to get rid of plucky Laurel Lance, when suddenly arrows destroy the lights overhead and incapacitate his men.  The mysterious hooded figure deftly takes out the guards before dragging Hunt himself out of his limo, and threatening him to transfer $40 million into a back account, lest he take it himself through unpleasant means.  Hunt scoffs at the notion, though the “Arrow” has disappeared just as quickly as he arrived.

Later, Hunt explains the ordeal to the police, demanding additional security lest the Arrow return the next night, though the detectives remain skeptical of this mysterious green-hooded attacker.  That night, Oliver departs the mansion for his coming-home party, finding Mr. Diggle maintaining an even tighter security perimeter than before.  Coincidentally, said party is to take place at a venue across the street from Hunt’s office!  Hmm…

After making his big entrance at the party, Oliver notices his sister discreetly accepting drugs from a stranger, and confronts her about it.  Speedy protests that while Oliver and her father were presumed dead, she had no one in her life to comfort her, so Oliver has no right to judge any of her actions.  Before he gets a chance to follow up, Oliver bumps into Laurel, who attended the party at Tommy’s request.  The two sequester themselves, Laurel apologizing for her earlier reception, as Oliver lies to comfort her in that her sister’s death was free of suffering.  While she offers herself to talk should he ever need it, Oliver notices from his phone that Hunt failed to deposit the money, and puts on a brave front of telling Laurel to stay away from him, lest he hurt her again.

Knocking Diggle unconscious after being left with no choice, Oliver prepares for his mission.  Upstairs in Hunt’s office, the Arrow makes his move as the lights go out, and Arrow appears from the elevator to expertly disable every guard in the room under cover of darkness.  Adam Hunt himself manages to escape in the confusion, as Arrow fights the head of security Drakon (Darren Shahlavi), nearly taking a bullet in the process.  The police swarm the office as Arrow regains consciousness, fleeing out the window via a zip-line he’d attached earlier.

Dumbfounded, the police break up Oliver’s party, though the man has already returned and suited down to scoff at the idea that some costumed vigilante should spoil his fun.  Detective Lance departs in a huff, though Tommy sees through his friend’s bravado and notes the coincidence of the hooded hero showing up again, asking what happened during Oliver’s time on that island.  “A lot,’ the hero stoically replies.  The next morning, Adam Hunt panics as the $40 million seems to have vanished from his bank accounts, while we see that a carefully fired transceiver arrow remotely hacked and stole the funds hours earlier.

Crossing Hunt’s name off the list, Oliver remembers his time in the life raft, as his father shot the captain of the boat, before committing suicide to allow his son to survive on their limited supplies.  Meanwhile in the present, Laurel and her co-workers celebrate that their clients seem to have gotten their money from Adam Hunt, when Tommy pays her a visit.  Alone outside, Tommy intimates that the two have been involved several times in Oliver’s absence, while Oliver himself watches from a nearby fire escape dressed in his Arrow persona.

While Oliver swears vengeance on those who have brought Starling city to ruin in his absence, a mysterious man meets with a figure to explain that their kidnap attempt failed.  Who should step out of the shadows then?  Why, Oliver’s own mother Moira, noting there will be other ways to find out what her son knows!  Twist!

Certainly one of the stronger pilots of the season, ‘Arrow’s clear resemblance to ‘Batman Begins’ is quickly forgotten as viewers are swept away into the intriguing world of the costumed vigilante.  Amell himself certainly elevates the material, perfectly imposing as a hero and elegantly charming as a wry, if traumatized playboy.  We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on ‘Arrow’ as it introduces more DC characters, and explores several of the intriguing mysteries posed through this impressive pilot.

What about you?  Did you feel that the ‘Arrow’ series premiere hit the mark?  What did you like about the premiere ? Join us next week for another all-new ‘Arrow’ episode recap of “Honor Thy Father” on The CW!

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