Episode Title: "Lone Gunmen"
Story by: Greg Berlanti & Andrew Kreisberg
Teleplay by: Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Director: Guy Bee
I’ve figured out what I don’t like about “Arrow.” It’s every moment that the characters open their mouths to speak. The dialog is so hacky and on the damn nose that it’s more than just bad writing. It has to be a writing choice that was made by screenwriters Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Marc Guggenheim.
It seems to me that “Arrow” is written as if the creative team thinks that its audience is comprised only of people who can’t follow a story unless every step is explained along the way. Thus, characters always say exactly what they are thinking or they drop some clunky bit of exposition into their dialog because the writers haven’t figured out any other way to deliver that information.
And it’s not as if we can expect this to get better as the series goes along. Berlanti, Kreisberg and Guggenheim are the creators of “Arrow”! They set the tone for this series, and it appears to currently be set on a level just slightly above campy. “Arrow” doesn’t have to aspire to be among the best written shows on TV, but would it kill the creative team to add some subtlety and wit to the scripts? Or some actual comedy?
I really do want want to like this show and Stephen Amell is still impressive in the title role. He’s got the physical side of his performance down and even if his parkour climbing scene was just a stunt, I can buy into Oliver Queen’s ability to do that thanks to what we’ve already seen Amell pull off on screen.
“Arrow” is actually at its best when Oliver is playing off of his bodyguard, John Diggle (David Ramsey). Ammel and Ramsey seem to have a rapport that allows them rise above some of their shared dialog as if they are both in on the joke. Diggle appears to like Oliver even though he constantly ditches Diggle and makes him look bad. Assuming the conclusion of this episode isn’t immediately retconned next week, that working relationship could be taking an interesting detour much sooner than expected. If anyone had to learn who Arrow was, John is a good choice.
I have to question the wisdom of bringing Deadshot (Michael Rowe) on to “Arrow” if the writers were just going to turn him into a knockoff of the lesser known Batman villain, Mr Zsasz. The Deadshot in this episode had the eye piece and wrist gun from his comic book counterpart, but he was Deadshot/Floyd Lawton in name only.
Under the pen of Gail Simone and other comic book writers, Deadshot has a vivid and entertaining personality. “Arrow’s” Deadshot was a disappointingly generic villain who tattooed his victims’ names to his skin. Deadshot’s one great moment came when he asked Arrow for a little professional courtesy because he assumed that he was also a killer for hire.
Which reminds me, Arrow’s insistence that he only kills for justice was another fine example of the bad dialog. It’s also not a very convincing argument as to why Oliver Queen has left a long string of bodies behind him in the relatively short time since his return from exile.
The island flashbacks are relatively short this week, but they do continue the fascinating idea that there was a Proto-Arrow on the island with Oliver in the form of a currently unnamed Chinese man. Proto-Arrow shot Oliver in last week’s flashback, but he appears to be a more heroic figure on the island as he attempts to keep himself and Oliver alive. It’s not hard to guess that Proto-Arrow will be killed off at some point and that Oliver will assume his costumed alter ego to wage war against the criminals currently on the island. If nothing else, Proto-Arrow’s tutelage could explain why Oliver Queen is so good with a bow and other throwing weapons.
While Deadshot was kind of a dud, this episode may be more notable for establishing that Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) can fight. So, the fishnet costume is clearly in Laurel’s future while Tommy will probably be picking up a bow at some point as well. I did actually like the way that Oliver quickly forgave Tommy and Laurel for their affair during his absence and the way that Laurel not only rejected Oliver’s approval, but also realized that he already knew about them.
It’s hard not to see the “Smallville” parallels between Oliver, Tommy and Laurel and the more famous trio of Clark, Lex and Lana. “Arrow” has a largely appealing cast in place; which is important for the long term health of the series.
On the other hand, I’m already tired of Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) and her daughter, Thea (Willa Holland). Moira and Thea get a whole subplot to themselves about rebuilding their relationship and disciplining Thea that was beyond tedious. Hey CW! If I wanted to watch an episode of “90210,” then I would! It didn’t help that the bonding between Moira and Thea was completely unconvincing.
Another problem character is Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), who comes off as an angrier and less competent version of Denis Leary’s Captain Stacy from The Amazing Spider-Man. Detective Lance is so cartoonish in his hatred of Oliver and Arrow that I can’t take him seriously. It would be a lot easier to accept Detective Lance, Moira and Thea if they behaved like they were people as opposed to occasional plot points with legs.
I am glad to see that “Arrow” was picked up a full season order, because this show could still become a great series. But for that to happen, the writers are going to have to either step up their game or bring in someone who can tell a comic book inspired story that isn’t riddled with cliches.