Season 2 of Arrow is great, and by all reports Season 3 continues to be even better. Admittedly, I’m still slightly behind, but I’ll take everyone’s word for it. I’ll watch it eventually. What? Stop looking at me like that! I’m getting around to it!
I think we can all agree that Season 1 of Arrow is… what’s the word? I don’t want to say “bad.” That’s too easy. Rough around the edges, maybe? Finding its voice?
…okay, we’ll just say “bad.”
But it’s not all bad. After all, they made a second season, and they’re making a third one. So there had to be something good about it, right?
Aaron doesn’t think he needs to watch S1. He came in halfway through S2, read up a bit, and thinks that’s good enough. Well, god dammit, it’s not good enough! S1 is worth watching, despite it’s flaws, and I’m going to explain why.
[Oh, and spoilers ahoy!]
- Manu Bennet as Slade Wilson is incredible. He is basically the number one reason to watch the show. I’ve had my eye on this guy ever since Spartacus: Blood and Sand, and he never fails to entertain. That deep, raspy voice and inhumanly chiselled physique make him the perfect choice for buff villains and anti-heroes. I can’t imagine any actor playing a live-action Slade and doing a better job. Here’s the thing about Slade, though: he doesn’t start off as a villain. He’s kind of a jerk, but he’s a father/brother figure for Oliver on the island. He doesn’t mollycoddle the young Queen, but he shows compassion and brings him along in the rough ways of the world. Slade is the reason why Oliver can handle himself in a fight. The island flashbacks in S1 and S2 are really the highlights of the show at first, and are pretty important to understand Slade as a villain in the latter half of S2. His bond with Oliver, his love for Shado, his Mirakuru-induced madness, and his subsequent swearing of revenge against Oliver for Shado’s death, is a really compelling arc that I think is definitely worth watching.
- Putting the team together. Unlike Flash, Arrow doesn’t start with a support team pre-packaged and ready to go. He doesn’t trust anyone at first, because his island experiences have turned him into a lone wolf. But he eventually reaches out to Diggle, who at first tells him to screw off. It takes a lot of back and forth before the two agree to work together, and even then their relationship is rocky for most of the first season because Diggle wants Oliver to help others but Oliver’s focused on vengeance. When Felicity gets thrown into the mix, things become even more complicated, but her influence softens the dynamic between Oliver and Diggle. Seeing the team coalesce over time like this and learn to trust one another is a really interesting progression, and I appreciate that the took the time to let the characters find each other naturally instead of just throwing them together in the first episode.
- John Barrowman and Colin Salmon. Both of these dudes are great actors, and it was a pleasure to watch them on screen in S1. Barrowman was great as the comically evil and certifiably insane Malcolm Merlyn, and Salmon was excellent as the classy and good-intentioned Walter Steele. Both of them make appearances in S2, but their roles are drastically reduced. Arrow S1 is a churning sea of awful performances, but these guys stood out from the rest. They don’t really have character arcs, but watching them say words and make faces is entertaining enough, no matter what the context.
- Oliver the maniac. Oliver in S1 was a murderous lunatic who killed people left and right. He did it out of a warped sense of justice, but we all know that killing isn’t what superheroes do. In S2 he swears off murder, thanks in large part to the influence of Diggle, Felicity, and Detective Lance. It’s cool to see him struggle not to kill Slade at the end of S2, and work so hard to save the life of his enemy. It works so well because we’ve seen how violent he was in S1, and without that the final fight with Slade loses some of its emotional punch.
- All the stupid cheesy crap. Stephen Amell has grown into the role of Arrow, but in the first season his acting was pretty rough. Every scene where he was out of costume felt weird and stilted, and he had this odd habit of standing with his arms at his side, curved just slightly, as if he’s not sure what to do with his hands. Then there was his relationship with Tommy, which was obviously doomed from the get-go, and the love triangle with Laurel, who is almost as annoying as Lana from Smallville. All of the acting and writing pertaining to Oliver’s personal life in S1 was basically a hilarious train wreck, and I for one enjoy watching train wrecks.
- Comic book stuff. I loved Merlyn’s over-the-top plan to blow up the poor part of town, and the way he put on a black costume and also fought with a bow and arrow. This kind of campy comic book stuff continues to crop up throughout the series, and it’s part of what makes it so fun. Any TV show based on a comic should probably have a decent amount of fun campy stuff, and Arrow S1 has it in spades. Personal favorite: when Diggle shocks a man to death with an AED and says “Clear.”
There you have it. Arrow S1 is worth watching, despite its badness. Help me out, readers. Tell Aaron he should watch it. Flood him with your comments! Make him see that I am always right! Or, just, y’know, do whatever.