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Recap | Arrow: ‘Pilot’

Arrow goes to some lengths to establish its own universe independent of the continuity and complexities of the DC Universe. But if the pilot episode of the new CW drama that blends Gossip Girl socialite glitz with The Crow-style revenge grit is any indication, there will be plenty of winks, nods and outright gifts to the most diehard fans of Green Arrow.

Star Stephen Amell’s abs pretty much have their own supporting role on Arrow, but when we first encounter his incarnation of DC Comics’ Emerald Archer, he’s dirty and sporting an old-school Green Arrow beard. Looking like a cross between Jax Teller on Sons of Anarchy and Tom Hanks in Castaway, Oliver Queen is getting rescued after being stranded for five years on a secluded island. If you’re thinking there’s a Lost joke in there somewhere, you’re right (but the show makes it later).

Right away, Oliver’s collection of arrows and the ingenuity he uses to create a bonfire to attract the attention of a fishing boat clue us in that the island wasn’t all fun, games and fishing (or smoke monsters). The pilot even offers a glimpse of what looks like the mask of Deathstroke on a stick in the first big nod to fans (unless we’re counting that beard).

Arrow establishes itself more of a grownup show than Season 1 of Smallville, although both superhero dramas share a pilot episode director in David Nutter. Everyone is young and super-attractive, but they’re very much playing young adults (as opposed to the fun shows on which adults are playing teens). In voiceover, Oliver reveals he hasn’t returned to Starling City as the boy who was shipwrecked, but as the man “who will bring justice to those who’ve poisoned my city.”

Following his rescue, a green-hued news report explains that Oliver used to be something of a TMZ-baiting socialite, beating up paparazzi, getting wasted in clubs and bedding models. Through flashbacks, we learn he was hooking up with his girlfriend’s sister when the yacht sank. The girl drowned (or at the very least, disappeared from sight), and Oliver still blames himself for the tragedy.

Returning to the mansion where he grew up, Oliver discovers his mother married his father’s business partner, Walter Steel. The audience learns Oliver speaks Russian and knows some crazy martial-arts moves. (Wait, so, what happened on that island? Did Ra’s al Ghul show up and recruit him to the League of Shadows?)

The Queen house is also our introduction to Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), Oliver’s wisecracking best friend. We never see him with a bow and arrow of his own, but hey, it’s the pilot, right? His first line – “What did I tell you? Yachts suck!” – is topped only by his dig at Twilight (Oliver he’s better off not having seen it) and his explanation of Lost (“They were all dead … I think”).

The next comic-book shoutout: Oliver’s nickname for his kid sister Thea (Willa Holland) is Speedy. Whether she’ll end up his sidekick at some point remains to be seen; hopefully she’ll stop partying with cocaine (!) first.

As Oliver is trying to adjust to life back in Star(ling) City, he’s continually haunted by flashbacks to the accident. People expect him to be the shallow playboy but he’s much more stoic than they remember. He even dropps some Buddhist knowledge at one point. The dude clearly got deep out there near the coast of China.

Tommy wants to get Oliver back on his party-going feet, but our boy just wants to see the girl he was cheating on when it all went bad: Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy). “Everyone is happy you’re alive,” Tommy says in disbelief. “You want to see the one person who isn’t?”

Laurel is a legal aid attorney working on behalf clients being bullied by a tycoon named Adam Hunt. She doesn;t give Ollie a warm welcome.

After an “I told you so” from Tommy, the guys are ambushed by masked thugs. Oliver wakes up zip-tied to a chair with Tommy barely conscious on the ground. The thugs demand to know what Oliver’s father told him before he died, but he breaks free and starts kicking butt. In a character-defining moment as Oliver reminds one of the goons an innocent bystander was killed during the kidnapping, implying he’s about to balance the scales.

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“You don’t have to do this,” the thug pleads. “Yes, I do. Nobody can know my secret,” Oliver replies before snapping the guy’s neck.

Back at the mansion, the boys are questioned about the incident, and Ollie tells the police they were rescued by a mysterious guy wearing a green hood. The lead detective doesn’t seem to like Ollie much; it turns out he’s the father of the Lance girls.

Oliver’s mother and stepfather decide to hire him a bodyguard, who spends the rest of the episode befuddled by the young man’s ability to give him the slip. Oliver is busy studying a list of names in a little book that appears to have been compiled in the fleeting lifeboat conversations he had with his father, who confessed that he helped to destroy Starling City, not build it.

In an awesome montage, Oliver sets up shop in one of his father’s old warehouses, lining up computer screens, doing some insane pull-ups and taking out a bunch of green tennis balls with green-tipped arrows. The pilot does off a few trick arrows, but those standard bad boys handled most of the dirty work.

For example, the scene right after the secret headquarters-building montage: Oliver, in costume, takes out a couple of Adam Hunt’s men in a parking garage. He tells Adam Hunt to wire him $40 million by 10 the next night or face the consequences.

As Hunt battens down the hatches with his goons and the cops, Oliver is playing guest of honor at the welcome home party thrown by Tommy. Oliver hasn’t heard of Twilight thanks to the whole shipwrecked-for-five-years thing, but he proves pretty handy with a smartphone as he keeps checking his balance for that $40 million. The money doesn’t come through, so after an encounter with Laurel in which he pretends to still be a player, he takes off.

Back in costume, Oliver breaches Hunt’s nearby high-rise building and makes his way through several bad guys in an action sequence that’s weirdly reminiscent of the climax of Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher (in a good way). He eludes the police and makes it back to his own party, where he hides in plain sight.

“$2 million to anybody who can find the nutbar in a green hood!” Oliver declares to his guests. Papa Lance seems suspicious, and so does Tommy. Gotta hand it to those two for already suspecting the hero’s secret identity in Season 1, Episode 1!

Thanks to a tech-enhanced arrow lodged in the wall at Hunt’s office, Oliver is able to steal that $40 million after all, and he swiftly deposits it across several accounts of the people Hunt had originally stolen it from. We see Oliver cross Hunt’s name off his list before we’re treated to another crucial flashback: Oliver’s father shoot the other survivor on their lifeboat and then himself, ensuring Oliver has a chance at survival with the remaining supplies. Papa Queen had spilled his guts about all of the evildoers in Starling City, hence that little black (brown) book of villains he’ll presumably work his way through.

Pause that DVR, because the book is full of nuggets for DC-philes: Danny Brickwell, Hannibal Bates, Albert Davis.

But Arrow saves its biggest nod to the comics for the end of the episode. Even as we learn that Tommy and Laurel have a thing going (ruh-roh), we also discover that her full name is Dinah Laurel Lance. Black Canary, anyone?

Tommy and Dinah aren’t the only loved ones keeping secrets from Oliver, either. In the final scene, the mastermind behind Oliver’s kidnapping is revealed to be his own mother. She’s desperate to know how much her late husband told their son, and she’s going to keep trying until she finds out.


  • Simon DelMonte

    An interesting first hour, a lot more dark and gothic than I expected, with a strange take on Ollie but one that could work.  Or could go down in overwrought flames.  I will definitely be back next week, but I have no idea if the show can become more than a slightly more adult Smallville.

  • Dekko

    I’m sure others will pick up on other DC shoutouts, but the bodyguard is a reference to Andy Diggle, writer of “Green Arrow: Year One” and of course Ollie’s best bud is revealed at the end to have the last name “Merlyn” – one of Green Arrow’s arch(er) enemies….!

  • Orphan

    Basically fans, who aren’t the sole audience the producers are striving for, have to get over themselves and off the Easter Egg comic book associations that may or may not pop up, and enjoy the show on it’s own merits which are plentiful. As a Green Arrow fan I for one do not want to see Speedy the sidekick or, God Forbid, Black Canary.I said right from the start this was going to mirror Highlander and the show is better off for that.The second JLA or any other aspect of DC’s product placement ad approach to this show ala Smallville happens then I am done with this show. The real problem with the show is the ridiculous amount of ad time interrupting the flow of the show which means I’m trade waiting for the Season 1 DVD.Scanning the Brown Book for connections to the rest of DCU/DCnU is so anal it is ridiculous.

  • Dekko

    oh, and the bad guy mentions a judge named Grell….

    While it’s fun to see how the show brings in various elements of the DCU to the show (like Merlyn), I find the parade of DC references to be a bit distracting when it’s not germane to the story. (Grell, Diggs)

  • Edx2k

    i liked it tho starling city kinda bugs me…why not star city? it would be like renaming metropolis “metro city”

  • Roland

    It would be acceptable most of of the butchery to the character’s history if they had not renamed the city, changed Dinah’s name to her middle one, taken the Green off Arrow, made Speedy some fake ass sister and written a script that wasn’t more cringeworthy than the Wonder Woman one..other than that it’s fine! 

  • Psistorm4472

    Basically, you’re watching a show about a comic book character, whether it is in its own universe or not. Of course fans of the character are going to be interested in easter eggs and shout-outs to the comic book. To think otherwise is ludicrous, so fans don’t have to get over themselves. You, however, should, and I heartily encourage you to do so STAT.
    Oh, and Black Canary’s introduction to the show has been mentioned in several interviews with the show’s creators as not a matter of “if” but of “when.” Huntress and Lady Shiva have also been mentioned to be making appearances, and Deathstroke is pretty much a certainty. So go ahead and feel free to bail out now, and take your uncalled-for obnoxiousness with you.

  • Omegasaga

    comic fans who support this show ARE the real problem.
    Would it have been too hard to give him blonde hair and a gotee?
    Would it have been too hard to actually make the costume reflect faithfully to at least one of the comic versions? ( a green hood doesnt gut it).
    Its total BS not to even call him GREEN arrow at all.

    Once you strip all the fantasy elements out of it and start pushing the WB soap opera crap– what you have left is a chick show about a guy with a Bow& Arrow……

    This is scraps for desperate DC fans….. MEANWHILE  there are 5 full colored superheroes kicking butt as the AVENGERS.

  • JozefAL

    This response is to Omegasaga (for some effin’ reason, I canNOT post a comment in direct reply to another one–I sometimes HATE Disqus):

    You’re aware, I trust, of Mike Grell’s run on Green Arrow?  Following his mid-80s “The Longbow Hunters” mini-series?  The one where Oliver Queen was running around in a green hoodie?  That, to me, counts as “at least one of the comic book versions.” 
    And, um, as for those “Avengers,” I don’t see them “kicking butt” WEEKLY.  I don’t even see them “kicking butt” on TV.  In fact, I don’t even see *them* “kicking butt” YEARLY.  (And you might consider that  those “5 full colored superheroes” you’re calling “Avengers” were being helped by a NON-costumed archer guy who was only occasionally referred to by his real superhero name of Hawkeye.  Also, I guess I must’ve blinked during the “Avengers” movie when Natasha used her “widow’s sting”–a device which, for decades, was a little wristband/bracelet which shot darts or electrical charges.  No, the only things that I ever saw Natasha using were guns.  No.  Those movie folks were NOT “the Avengers”–they were the ULTIMATE Avengers, a completely different critter as far as I’m concerned.  The Thor that I grew up with had a secret identity that showed up when he was separated from his hammer for more than 60 seconds–didn’t see THAT happening in “The Avengers” nor the “Thor” movie.)

  • Omegasaga

    I am well aware of the LONG BOW HUNTERS and 1989 ongoing series.
    Having a green hood on and calling the guy arrow– does NOT make it a Green Arrow show.

    First of all  under that hood was the RobinHood cap , domino mask, and blonde gotee & blonde hair.  
    Then there is the costume which at least had the “G” beltbuckle.
    NONE of that in this version.

    How can you defend them not even calling him GREEN Arrow??
    No Blonde Hair?

    Yeah I want my superheroes to have some flare. I want faithful adaptations– NOT watered down to the point of just character by name.

    The NOLAN Batman movies are awsome movies– But i prefer the 1989-1995 movie versions to Nolans. 

    I want my superheroes in their costumes.   Marvel has shown us that using the bright colored costumes ( updated naturaly)  can be awsome.

    Regarding THOR– In Thor 2 look for his earth persona to have his secret ID. ( as hinted in the movie)

    TRUE Hawkeye got shafted on the costume front.   But the rest were front and center ( i did say 5)

    ARROW is a chick show for the melrose 90210 crowd.  They tease us with micro seconds of comic name droping and  generic action  to appease the male audience.

    Support this show and you will get more SMALVILLE clones instead of a JLA film.

  • Omegasaga

    Do the comic fans really want another Smallvile show?  Or would they rather have a hit or miss movie?

    Green Lantern was a corny movie– but id rather have 2 hrs of that then 10 seasons of SLOOOW paced  WB soap opera with tidbits of easter eggs for us nerds

  • Omegasaga

    SUPERMAN RETURNS was a bad movie ultimately— but i would rather rewatch that than sit through 10 seasons of  SMALLVILLEs  made up continuity soap opera nonsense & tiny tidbits of
    watered down easter eggs.

    Unless this chick show ARROW starts calling the main character GREEN freaking ARROW and they give him blonde hair and a more faithful costume– I anit interested.

    Speedy is ROY HARPER– not some girl.
    Dinah Lance is a legacy Superhero– not an interchangable  chick from Gossip girl

  • akachris

    I thought the pilot episode was okay.  Some good stuff, some okay stuff and some bad stuff.  Not anything too original.

    There were some more DC Comics easter eggs not mentioned yet.

    Constantine Drakon – the head of security for Adam Hunt [the episode’s bad guy] was a villain for from the Judd Winick run on the comic book.

    Joanna – Dinah Laurel Lance’s friend and associate at the legal aid society could be Joanna Pierce, the niece of Black Lighting and Green Arrow love interest, and also from the Judd Winick run.

  • Hard Travellin’ Hero

    Another all-american, teeth whiter than white, no one is ugly in this town, drama … and yet … and yet, I actually enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the next episode. This is a turn-up in events for me as I (as a long term GA fan) was resolved to pick this to pieces. Well done and thankfully more Grell than New 52 (I did see that they had used the name Grell for one of the characters). They’re obviously doing the Grell ‘Speedy is a junkie’ story, all-be-it with a ‘Smithesque’ Speedy. They also avoided the ‘green Batman’ approach which was good, too many writers do that – Ollie is not Batman, he’s not a calculating detective, he’s a force of nature and far more human with plenty of character flaws, in fact he’s always appeared quite real and makes lots of mistakes in his life like every other schmuk. I hope they carry on down that line and don’t plummet off a cliff into superhuman mayhem … but I still have my fears about that. Does Walter Steel’s surname frighten anyone else? Anyway I’ll repeat myself, Well Done. For the 1st episode at least.

  • A_weird_boy

    Lol…fanboys *rolleyes*

    btw.: there is a female Speedy…Mia something

  • King2628

    The show… not green arrow. It was Batman begins with a bow mixed with lost. They’ll use flashbacks from the island to retconn a bunch of Crap when they run into walls with the writing, such as HOW THE HELL DID THE SPOILED RICH KID learn archery, free running, martial arts and advanced computer hacking while stranded for five years? This show is a train wreck when it comes to trying to set its tone. I already knew this character wouldnt be anything like the comic, but seriously, they would have been better off calling this anything else other than Arrow and connecting it to the comic character. It’s like having superman living in metropolis with Lois and just running around calling himself something other than superman….oh wait, we already had that show.