Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Pilot Script Review - Arrow

Network: CW
Story By: Greg Berlanti & Marc Guggenheim
Teleplay By: Marc Guggenheim & Andrew Kreisberg
Draft Date: January 11, 2012
Pages: 60


"This city deserves a better class of criminal."

I keep contemplating that quote from Heath Ledger's The Joker in The Dark Knight when thinking about this script. But I'll get back to that.

At first blush, I was largely underwhelmed by Arrow. It's an origin story and, being a DC Comics character, it's both a fairly familiar one and one that doesn't inspire a ton of empathy. DC doesn't really do flawed or pitiable heroes the way Marvel does (*he says, remembering that as a boy he read both and currently reads neither, but always had a purile affinity of the unquestionable awe-striking heroics of Superman and Friends). Oliver Queen is a spoiled rich kid who got lost at sea with his massively wealthy CEO father, their head of security, and the girl Oliver was banging. Five years later, Oliver is rescued from an island in the South China Sea. Somehow, he survived (none of the others on the boat did). And he's been changed. He's strong, wily, and is on a mission to clean up Starling City (something we later learn is basically his father's dying wish). We go through the motions of meeting family members and friends and ex-lovers who used to know Oliver. He tries to convince them he's okay and is the same person, all the while crafting his secret identify (that he seems to have had in mind, but is only able to legitimize / begin to put into action when he and his best friend are kidnapped - ooh, conspiracy! - and he rescues himself while his best friend is supposedly but probably not unconscious).

The cast of characters are...
- Moira, overwhelmed mother
- Thea, younger sister, who was the only one who believed Oliver was still alive but is royally fucked up because of his five-year absence (because it's a CW show and it apparently needs a sexy female teenager who does drugs)
- Tommy, best friend and still a rich party boy
- Laurel, do-gooder attorney, Oliver's ex, the older sister of the girl who died in the boat accident (so... awkward...), and currently dating Tommy
- Walter, Moira's new husband and head of the Queen Consolidated conglomerate

Let's stop there. We meet Walter on page 8 and know he's with Moira shortly thereafter... so if you're smelling a Hamlet adaptation format, you'd be living in my olfactory senses as I read. And you'd be right. Except for the twist at the end that I won't spoil, but thankfully there was a twist and it's not a literal Hamlet adaptation of "uncle killed my father and married my wife and now there's something rotten in Denmark."

There are more characters, too, including Laurel's father who happens to be the detective on the trail of "The Arrow," but the one I want to focus - sort of - on is the villain of the piece, Adam Hunt.

"This city deserves a better class of criminal."

Adam Hunt is a terrible villain. Not terrible like terrifying. Terrible like... pathetic. We're made aware of him through Laurel's legal story, a class action against him for fraud and predatory lending. It isn't going her way because, from the get-go, we're told what he did was deplorable but technically legal. So Oliver, on the outs with Laurel but hearing her plight, goes outside the justice system to rectify the situation by scaring the bejesus out of Hunt, telling him to wire $40M to an account by such and such a time, or else. Hunt doesn't do it, of course, but surrounds himself with guards and calls in the cops, and Oliver is still able to get inside the supposed stronghold and hack his way into Hunt's computers / accounts, and escape largely-unscathed (there's a close call with Hunt tossing a grenade - both a laughable action villain line and an actual grenade - as he runs into a panic room), then anonymously transfer $50K each to the people in Laurel's class action law suit. So, fear not, there's very much the expected Robin Hood aspect to the story.

Look, origin story villains are hard. They're either the villain that forces the hero's journey, or an existing problem that the nascent hero can take down. But they can't be the biggest of the big bads because where does the hero grow from that? And they aren't a villain created in a response to the hero's presence. But besides being a privileged rich guy who hides behind guards instead of taking action like changed privileged rich guy Oliver... I don't really know what Adam Hunt says as a villain about Oliver Queen as a hero. So, I found him kind of unworthy and I hope the series is able to provide a better class of criminal in the future. And I don't know if Adam Hunt continues past the pilot, but I'm curious what the week-to-week villainy/antagonists will be like on this show (if any... the MOTW format seems to be a relic at this point, though I'm sure it will one day be dusted off and done in a fresh way). I imagine the conspiracy around the boat accident and Oliver and Tommy's kidnapping are long-arc villains and not a week-to-week antagonist presence. But we'll see.

And by that I mean that I expect to see. Now that I'd read more pilots from the season, I'm thinking back on this project more positively because I think it works emotionally, even if it's not breaking any new ground. It's solid, broad-audience popcorn entertainment (action! suspense! love triangles! family secrets! conspiracies!) and unless there's some epic fail in rest of the process, I have to think this gets picked up.

And, please, don't complain about Justin Hartley / the Smallville version of Green Arrow and this being different.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how familiar you are with the comics, but Oliver's best friend in the show is Tommy Merlyn, and Oliver's comic book nemesis and rival bowman is also named Merlyn, so that gives you some interesting insight into where that relationship may be headed.

It's also a nice touch to have Dinah's father alive and as a cop, because that's what he was in the comics, though his wife was a superhero hero herself, so he wouldn't have gone after another superhero.This kinda leads me to believe that Dinah's mother probably was never Black Canary in this incarnation, which is a little disappointing.

It's also kinda disappointing that they created a sister for Dinah and had her dating Oliver.That's gonna make it kinda skeevy if those two ever get together.

Anyway, I am looking forward to this.

Diesel Watches said...

you are with the comedian strips, but Oliver's best companion in the present is Tommy Merlyn, and Oliver's comedian enemy and competing bowman is also known as Merlyn, so that gives you some exciting understanding into where that connection may be going.

DuMont said...

Not wishing to violate your "don't complain about Justin Hartley / the Smallville version of Green Arrow and this being different" request, I will just ask an open question as to why producers would take an existing character from an established series and (so soon) re-invent it all in a new series. I never understood why The CW did the 'Mercy Point' pilot with Mr. Justin Hartley (and even more headscratchingly Miss Annette O'Toole) when they already had aired a very endearing 'Smallville' Aquaman backdoor starring Mr. Alan Ritchson. In all the online tangle-ups that occurred over that ill-fated decision, the only point I ever heard justifying the new pilot was that Mr. Hartley was a better actor, even though Mr. Ritchson's naivete perfectly mirrored that of his character.

But this is the consistent with the confusing management approaches used by The CW.

It is absolutely unthinkable that Mr. Jamie Kellner would have entertained for even one second a suggestion to re-cast Mr. David Boreanaz in his 'Angel' spin-off with someone younger, with better acting pedigree, more on WB-brand, whatever. I just know he would have been on the side of the Frog's viewership, knowing that his viewers wouldn't like to see their heroes being interchanged so whimsically.

Given the lurches and tailspinning of the mininets since he left The WB, Mr. Jamie Kellner has really turned out to be a god of mininet leadership...Mr. Pedowitz should give him a ring and seek his counsel on the upcoming fall sked which demands near complete overhaul.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the heads up... having only being introduced to the character of Oliver / Green Arrow through Smallville (and now reading the comics) I don't know if I should be excited or cringing...at this attempt at an origin story (especially since the GA reboot hasn't given us one yet). Guess it will depend if it appeals to a new audience or if comic/smallville fans run and hide.

Anonymous said...

DuMont, the reason for this "not being Justin Hartley" is simple...this isn't a continuation of Smallville. There's no reason to compare this to the Angel spinoff of Buffy, that was an actual spinoff, this is a completely different take on the character. If you want continuing Smallville adventures, DC announce today a digital/print Season 11 comic book.
I do agree with you though, about the CW needed a complete schedule overhaul, and with the pilots they've ordered, they could potentially do so. Not that I actually think they will of course. :)


Anonymous said...

Man, I need to start proofreading before I post. :)


Anonymous said...

Kill this show right now, it sounds so bad. Who are you doing it for? The Smallville fans have their season 11 and it was never GA as he was in smallville anyway. You are not doing it for the comic fans either, this sound like a spoof of the comics and for laughs. Do you really think we are all that stupid to fall for anything, you have completely diluted Green Arrow not to mention the casting isn't very encouraging. Please CW spare us the embarrassment and humiliation and get rid of this BS. Green Arrow has suffered enough in a few months.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit this sounds interesting!
I hope they can avoid the pitfalls of Smallville if only to show a superhero tv series can survive without the Dawson Creek tag!

dnno1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
dnno1 said...

Smallville lasted 10 season, and somebody wants to criticize it's pitfalls? If I were a producer, I would want to repeat the Smallville formula again so that my series would last 10 years or more as well.

Anonymous said...

Yes and i do mean pitfalls some of the worst parts of Smallville would have sunk another series that didn't have the support it had before that tag became prevalent. The fact they did something about it certainly helped but I'd hope they don't make the same mistake since it isn't depending on Smallville as a spin off series would.