jedi_of_urth: (guy pretty)
[personal profile] jedi_of_urth posting in [community profile] tori_reviews
A look back at season 1

(Just for the record, this lj post is as close as I can get to what my thoughts were at this point four years ago. I apparently had resolved to do a reaction post on what I thought was going to be the season finale and did it anyway when I realized it wasn’t, then didn’t post about the actual finale. Obviously everything I say now is tainted or enhanced by what we’ve been through with this show since then, but those were fresh thoughts.)

Also they’re more analytical thoughts
Looking back on it, season 1 of Arrow is a mixed bag. I can see why it was a success, especially in the 2012-13 market, why some people consider it the best season, and why I didn’t. It comes down to a consistency of tone; this season had a very level tone, and more or less level quality, built at a steady pace and had payoff in the end. It was a tone that was very grounded; it has a few fantastical elements but it was an easy sell as a flagship show, in an entertainment climate that was more comfortable with grounded as opposed to fantastic.

We joke sometimes about how much this show borrows from the Nolan-Batman movies (especially obvious in s1), and it does, but that was a much more sure bet. The DC movies still think now that that’s the right way to go. Avengers was still on the horizon when this show went into development, and while the MCU movies had done well that ‘verse hadn’t yet truly grabbed public consciousness. And street-level crime drama is a lot easier to do on TV budget for an unproven concept.

But it is not an easy sell with me personally. I have always been more a Superman person than Batman, and just about the worst movie of the MCU is better than The Dark Knight for me. So what this season had to do to get me was all on the characters and that was not something I was sold on quickly. Mostly because Oliver is such a hard character to get into this season; he’s hard to get into this season knowing everything we know now, back then he was just shy of an impossible nut to crack.

That’s why I found the Huntress episodes so good when they first aired, because they were a real insight into Oliver’s character that we’d been lacking until then. Diggle gives Oliver someone to talk to in those early days so they didn’t have to voiceover for the audience, and Digg was already pushing him to be a better hero (or be anything approaching a hero), but it’s not until after Helena that Oliver starts opening up, letting at least some people (and the audience) see beyond the masks he wears. And as the season progresses the masks do slip further, there is more of a real Oliver Queen for people to see, but that won’t actually be explored that much until season 2. It’s better by the end of s1, but it’s still hard to get a handle on.

My favorite characters in s1 are John “basically a perfect human being” Diggle, Felicity “a lot of potential but no real character arc yet” Smoak, and Tommy “my character arc is trying to be a better human being” Merlyn. It could be said that the reason I gave Oliver as long as I did to become a real character is how much I connected with the people who saw him the most clearly and loved him anyway. And I probably like all of them better now than I did at the time too, but I at least found material to grab onto with them.

Diggle more or less enters the story as a formed character; he has a past, he has goals, he has demons though they don’t cripple him, he has a supporting cast for the story where he’s the star. Diggle is an easy character to like from the start even if we do mostly see him through the lens of Oliver.

Felicity is easy enough to like from the start, but she’s not a fully formed character. Over the course of the season you can see it as the writers work out what to do with this character they stumbled into just because they needed to give Oliver some tech support. Watching those behind-the-scenes gear shifts playing out on the screen is something I find rather fascinating to look at (and will continue to for at least another season while the writers continue to work out how to reconcile their intended plans with what they have on hand). Of course she doesn’t have much in the way of a character arc until near the end of the season, she was never meant to have one at all. If you like her at the start it’s as a quirky side character in sometimes Oliver and sometimes Walter’s plotlines; she’s fun and is trying to almost single-handedly lighten up the doom and gloom of the show, but she’s not an actual character until later; and that character isn’t really anywhere near finalized yet.

I know I didn’t want to dislike Laurel going in to this originally but I also never managed to like her; and I have a really hard time articulating why I didn’t, don’t, and probably never really will. Speaking to things at this point more than going forward (because I haven’t always analyzed later parts as much as this), part of the issue is that, not unlike Oliver, I like her about as much as I like whoever she’s in scenes with, which means I like her acting off Tommy and Quentin and kind of Thea; but my disinterest in her and my disinterest in Oliver collide to make me want them as far off my screen as possible.

I always knew I liked Tommy as a character, but I had rarely stopped to examine him as a character before this round of viewing. It’s a flawed arc to be sure, while at the same time I’m not sure where else they could have gone with it and been true to the character as we had him. Up until Tommy learned the truth about Oliver he was part of the same regular CW drama show that Thea is part of, and when he did find out the truth he didn’t know how to resolve the world he thought he lived in with the one he actually does. But I also think he may be a much deeper character than the show usually gave him credit for. And I do think that by the time the show finds itself in a more comic-book-universe there was a place for him to be brought back. Laurel/Oliver is a thing of the past by the time the Lazarus Pit or time travel comes along, so they could tell a Laurel/Tommy story (whatever that story is) without it being part of a love triangle; and the family dynamic of Tommy, Thea, and Oliver would be good to explore; and I think they could explore the Malcolm-Tommy dynamic in very different ways than they could here (Tommy pointing out to Thea that even before he knew their dad was a supervillain, he was still a crappy father for example).

I’ve said a lot about Malcolm and the conspiracy throughout the season, so I don’t know if I have much to add or even a good summary. It’s also not like this is my last chance to talk about Malcolm Merlyn. I’m still confused about how the Unidac plot fits in though, got to say that. I will however say that I don’t think Moira’s role has ever really come together, her actions are a little sporadic throughout the story; though maybe if one day I end up watching with an eye on her the way I ended up doing with Tommy this time through I’ll eventually have a more solid read of her.

A new beginning
I can’t remember what I might have thought at the time would happen after this finale, I know I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about the future of this show in those days. Watching it this time, what struck me was how much freedom they had given themselves to retool the show going forward. Just about any of the characters except Oliver could have been written out or with decreased roles going forward if something fell through; there was plenty of room to revamp characters who might need it in the wake of this experience; the focus of the show was going to have to change after the revelation about what the list initially was.

The reason for skipping forward several months before the start of the s2 story then becomes pretty clear. While there would have been stories to tell in the immediate fallout of this incident they would have been somewhat same-y, grief and anger and pain as things continued to fall apart for some characters and others barely held on. By doing the time sip they took advantage of the ability to change the status quo and to have people at different points after some time had passed.

I am not going to go and rewtach the retcon flashbacks and pretend they go here, I’m going to judge it as I see it even if I will no doubt complain or crack jokes about that later element.

A little housekeeping
So it’s taken me a little over a month to get this far in the review process; at that rate I should readjust my goals of how far I’ll get with this by the time the new seasons start; maybe hope to get to the start of Legends of Tomorrow. That is somewhat ironic considering one of the big goals was that I would do an in-depth look at Legends.

Obviously I’ve been going a little slower at posting because I’m pretty sure I’m going to hit a wall on doing reviews occasionally so I’m trying to keep well ahead of the curve. It took me about a month to review s1, but I’m losing ground on s2 because apparently I end up with a lot to say about s2 episodes. Also I’ve got some family obligations the next couple weeks so I don’t know what things will look like for a bit. But I am still going with it, just constantly reevaluating the situation.


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