• Arrow: The Complete First Season



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: September 17th, 2013.
    Director: Various
    Cast: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell, David Ramsey, Willa Holland
    Year: 2013
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    The Series:

    More so than a lot of other comic book characters, Green Arrow has had kind of a rocky road since debuting in the pages of More Fun Comics #74 way back in 1941. While in a lot of ways he might have seemed like a Batman knock off, there were some cool stories, and the Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams run in the late sixties was nothing short of groundbreaking. But alongside top tier material like that, we got a lot of stupid stories about a guy running around in green tights taking out bad guys with trick arrows shaped like boxing gloves and nonsense like that. Mike Grell managed to breathe some new life into the character when he revamped him in Green Arrow – The Longbow Hunters, which lead to a fairly long running series that was initially geared towards mature readers. This lead to the Emerald Archer relocating to Seattle where he took on real world problems. It worked and it worked well, at least for a time. The character has been a constant in the DC Universe though, through the highs and the lows, and in 2012 he was brought to television on the CW channel (which just so happens to be owned by Warner Brothers, who also own DC Comics) under the title Arrow.

    When the series begin, we learn the story of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), the playboy son of a wealthy industrialist who, along with his father, gets into a boating accident. When the boat goes down, Oliver’s father dies as does the sister of his girlfriend, Laurel (Katie Cassidy), who he just so happened to be fooling around with on the side. Oliver, however, makes it to a remote island where he manages to survive by fashioning a bow and arrow that he uses to hunt food. Cut to five years later and he’s rescued at which point he returns home to Starling City where he reunites with his mother, Moira (Susanna Thompson), who has remarried and is now hitched to his dad’s former right hand man, Walter Steele (Colin Salmon). The two of them have kept Queen Industries going strong, though Oliver’s younger sister Thea (Willa Holland) has turned into a bit of a party girl.

    Oliver is welcomed back by his best friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), the son of another wealthy industrial type named Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). They plan on whooping it up now that he’s back, but Oliver still has feelings for Laurel, who works as an attorney trying to right wrongs in the world by standing up for the poor and taken advantage of against giant corporations like the one Oliver now has a stake in. Oliver steps into his new role in the company and plays the playboy role just as he should but he secretly wants to make right the wrongs his family has had a hand in over the years. As such, he takes it upon himself to operate undercover of the night as a vigilante cloaked in a green hood using his archery skills to take on bad guys and help those in need. This activity doesn’t go unnoticed by the media for long and shortly after this vigilante that the media is calling ‘The Hood’ comes to the attention of Laurel’s father, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), a city detective. He makes it his mission to bring this vigilante in and he also harbors an understandable grudge against Oliver for the death of his other daughter. As Oliver’s missions become increasingly extravagant, he brings his bodyguard, an ex-special forces tough guy named John Diggle (David Ramsey), on board to help him.

    As the series progresses and finishes with the initial origin story, we soon learn the truth about what really happened that night when the boat went down. Oliver’s activities become more and more of a media sensation and of course, he starts to uncover not only corporate corruption and crooked cops alike but also finds himself dealing with a more specialized criminal element. An assassin named Deadshot (Michael Rowe) makes like difficult for him and before the last episode of the first series finishes, Oliver will meet a woman calling herself The Huntress (Jessica De Gouw). Thea will develop a drug addiction, Moira’s connections will come to light, an IT expert named Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) will join Oliver’s team and a man who operates under the alias of Deathstroke will make his presence known.

    Although it’s cast with a lot of ‘pretty people’ to appeal to a teen demographic and although it plays things reasonably safe in that it never surpasses PG material, Arrow is a pretty interesting show that actually goes into some surprisingly gritty territory. Inspired by the Green Arrow: Year One comics and likely the Grell and O’Neil/Adams runs, Oliver operates in a city ripe with lowlifes, prostitutes, junkies and bad people. He’s not afraid to kill if he feels that it’s justified and Stephen Amell actually does a pretty good job of bringing Oliver Queen to life. The supporting cast never gets quite as much to do, though there are plot threads that revolve around most of them throughout this first season, but that’s not really that big a deal as the series is primarily concerned with Oliver anyway. When the storylines do branch out a bit more and bring some of the supporting cast members into the spotlight, they all do fine and deliver perfectly enjoyable work but by and large most of the heavy lifting is done by Amell. He’s not going to blow you away with a super deep performance, but he handles himself well in the action scenes and is believable enough as a Bruce Wayne-esque playboy type.

    The series also brings in some interesting characters through the first season, which will likely appeal to comic book fans. Using the likes of Deadshot, The Huntress and Deathstroke is a nice twist and it’ll be interesting to see how/if Laurel will become the Black Cannery as the show progresses. The show has what would appear to be a decent budget behind it as it looks good and it’s well put together from a technical angle. The episodes are fast paced and there are a few moments where tension builds really nicely. Yes, it’s occasionally derivative and yes it does play more to younger viewers under the age of twenty-five or so but this is fairly entertaining stuff. It takes a few episodes to get going but once it hits a proper stride, and it isn’t going to bowl you over with originality or depth, but this is fun. Not particularly meaningful, but fun.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    The AVC encoded 1.78.1 1080p anamorphic widescreen transfers given the episodes in this set do a really good job of showing off the series' intended look. Detail is very strong, better than the broadcast versions ever were. There are some minor problems with mpeg compression artifacts and aliasing but no heavy edge enhancement while black levels stay strong and shadow detail remains consistently impressive. Skin tones look nice and lifelike, never too pink or waxy, and never showing off any problems with the authoring or encoding. The discs have been encoded quite well, generally speaking, and the picture quality is strong enough.

    Arrow arrives on Blu-ray with an English language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio mix, with optional Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks provided in Castilian, Portuguese and French. Subtitles are offered up in English SDH, French, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Latin Spanish, Castilian Spanish, Portuguese, Finnish, Swedish and Korean. The loss track provided here has some good ambience. Channel separation is more constant than you might expect and there's enough of it here to ensure that you'll notice it. Dialogue is clear enough and the levels are well balanced. The soundtrack has good depth to it and the sound effects an appropriate amount of punch.

    Ten of the episodes in this collection include some deleted scenes on their respective disc – there’s about twenty-four minutes of material here in total. Most of this material is interesting enough to watch once but fairly inconsequential in the grand scheme of things but they do sometimes serve to flesh out some of the characters in the show and their respective motivations. The alternate opening for the Honor They Father episode is noteworthy because it’s a bit different than the version used in the broadcast episode.

    Extras on the fourth disc start off with a documentary called Arrow Comes Alive! that features interviews with executive producers Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg in which they explain which version of the comic book they used as inspiration and how they tried to ground the series in reality, or as close to it as they could with a superhero show. This clocks in at about a half an hour and it sheds some welcome light on the series’ background and origins. Also interesting is the twenty minute Arrow: Fight School/Stunt School featurette in which we see how the more impressive action set pieces in the first season of the series were put together. Interviews with a few of the series’ stunt doubles and stunt choreographers are the most important part of this piece but some of the behind the scenes footage is also quite impressive.

    Also included here is a twenty-seven minute 2013 Paley Festival Q&A piece which contains a collection of highlights from the Arrow panel that took place with the cast and producers of the series. The participants included here are Greg Berlanti, Susanna Thompson, Katie Cassidy, Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg and the panel is moderated by DC Comics’ Geoff Johns. They answer various moderated questions about the series and their experiences working on the show. A two minute long gag reel is also included, as are menus and chapter selection for each episode.

    As this is a combo pack release, DVD versions of the episodes are also included. They all fit inside a large Blu-ray sized case which in turn fits inside a slipcover. Inside the case is a booklet containing some episode information and listings for each disc in the collection.

    The Final Word:

    Anyone interested in how Green Arrow translates to a live action series ought to give Arrow a shot. It’s not the most original series and it plays up the pretty side of things more than you might want it to but it effectively blends soap opera style drama with some impressive action set pieces and turns out to be a pretty enjoyable series. The Blu-ray release of the first season from Warner Brothers contains some decent extras and on top of that it offers up some very strong transfers and nice lossless audio.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!