Kharen Hill/The CW
October 10, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT

It would be a mistake to say that Arrow is the Smallvillification of DC Comics superhero Green Arrow, as tempting as that is. In this new series starring Stephen Amell as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, The Emerald Archer is presented as a hooded bow-and-arrow expert with superb musculature who – well, what he does is almost beside the point, much of the time. Much of the purpose of Arrow is to showcase Amell’s good looks and his muscle-flexing fighting, including martial arts skills as well as quiver-grabbin’. Of course he fights crime; of course he has problems with his love life and his family. Of course he has a sister who’s into drugs nicknamed Speedy – wait, what? In the comics, Speedy was Green Arrow’s male sidekick; here, she’s played by The O.C.’s Willa Holland as a brat. Oh, that’s right: This is the CW… Your initial interest in Arrow may depend on how much you miss the troubled-in-love, conflicted-with-family heroics of Smallville; it very much mirrors that series’ set-up. But Greg Berlanti and the other smart producers behind this series are striving to make something more — at once something bigger, and more intimate — of their premise. The fraught back-story (dead dad, five years on an island) and front-story (malicious mom — Susanna Thompson, most welcome always) sit heavily on Ollie’s shoulders even as the little jokes (Speedy; playing music by Queen) serve to underscore a rueful melancholy. Also a vicious streak — I liked the fact that this Arrow had little compunction about killing a guy. “Nobody can know my secret” indeed…

Director David Nutter did a good job of keeping the color palette darkly saturated without straining for Batmanny noir. And Amell is no mere muscle-head as an actor — he let confusion, dismay, disappointment, and resolve play across his face at the right moments, even when the dialogue became stilted or clunky. Paul Blackthorne as Det. Quentin Lance was very good in a solid-B-movie manner.

Going forward, Arrow‘s challenge is to keep Queen moving forward in action and avoid miring him in too much morose anger at the state of the world he’s returned to, at the betrayal of his mother, and the probable inability to connect any time soon with the romance promised by the presence of Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance.

A boxing-glove arrow now and then might help in achieving this.

Were you as intrigued by Arrow as I was?

Twitter: @kentucker

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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