We've all been there. Everyone has been burned by an ex. It feels bad. You feel scared. You don't know if you can trust anyone again. I get that. We all knew that things were never going to be perfect with Smallville. He said he wasn't going to be Superman from the start and we said that was fine. I guess we just still hoped things would change but they didn't and then it ended and we are just left with questions. Why couldn't he put the damn costume on for more than a second? Why did they have to wait so long to use a real villain? Why did we have to keep calling it Smallville if it mostly took place in Metropolis? And then this nice new show named Arrow comes along and it promises things will be different, but why should we believe it? It's just the same as Smallville, right? We are just going to get hurt again, right?
I realize that Arrow and Smallville seem very similar and, in theory, they are. They're both two shows on almost the same network about DC superheroes. There are love triangles and manipulative billionaires and even a black friend who seems to always have the moral high ground on both shows but there also differences. Arrow is its own show and should be judged as such but, from what I've heard, is unfairly written off lots of Smallville fans who assume it is just going to be another disappointment. Well fear not. Arrow is not the same as Smallville. It is better. It is even...dare I say...SUPERior. Don't believe me? I can prove it with the Top 8 Reasons Arrow is Superior to Smallville
8. Arrow is NOT Another Origin Story
One of the problems with the modern superhero genre is that it is becoming predictable. We are familiar with most of the stories and we have a certain expectation of how these stories are supposed to be told. The Green Lantern movie is a good example of this predictability falling flat on its face. We knew that Ryan Reynolds would initially reject the "great power" but then he would learn some lesson and embrace the super heroics. You know why we knew that? Because that's what happened in Spider-Man, Batman Begins, Iron Man, The Amazing Spider-Man, Hulk, and Fantastic Four. The list could go on but I don't want to kill anyone's data plan. We needed something new.
Arrow is that something new. From minute one of the Pilot, Oliver is a hero. He is the Green Arrow, or as they call him on the show "The Hood" and he knows exactly what he was going to use his arrows to do. He's going to get revenge, the coolest thing since dogs that can ride skateboards. But we aren't totally left out when it comes to his origins either. They are told to the audience in flashbacks. Each episode contains a parable featuring some lesson Oliver learned on the island where he was stranded for five years that informs his decisions back home. It's a great storytelling device kind of borrowed from LOST except, in Arrow the flashbacks take place ON the island and no-one is even remotely fat. Sorry Hurley.
7. It's Also Kind of a CW Parody
So there really isn't much to like about the CW network if you aren't a fifteen year-old girl. CW has become known for programs like Gossip Girl, which is about...let's say drama, and a remake of Beauty and the Beast which should just be called Beauty and the Beauty with a Kind of Scar. For the most part, the CW shows are about the pathetically uncomplicated lives of good looking overprivileged twenty-somethings who become unhappy about how difficult their lives seem to them. How could a show about a vengeful superhero fit in with those shows about complete idiots?
Here's how: Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow's alter ego, is pretending to be one of those idiots. Before he became the Green Arrow, Oliver was one of those idiots, but then he got his shit together and now he shoots criminals with medieval weapons. It's a big improvement but he still needs an alibi, so like Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins, (this probably won't be the last time that movie comes up) Oliver acts like an entitled ass-hole to trick people into thinking he is busy when The Hood strikes and too dumb to have been The Hood anyway. It is an awesome way to make fun of the CW while on the CW and none of the people who watch the other shows on the network are offended because they don't realize that people can still make fun of you even if they don't follow it by throwing a martini in your face.
The reason it's a "kind of" parody of CW is because Oliver's girlfriend and his best friend are the kind of idiots I was describing. In fact, there are some scenes with them where the only way you can tell that it isn't Gossip Girl is that a dude in a green hood is watching through the window. They didn't do that on Gossip Girl, did they?
6. Cool Villains Are Cool
One of the coolest things about Batman Begins (see how quickly we're back to that) and its sequels, was that it created a new universe with far more realistic characters than anything we had seen in a comic book movie before. Sure, the X-Men got rid of the yellow spandex, but they still read each other's minds and shot laser beams. And I'm not saying that I didn't love more than half of the X-Men movies. I'm just saying that Begins worked because it took the cartoonish elements away and made it a more reality based story. The more realistic characters were ultimately more interesting because they made Batman more relatable and we eventually cared about him more as the series went on. Also, villains who relied more on morality and consequences than ruling the world made it easier to put our hero in danger without raising the stakes too high. Arrow is doing the same thing.
The Arrow villains are all new and de-powered versions of classic villains. Take the Royal Flush gang. In the comics and in several DC cartoons they are a super-powerful bunch of criminals who identify each other by playing card code-names. They are understandably kind of silly. On Arrow the Royal Flush Gang is a totally new group of people: a family who decides to rob banks with guns and hockey masks because Oliver's father screwed over their dad. It's not Hamlet, but it's dramatic and interesting compared to the classic RFG who flew around on playing cards.
Firefly, Merlyn and Count Vertigo got the same treatment. Vertigo was especially good because instead of being an actual Count, the police gave Vertigo the nickname "The Count" after people that used his Vertigo drug had what looked like two bite marks on their necks. That's pretty damn clever. Smallville, on the other hand, had an episode called "Jynx" that tried to give Mr. Mxyzptlk a new origin as a character called Mikhail Mxyzptlk who could influence luck by speech. Apparently Smallville thinks the 5th dimension is somewhere in Russia.
5. No Superpowers = Less Crappy CGI
There is another reason why the de-powered villains work so much better. In a world where reality TV is taking over because of how cheap it is to produce, scripted action shows don't have unlimited budgets. Smallville was based around arguably the most iconic character in popular culture, and they could only secure enough budget for two minutes of slow motion CGI per episode (and those two minutes were still pretty rough). Even as the show got more popular, the CGI was never where it needed to be. Don't believe me? Youtube the fight between Doomsday and Clark. It came at the end of the eighth season and Smallville's Doomsday still looks worse than the one from Max Landis' awesome Youtube video. On second thought, watch the Max Landis video instead. It's great.
Arrow doesn't have to worry about that because there is very little silly CG in the show. The villains shoot guns and set fires. Every once in awhile the show will throw in some CG arrows or that one shot of the CG island but it is so much more tolerable than what Smallville gave us week after week, because they thought this through. Flying isn't what makes superhero shows interesting. The characters make the show. So why make a show about a hero that flies when you can just as easily make one about a hero that doesn't? It's why S.H.I.E.L.D. will probably succeed and why any new Wonder Woman show is doomed to fail. The philosophers Wu said it best, "Cash rules everything around me".