ARROW Season 1 rewatch, Ep. 1: “Pilot”

1 Jun

Welcome, Arrowheads!  As many longtime NerdLush readers are aware, I started recapping Arrow here around season two, but for a while now, have wanted to go back and recap the first season.  With season five now over (and a significant part of Oliver Queen’s story ended), it seemed like the best time to go back and revisit Arrow season one.  

If I’m honest with myself, I was really not interested in a new TV show with Green Arrow in it, especially so soon after the character was in Smallville.  And the idea that it was an edgier, Dark Knight-sequel take certainly didn’t interest me much either.  But a funny thing happened around the time I marathoned the first few episodes: I was enjoying it.  There was some surprise in seeing a hero being created and evolving into one, while at the same time, delving back in time to see what formed this rich playboy into a brutal avenger of justice.  It’s amazing that somehow, after five seasons and more than a hundred episodes, this series has become the bedrock and building ground for a TV universe of DC characters.

But to talk about how Arrow kickstarted a DC TV universe, we have to go back to the very beginning…

“My name is Oliver Queen, and I am–UGH! This coffee is horrible! I’ve had better brewed on the island!”


We open on a lone figure running through woods, lighting an arrow, and with a bow, sends the flaming arrow into a large bonfire setup on a beach.  This attracts a fishing boat, who go ashore and find this lone figure, a scraggly dirty man who through narration introduces himself as Oliver Queen.  He says he’s been missing for five years, finding himself stranded after a wreck at sea on an island known as Lian Yu (“Purgatory”).  But now he’s going home to Starling City, and when he gets there, he’s gonna start delivering justice against the people who have corrupted it.

He gets home to Starling City and after a hospital exam that reveals he’s been through A LOT, he gets to go home (and with a crate he brought with him from the island) with his mother, Moira, to his family manor.  There, he runs into his younger sister, Thea, and Walter Steele, one of his dad’s business associates and now his step-dad!  Surprise!  We also meet his best friend, Tommy Merlyn, and they all have a big dinner that is rather awkward for everyone.  But he’s not all okay himself, waking up rather violently from recollecting how he got to the island in the first place.

Just to speed things up, here’s what happened: Ollie was on his family boat, The Queen’s Gambit, with his dad, and a girl, Sara…the sister of his actual girlfriend at the time, Laurel (and we’ll get to her soon enough)!  The ship capsizes and Sara is lost (at least as far as we know…), but Ollie, dad Robert, and some crew mate survive.  But there aren’t many supplies to save all of them, so Robert makes the call to kill the crew mate, and tells Ollie he has a purpose: to make up for the mistakes he made in Starling City, a city he failed to make safe from corruption.  Then daddy Queen shoots himself.  But, Ollie sees an island on the horizon, one he’ll become very familiar with.

I don’t think Oliver Queen was ever going to give up vigilantism for a career in chiropractic work. 

The next day, Ollie stops by Thea’s room to give her a little souvenir from the island, and then Tommy arrives to take him on a trip across the city.  Also, Tommy takes Ollie to see Laurel, who is now working at a public defender’s office, and surprise, is still upset her boyfriend slept with her sister and her then dying out at sea.  That seems more pleasant for Ollie than what happens next: a group of masked men kidnap him and Tommy, and start torturing Ollie while Tommy is still unconscious.  They want to know what Robert told his son, and Ollie instead busts loose and shows mad combat skills by murdering the guys.

Later, Ollie and Tommy are giving a statement to Quentin Lance, a gruff cop and father of both Laurel and Sara, so that conversation is another trip to awkwardtown.  But, Ollie gives Quentin the description of a man in a green hood as their savior, which is for a reason.  He has eyes on someone on a list in a book his father gave him before he died: Adam Hunt, a corrupt businessman who Laurel is involved in a class action lawsuit against.  He does have a problem, though.  In lieu of his attack, his mom got him a bodyguard: John Diggle, an ex-soldier now working the private sector.  He ditches Diggle long enough to visit an old abandoned Queen Consolidated warehouse, he sets up a makeshift lair (and does a few rounds on a salmon ladder, by the way) and reveals the contents of that crate he took from the island: a bow, some arrows, and a rather makeshift green hooded outfit.

Quentin Lance, when he had hair.

Ollie puts on the outfits and pays a visit to Mr. Hunt, and threatens him to pay the plaintiffs in that class action lawsuit their due, or else he would come back and take it from them tomorrow night.  Quentin is called to Mr. Hunt’s office the next day to hear about this “green hood” that attacked him, and wants help in securing the office building for tonight.  Meantime, across the street, Tommy has set up a lavish “Welcome Home” party for Ollie, who still has Diggle around to watch him (and is quietly peeved at Ollie for vanishing like that).  Ollie plays up the rich playboy thing, but also intercedes when seeing Thea at the party, getting some party drugs.  She’s not okay from Ollie returning either, but still, Ollie swipes her drugs anyway.  Laurel drops by to apologize for being so mean to Ollie, and maybe out of guilt, tries to brush her away.  Also, Hunt has missed his deadline to transfer the money, so guess what’s coming now?

Ollie has to ditch Diggle again–by putting him in a sleeper hold!–and leaves to Hunt’s office.  He goes through Hunt’s security detail, seems to miss hitting Hunt with an Arrow, and just escapes as Quentin and the cops bust in.  The cops head across the street and shut down the party to find the “hood”, and all they find is Ollie there.  Oh, and that money from Hunt is mysteriously gone, transferred to numerous plaintiffs in Laurel’s class action suit.  That arrow that missed Hunt turned out to hack his financial network, and stole the money.

Well, we learn a few things before this is over: like Laurel and Tommy are a couple, and oh yeah, those thugs that roughed up Ollie?  They were hired by his mom!

“You have failed this city! And I have failed to disguise my voice! I’ve got a lot of work to do!”

–Comic book connections: Judge Grell is a nod to Mike Grell, the writer/artist who brought the character back out of obscurity in the 1980’s.  The mask found on the island in the beginning is clearly the mask of Deathstroke, a noteworthy DCU villain/anti-hero.  We of course know he will be a big player in the evolution of Ollie in the first few seasons.

–This pilot was directed by David Nutter, who has probably directed more pilots to TV shows than you would think.  Besides directing the pilot to future sister DC show The Flash, he also directed the pilots for The X-Files, Smallville, and Supernatural, among others.

–Oh man, Quentin’s partner.  Back when he was alive.  And remember the Queen family’s maid?  Jeez.

–I pointed this out in the season two recaps, but the Sara of this episode is NOT the Sara we see in that season.  It’s still odd, especially seeing the evolution of Sara from season two and on, that someone is called “Sara” that isn’t Sara.  But we won’t dwell on it that much this season.

–“In the meantime, we’ll put an APB out on…Robin Hood?”

–“What’s Twilight?”  “You’re better off not knowing.”

And that’s it for now, but come back for a look at the episodes “Honor Thy Father” and “Lone Gunmen”…

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