Midweek Geek Out 5-29-13: There Are Always Trick Arrows in the Banana Stand

Posted on May 29, 2013

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I’ve been woefully negligent lately. I’ve already decided that I’m not apologizing about my lapses in activity, but there has really been a lot of  quality geek-fare worth sounding off on that I haven’t addressed in a timely manner, and that’s unfortunate. I actually have several reviews in the works; I want to address TV first (though I am immediately self conscious of the fact I am behind on Dr. Who and Game of Thrones’ newest seasons).

1.) Arrow

Stephen Amell as Arrow / Oliver Queen

Stephen Amell as Arrow / Oliver Queen

Arrow is, without question, my favorite new show in years.

I haven’t addressed the Emerald Archer’s television exploits since Episode 9, the mid-season finale “Year’s End”. What a solid run of television; I can proudly say that not only is Arrow a quality comic book television show, Arrow is a solid television show, period. Despite the fact it spends a little too long reaching out to the female viewers with the relationship interpersonal drama (or as I like to call it “too much talking, not enough rocking”), this show has been consistently entertaining and engaging television. Newcomer Stephen Amell brings a certain humility and intensity to the character that makes him immediately likable and relatable. Since the show started again in January, we’ve had numerous new characters introduced to the mythology, including an adaptation of the comic villain Count Vertigo, Roy Harper and the Dodger (Battlestar Galactica alumni James Callis), but the show has mostly been established show regulars coming together, piece by piece, for the inevitable climax.

What really sells this show for me is that there are two running narratives; events in modern day Starling City and flashbacks to Oliver Queen (the titular character) stranded on the island. While not entirely novel or innovative (resonates with my memories of LOST), it gives our star character a bit more depth, and I’ve always found that Amell does a wonderful job contrasting the spoiled and soft rich kid on one side and the battle hardened archer on the other.

Most importantly, Arrow is largely accessible to the non-comic book fans. I wasn’t very familiar with Green Arrow prior to hearing about the show, and even though I’ve started following Jeff Lemire’s run on the new comic, I don’t think you need a background in comics to appreciate the story. (The show deviates in many ways from established comic lore anyways, as I understand.) For fans, however, there is another layer to be enjoyed here. Certain lines that seem offhand to the uninitiated, such as “I’m headed back to Central City; I should be there in a flash,” are total fanservice. (Central City is to Flash as Gotham City is to Batman.) There is also mention of Ferris Airlines, which is a tip of the hat to Green Lantern. (I personally hope we see Hal Jordan make an appearance on the show at some point, as Green Lantern or not.)

I do have to admit I was slightly disappointed in the season finale. While I understand it’s normal for a first season to be written to be self contained should it not get picked up for a second season, both running storylines felt abruptly concluded, and (SPOILER ALERT) killing off one of Oliver’s more prolific nemesis Merlyn felt unnecessary. There was no sense of suspense or debate left about the direction for the show, as we were left with so few clues. We do know that there are multiple characters on the show that have established alter egos in the comics: Slade Wilson is Deathstroke, (Dinah) Laurel Lance is Black Canary and Roy Harper is Arsenal. How and when this comes to fruition on the show is up to anybody’s best guess. Also, there was a woman behind the events on the island that has yet to be identified, and Oliver still has several years left on the island before his rescue. Also, we don’t know yet what becomes of his current companions. Guess we’ll find out in October!

Slade Wilson / Deathstroke

Slade as Wilson (Click through for a comic to TV character guide)

2.) Arrested Development

"This is Arrested Development."

“This is Arrested Development.”

I admit, I completely missed out on Arrested Development when it aired. I’ve never been big on comedy; I like laughing as much as the next person, but I just don’t find a lot of it clever or funny.

Arrested Development, however, is a gem. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t laughing hysterically non-stop for 22 minutes every episode, but there are enough running jokes to keep someone with more highbrow tastes to appreciate but it stays light and witty enough to stay fun. Well, at least through the initial 3 season run, which I started a month ago and completed 2 days before the release of season 4.

What are my thoughts on season 4?

My very initial gut feeling was that the light hearted tone had been lost a bit, and I wasn’t really enjoying the new content. I mean, we always had Michael (Jason Bateman) to hold everyone together and to be the moral center, more or less. The season starts by stripping this away completely, perhaps deliberately. Maybe this was their way of saying, up front, “This is not the same Arrested Development you remember.”

After watching a bit longer, I realized that they were putting together quite the jigsaw puzzle. Each character has their own episode, some have multiple, and you see various events several times from different perspectives. In fact, you really have to pay attention to what is going on and when. I thrive on that sort of thing, but I could see how your standard plebeian would have a hard time with it. I mean, this was practically an intrigue on the scale of Game of Thrones with a lot of backroom shenanigans we’d expect from the Bluth family.

While there are laughs here, there are some genuinely awkward and uncomfortable moments, not in a good way, including a storyline with GOB and Ben Stiller’s Tony Wonder that felt largely irrelevant and pointless, and as far as I can tell, it never really came to any conclusion. A lot of the lines felt a bit forced, like they were trying to mimic previous gags with a bit of a heavy hand. Tobias’ funny double entendre lines from the original run were replaced with more obvious and less clever dialogue for his season 4 run, which just didn’t elicit quite as many laughs from me. I can’t lie though; “ANUSTART” had me rolling.

Still, the story being told was well written and well executed, even if some of what made the original charming was sacrificed for the sake of prose. It ends on a pretty bad note for nearly all involved, so it makes one wonder if the next season will continue further down the “bleak” trail or if they can manage to lighten things back up just a bit. I am hoping for the latter, personally. I will have to watch it all again someday. I liked season 4, appreciated the scope of it, but I didn’t love it.

Anyone out there watching Arrow? Any Arrested Development fans? By the end of the weekend, I should have my Star Trek review written (including a look back at some classic Trek films), Fast and Furious 6 (and it’s super amazing surprise cameo at the end) as well as Now You See Me, provided I catch it this weekend as planned. Enjoy the rest of your week!

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