Fall TV Second Look: Arrow (The CW)

  • Comments: ↓ 3 user comments
  • Publish Date: November 8, 2012

Throughout the next month, we'll be taking a second look at select new fall shows to see how critics' opinions are evolving. View all Second Look reviews here.

Drama | Wednesdays at 8p The CWArrow

Critics Users
72 8.0
based on 1 ep. 96 votes

Consensus After 5 Episodes
Improving Improving
... still some problems, but this week's episode was the best yet

How it's doing: It's a rare hit for the CW, and the network's first major success since Vampire Diaries. Ratings were strong out of the gate, and, after a second-week drop-off, have actually been trending upward, with the numbers for this week's fifth episode matching Arrow's season high to date. The series has received a full-season order, and seems to be a lock for renewal if it maintains its current numbers.

About that Metascore: Green Metascores aren't a frequent sight at the CW; Arrow is the network's highest-scoring new series in five years. It's also the fifth highest-scoring new fall show on any network. (See the full rankings.) That score was based entirely on the pilot episode, and while no critics disliked that first hour, a few felt that they didn't know enough yet to deem the series a success.

Episode by episode

Below, we sample comments from critics and recappers after both early and recent episodes of Arrow. When possible, we have used symbols to provide a rough snapshot of week-to-week changes in quality according to each critic:

Improving IMPROVING: Indicates the critic has noted a general improvement in quality
Steady STEADY: Indicates that episode quality has remained steady (which could be good news or bad)
Declining DECLINING: Indicates a general decline in quality in that episode

A.V. Club / Alasdair Wilkins (eps. 1-3) and Myles McNutt (eps. 4-5)

Episode 1

"An unexpected strength of Arrow is how well it understands its limitations. Trying to recapture the tone of Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy on a CW budget should be a recipe for disaster, but Arrow is careful in playing to its strengths and minimizing its weaknesses." [Grade: B]

Episode 2

Steady "Like a lot of second episodes, 'Honor Thy Father' is often content to restate the basic beats of Arrow's series premiere. ... [But, this episode] continues the show's winning sense of humor, which is the quickest way to delineate Arrow from its Dark Knight roots." [Grade: B]

Episode 3

Declining "After a solid first couple of episodes, 'Lone Gunmen' is the show's first real misfire." [Grade: C+]

Episode 4

Declining "The show is always going to have a little bit of camp in it, and I often like the show most when it's willing to be a little funny ... but there were moments in 'An Innocent Man' that were funny for the wrong reasons, and worked against what became a good step forward for the character and the show." [Grade: B–]

Episode 5

Improving "'Damaged' still sees the show working out some kinks, but that it's avoiding becoming too clean and straightforward is ultimately to its credit moving forward." [Grade: B+]

Cinema Blend / Jesse Carp

Episode 1

"Well, it's early and despite a lot of kinks, the pilot certainly has a lot going for it including, and perhaps most importantly, great action sequences."

Episode 2

Improving "Now that was a good pilot! Okay, so 'Honor Thy Father' is actually the second episode of Arrow, The CW's latest series with DC Comics, but it does a much more elegant job of (re)introducing all the characters, crafting a satisfying story and utilizing the wealth of the super-source material that it's a shame it wasn't the premiere. "

Episode 3

Improving "Each episode seems a little less clunky than the one previous."

Episode 4

Steady "Once it stops telling us everything, relying too heavily on the voice-over crutch, and starts showing us, Arrow will be more than just a solid comic book series and instead become a very good mix of serialized and episodic action-adventure."

Episode 5

Steady "Despite some stiff acting and the occasional bad bout of on the nose, cringe-worthy dialogue, The CW's Arrow is a really good show."

Den of Geek / Caroline Preece

Episode 1

"This first installment of Arrow was surprisingly good, gritty, fun."

Episode 2

Steady "Yet another entertaining forty-minute slice of of crime fighting, family tension and super-archery."

Episode 3

Declining "This is the first week in which the drama bored me."

Episode 4

Steady "The series hasn't shown signs that it might slow down, and I now can't wait to see where it's headed."

Den of Geek [U.S.] / Robert Bernstein

Episodes 1-3

"The show is doing many things right. ... While some aspects seem a little bit cliché, the show might be able to retain some viewers if he focuses a little more on the crime-fighting and a little less on the mushy-moments--or in Berlanti's case, a little more Green Lantern and a little less Dawson's Creek."

Episode 4

Steady "I'm still up in air about the show. It's doing enough to keep me interested, for now, but my concern is that it could be short lived."

Episode 5

Improving "['Damaged'] definitely showed some growth from the previous episodes. The episode was well directed and the moments between Oliver and Laurel felt much more genuine this time around. If you were a viewer that was up-in-the-air about the series before tonight, you must watch this episode, as it has swayed this viewer into believing that the show is a winner. "

Entertainment Weekly / Nuzhat Naoreen (eps. 1-2) and James Hibberd (eps. 4-5)

Episode 1

"The buzzy new series has all the makings of a CW hit: action, mythology, love triangles, and of course, a young, hot and sometimes shirtless cast to move everything along."

Episode 2

Improving "Tonight's episode really convinced me this series is worth committing to."

Episode 4

Declining "This week's story, apart several great twists at the end (including the arrival of John Barrowman), felt weaker than previous episodes."

Episode 5

Improving "Tonight's hour really worked. The writers wrote themselves into a corner by having Oliver Queen arrested for being The Hood and wiggled out of it more convincingly than I expected. This is also Stephen Amell's best episode so far this season."

IGN / Jesse Schedeen

Episode 1

"Arrow's debut episode is able to present a compelling lead hero and build a solid foundation from which to build an ongoing series." [Grade: 7.2/10]

Episode 2

Steady "Overall, the show is on firm footing after two episodes, but a handful of campy elements prevent it from being the dark, brooding drama it wants to be. As mentioned, some of the performances are a little goofy, and various secondary characters are bland and one-dimensional. Ollie's narration is as grating and overwrought as it was in the pilot." [Grade: 7.4/10]

Episode 3

Improving "In general 'Lone Gunmen' was a further improvement on the formula established in the pilot episode. That said, a few annoying qualities linger. There are times when the writers don't seem to have much regard for the intelligence of the viewer. ... And there's the issue of the show's overly shiny aesthetic." [Grade: 8.2/10]

Episode 4

Improving "The good news is that since Diggle is possibly the strongest character in the show, any episode focused heavily on his struggles is bound to benefit. ... [But] a lot of the Ollie/Laurel scenes were hindered by some pretty lousy dialogue." [Grade: 8.2/10]

Episode 5

Improving "'Damaged' was a very memorable and eventful installment." [Grade: 8.6/10]

io9 / Esther Inglis-Arkell

Episode 1

"I liked this more than I was expecting. ... Though Arrow has the usual usual klutzy exposition and over-the-top melodrama that CW superhero shows have, I like the fact that they're keeping up a mystery regarding Ollie's time on the island. I like that they packed the episode full of everything they could possibly think of."

Episode 2

Steady "And finally, Ollie is burying his dad on the top of a cliff under some heavy rocks. He puts the final one on . . . and is totally shot right through the chest! That was awesome! Just before he collapses, he sees a hooded archer coming towards him. That completely turned the episode around for me, but I hope that the series follows through on that turn and focuses mostly on the island. It is so much more interesting."

Episode 3

Steady "I think almost all Deadshot fans will be disappointed. He's barely in this. And yet, it's strange, but I can't help thinking that they've got him right in some ways."

Episode 4

Steady "Some people say that Katie Cassidy isn't doing a particularly good job as the soon-to-be Black Canary. I don't know about that. She seems to be doing okay in a character that is all over the place. Laurel swings between liking and hating whoever she's talking to at least twice a scene, and never maintains a consistent character."

Screen Crush / Kevin Fitzpatrick

Episode 1

"Certainly one of the stronger pilots of the season, 'Arrow's clear resemblance to 'Batman Begins' is quickly forgotten as viewers are swept away into the intriguing world of the costumed vigilante."

Episode 2

Steady "We're very much enjoying the cinematic quality of 'Arrow,' which manages to hold onto its 'Batman Begins'-style tone through its second episode. "

Episode 3

Steady "Whether the charm of its stars or the tone of the drama, in only three episodes the series has continued to earn good will, balancing rich plot developments with hearty action."

Episode 4

Steady "Strangely, it's begun to feel that 'Arrow' might be stronger as a series without introducing DC character after DC character, if they tend to distract from an actual story. Instead, a 'case of the week' format fits just right for 'An Innocent Man,' and offers up plenty of plot twists along the way."

Episode 5

Steady "Most of the hour fires on the right cylinders as we've come to expect from the series in only five episodes, but we have to confess our disappointment that Deathstroke's first appearance brought no lines, and very little of the menace we've come to associate with the villain. The series continues to display smart writing, but could use a bit of work in fleshing out its comic-based characters."

Screen Rant / Kevin Yeoman

Episode 1

"As overstuffed as the pilot may have been, it doesn't necessarily seem to be a detriment to the rest of the series, as all that pent up momentum can be carried over to the weeks and (hopefully) months to come. It's not a completely auspicious debut, but it is entertaining, and filled with enough possibilities to keep audiences tuning in."

Episode 2

Steady "Despite a pretty solid opening for the series, Arrow has decided that much of episode 2 needs to reestablish the basic tenets of the series."

Episode 3

Steady "Considering the build up to the climatic confrontation [with Deadshot], the whole thing did come off as a little underwhelming."

Episode 4

Steady "At this point, Arrow has slid comfortably into what will comprise its routine. ... What's interesting about 'An Innocent Man' is the way it manages to build the basic Arrow story – his targeting of the corrupt in Starling City – around the other characters."

Episode 5

Steady "For the most part, 'Damaged' succeeds, but not just in the attempt to ease the Arrow narrative of its most logical burden. It also manages to increase the positives from last week's 'An Innocent Man,' in which the supporting characters actually got to do some supporting."

ShowBuzzDaily / Mitch Salem

Episode 1

"There isn't much in Arrow that hits the target. Even with an expanded pilot budget, director David Nutter's shipwreck flashbacks are cheesy (they recall the awful scenes in Ringer that were set on green-screen water), and while the parkour bits are fun, there's only so much visual appeal to Oliver shooting arrows. With the exception of Katie Cassidy, who's an old hand at CW soap style from her time on Melrose Place and Gossip Girl, the actors are either over-the-top (Blackthorne) or wooden (Amell). The dialogue is loaded with groaners."

Episode 2

Steady "There's almost no originality to the concept at all... It goes without saying that Arrow doesn't compare to either the Christopher Nolan or Tim Burton versions of the Caped Crusader. Even on its own terms, though, it's pretty thin. Amell appears to be a fairly limited actor (the show would be well advised to bring Cassidy and Ramsey more to the forefront, since they have the only appealing characters), and the scripts thus far have little sense of humor."

TV.com / Noel Kirkpatrick

Episode 1

"I thought there was a lot to like about Arrow's pilot, and there are certainly a lot of reasons to keep watching, regardless of whether you're familiar with the comics."

Episode 2

Declining "There was a lot of expository dialogue to explain things that were previously discussed or learned in the pilot, and lots of characters declared things as explicitly as possible. It made the episode seem clunky and more than a little overstuffed."

Episode 3

Improving "It was a big step up from last week's second episode-itis, as the plot didn't feel squeezed into the second half of the episode. I think we're also getting a sense of what this show is going to be, which is a superhero procedural mixed with some decent character work."

Episode 4

Declining "I still found the core of this episode dull. The Declan case felt... blah, is really the best word I have for it. It was more of a vehicle for ideas than an actual plot. There's nothing wrong with that, but Arrow isn't on sure-enough footing yet to carry off that sort of an act. "

Episode 5

Improving "It was easily the best episode since the pilot, and probably the best of the series thus far. "

TV Equals / Dyanamaria Leifsson

Episode 1

"For a pilot to make me so interested in a story that has only revealed the tip of the iceberg, I'd say that Arrow was an absolute success."

Episode 2

Steady "Arrow's dorky voice-over narration stuck around this week (then again, so did all the awesomeness, so I guess I'll let it slide.)"

Episode 3

Steady "Ollie's island flashbacks continue to be intriguing and I really enjoy how that back story is slowly unfolding as Arrow continues."

Episode 4

Steady "To be honest, I like the Arrow when he's kicking people in the face more than when he's turning out the lights to deliver secret messages to Laurel Lance. Ollie can be both serious and funny, but in his Arrow outfit, that sort of ambiguous tough guy talk can sound a little silly."

Episode 5

Steady "I like that Arrow has continued to develop Ollie as a damaged hero."

TV Fanatic / Leigh Raines

Episode 1

"This show has it all, interesting characters, mystery, love, drama and a bit of comedy." [Grade: 5/5]

Episode 2

Declining "If every week we are going to see Oliver and Laurel take down a villain from different sides, it's going to get a little boring and formulaic." [Grade: 4/5]

Episode 3

Steady "With more flashbacks to the island, I feel like we're finally starting to really piece together Oliver's time there." [Grade: 4.5/5]

Episode 4

Steady [Grade: 4.5/5]

Episode 5

Improving "Everyone was involved in 'Damaged,' as there was a balance between love, family, business... and vigilante ass kicking." [Grade: 5/5]

Toronto Star / Rob Salem

Assessment through 3 episodes

Improving "Delivers on its promise... The through-line story is developing nicely, leaving lots of wiggle room for flashback revelation without getting in the way of the continuing saga." [Grade: A]

Variety / Brian Lowry

Episode 1

"It's hard to escape a nagging sense that this take on Green Arrow is really Dark Knight lite."

Episode 2

Steady "The show has found two fronts in which to layer on mystery -- what happened on the island, and the power brokers the protagonist is out to stop -- but with every new beat, the series feels more and more like 'Batman's Creek.'"

What do you think?

What do you think of Arrow? Is it getting any better or worse as the season progresses? Are you sticking with it?

Comments (3)

  • khan2705  

    This is the only show this fall that i am watching, the rest i left after 3 episodes. Arrow is improving every week, i didn't see that coming... i mean for a CW/pretty generic show to be this good is just amazing.

  • Maggs411  

    I like the series. I never read the comic book and still can follow the series. It is suspenceful and intreging, yet always leaves my curiousity hungry for the next episode. The only negative thing I would have to say is the main character oliver, seems the writets make him seem less intelligent. When oliver turns into the hooded villian he os quick witted, very precise in his choice of words. When pliver is rich spoiled kid he seems to act slower to respond and his actions seem like that of a child. It just takes away from the character in my opinion. So being lost on that island made him less intelligent so the writers would have us believe.

  • dclarkhob223  

    I absolutely love Arrow. I love the nonstop action & story line. Every single episode has been brilliant!

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