First Impressions

Arrow / Beauty and the Beast

Aired on: The CW

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                There were two fantasy dramas of the Fall 2012 television season in particular that I was waiting in great anticipation for.  One is Arrow, a series based on the Green Arrow comic books from DC Comics.  The other is Beauty and the Beast, a variation on the television series I watched in the late 1980s.  Both shows aired on The CWArrow on October 10, 2012 at 8:00pm EST and Beauty and the Beast on October 11, 2012 at 9:00pm EST.  You know I was front and center for both series premieres.

                Arrow stars Stephen Amell as playboy millionaire Oliver Queen, believed dead after the Queen yacht capsized and sank five years prior to the pilot episode.  As the episode opens, Oliver is rescued from a mysterious island.  The playboy millionaire is gone.  In his place is a honed hunter with incredible agility, amazing endurance and excellent archery and hand-to-hand fighting skills, but for some reason, he chooses to hide these skills from the loved ones he is reunited with.

                We soon learn exactly why he makes this decision.  Oliver’s family has changed.  After his father was declared dead (he was also on the yacht when it sank), his mother (Susanna Thompson) has remarried.  His sister (Willa Holland) has developed a drug problem.  His ex-girlfriend has been romantically involved with his best friend (Colin Donnell), but who could blame her.  After all, he was cheating on Dinah Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) with her own sister, yet another casualty of the yacht disaster.

                There’s another good reason to keep these abilities a secret – a promise he made to his father (Jamey Sheridan) before he died to right the wrongs of Starling City created by some of the area’s most powerful businessmen.  In order to clean up Starling City, a majority of which is run down thanks to drugs and poverty, Oliver must take on a new identity.  Donning a green hood and makeup, armed with a longbow, a variety of arrows and other edged weaponry, Oliver becomes the Green Arrow, bringing justice to the citizens of Starling City.

                Although they deviated some from the original comics, I found Arrow to be rather enjoyable.  I’m not one of those purists who think that the show has to be exactly the same as the comic book.  I can understand the differences, like changing the name of the city and adding some characters or changing some characters.  In fact, I find that it really doesn’t much change the premise of the storyline at all.  The story remains the same – self-important playboy millionaire goes through a life-changing experience and decides to right the wrongs in his home town.  So what if the name of the town is now Starling City instead of Star.  So what if he now has a sister that never existed in the comics.  So what if Dinah Laurel Lance is…well, we haven’t quite yet seen all of Dinah Lance yet – I’m sure the best is yet to come.

                Arrow has an interesting storyline and some amazingly exciting fight scenes.  I loved the fight choreography and found the fighting style to be on par with the darker versions of the Green Arrow comic book.  There is still a great deal of mystery to reveal, such as what really happened on that island Ollie found himself shipwrecked on, what his father actually told him while they were stranded on the life boat and what involvement Ollie's mother has in the behind the scenes criminal activity in Starling City.  And rounding off the whole thing – the amazingly easy on the eyes brooding actor playing Ollie – damn, that boy is hot!

                Beauty and the Beast stars Kristen Kreuk as Catherine Chandler who, in this remake of the 1980s series, is a NYPD Homicide Detective.  Nine years ago, Catherine's mother was murdered in front of her.  When the murderers attempted to take out the only witness, a mysterious beast took them out instead.  Since then, Catherine has been searching for answers regarding this beast that no one else believes exists.  But for now, she must concentrate on the murder of a fashion editor.

                Oddly enough, the fashion editor's clothing contains some strange evidence.  For one thing, one of her buttons has a fingerprint on it belonging to Vincent Keller (Jay Ryan), a soldier who died serving his country in Afghanistan.  For another, the DNA on the body points to the crossbreeding of animal and human.  Catherine and her partner Tess (Nina Lisandrello) decide to find out why the fingerprint of a long dead man would end up on the body of a recently murdered woman.  They head over to a dilapidated warehouse to talk with Vincent's former roommate, J.T. Forbes (Austin Basis). 

                While at Forbes' unusual dwelling, Catherine's intuition gives her the idea that Forbes is hiding something.  She returns alone to discover that what he is hiding is actually Vincent Keller, very much alive, but not the same man he was when he enlisted in the military after his brothers were killed in the attacks on September 11, 2001.  He explains that he hadn't killed the fashion editor, but had been trying to help her by performing CPR.  He also explains that the murder victim had been poisoned, but can't explain how he knows this.  All he can do is beg Catherine to keep his existence a secret and ask her never to return.

                Of course, Catherine is a detective and inquisitive by nature - she's predestined not to stay away, especially when she realizes that Vincent is probably the man who saved her life nine years ago...especially when he does so again when she is attacked at the Canal Street train station.  But is Catherine ready to learn the truth...and will Vincent be willing to explain it all to her?

                This version of Beauty and the Beast is definitely not the same as the one I watched in the 80s, but that was to be expected.  The fact that the series is on The CW was enough to tell me that it would be geared toward the younger generation of viewers whereas the series it was based on had an older audience.  I was also clued in on this younger crowd of viewers idea by the fact that Catherine is played by Kristen Kreuk, former star of Smallville, another series geared toward the younger superhero fans - a Superman meets Dawson's Creek.  That very blend of superhero meets teen/twenties angst was the very thing that turned me off from Smallville.  I was worried that the powers that be would do the same thing to Beauty and the Beast.

                However, as I watched, I found myself thinking that this new series wasn't the worst thing I'd ever watched.  In fact, it wasn't half bad.  There are a few issues that need to be ironed out, such as the stiffness of some of the main characters and the lack of believability - Kristen Kreuk and her partner are not exactly believable as NYPD detectives in this pilot.  But this is the premiere episode, designed to introduce us to the characters and begin us on the path of the storyline.  I've seen quite a few pilots that weren't perfect for series that ended up making the must watch list and this pilot had some admirable traits.  For one thing, the original series was a little farfetched - the Vincent in that series was a beast with lion-like features that he was actually born with.  The Vincent in this new series was completely human until his DNA was experimented with by the military, thus causing him to change his features when adrenaline-stimulated.  Bringing this series into the present and making the beast side of Vincent a product of scientific experimentation is actually much more believable.

                I also liked the revelation regarding the killers of Catherine's mother.  If they are the same people hunting Vincent and tracking Catherine, could it be that Catherine's mother had some involvement in the DNA experiments that created the "beast"?  I just laughed when I typed that - the romantic fool in me just thought that if this is the case, it would mean that Catherine and Vincent were fated to meet.  Silly, but someone on that show will probably say in the next few weeks.  After all, the original Beauty and the Beast was a romantic fantasy series and, judging from the chemistry between Kreuk and Ryan, I expect this incarnation of the Beauty and the Beast series to be heavily steeped in romance as well.

                So, to sum it up, I discovered that, for a change, The CW didn't completely screw up the two series I had been looking forward to checking out.  Arrow has a promising storyline and, although loosely based on the comic book by DC Comics, shows great potential in the superhero action drama category.  Meanwhile, Beauty and the Beast is not exactly the series I watched as a kid, but this one has a slightly more solid premise and perhaps will have more longevity than the original series it is based on.  I look forward to checking out more episode of Arrow and Beauty and the Beast on The CW in the future.


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