by Kushal Joshi
In the UK, Sky 1 airs a US series called Arrow, based on the Green Arrow D.C. comic character. An initial look at this suggests it is yet another retelling/reboot of a comic character’s story. Further, Billionaire Oliver Queen (who becomes the Green Arrow) builds a basement ‘cave’ and utilises technology, science and martial arts - elements that seem to scream ‘Wannabe Batman!’
This is far from the reality of Arrow. Batman is the creative creation of Bruce Wayne, possibly influenced by the symbolic memes of the League of Assassins. Bruce is a traditional romantic hero with a dark past, societal detachment, and, as usual, no parents, further detaching him from the world around him.
Oliver Queen is is the antithesis of this romantic hero. He had a fabulous upbringing, always had his parents, still has his mother and sister, and great friends, and becomes the Green Arrow through involuntary trials that take place in the thematic crucible of a deadly island. He arrives on The Island after a storm capsizes his father’s yacht and he is the only survivor. On The Island he meets ‘rulers’ that contest the island - who are all relate back to rulers in his home city in one way or another.
Sound familiar? It should do to anyone with even a mild interest in Shakespeare; This story outline resembles The Tempest. In fact an organisation related to the capsizing of Queen's yacht is later named ‘Tempest’. I say resembles as this while The Tempest themes are apparent, they appear to have been squeezed through a masticating juicer and come out the other side in delicious new unions that are the delight of Arrow’s stories.
Where Shakespeare wrote for a society still discovering the ‘New World’ and coming to terms with foreign cultures, Arrow considers a society on the verge of socio-economic breakdown (both ours and Starling City’s!), and reverses the roles of Prospero and Caliban, and fuses them together, with elements of Gonzalo and Alonso, to create a new creature that is sent back to a different island: Queen’s home of Starling City. From another perspective, Arrow is an evolved Tempest sequel that takes the adventure back to the city-state of the rulers in the story.
Oliver Queen still has family and friends and needs to balance this with the ‘Caliban-monster’ he has become. Only this monster has direction and is bring the Island culture and ethics, and the brutality of Island justice, to Starling City. Whereas The Tempest’s Caliban became a slave, Arrow looks to being the just ruler of the city-state. This brings him into confrontation with the existing ‘Antonio’-ruler and his 'dark magic', and also his ‘Sycorax’ mother and her questionable actions.
Currently airing Season 2 with Season 1 available On Demand, Arrow is a feast of dark romantic themes, violence, societal revolution and ethical debate. Most of this is handled in subtext though, so if you just want to chill with a nachos and beer and watch and a great action series, Arrow’s presentation won’t challenge the cerebellum any more than you want it to.