Review by C.J. Bunce
When Arrow’s pilot was previewed at San Diego Comic-Con back in 2012 we had our first indication that the series would be a big hit. The pilot remains one of the best first episodes for any TV series, and on its new Blu-ray release viewers get to see what an incredible looking show this really is. This Tuesday, September 17, 2013, Arrow will be released on both DVD and in an awesome Blu-ray combo pack that you won’t want to miss, and today’s your last day to pick it up at its discounted pre-order price. Thanks to Warner Bros. borg.com got an advance preview of the Blu-ray combo pack, and if you missed any of the 23 episodes aired this year, or you haven’t seen the series at all, now is the time to catch the best live action DC Comics effort since 1990’s The Flash. Check out the “Arrow” tag to the lower right of the borg.com home page for past coverage of our favorite new hit.
Optimum Quality. The nine-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes two complete sets of the episodes and features: the DVD on five discs and the Blu-ray on four discs. (One to keep and one to loan to friends?) It also includes a code for Ultraviolet viewing access. The picture and sound quality are perfect, and watching the episodes straight through you realize the series was designed in a very seamless way compared with so many shows that have repeated scenes at every commercial break. Not so here. The navigation menus are the best we’ve seen so far–easy to navigate–and they include a full menu for all the discs on each disc so if you have the wrong disc inserted you’ll always know which one you want.
All 23 Brilliant Episodes. The series started off with a complex pilot, and that was a movie-quality effort to begin with. Subsequent episodes never seemed to let up. Our favorite was the three episode arc featuring Helena Bertinelli’s Huntress, played by Jessica De Gouw, one of the top character retellings in this new Green Arrow universe. We were surprised how much we didn’t mind Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and Marc Guggenheim taking liberties with the 70-year history of the Green Arrow canon. The set includes great episodes featuring characters unexplored before, including the very modern and realistic tech guru Felicity Smoak, played perfectly by Emily Bett Rickards, and the entirely new character, Oliver’s confidant John Diggle, played by David Ramsey.
Three well-known genre actors lent gravitas to the series’ first season: Susanna Thompson (Star Trek Voyager, Deep Space Nine) as Oliver’s mother Moira, Paul Blackthorne (The Dresden Files) as Detective Lance, and John Barrowman (Torchwood) as Malcolm Merlyn. Even Alex Kingston (Doctor Who) was featured as Laurel’s mother. And the first season of Arrow was jam-packed with other DCU heroes and villains, including Laurel Lance, Slade Wilson, Shado, Roy Harper, China White, Deathstroke, Deadshot, The Count, Firefly, and The Dodger.
But the key reason why Season One was so successful is multi-faceted lead star Stephen Amell, who was so comfortable in such a dramatic and action-heavy role. As you’ll learn in the special features, Amell provided his own stunt work in many cases, and all of the “workout” scenes were 100% Amell. And he simply nailed the cocky and confident role of Oliver. For a character to betray so many friends–and date and dump so many women–in his first year on-screen, it takes a pretty charismatic actor for viewers to continue to like this guy.
Packed with Features. Happily, this is not a set where you’ll be able to run through all the features in one sitting. It includes the obligatory gag reel. It also has many deleted scenes, including some that actually amplify the motivations of the characters–not just cutting-room floor fluff to add to the discs for the sake of adding minutes of content.
In the feature “Arrow Comes Alive” the crew and cast discuss the decisions behind this DC Comics retelling that explain a lot that viewers and long-time fans of Green Arrow will be interested in. One key revelation is that the series is not called Green Arrow in part because Queen is not yet Green Arrow, but by the end of the series the producers hope he will grow into the character we know from the comic books.
The set includes highlights from an interview with writers and key cast members at the Paley Center for Media, which includes more thoughts behind why the writers didn’t adhere to Green Arrow or DCU canon. Moderated by noted comic book writer Geoff Johns, this feature is surprisingly rich in content.
But the best feature of the set is “Arrow: Fight School/Stunt School,” which includes interviews with Amell, stunt management and stunt coaches as well as his own stunt man double and scene breakdowns of key stunt work. I don’t recall a feature from any production–TV series or movie–that was as fun to watch all the details of the creation of stunt work. The entire set is probably worth purchasing just for this great feature.
The Blu-ray combo pack of Arrow: The Complete First Season lists at retail price of $69.97, but you can pre-order it today for only $42.99 from Amazon.com. The DVD set lists at retail for $59.98, but you can pre-order it today for only $36.99 from Amazon.com. Act fast as prices can change at any time. Catch up now because Season Two begins Wednesday, October 9, 2013.