Heroes Shouldn't Kill

I tuned in to the pilot episode of Arrow and even though it had some quality moments and delivered the highest ratings the CW television network has earned in three years, I fear it might be a shortlived series. Green Arrow is one of DC Entertainment's secondary superheroes, but he has generated a loyal following over the years. Stephen Amell is a strong choice as the lead, Oliver Queen, and there are some genuinely fine scenes (most of them involving the flashbacks to the time he spent shipwrecked on a mysterious island). I also enjoyed the nods to the character's comic book continuity (and I look forward to more of that.) A few things, however, rubbed me the wrong way. I have to mention some spoilers now, so turn away if you haven't seen the pilot episode yet and don't want any plot points ruined.

As in the comic, Green Arrow can be a controversial anti-hero. Like Robin Hood, he steals from the rich and gives to the poor. His crusade for social justice is ripe for some interesting character development. He's a good guy, a rich trust-fund baby who now tries to right the wrongs committed by some corrupt members of society's 1% to champion the causes of the oppressed 99%. In the comics, Green Arrow is a complex hero, someone who is captivating for readers to follow even if they don't always agree with his politics and methods. He has relationship issues with Black Canary, he struggles to save his sidekick Speedy from drug addiction, he clashes over ideology with fellow Justice League member Green Lantern, and in the legendary tale The Dark Knight Returns, we see his future as a bitter, broken man who lost his arm to a government puppet Superman, only to rise up for one last cool moment of glory.

But, like many other fictional heroes, despite his character flaws, he drew the moral line when it counted -- he never killed. In the Arrow TV show, he doesn't seem to have the same inhibition. He breaks a guy's neck to keep him from revealing his secret that he's gained near superhuman skills during his time on the island, he shoots arrows through henchmen's torsos, and he uses one guy as a human shield, breaking through a wall of glass as bullets tear through the hapless punk's body. Yes, so far these are all bad guys -- criminals who would not have hesitated to kill Oliver Queen or other innocent citizens. One of the greatest characteristics of superheroes, however, is that they follow a moral code. Even though it might seem unrealistic at times, we yearn for characters who are better than we are. Batman, whose parents were shot to death, doesn't use a gun. Superman, whose planet exploded along with everyone on it, doesn't kill. Those self-imposed "rules," those moral choices not to stoop to the level of the bad guys they're fighting, makes these fictional stories worth watching.

Green Arrow shouldn't be the same as the Punisher, a killing machine whose sole purpose is vengeance, no matter the bloody cost. Oliver Queen is someone whose worldview has changed due to a traumatic experience that lasted for half a decade. When he sees some of these ultra-billionaires destroying the lives of the less fortunate masses, he should see a bit of himself, or rather a mirror image of who he used to be. While seeking justice, I don't think he would view the criminals as less than human. Like any superhero, that becomes one of his vulnerabilities -- unlike the evil element he's fighting, there's a line he won't cross, and shouldn't cross.

I don't think the TV version has established that line. Its absence left me cold. I want to root for Arrow. I want to see him make mistakes and challenge his beliefs as he faces hurdles in his relationship with Dinah Laurel Lance and with his sister Thea, a.k.a. Speedy.
But I don't want to see him kill.


buddy2blogger said…
Great review.

I look forward to Speedy making the inevitable appearance in the show.