This comparison may not be fair. Arrow is in its second season, it has a well-established storyline from which nearly all of its plotlines drew significantly last night, and the shows really aren’t the same kinds of shows at all. Agents of SHIELD so far seems content to be weird police procedural while Arrow is—unapologetically—a superhero drama. This may well be an apples-to-oranges comparison.
And yet, I am watching both shows largely because I am first and foremost a fan of comics. Were it not for the existence of the source material, and my interest in it, I personally would not have given either show so much as five minutes of my time.
So. Here are five things I love about Arrow, that make it the better show, at least for me.
5. Arrow is a much more muscular show. Stephen Arnell is freakin’ ripped, and Jessica De Gous looked terrific as the Huntress last season. This is important in a show about superheroes. These guys have to look better than reality; that’s kind of the point of what they are.
|See? That's a mask. Cool, no?|
4. The action and fight sequences are better in Arrow. Yes, it is cool that the Agents of SHIELD have their own tricked out plane, and that we saw Coulson’s car flying around with the jet wheels in the pilot episode, but that stuff is like hi-tech window dressing. The Arrow production team very obviously spends a lot of time figuring out how Oliver is gonna move through his city, how to make it look cool, and how to set up the fights so that they are both exciting and an integral part of telling the story. Arrow’s team spends some serious time thinking about parkour, and that’s a huge part of why the show works.
On the flipside, it’s surprising that Agents of SHIELD hasn’t done the same since Marvel as a company is usually very focused on finding ways to make sure that it’s characters move through their environments in cool ways.
3. Better acting. Yeah, I know that Arrow fans have hated on Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance) since she was cast, but to my mind, she’s still at least as good as Chloe Bennet (Skye), and she’s surrounded by folks who’re mostly better than their counterparts as well. Stephen Arnell in particular is much better than Brett Dalton (Grant Ward), and yeah, maybe you can make the argument that Dalton’s not the male lead on his show—he’s certainly not listed at the top of the credits—but if he’s not the lead, he’s still supposed to be the group’s bad-ass super-soldier, and he’s just not getting it done in that role.
2. Cooler gadgets, better locations. Your mileage may vary on this one, but for me, Arrow’s twin backdrops of Starling City and Lian Yu are much more compelling than a boardroom-in-the-sky private plane.
1. Better treatment in comparison with the source material. This one may well be irrelevant, but Arrow has done a lot with just a little bit of source material, and what it’s done has been at least as good as the work it’s based on. For example, Season One was mostly a derivation of Green Arrow: Year One and Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters. That’s a total of eight issues of sequential art from which a full season of TV was derived. That’s only possible because the TV writers expanded and enhanced the material at every turn—not the usual outcome in a project like this.