Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — Fans were up in arms last month when “Arrow” star Stephen Amell shared the trailer for “Alyas Robin Hood” with a flushed face emoji on his Facebook page. Many of his Filipino Facebook fans were embarrassed, even apologizing on behalf of the whole country, saying that local networks have “no originality” anymore. When asked, the creators of “Alyas” responded by saying that both their show and “Arrow” were inspired by the tale of Robin Hood, so there are bound to be similarities.
Judging from yesterday’s pilot episode, this is true to some extent. To be fair, when you take source material that has seen many rehashes and reboots, it’s bound to be compared to whatever else that may seem similar at the time. On the surface, GMA’s “Alyas Robin Hood” may seem like a blatant rip-off of CW’s “Arrow,” but the pilot does a lot to curb those suspicions.
Based on the plot given by the network, Dingdong Dantes plays Jose Paolo “Pepe” de Jesus, an ordinary lawyer who fakes his own death after being framed for his father’s murder. Taking advantage of his newfound freedom, Pepe eventually becomes the bow and arrow-wielding vigilante, Alyas Robin Hood, dedicating his life to seeking justice for his father’s murder. “Arrow” follows a relatively similar premise with billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, who comes back after five years of being presumed dead. He, too, tries to seek justice by killing wealthy criminals.
It is in that premise and the freeze-frame archery shots where the similarities end. In “Alyas Robin Hood’s” opening scene, we are shown a situation that hits close to home. Decked out in full-on battle gear, Pepe carjacks a truck carrying sacks of rice from Japan meant to be given to victims of a recent calamity. The extravagant mayor Cha has plans to sell the rice instead of giving it to those who rightfully need it, providing the requisite caricature of our own corrupt government officials.
The calamity victims are protesting against the mayor from their temporary homes in tent city. Just when the soldiers receive a shoot-to-kill order from the Mayor, Pepe drives the truck into the middle of the standoff. Alyas Robin Hood’s victory is followed by signature action movie shots — a look back and a smirk, and a follow-up shot of our hero on a rooftop looking out onto the city.
Director Dominic Zapata is known for his work on “My Husband’s Lover” and “The Rich Man’s Daughter” — two teleseryes that introduced new themes to the Filipino audience. While “Alyas” may not be an entirely original concept, it contains themes that are relatable enough to the general public, combining them with the action scenes that Pinoys love, in order to create something worth tuning in to. Filipinos are all too familiar with the police versus bad guy narrative, thanks to ratings giant “Ang Probinsyano.” What “Alyas Robin Hood” does is take that formula and insert a more exciting superhero-like character into the mix.
The local setting of “Alyas Robin Hood” also allows it to have a central take on family values. Pepe’s father, Jose (Christopher de Leon) is a righteous man who doesn’t like getting involved in trouble while his mother, Judy (Jaclyn Jose) shows deep concern for her sons.
Thus, while the premises between “Alyas Robin Hood” and “Arrow” are similar, “Alyas” takes an approach to justice that is more faithful to the original Robin Hood story, in that it is rooted in the divide between the rich and the poor — the powerful and the powerless. The pilot saw how power came into play in the conflict between Pepe’s less fortunate family and the family of their neighbor, whose patriarch is the bodyguard of their mayor.
It is also here that further distinctions between Pepe de Jesus and Oliver Queen can be seen. While Oliver comes from a moneyed background, Pepe grew up in less lavish conditions, a fact which contributes to his future motivations as Alyas Robin Hood. The Green Arrow is part of DC’s superhero universe, so Oliver’s conversion from spoiled billionaire to crime-fighting vigilante comes from a perspective of renewal. “Alyas Robin Hood,” on the other hand, is closer to the original Robin Hood’s fight for justice for the poor.
It’s still too early to tell whether the show is completely different from “Arrow,” but yesterday’s episode was a good indication that it might be. Until we can watch more episodes, “Alyas Robin Hood” serves as a welcome addition to GMA’s current roster of fantasy and romance.