When I first started watching Arrow two years ago I remember being completely entranced by this superhero world that was so grounded in reality in comparison to other comic adaptations.
Don’t get me wrong, I love superpowers. And I love shows with superpowers like The Flash. But there’s just something that is so compelling about Arrow’s grounded take on a superhero’s story. It helps that the titular hero doesn’t possess any superpowers in the comics, other than his incredible prowess with a bow.
The groundedness of Arrow has been something I could always rely on, like the sky being blue, chicken wings being the food of the Gods and the Green Bay Packers sucking.
But with the latest Arrow casting of Doug Jones as metahuman Deathbolt, who will appear in episode 3×19 “Broken Arrow,” I find myself fearing that Arrow might take the direction that I’ve been opposed to it taking: the superpower route.
While it’s great for Arrow to be a part of a universe that consists of The Flash’s metahuman-populated Central City, what makes Starling City different from Central City or any other comic book city the network may choose to bring on, is that it’s just like big cities that we know. Well, except that there’s a masked vigilante protecting it.
The furthest Arrow has tested the superpower boundary was in season two with Slade Wilson’s Mirakuru army, which infused people with super strength, and the possibility of a Lazarus Pit this season. But Arrow is no stranger to superpowers, as evidenced by The Flash crossover. While The Flash half of the crossover embraced the metahuman aspect, the Arrow half of the crossover retained that grounded realism that has made it so compelling.
The amazing thing about Arrow is that it’s a superhero show that is grounded in reality. Like The Flash is able to make us believe a show where our protagonist has super speed could be realistic, Arrow is able to take a show that is infused with comic book allure and make it believable and attainable.
While it is indeed an origin story about a superhero, the approach is realistic. The villains that Oliver Queen and Team Arrow face are human. They don’t have special powers that allow them to turn into poisonous gas, steel or teleport. These villains have some messed up psyches and weapons, like guns, swords or bows. These are real people doing horrific things, which makes it all the more terrifying.
It was one of the things that The Flash’s Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon pointed out during the Arrow hour of the Arrow-Flash crossover. While they’d been facing metahumans with superpowers, the sudden realization that the enemies Team Arrow is going up against are humans with vengeful vendettas made it real. This wasn’t a pretend game. This was real, and there are real consequences.
And that’s the point. It’s why Arrow is as dark as it is. Because the world can be a dark place, and the show exhibits that point well. Arrow has embraced reality in adapting this comic hero for the small screen, which includes not being tied down by the source material. It lets the show and the characters play out, like it does in real life.
I think I can speak for most people when I say that Arrow makes us feel that a world like this is possible. That maybe somewhere, someone is dressing up as a costumed vigilante to protect the helpless. While television is a great medium to escape into a world that isn’t reality, there’s something that’s so great about getting to escape into a world that feels like reality. That maybe Oliver Queen, Felicity Smoak, John Diggle and co. really are out there saving their city.
While nothing has been confirmed regarding Arrow’s flirting with superpowers, I would like to believe that this metahuman villain is just a one-time thing. That it isn’t a way to fully integrate superpowers on Arrow. Because then Arrow would lose part of its foundation and allure. It would lose the thing that makes Arrow, well, Arrow.