When it comes to the superhero renaissance on television today, one show that arrived on The CW back in 2012 essentially made all of this possible: Arrow.
From the start Arrow enraptured me with its combination of grounded reality and the Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity dynamic that blended darkness with humor. In a way it was redefining what we expect from superheroes: that they have powers. But they don’t, as Arrow has always shown us. In this world skill is the closest thing you’ll come to a superpower, which makes it a very relatable world.
The first two seasons thrived on the deep-rooted character dynamics between the core group of Team Arrow, as well as centered around the Emmy-worthy stunt choreography that produced some of the best stunts on television. With no other superhero shows in sight, Arrow was not only giving audiences something they didn’t have but giving it to them in a fresh way. The series hit its peak in its second season when it managed to blend all of these elements together in an organic way that spelled success for the series.
But somewhere along the way Arrow became something else. It was used as a means to prop new superheroes and spin off other superhero shows – two directly and others indirectly – and in the process it lost part of itself. It became something that wasn’t the Arrow I fell in love with back in season two where the show did what the show does best.
But enough is enough. It’s time that Arrow got back to being Arrow.
When it comes down to it, Arrow is a gritty show that has never relied on magic as a means to be established. As Stephen Amell said, it’s a non-superpowered superhero show. And that’s just fine. Because there are several other shows out there doing something different and no one wants to watch the same show on three different times.
But somewhere along the way Arrow became something else. It was used as a means to prop new superheroes and spin off other superhero shows – two directly and others indirectly – and in the process it lost part of itself.
There are several elements that catapulted Arrow into the success that it has become. While those elements remain on the show they’ve been pushed to the side in favor of other storylines that aren’t the makeup of what makes this show a success.
One of those components that made Arrow the success it is today is the Team Arrow dynamic with Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity. The introduction of that team gave Arrow the heartbeat that it had been searching for throughout its first season. Superheroes are nothing if you don’t give a damn about them. Before Diggle and Felicity, Oliver was a character that was hard to sympathize with. But Diggle and Felicity helped explore a side of his character that really fleshed him out. The three of them together are magic in a bottle. Their rapport is unlike any other. But it’s been sidelined to an extent given the team’s expansion and focus elsewhere. It’s one of those elements that Arrow needs to get back to if it hopes to recapture the magic from seasons one and two.
As far as structurally, Arrow has shifted from a stunt-heavy mindset to a more mystical-laden mindset where the fights sometimes come off as unbelievable given the circumstances of the show. One of the things that made Arrow so enrapturing was how it brought the superhero to the streets with stunt sequences that were truly impressive. It all goes back to the genuineness of the show. Arrow has been a success partly due to that authenticity.
When it comes down to it, Arrow is a gritty show that has never relied on magic as a means to be established. As Stephen Amell said, it’s a non-superpowered superhero show.
While I’ve absolutely loved Damien Darhk as a villain this past season – in terms of the maniacal plot of it all – I can’t say the same for the magic. How is it that a show that started out rooted in the dark realities of our world suddenly is dealing with a mystical maniac trying to destroy the world? I understand making the scope bigger with each passing season, but making that transition from street fights to magic never seemed like a genuine next step.
But perhaps the show’s biggest misstep over these past two seasons has been its responsibility to introduce new heroes that will soon move on to their own shows. The thing is those heroes that have come to Arrow are the heroes with powers whereas Green Arrow has never been a superpowered hero. It was always about super skill. But these new heroes also took away valuable screen time from the core cast of characters on Arrow that fans had been clamoring for more of. I mean, John Diggle has been a vital character since the pilot, but it took until season four for him to get a proper storyline centered on his past and his brother. Respect those characters that have made Arrow, well, Arrow.
When you think about why Arrow has gone this route in the previous two seasons you start to see that this new-look Arrow came with the introduction of The Flash and the metahumans. Both Arrow and The Flash are different shows, but they do exist in the same universe and crossover on several occasions. But both shows don’t need to become something they’re not in order to accommodate the other. Every superhero show has a reason that it’s been successful. Arrow has the action and the heart, The Flash has metahumans and family, and Legends of Tomorrow has time travel and a team-up focus. Each show has something unique that fans love about it, which makes this Arrowverse so diverse and exhilarating.
Here’s the thing, Arrow is responsible for The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl and these other superhero shows out there. It has embraced its responsibility of being the anchor for this universe. But why does that responsibility come with the sacrifice of itself in the process?
While Arrow has to embrace foreign elements you have The Flash reaching for a popular comic storyline that essentially alters every show in this Arrowverse. Why do the other shows possibility have to cater to that storyline but the show that started it all has to adapt to these other shows? It really doesn’t make sense to me.
It has embraced its responsibility of being the anchor for this universe. But why does that responsibility come with the sacrifice of itself in the process?
Even the actors have begun to speak out about their desire for Arrow to get back to doing what it does best. They’ve recognized that the show has lost elements of itself along the way as it’s had to shepherd in these other shows. They want to return to the core focus of this show, and it sounds like our prayers are being answered.
With the teases we’ve gotten about Arrow’s fifth season, it sounds as if it’s going to go back-to-basics and focus on itself rather the Arrowverse as a whole. That means a return to the grounded nature without a mystical influence. That means a return to the impressive stunts that mystified us without magic. That means a return to the character focus that has defined Arrow. At least that’s what I’m expecting, hoping.
Arrow established itself as a success long before these other superhero shows came along, and it shouldn’t have to become something it’s not in order to accommodate these newer shows. Arrow has already done its part. Just let Arrow be Arrow from here on out. It’s more than earned that.