As a prelude to my latest Arrow review, I shall warn thee that this review will be a roasting.
In an episode aptly titled, “Fighting Fire With Fire,” there was an overarching theme about what happens when you play with dangerous things. If you mess with fire, you’re most likely going to get burned. And Arrow most certainly got burned. Well, actually, Arrow burned itself.
Every week I find myself asking when will this nightmare that is season five come to an end? Realistically I know we still have eight episodes left (EIGHT). But that hasn’t stopped me from praying that this season is put out of its misery. It’s a mess. It’s s***ing all over the core elements of the show that have made it a success in the first place. It’s attempting to tout this new reputation of “look at us, we’re syndicated, we can do whatever we want and still be on the air.” It’s conceited, infuriating, and embarrassing.
I remember a time when I eagerly anticipated watching Arrow live. I even skipped one of my night classes to watch one of last season’s – early season’s – episodes. That’s how much I cared. That’s how good Arrow was.
But now I find myself rolling my eyes and praying for semblance of salvation as I switch the channel to The CW. Or, like on this Wednesday night, I found myself groaning because I was missing the epic three-hour One Chicago crossover event because of this show. If this were my Arrow, I wouldn’t have thought twice. Arrow has always come first.
Arrow fans have always put this show first. But now it’s like Arrow has decided to put the fans last.
As hard as it may be to believe because of how critical I’m being of Arrow, which I know is a lot, I don’t like having to write negative reviews nearly every week. I hate it. But hey, I approach all shows this way. I was overtly critical of Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow last season (both of which have rebounded tremendously and I’ve raved as such.) I’ve been very critical of The Flash this season, as well. I don’t enjoy thinking negative thoughts about shows I love, but that’s my job as a reviewer. I have to be honest. I’m not going to lie. I have a moral code that I follow (unlike Susan Williams.) I want to write about the good. But these shows have to give me that good to write about.
This isn’t about ships at this point. This is about how these writers are failing to properly execute this season. They’ve attempted a reboot of a show that didn’t need to be rebooted; they’ve attempted to bring new characters in to make it fresh; they’ve actually sidelined the characters that this audience has come to love; and they’ve alienated a good portion of their fanbase in the process.
But because I like to think of myself as an optimist when it comes to television (television, yes. Sports, never), I’ve remained and will continue to remain on this one-wheeled car known as Arrow season five praying that the show returns to its former self (or even just a sliver of it at this point.)
I want to believe that things can only get better from here. Especially because this is the angriest I’ve been since “Human Target” when Arrow first made it well-known that it had decided to forgo all logic to satisfy comic book fans and alienate the fans that have grown to love their universe that they created. You know, the universe that these producers created in the first place.
At this point, I remain firm in my stance that season five is beyond saving. I’m sorry, but there’s just too much that has tainted what should’ve been a monumental season. I’m honestly looking forward to season six, where I pray that Arrow can fix this mess. I’m not asking for a miracle. I’m just asking for the writers to give us Arrow back.
Let’s break this down:
Diggle’s Concern for Felicity Playing With Fire
Even though this episode infuriated me beyond belief, there were a couple of storylines that almost redeemed it. And that’s because I thought I was watching another show entirely – a show that I actually wanted to watch. I show that I actually used to watch before it was taken away from me.
One of the core elements of Arrow since mid-season one has been the dynamic between Original Team Arrow. Now, while Oliver was off fighting impeachment or fighting to win a woman back that he hardly knows (when he didn’t fight nearly that hard for a woman he loves and who has made him a hero *cough Felicity *cough*), Diggle and Felicity got to share some screen time in what were the best scenes of the night. All two of them.
With Felicity continuing her descent into this darkness known as Helix, Diggle finally got the opportunity to confront Felicity about his concerns. You know, the concerns that he had a few episodes back but was never given the screen time to address until the writers made time for it. This is the stuff that never happened in the old days.
Anyway, Diggle was beginning to see firsthand how Felicity’s playing with Helix has already affected her. He recognized that there is a darkness inside of her that – for the most part – she’s always been able to control. That’s her superpower, he tells her. It’s not her brain (although that is certainly one of them. Hey, a hero can have more than one superpower), it’s her empathy. Felicity has always been a person that has elected to look for the best in people. She’s been able to inspire even the darkest of people in the darkest of times. She’s been a literal light for those that have needed it.
So with Diggle now recognizing that Felicity is begin to give in to this darkness – to fight fire with fire as he, Oliver, Thea, Laurel, and Roy have – he’s become worried. No, he’s more than worried. This is the woman that is like a sister to him. She is his sister. He would go to the ends of the world to protect her. And something tells me he’s going to have to do that given Felicity’s actively joining Helix. More on that below.
But these are the scenes I want to see. These are the moments that Arrow should be actively pursuing in their episodes. One of the things that made season two (the best season, in my opinion) so great was that we got to see how Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity responded to situations as a team. We got to see them talk things out; we got to see them struggle with conflict together; we got to see them inspire each other; we got to see what makes them an unstoppable unit. I don’t care if you give me five skilled and armed fighters alongside Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity. I’ll take Original Team Arrow – just the three of them – over any Team Arrow any day.
Felicity Plays With Fire
This season has been touted as being Felicity’s “Island,” an island that we’ve seen our core characters undergo at some point. While you wouldn’t think Felicity would be someone that would have to fight the darkness inside of herself – given how she’s been a light to so many people – remember that everyone has a darkness within that is either contained or unleashed. Felicity has undergone a slew – not a slew, like a dozen – hardships in the course of a single year, which most definitely explains her descent into darkness through this hacktivist group, Helix.
As Felicity attempted to persuade Diggle into not worrying so much about her fighting fire with fire (as she used Pandora to blackmail people that weren’t necessarily victims but weren’t necessarily innocent), she brought up the obvious that what she is doing is no worse than what Diggle, Oliver, Thea, and others on this team have done in the past. Sometimes the situation calls for you to play a little dirty. Only Felicity hasn’t realized that this isn’t so much about fighting fire with fire as it is spiraling into a darkness as she continues to suppress emotions that need to be expressed.
She’s been carrying around so much emotion over so many traumatic things that have happened to her in the past year alone – being shot and paralyzed; having to break up with the love of her life because he lied to her; watching Laurel, her friend, die; getting fired; the drama with her father; the tragedy of Havenrock; having the courage to move on with Malone; having her brother, Diggle, be incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit; learning that her ex-fiancé was manipulated into killing her current boyfriend.
Jesus Christ, it’s a miracle that Felicity has survived to this point without completely breaking. That’s a lot emotion for one to hold in for a lifetime, yet alone a single year. But we haven’t gotten to see Felicity handle that. Sure, this Helix drama is part of that. But you can’t tell me that this is the only way that Felicity is handling everything she’s experienced. She needs to break down. She needs to let all of that anger and grief out. She’s not superhuman. And even then, a superhuman would need to do the same.
One of the things I do applaud Arrow for handling this season is Felicity’s spiral. I like that it wasn’t immediate. That it isn’t something that lasts for like two episodes when the repercussions of it all will be profound. I appreciate that we’re getting to see Felicity slowly descend into her island.
There was a moment during her conversation with John where it appeared that he had gotten through to her. As he insisted that when you fight fire with fire that you’re most likely going to get burned. And he certainly did get through to her. Only not in the way he had hoped.
After watching Oliver nearly succumb to the consequences of his questionable decisions, Felicity came to the realization that one is more likely to get burned when they’re in a burning house alone. Which led her to reach out to Helix as she sought a team to work with.
I’m not going to say this is the beginning of Felicity’s dark journey. It’s not. But this is the moment where things certainly are, excuse the pun, about to heat up as that fire she’s fighting engulfs her. Now that she has chosen to be a part of this hacktivist group – and everything that comes with being a member – we’re going to get to see her slowly or quickly begin to lose herself in it before she comes to a precipice where she’s going to need some help to come back from the darkness.
My only hope that – the moment that she’s so far gone that she needs help – is that those that love her will be there to help her off the ledge. We know Diggle will be there. Felicity is his sister – the third most important woman in his life after Lyla and his daughter Sara (sorry, Barry didn’t erase Sara from my memory, she still exists.) But in order for there to be some justice in this cruel world of Arrow season five, Oliver needs to step up to help Felicity. She has been there for Oliver countless times – times when he was on the brink of completely shattering, and she still managed to bring him back. That’s because she’s the one that can get through to him. And much like she’s that person for her, he is that person for her.
All I know is that I am living for Felicity’s dark descent. Since Diggle has been questionably sidelined after his brief prison stint, I’m hoping that Arrow can at least manage to incorporate him into Felicity’s storyline. See, that’s the kind of stuff that makes sense. And in a season lacking logic, sense is what Arrow needs.
One of the season’s big mysteries has surrounded the identity of this season’s big bad. The big bad that we’ve been told “couldn’t be done until season five.” It was the kind of tease that made you believe that maybe, just maybe, the impossible was possible. The impossible being Tommy Merlyn’s return as Prometheus. It was a theory I’ve clung to all season as we’ve been told this big bad has been a creation of Oliver’s actions.
Silly me to believe that this reveal would actually live up to the hype.
Not that I don’t like that Adrian Chase is Prometheus – because when I think about it, he’s the best choice out of the possibilities. But I thought that we were going to see this come full circle. As in someone from Oliver’s past – someone we’ve seen before – would turn out to be the big bad. That’s what we were told. That’s not what we got.
What I don’t understand is that stuff about “you can’t do this big bad until season five.” I don’t see it. We’ve never seen this Adrian Chase guy before. He was a stranger to us until the beginning of this season. I have no emotional ties to him, nor does Oliver. I’m failing to see the significance here.
But at the same time, I’ll give it to Arrow for the surprise. Because we were led to believe that Chase was Vigilante. That’s who he was in the comics. And look at Arrow continuing to defy the comics and create their own universe. Here, Arrow, you get a brief round of applause for that. You’ve always been good with differentiating between comics and television universes.
I loved how we were led to believe Chase was Vigilante all without ever seeing Vigilante’s face. We just assumed. And they got us. So when we saw Prometheus take his mask off and it was revealed it was Adrian, I found myself shell shocked. As in: is this a misdirect? Did Chase manage to get Prometheus’ suit and pose as him? Did he have an accomplice dress like Vigilante to stage something?
Then I realized that I was overthinking it way too much. Then we saw Adrian be super shady and almost (damn, almost) hurt Susan Williams because of her connection (barf) to Oliver. That’s when I knew that Adrian was actually Prometheus. And I’ll be damned if I don’t like it. I’m actually curious to see where this storyline goes.
Also, now that we’ve learned that Chase is actually Prometheus, it begs the question: Who the hell is Vigilante? We’ve been led to believe Adrian has been Vigilante all this time, so who is he? Or who is she? Is it someone we know? Is it someone from Russia? Is it someone unoriginal? I need some freaking answers.
The Assassination of Oliver Queen
There’s a moment as a fan that you hope you never come to. The moment where you don’t recognize the hero of your show anymore. While the assassination of Oliver Queen’s character has been in the making for weeks, this was the episode where that knife was firmly driven home into my gut as I realized that Oliver Queen has been dismantled.
Oliver has never been a perfect hero. He’s never been a perfect person. I’ve loved him for his imperfections; I’ve loved him for his brooding nature; I’ve loved him when he makes dumb ass mistakes that he needs his friends to help him out of. Oliver’s character isn’t in question because he’s made mistakes. It’s in question because this character – the one we’ve seen on screen – doesn’t in the least resemble the character we’ve spent four years getting to know.
Here’s the thing when you bring a story and characters to life: they stop being just yours. They become the audience’s, as well. Sometimes, because of the passion and dedication, there might come a point where audience might know as much if not more about the character than you do. And that’s when you run into problems. Well, if you do a disservice to said character.
We’ve spent four years getting to know Oliver Queen. We know how he responds to conflict; we know that his first instinct is to run away to protect people; we know that the only time he’s been truly happy is when he was with Felicity – because we recognize that look on his face; we know the ins and outs of Oliver Queen.
So when we’re presented with this caricature of Oliver Queen – someone who looks and sounds like Oliver, but doesn’t act like him – it’s beyond infuriating. Especially because there doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgement by the writers that anything has changed.
Look, I understand that people change. But they don’t change in nearly every facet. There are certain aspects of character where they evolve or digress. But you still recognize that character. Oliver has been virtually unrecognizable this season – especially in these most recent episodes.
The way he approaches situations; the way he blindly trusts those that he shouldn’t (and has always known better not to trust), it makes you wonder if the writers just think we’re that stupid or if they’re intentionally messing with their hero and all of that evolution he’s undergone.
Don’t forget, by season’s end Oliver is supposed to come full circle as the hero he was meant to be since the pilot. But from this point at this time, it doesn’t look like Oliver is close to getting there. In fact, he’s as far as he’s ever been.
My problem with Susan Williams doesn’t stem so much with the fact that she’s dating Oliver so much as it does with her moral conduct – or lack thereof – as well as how the writers have chosen to handle this Oliver and Susan relationship.
Or when they give us moments like this…
My issue with this entire thing – with Oliver and Felicity being broken up, with Oliver and Susan being a thing – is how the writers have shown what they think is important when it’s not important. In two weeks, we’ve seen Oliver fight harder for Susan than he ever has for Felicity, a woman he actually has loved for a very long time, someone he wanted to – and still wants to – marry, a woman that has made him a hero, a woman that would be there for him no matter what was happening between them.
And yet, these writers would have us believe that Oliver isn’t going to fight for her. That Oliver isn’t going to go to the ends of the Earth to try and make it work. That when he breaks up with this girl that he’s known for all of five minutes that he’s going to fight for her – and go to his ex-fiancée for help in repairing his relationship.
I’m sorry, Oliver, but grow the hell up man. Don’t come running to Felicity when things get tough. Just because she’s helped you in the past – with relevant conflicts – doesn’t mean she’s always going to clean up your mess. Take some responsibility.
I don’t recognize Oliver Queen. I’ve come to the point where I don’t like him. It’s a place I came to with Barry Allen in last year’s Flash season finale, and I’m only now starting to slowly warm up to him. Right now, I don’t like Oliver Queen. I’m going to need my hero back.
Susan Williams is Still NOT the Victim
Something I really want to ask the Arrow writers is if they actually believe that Susan Williams is a victim in this story? Because they’ve been preaching it for two weeks now and thinking that we’ll believe them. I’m starting to believe that they believe she’s been wronged in this entire thing and are writing that.
I said it last week, I’ll say it again this week, and I’ll keep saying it until they stop telling us:
SUSAN WILLIAMS IS NOT THE VICTIM.
This show is trying so hard to paint Susan as the wronged party in this matter. Sure, she lost her job. Sure, she lost it because Thea planted false information that said she plagiarized. Still, Susan isn’t the victim.
Let’s take a look at her resume: Susan blackmailed and exposed Oliver and manipulated Thea in the beginning of the season; she got close to Oliver – and slept with him – in order to obtain information; she went against journalistic ethics in order to get a story.
I’m sorry, why do you want us to feel sorry for her?
The thing is, to feel sorry for her we’d actually have to give a damn. Which we don’t. The only person that gives a damn is Susan herself. There are a million ways Arrow could’ve portrayed this journalistic storyline, and they chose one with a woman, no less (because we just have it so easy in life without entertainment painting us as weak or sleeping with someone to get a job or a story) who went against ethics to advance her career.
I’ve already aired my grievances about last week’s episode and this reporter, but this week we found Susan once again being portrayed as a victim. Poor Susan, she writes for a blog. Poor Susan, she feels upset. Poor Susan, she broke up with her boyfriend. Poor Susan, she got away with sleeping with a story but was axed for something else entirely. Karma. Is. A. Bitch.
I’m becoming fed up with this storyline as it shows just how much Arrow has fallen from its perch. A perch where it was once the best superhero show on television. Now it’s so predictable and cliché with contrived drama that would make even the biggest of drama fans vomit.
My only hope came in the final moments as Adrian Chase aka Prometheus approached her about a story. I was praying that he eliminate her right then and there to spare us from this terrible storyline. But alas we’ll have to wait for Susan’s end, which let’s be real, probably won’t happen in the next episode. We’ll probably have to deal with her for a few episodes more until she, hopefully, disappears for good. (Hey, Barry, feel like erasing another human from existence?)
Thea Has Resigned (And Might Not Return)
When you know that something terrible is coming, it doesn’t stop it from hurting any less. Case in point Thea Queen’s resignation – aka departure – following the events of this episode. After two weeks where Thea has fought dirty to protect her brother (her mother would seriously be proud), Thea made the decision to step back and get a handle on things.
More like her contract for the season – 14 out of 23 episodes – is nearing its end and the writers had to find an excuse for her not to be present in the story. God, just when you think this show can’t get worse.
As these new characters take stance, we’re beginning to see the departure of preexisting characters that have made this show what it is. Thea has been an integral part of Oliver’s journey. She’s his last remaining blood family. She’s one of the reasons that he fights. She’s someone who has always believe in him. She’s someone who will do whatever it takes to keep her brother safe. But sure, let’s take the guy in a hockey mask we barely know instead.
The thing that worries me is that this is something that might go from temporary to permanent. What will Willa Holland’s contract look like for season six? Will she have the same number of contracted episodes? Less? God-hoping, more? I don’t like this uncertainty. I don’t like this Arrow.
This has me seriously worried about the fate of another prominent character: Quentin Lance. He’s been a staple on this show since the pilot. And now I’m afraid that he’s on the way out, as well. I hope to God I’m wrong, but I don’t feel much optimism with Arrow these days.
- I thoroughly enjoyed watching Oliver suffer as he stood on trial for impeachment. I do not like Oliver Queen. There, I said it. I don’t recognize him. This isn’t the hero that I want to invest my faith in. This isn’t the hero that is supposed to be an inspiration. This is a character who has completely lost his way and his likeability.
- Did Oliver actually ask Felicity to “fix” his relationship with Susan? I’m sorry, but what the actual hell? First off, how freaking dare you demand something out of the woman you claimed to love. Second, Felicity owes you nothing. Third, grow the hell up and fix your damn problems yourself!
- Can The CW create a spinoff with Felicity, Diggle, and Thea? Because that’s what I want to watch. That’s the only thing I actually care about. That’s the only thing that is saving this show from being complete garbage.
- How stupid does Arrow think we are? They’re still trying to drive this “Susan is a victim” mentality down our throats. To be honest, it’s insulting because if they actually think we believe that crap then they assume we’re morons.
- While I’m thoroughly disappointed Prometheus isn’t Tommy, I actually like that it’s Chase. If only because I’m a fan of Adrian Chase as a character, and I really enjoy watching him torment Oliver. My God, who would’ve thought I’d be on the Big Bad’s side?
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.