Arrow Hits Its Mark

“My name is Oliver Queen. I was stranded on an island with only one goal, survive. Now I will fulfill my father’s dying wish to use the list of names he left me and bring down those who are poisoning my city. To do this I must become someone else. I must become something else.” — Oliver Queen’s opening intro to Arrow, first season

The long-running superhero TV series Arrow just aired its final episode “Fadeout” on the CW. As series finales go, “Fadeout” was surprisingly well put together and a fitting conclusion to Arrow. The series had its ups and downs during its eight-season run but generally was a solid superhero show that introduced a larger DC universe that was appropriately dubbed the Arrowverse.

When Arrow premiered on October 2012, there was some trepidation over it. Some saw it as a weak version of Batman, specifically the Christopher Nolan version because of its initial grounded feel. Others unfairly complained Arrow’s version of Oliver Queen/Green Arrow was not the one played by Justin Hartley in Smallville. Keep in mind, Smallville ended its run a year earlier and it was hoped then that some spinoff would be created from that show. Instead the character was reimagined by Arrow’s showrunners, Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg.

The Hood

However, thanks to the enthusiasm and dedication of actor Stephen Amell as the title hero and the shows’ supporting cast, Arrow quickly won over many viewers. Looking back, it made sense that the show had a grittier and less fantastical feel than standard superhero fare. Amell’s Green Arrow (first called “The Hood”) was an intense, no-nonsense hero who took no quarter. This enabled the showrunners to tell solid stories about crime and corruption in Oliver Queen’s Starling City and his quest to save his city.

Establishing A Universe

In many ways the sophomore season of Arrow was among its best with its ongoing story of Oliver Queen’s confrontation with Slade Wilson/Deathstroke, who was so well played by Manu Bennett. A distinctive feature of Arrow was its use of flashbacks in most episodes that interwove or were relevant with current storylines. The flashbacks during the show’s early days focused on Oliver’s adventures when he was marooned on the island Lian Yu. This structure paid off handsomely in the second season as we saw him first meeting and befriending Wilson on the island and how the two became bitter enemies. Meanwhile, the current storyline in the second season featured the return of Deathstroke and his machinations to destroy Queen and his city.

Naturally, as the show found its footing and gained in popularity, the DC universe was introduced. To Arrow’s credit this was done organically and not rushed. It started with blink-and-you-miss-them Easter eggs and the introduction of more superhuman-related plot devices like the strength-enhancing drug mirakuru or characters like Huntress, Deathstroke and later Barry Allen/The Flash. This introduction of the larger DC universe, as well as its driving plot lines helped propel the show’s popularity late into its first season and during its second.

While the show introduced viewers to the Flash (who was soon spun off into his own series), it also featured other distinctive DC Comics characters like Black Canary, Wild Dog, Ragman Batwoman, and Supergirl, who were often introduced in series crossover events or became important supporting characters.

One outstanding character was Queen’s confidante and best friend John Diggle (David Ramsey). Although Diggle was an original character, many speculated he was a stand-in for the Green Lantern, John Stewart. The showrunners teased fans with cloy Easter eggs throughout the show’s run such as the revelation that Diggle’s stepfather’s last name was Stewart. Finally, in the last few minutes of “Fadeout” it was shown that Diggle was on his way to becoming Green Lantern to the delight of many. However, do not expect more to be made of this. Even though Greg Berlanti is developing a Green Lantern series for the upcoming streaming app HBO Max, it is doubtful Ramsey will continue to play the role or that the show will be part of the Arrowverse. The best we can hope for is that Ramsey will reprise his role as Green Lantern in other Arrowverse shows like The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow. Incidentally, John Diggle is slated to appear in an upcoming episode of The Flash this season, but he won’t be Green Lantern.

Diggle finds green lantern ring

Another notable character introduced in the show was Ray Palmer/The Atom, who was played by Brandon Routh. When Brandon Routh was first announced to portray Palmer, it seemed like stunt casting since he portrayed Superman in Superman Returns. This casting turned out to resurrect Routh’s career as he was promoted to the show lead in Legends of Tomorrow and excelled in his performance as the goofy scientist. As many know, Routh’s redemption came full circle when he reprised his role as Superman in the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths Arrowverse crossover event.

Arrow’s Crisis

Crisis on Infinite Earths was the biggest and most impactful crossover event for the Arrowverse. Not only did it connect other film and TV universes to the Arrowverse but it featured the death of Oliver Queen. Always the hero, Oliver died protecting others and recreating the multiverse. On a side note the best crossover in the event was when the Arrowverse version of the Flash, played by Grant Gustin, met the DCEU film universe of the Flash (Ezra Miller).

Getting back to Oliver Queen, his death was foretold during the seventh season of Arrow and the final episodes were devoted to his preparations for the Crisis. These final ten episodes of Arrow were among the show’s finest with its spot-on acting, especially from Amell, and tight scripts. The final season also served as a backdoor pilot to a potential spinoff series featuring Queen’s adult daughter Mia (Katherine McNamara) as the new Green Arrow in 2040. If that show will happen is unknown at this time, but McNamara helped convey that she is a true heir to the Green Arrow label, while boasting the tech-savvy qualities of her mother, Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards).

Oliver Queen’s wife, Felicity, was another character that became popular due to her quirky and spunky nature. In the comics, Oliver was romantically involved with Dinah Lance/Black Canary (played by Katie Cassidy and renamed Laurel), but Felicity was so popular and the two actors had such good chemistry that the Oliver and Felicity became an item. The problem with this is that once they became a couple they were less interesting and this development was part of the show’s decline during its middle run.

From Missing the Mark to Adjustments to Fadeouts

Despite the best efforts of the cast and crew, Arrow began to lose its way sometime in the third and fourth season as magic and limp plot lines were introduced. Characters died and came back to life and at one point Green Arrow developed magic powers in order to fight a magic-based enemy. It was kind of ludicrous and took Arrow far from its grounded roots. Also, the villains were less interesting while the plots became uninvolving and ludicrous. An actual team for Green Arrow was introduced with mixed results. Some of the members were engaging like Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), while others were vapid like Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum).

team arrow

Fortunately, Arrow made critical course corrections later on thanks to better conceived villains such as Adrian Chase/Prometheus (Josh Segarra) and Ricardo “The Dragon” Diaz (Kirk Acevado). One stand out episode from the sixth season was “The Dragon”, which was devoted to the history of Diaz and did not feature the regular Arrow characters except for Black Canary (renamed Black Siren). Many episodes raised the personal stakes for Oliver Queen, which saw him become Mayor of his city only to be jailed and outted as the Green Arrow.

Even though things seemed bleak for Oliver, he kept fighting the good fight, as did the show. After many ordeals and triumphs, Oliver Queen the Green Arrow finally was killed. This occurred twice (!) during Crisis on Infinite Earths. and yes both times he died heroically and the scenes were powerfully acted by Amell.

Although it is sad the show ended, at least it went out on top. The final episode “Fadeout” appropriately concluded the stories of many characters, showed were they were headed and was an epilogue to Crisis on Infinite Earths. But more importantly, “Fadeout” showed the impact of Oliver’s death and how he inspired the world. When Oliver Queen became the supernatural Spectre during the Crisis and rebooted the universe, he undid the deaths of several characters. On the surface, this may be a cheat and robbed the impact of these characters’ deaths, but it served as a remedy for the pain some of the deaths caused. Plus, this happened at the end of the show, we do not necessarily have to feel as if the initial deaths were diluted and this gave Arrow a happily-ever-after feeling. Even for Oliver in the afterlife since he remained dead.

Arrow will be fondly remembered for what it did, namely creating a viable live-action superhero universe, and for telling many great stories adorned with enthralling fight scenes. It raised the bar for what superhero shows could do, though other newer superhero shows raised it further. Nevertheless, it served as template for modern superhero TV shows. The Arrowverse will go on without the Green Arrow but it feels emptier without the character who started it. You can rest your bow now, Mr. Queen. You have saved your city and the universe.

Here now are the ten best episodes of Arrow.

1. “The Slabside Redemption” (Season 7)

Imprisoned for being the Green Arrow, Oliver Queen has to survive a hellish prison riot orchestrated by his arch nemesis Ricardo Diaz. The fight scenes were epic and perfectly choreographed as Oliver struggled to stay alive amidst the chaos.

2. “Seeing Red” (Season 2)

Deathstroke continued putting Oliver through the emotional wringer in his vendetta. This culminated with Deathstroke brutally murdering Oliver’s mom (Susanna Thompson) before Oliver’s and his sister Thea’s (Willa Holland) eyes.

3 “Three Ghosts” (Season 2)

The show’s flashbacks and current storylines diverge as Deathstroke was revealed to be alive and the mastermind behind the scheme to destroy Oliver and Starling City. The flashback sequences show how he came to hate Oliver while the episode provided the origin of the Flash.

4. “The Dragon” (Season 6)

Black Siren was the only regular cast member to appear in this study of the vicious crime lord, Ricardo Diaz. Flashbacks to his upbringing show how Diaz became the twisted man he is in one of the show’s grittiest episodes.

5. “Reset” (Season 8)

Oliver Queen, John Diggle, and Laurel Lance experience a time loop where they relive events in a reality where Laurel’s father Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) is still alive but in danger and repeatedly killed. Can they prevent his death and escape the reality?

6. “Sacrifice” (Season 1)

In the first season finale Green Arrow has to protect the citizens of the Starling City poor neighborhood, the Glades, while confronting his foe Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). The episode concluded with the death of Oliver’s best friend, Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) was particularly heart wrenching.

7. “Kapiushon” (Season 5)

Adrian Chase tortures a captured Green Arrow until he finally breaks him. Not since the second season has Oliver faced such an emotional and spiritual defeat to the point that he abandons his bow and arrow.

8. “Fadeout” (Season 8)

The final episode of the series was an appropriate epilogue and memorial for Green Arrow and his saga. It gave the supporting cast the chance to mourn Oliver and move on with their lives, while letting us say farewell to Arrow.

9. “Lian Yu” (Season 5)

The final confrontation with Adrian Chase aka Prometheus takes Oliver back to the remote island where he was stranded for many years. Only this time, he not only has to worry about surviving but protecting his teammates and loved ones who are also trapped on the island with him.

10. ”The Ties That Bind” (Season 6)

The penultimate show of the sixth season features Ricardo Diaz on a city-wide rampage, nearly kills Team Arrow, and destroys Green Arrow’s bunker, The devastating onslaught forces Oliver to go to FBI for help and admit his double identity, leading to his arrest in the next episode.

José Soto

5 comments on “Arrow Hits Its Mark

  1. Great post, I have to admit that I lost interest in ‘Arrow’ and gradually the rest of the Arrowverse sometime ago and dropped the shows a while back now. Good to hear the finale was satisfying though and this was an interesting and balanced overview of the key aspects of the series.

    • Thanks. I have to admit quality wise there are much better superhero TV shows out there and some of the Arrowverse shows are unwatchable but Arrow found it’s way back in the later seasons and ended on a high note.

  2. Great look at the Arrow series. It’s been a great show. Later seasons didn’t have quite the same appeal to me as the first four seasons, but the show has been a cornerstone of the CW shows, and it certainly had a good finale as well

    • Arrow was quite an important superhero TV show in that it came out just at the start of the modern age of live action superhero shows and expanded its universe to allow other programs to come into being like The Flash. The show itself floundered but thankfully ended well in its final season.

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