How Arrow Is Being Totally Ruined

Hey, remember when Arrow was good? Cast your mind back to the distant days of 2012 when Arrow first debuted on The CW. A bizarrely compelling cross between Batman and Lost, Arrow was a surprise hit, paving the way not just for DC Universe spin-offs like The Flash, Supergirl, and DC's Legends of Tomorrow, but to a whole new wave of superhero shows in general.

Now, though, everything that once made Arrow must-see television has curdled, turning it into something we hate-watch at best and just completely ignore at worst. Which is too bad, because I for one still want the show to be awesome. So can it ever regain its former glory? Maybe, but not until it makes some serious fixes. And just in case you care...spoilers ahead.


It's like clockwork: just as you're starting to get into the plot of the new episode of Arrow, suddenly there's a completely pointless flashback that pulls you out of the action. If you watch the show on your DVR like I do, you can press the fast forward button. But if for some crazy reason you've made the mistake of actually watching Arrow live? Well, chances are flashbacks trigger a Pavlovian urge to change the channel and find something more relevant to your life, like an infomercial on treating irritable bowel syndrome.

Look, I get it. When they pitched the show, Lost was still a big deal, and the fact that Green Arrow's origin story takes place on a mysterious deserted island must have been too good a coincidence to pass up. But the mystery of what happened on the island and how it turned playboy Oliver Queen into a bow-wielding vigilante played itself out years ago at this point. It's way past time for Arrow to ditch these completely irrelevant flashbacks and focus on crafting a compelling story in the here and now.

Plus, that stupid island wig has got to go.

Fake deaths

One of the biggest problems in superhero comic books is that death no longer has any meaning, which results in stories that have no real stakes. After all, if you know that the main characters are all going to be brought back to life even if they do somehow fail, does anything really matter? Heroes like Superman and Captain America have been killed off and brought back to life so many times at this point that their next "death" elicits only a bored yawn from most fans.

You'd think this would be something Arrow producer Greg Berlanti would be well aware of, but somehow he's still managed to fall into this same trap. We've seen character after character return from the dead, from Sara Lance to Ray Palmer to John's doofy brother Andy...and that was all in just three consecutive episodes! This is especially a problem in season four because the whole second half it is built around the "shocking" death of a main character. But are we really supposed to believe Laurel is dead when nobody ever actually stays dead? Frankly, after all the fake outs we've endured so far, I don't really care anymore.

Bad acting

Okay, so Arrow is a CW show, which means you can expect a fairly healthy amount of camp. Maybe just short of actually winking at the audience, but you know, at least there's an implied eyebrow arch, if not a literal one. So in some sense you can't really fault the actors themselves for the style of the show; they're just doing what they're asked.

Having said that, holy crap is some of the acting on Arrow terrible! Paul Blackthorne, who plays Captain Quentin Lance, sounds like he's gargling thumbtacks and delivers every line as if Mickey Spillane is about to crawl out of his eyeball. But he's somehow still not quite as intense as David Ramsey as John Diggle, who grinds out every line with the deep, thrumming ferocity of a Tuvan throat singer. Here's a note for the cast of Arrow: subtlety is actually a thing that exists. Just because you can turn it up to 11 doesn't mean you have to every time.

Absurd melodrama

Hey, remember that time last paragraph I bagged on the actors for being so over the top terrible? Well, here's the thing: they don't always have much of a choice, because the writing is so ridiculously overdramatic that Liberace thinks they need to tone it down a little bit.

Honestly, how many different ways can Ollie and Felicity get together and break up and then break up again even though they're already broken up, and then spend the whole episode making moon eyes at each other like they are both just figments of Robert Smith's imagination? Seriously, Fall Out Boy thinks Oliver is getting too emo. Drama is nice, even essential, but melodrama runs the risk of becoming unintentionally hilarious. And unfortunately, Arrow crossed that line a long time ago. Frankly, when Captain Lance fell to one knee upon seeing the pain of Laurel's death in Ollie's haunted gaze, I burst out laughing. When the characters take themselves too seriously, it's hard for the viewers to take them seriously at all.

Lame villains

The main bad guy on season four of Arrow is an evil magician named Damien Darhk, who gets his powers from a cursed idol he found on a tropical island. Think about that for a second. That's not the formula for a cool superhero TV show. It's the formula for a very special vacation episode of The Brady Bunch.

There's a truism in superhero stories: the hero is only as cool as his villains. That's a big reason why Batman is so popular and Green Arrow has always been a second stringer. Batman fights the Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler, while Ollie is busy fighting the guy who does kiddie birthday parties on Sunday afternoons at Chuck E. Cheese. With the whole of the DC Universe to choose from when crafting this TV show, the folks making Arrow have a huge array of great villains they could be showcasing. They need to do a better job of it sooner rather than later.


Finally, join me for a moment if you will in contemplating the strange contradiction of the Arrow crossovers. One the one hand, the appearances by the cast of The Flash and the work done setting up DC's Legends of Tomorrow made for some of the coolest episodes of the season. On the other hand, well, they were the coolest episodes of the season because they featured a bunch of more interesting characters from other, better shows. Think about that for a second. That's a problem.

It's not so much that the crossovers are actually ruining Arrow as it is that they make it glaringly obvious just how much the show has already been ruined. The solution isn't really to get rid of the crossovers; it's to make the show good enough to hold up its end of the bargain. Until then, The Flash is the hero in this partnership, while Arrow is just its clumsy sidekick.