My wife makes fun of me for the TV shows I watch. She calls them my “stories,” likening them to soap operas for dudes. She’s not entirely wrong. Between wrestling and the CW superhero shows, her snark here is not unwarranted. My devotion to these shows is doubled-edged. As much joy as I take from watching them, it’s the opposite when they end. Arrow ended this week, and I gotta say, I’m having very weird feelings about it.
I watch a lot of TV. I’m a HBO guy, mostly. My favorite show ever is Deadwood, and I’ve been a huge fan of other HBO prestige TV like Rome, The Wire and more. However, my appetite for other types of “lower” TV is just as strong. I’m a massive Friday Night Lights fan. I religiously watched Gotham despite it being the most nonsensical batshit insane show on the air. My wife and I never miss Riverdale (guys, it’s Archie in Twin Peaks. It rules. Sit down.). But if we’re talking the CW, the DC Arrowverse is my definitely My Shit™️. I’ve always been a comic guy — I’ve worked for both DC and Marvel and I’ve put out my own comics a few times, so naturally, these shows are on my radar. Before the Arrowverse, comic books on TV were sort of a mixed bag. I never really watched Smallville until the end, when it went full comic book. The excitement of “look who is showing up” was the draw for me, and what Smallville birthed Arrow perfected. Although it didn’t seem that way in the beginning.
Back in 2013, I was in a weird place. I had gotten out of a years-long relationship and moved into a very tiny apartment. I was very much into having alone time eating pizza and playing video games. While I would hang out with friends and go on dates and such, a couple of nights a week I did whatever I wanted. I spent a lot of that time watching things that my ex either wouldn’t let in her house or would make fun of (media with attractive women or excessive violence was not ok). So it was a lot of action and crime movies, while also getting caught up on superhero movies I had missed. Scrolling through Netflix, I happened upon the first season of Arrow.
I had heard of it before and immediately dismissed as what the CW was famous for at the time — teen drama. The key art of a shirtless Stephen Amell didn’t really sell me, but I knew I probably wasn’t the demo anyway. And besides, I was very much a Batman guy. I always had a passing interest in Green Arrow because I like non-powered guys and bows and arrows, but I had no real attachment to the character one way or the other. All this added up to this not really being a priority for me. With all my other shows exhausted, watching an episode of Arrow seemed like it was worth the risk. And folks, I’m here to tell ya, it was.
At first, the Nolan vibes were palpable. This show took itself Very Seriously. It seemed kinda whack to me that this show for horny teens was trying to do grimdark superhero stuff on a TV budget. I assumed that Green Arrow, or ahem, “The Hood” would just shoot off a couple of trigger fingers, take his shirt off and pine over a girl. I was right about a few of those things, but I was dead wrong on others. I was fully prepared to hate this show until one pivotal moment. Tied up by a bunch of bad guys in a warehouse, Oliver breaks free from his bonds and starts stomping ass. He then puts a guy in a dragon sleeper hold and breaks his fucking neck. This was not him shooting off trigger fingers and throwing weightless punches. He was straight-up murdering guys, just like the Mike Grell comics from the 80s. This was the opposite of Smallville. This guy was John Wick-ing bad guys left and right, and with a bow and arrow to boot. It ruled.
Arrow ran for 8 seasons. Like any show that goes on that long, it had its ups and downs. There’s almost too much to talk about, but here are my rankings:
Season 1 — good
Season 2 — the best
Season 3 — cool ideas, but a little clumsy
Season 4 — the low point, but Neal McDonough is a treasure
Season 5 — good, but got a little melodramatic
Season 6 — not great, but I see what they were going for
Season 7 — Ricardo Diaz, despite being played by a great actor, was B-A-D
Season 8 — fantastic, because they didn’t have time to let it drag
The highs were super high, and the lows weren’t nearly as bad as io9 would lead you to believe. Over those eight seasons, watching the show’s format completely change was fulfilling and a master class on how to evolve a character. It started out as Diet Batman but as things progressed, the show’s producers realized its true potential. Unlike some other shows, I feel like Guggenheim et all actually listened to feedback from fans and then leaned in hard. They realized that grimdark can be fun, but there was a whole universe to play with. Smallville ran a beta test of this in the last few seasons where it was like “oh shit it’s the Flash” or “oh shit its Hawkman.” People were fucking stoked for that kind of fan service-y comic book-y goofiness. Acting as a launching point and testing ground, Arrow was vital in making any of this possible. I mean, its called The Arrowverse for god sake. Flash, Legends, Batwoman and Supergirl owe everything to Arrow.
I think really the one to benefit from the Arrowverse being a thing was Arrow itself. By being “the dark one,” Oliver got to gain some perspective when he visited with his friends. Kara and Barry lightened him up, quite literally. Compare the costume and set design from Season 1 to Season 8. They are like completely different shows. Arrow became a superhero around season 4. It set him on a path from vengeful vigilante to being a true blue superhero. Without the other shows, I think Arrow would have continued to be Diet Batman and would have been profoundly less interesting. But this larger scale helped propel Oliver organically into his character evolution and made it so much stronger overall. Sure, we got a whole lot of wonderfully goofy comic book moments out of it. But it really hit me during Diggle’s eulogy in the last episode how much Oliver had changed, and that show was really about him becoming a better man, and how that wouldn’t have happened with the Arrowverse.
I going to miss this show certainly for the “look who is showing up” moments, but mostly because I really like the larger story around the show. Stephen Amell seems like a genuine guy. He does tons of cons, clearly had a strong involvement with his show and the Arrowverse as a brand beyond being an actor, and seems to Get It, top to bottom. It’s been a real treat to hang out with this cast for the last bunch of years, either on the show or on social. It’s the wrestling nerd in me, but listening to these actors on podcasts or con panels has given me such a stronger attachment to the show than if I only knew them from my TV. Of course, I’ll follow them in their next endeavors, but the band breaking up still stings.
Overall, Arrow is a great show. Watch it on Netflix if you don’t already. Watch the other shows. Watch the increasingly excellent crossovers. Definitely watch Legends of Tomorrow, the most fun, self-aware and downright enjoyable show on television. Comic book shows can be hard because people feel like if they aren’t comic nerds to begin with, they won’t get it. Arrow proved that you can go in completely blind and still be served a story that you will appreciate and want more of.
I’ll miss Arrow. Thanks for the memories.
- Above all else, Arrow gave me several seasons of a live-action Wild Dog and Rag Man. I have a reputation of being a fanatic about characters that no one else cares about, and Wild Dog and Rag Man are at the top of that list. Rick Gonzalez deserves a ton of credit for actually giving Wild Dog a personality, where in the comics he’s Sugar-Free Punisher. He’s a great actor and I wish him continued success. But seriously, fucking Wild Dog!
- I hope Green Arrow and the Canaries gets picked up. Katie Cassidy has done a lot of heavy lifting these last few seasons of Arrow, and she deserves to get her own show. That, and I have a planet-sized crush on Juliana Harkavy, and I would like to continue to see her on my TV.
- While Arrow ending is bittersweet, Stephen Amell is going to Showtime to do a show about indie wrestling in the south. I honestly couldn’t think of a better consolation prize.
- I really hope that Diggle Lantern is a part of the big Berlanti HBO Max deal. With a bigger budget, they can do some really wild stuff. David Ramsey is the MVP of Arrow in my opinion, and he’d made a hell of a Green Lantern. In how the fan service logic works in the Arrowverse, this only makes sense.
- I must admit, I was never an Olicity person. I think Felicity was a fine character up until about Season 7, but ultimately I would have much rathered Ollie’s love interest be Laurel. Green Arrow and Black Canary are a unit, and it was always weird to not have that. It’s long-established that Green Arrow’s only weakness is dangerous women (it’s true, look it up), so I think this would have been much better dramatic fodder than him being in a mostly stable relationship with Felicity. I think this is one time the writers listened to a vocal fan base too much.
- Seriously, though. Watch Legends.