Television

The Legacy of ARROW – Eight Seasons and a Universe

My Name is Oliver Queen

Arrow started as a show about a guy wanting to atone for his father’s sins. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) was nothing more than a rich douchebag who only cared about himself. After five years in hell, and eight years as the hero vigilante, the Green Arrow – Oliver became a god and helped usher in a new universe. This is the Legacy of Arrow.

Let’s rewind a bit and take a look at what this show was initially. The CW, a Warner Brothers television network, previously had massive success with Smallville. A series that centered around a young Clark Kent and his adventures before he became the Man of Steel, Superman. WB also was coming off the heels of The Dark Knight Trilogy. A darker reboot of the Batman franchise. It would make sense on why The CW would want another series focused on a DC Comics property, and why WB would want another serious, brooding hero on one of their networks.

Arrow was a simple show. Oliver Queen gets stranded on a desert island and has to learn to survive. Flashbacks focus on the growth of his character and the skills he learns on the island named Lian Yu. Present-day scenes would showcase his adventures as The Hood (his season one title). A crime fighter in Starling City. The series borrowed heavily from the Batman model and character roster but also deep-dived into some Green Arrow lore. We get Roy Harper (Arsenal), Slade Wilson (Deathstroke), Malcolm Merlyn (The Dark Archer), Dinah Laurel Lance (Black Canary), and even new characters created for the show in Thea Queen, John Diggle, and Felicity Smoak.

It thrived because it was the perfect mix of CW drama and hard-hitting action. It was a superhero soap opera. Something you don’t see, but something The CW would continue to do post-Arrow. The first couple of seasons were solid, and the fans were eating it up. So far as wanting it connected to the Nolan movies or the upcoming DCEU films. Arrow was this grounded show but took a bit of a turn in season three. The year is 2015, and the Marvel films are thriving. Gone are the days of grounded Batman films; we have the Avengers fighting robots and aliens. The genre took a turn towards more comic book elements. Meaning Arrow had to evolve to relevant. Enter Barry Allen (Grant Gustin).

The CW developed a spin-off series called The Flash. It’s based on the character of the same name and features superpowers and time travel. This fundamentally changed Arrow forever. Arrow introduced Flash characters in its second season, the final “grounded” season for a while. The third season featured Batman villain, Ra’s al Ghul; This continued the trend of following The Dark Knight, but with a twist. This version of Ra’s was more mystical, like his comic book counterpart. He uses Lazarus Pits and can bring people back from death. It also introduces the character of Ray Palmer, the Atom. This season introduced magic and super-science, and it was a little off-putting at first.

You have failed this city.

This is the beginning trend for the series. It was very reactionary. Another example of this is the character of Felicity Smoak. She was supporting character, but fans loved her comic relief. The writers gave her a more significant role towards the end of the first season. She eventually became the lover interest for Oliver because a specific group of the fandom wanted them to be together. The success of the MCU seemed to make them go in a more comedic/fantasy route. These changes are not bad, but it was such a drastic change that the show barely recovered. Oliver lost his edge, making him a caring/loving boyfriend. The show lost its punch and became more soap opera than superhero. Which is fine but again it was too much too soon. All of these things can work in theory, but it wasn’t earned. Thankfully, after a terrible 4th season, the show bounced back with its best season yet.

Arrow season five saw Oliver regain that dark edge to him from seasons one and two. We see Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle take on more mentoring roles as the team expands. Felicity’s character is slightly reduced, making it feel more natural. The villain was Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson wrapped into one. Even the flashbacks are better than before. Prometheus was the perfect foil to Oliver and makes you question everything he’s done the past five seasons. We have Oliver becoming a politician, growing as a leader, and learning how to be a father. This is the first time since the beginning of season three, where Oliver has an arc and changes for the better.

The show’s final seasons were more of the same. It focused on Oliver and his team while introducing new threats to Star City. Yes, the city got a name change in season four, but that doesn’t matter.

I breezed passed the spin-off The Flash, so I think we need to revisit that for a moment. Arrow has to lead to an entire DC Universe on The CW. The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Black Lightning, and Batwoman all take place in the “Arrowverse.” The shows have an annual crossover where they act as Super Friends, saving the world from alien invasions and evil doppelgangers. The change in tone may have held back Arrow initially, but it found its footing and created a whole world where new stories can exist.

The story of Arrow is about family, brotherhood, and becoming a better person. Oliver’s journey started with him being a loner, feeling damaged, and the only thing for him was the mission. This mission is neverending, and he knew that. Luckily, he met John Diggle, Roy Harper, and Felicity Smoak. These relationships saved Oliver from going down a darker path. A broken man is learning how to put the pieces back together. He goes from that douchebag who slept with his girlfriend’s sister, to a loving father, caring husband, and savior of the multiverse.

Arrow was truly something special. From its fantastic stunt work and fight choreography to its strong villains and likable supporting characters. Eight seasons and a multiverse later, Oliver did indeed become something else – a legend. This is the final time I write about GA, and I am thankful for all of the memories.

We have a full Arrow discussion on my podcast, Mike and John at the Movies linked below. All of our Arrow coverage can be found here. For more on the Arrowverse, stay tuned.

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