For two seasons Arrow has had its ups and downs, yet still managed to be an entertaining take on a character who’d often been called Batman Lite. This was due to good writing, a fantastic cast that often elevated the material they were given, genuine plot intrigue and character development for the entire ensemble. However last year it was pretty much downhill from day one. Why? An overall lack of all of the above.
The biggest stumbling block of the show? Oliver Queen.
It’s been 3 years and Oliver Queen still isn’t the Green Arrow, in any sense. In fact as a character he’s further from becoming the hero that many signed on to see than he ever was: he’s murdered even more people and allied with not one but two mass murderers for excessively dubious plot based reasons. His navel gazing has become even more obnoxious and the continued focus on his love life has consumed the show. This is unacceptable. And boring and is grinding my interest down to dust.
For this show to become compelling again it needs to focus on the promise that was made by its premise: the beginnings of the Justice League.
There needs to be a return of focus on the actual members of the Justice League who are present on the show: Laurel, Roy, Thea and Ray. Their relationships with each other and Oliver; their very different views of, love/hate relationship with and familial ties to law enforcement and, in some cases, the bad guys, are what’s interesting to me and what originally drew me to the show. The fact that all them have been marginalized, and in two cases completely removed from the show, or used as plot points instead of as characters is a travesty. Especially as it’s been in the service of propping up characters who are at best, footnotes in the comics and at worst have been stripped of any and all intelligence or redeeming qualities that made them intriguing.
Which brings me to the other big issue of this show: its villains. When the news that Ra’s al Ghul was coming to Arrow hit, the fan reaction was through the roof, the fact that Liam Neeson repeatedly stated he’d gladly play the part on the show if it could work with his schedule only ramped up fan excitement. While we didn’t get Neeson we did get the very capable and badass Matt Nable in the part and it was entirely his performance that compelled me to pay attention to the Nanda Parbat storyline, because the storyline itself, from start to finish was a misfire. In one season Arrow managed to do something that had never been done in the history of the DCU: it made Ra’s al Ghul a toothless mockery, devoid of any true motivations or goals, only existing to be a plot device for the heroes to rail against.
Between this and the continued existence of, focus on and lack of repercussions for Malcolm Merlyn, who, if you’ve forgotten, is a mass murdering, child endangering, narcissistic psychopath, that justifies his every action as ‘love’, the show seems unable to create a truly compelling, three dimensional villain since Slade Wilson. That needs to change, actual villains with teeth are what makes great storytelling (ie: Hannibal Lector, Evelyn Poole, Crowley), and going forward Arrow needs to figure out how to write that type of character again. We need to truly feel as if the characters are in jeopardy and it needs to be organic, based off of what’s come before and what we know of these people, their strengths and their weaknesses.
It also needs to build up the already established ancillary characters, such as Nyssa al Ghul, Sin, Amanda Waller, Ted Grant and Helena Bertinelli, instead of constantly introducing new characters who won’t be allowed to be anything more than cannon fodder or props for characters/couples.
In conclusion Arrow has to get back to what made it interesting in the first place: how do these people become heroes?; and away from the endless loop of Oliver angst that hasn’t done anyone any favors and plot mandated character arcs that aren’t true to anything that’s been established about these people before.
It needs to have more respect for its characters and the actors playing them, who are doing their damnedest to make silk out of a sow’s ear with the increasingly uninspired writing.
Arrow needs to finally live up to its potential instead of pandering to the lowest common denominator.