Many spoilers for season five of Arrow have hit the internet and for the most part the news has been good. Echo Kellum has been promoted to regular, Evelyn Sharp is picking up the mantle of the Black Canary, and the flashbacks look to be better than they’ve ever been. The only problem is Stephen Amell’s insistence that the shows is going back to basics and trying to emulate its first season. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t think the first season is worth emulating.
When I started watching Arrow I didn’t take it seriously at all. Oliver Queen’s over the top voiceovers, excessive brooding, and constant shouting of “you have failed this city” was all just trying too hard. The writers tried so hard to make Oliver dark and tortured that he became an over the top parody of non powered heroes. When super powered individuals were introduced in season two, the show really hit its stride because Oliver was challenged. He received so much training during his five years on the island that almost no one posed a challenge. His greatest enemy was the fact that he didn’t have a clue what was going on.
“When we started Arrow, we were the superpower-less superhero show,” Amell said. “Because of our success and because of opportunities that The CW has had, we’ve had to break away from that original modus operandi a little bit, because we were introducing Barry Allen, and in subsequent seasons, we’ve shepherded some of the Legends of Tomorrow onto their own show.” I never saw the expansion of the universe as breaking away from the norm as much as evolving it. Green Arrow is still known as the superpower-less hero, but now he’s even more impressive because he has gone up against mystics and metahumans and won.
This promise of “back to basics” also does not bode well for next season’s villain. Season one’s villain was Dark Archer, and he is the least memorable villain Arrow has produced. His whole plan was to destroy a poor neighborhood because his wife was killed there. This doesn’t make him intimidating or interesting; it just makes him a whiny rich man who thinks money gives him the right to do whatever he wants. Amell has said season five’s villain will be “someone Oliver created back when he was still a killer.” This is the most overused setup for a villain in the entire comic book universe.
This return to basics seems to be a response to fan complaints about season four. Many fans worried the show had gotten too big for its britches when the team was forced to stop nuclear weapons that threatened the world. This scale is usually reserved for The Flash or Supergirl. In principle I agree, but that doesn’t mean the show should be scaled back to season one. Season two had people with superhuman abilities and kept the threat confined to Star City. This was the best season finale because it kept the scale small, but made the threat daunting. They found a happy medium between the grounded and the mystical. I’m afraid the writers will panic after the backlash from season four and go too far in the other direction.
Amell may have been trying to reassure fans with his continuing mantra of “back to basics” but I am far from reassured. The show may have started down to earth; but it has evolved over three seasons and I think for the better. If Arrow really wants to make this back to basics idea work, they need to be careful not to go too far. Superhuman abilities and magic are part of the show for better or for worse and no one can take that back.