Arrow is, without a doubt, the center of DC’s TV universe. It’s a show that took the comic book adventures of a Robin Hood-like superhero who shot arrows with boxing gloves on them, and turned them into a gritty and realistic show with a powerful emotional core. With its first episode in 2012, Arrow also served as a gateway to other DC universe shows, introducing the Flash, the Atom and other heroes and villains who became part of the spin-offs The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. It’s also one of the most critically acclaimed shows on TV with its mix of action and emotion. In short, it is the crown jewels of the CW.
All that said, Arrow’s journey hasn’t all been an upward trend. While the first and second seasons were generally well-liked, the third and fourth seasons left fans thinking the quality dropped into the floor. Also, Arrow has struggled to hit the right balance of action with character development, romance with combat, and realism with comic-book madness. When it works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, it’s still better than most shows but is a disappointment. Given the final episode of the fifth season is behind us, CBR thought it was time to run down the Arrow episodes that seemed to be weakest.
Way back in 2013’s first season of Arrow, director Eagle Eglisson and writer Beth Schwartz brought us the fifteenth episode, “Dodger.” In the show, Oliver tried to become more normal by taking Detective McKenna on a date, but he found himself involved in a cat and mouse game against a villain known only as Dodger. Dodger was an art thief whose M.O. was to put explosive collars on innocent people, forcing them to commit crimes for him.
Dodger was an okay villain, but nowhere near the level of others that season like China White. The romantic subplot also fell flat. “Dodger” wasn’t a terrible show on its own, more than that it was just plain average. With so many other strong episodes of the season, this one didn’t rise above the pack.
Next, we’ll take a look at the eighteenth episode of the first season, “Salvation,” written by Drew Z. Greenberg and Wendy Mericle, and directed by Nick Copus. When a copycat vigilante appeared in Starling City who called himself the Savior, he started kidnapping and killing others. Even though he was inspired by Arrow, Oliver had to try to take him down.
One problem fans had with the episode is that it seemed too much like the “copycat hero” we’d already seen earlier in the first season with episodes like “Year’s End” and the Huntress (Helena Bertinelli). The Savior wasn’t even a real threat, just a guy with a gun. The Savior also chose rather mediocre people that he decided they deserved to die, making him a minor threat considering how crime-ridden it was. While “Salvation” had some good moments, fans thought it was ultimately disposable.
14. CODE OF SILENCE
Now we’re jumping to the fourth season, which had a lot of problems, but we’ll focus on the fourteenth episode, “Code of Silence.” Written by Wendy Mericle and Oscar Balderrama, and directed by James Bamford, the episode brought Team Arrow up against H.I.V.E., a terrorist group who wanted to wipe out evil on Earth, mainly by killing lots of people. Oliver also dealt with how to handle his secret son, William.
The action sequences in the episode are solid as the team faced a H.I.V.E. demolition team, so there was a lot to like. The problem fans had with “Code of Silence” lay with Oliver’s bizarre decision to hide the existence of his son, and the problems that decision caused. It’s Exhibit-A for those who thought the fourth season lost its way.
13. THE FALLEN
Season 3 brought the twentieth episode, “The Fallen,” written by Wendy Mericle and Oscar Balderrama with direction by Antonio Negret. After Thea was beaten to the point of death, Oliver went to the hidden city of Nanda Parbat where he used the Lazarus Pit of the League of Assassins to save Thea’s life. In return, he seemed to agree to become Ra’s al Ghul’s successor of the League. There’s also some passionate romance between Felicity and Oliver.
This might surprise some fans who loved “The Fallen,” but it was not a favorite with everyone. A lot certainly happened in this episode, and some fans grumbled that there were too many storylines, shifts in tone, and just plain craziness to make it a win. It also started a storyline where Oliver seemed to abandon Arrow. It’s a pretty awesome episode, but it’s also not a storyline all the viewers were happy with.
12. BROKEN HEARTS
Remember what we said about the fourth season? Well, it’s back with the sixteenth episode, “Broken Hearts.” Written by Rebecca Bellotto and Nolan Dunbar (who were actually interns, by the way) and directed by John Showalter, the episode was about former cop turned Arrow fangirl, Cupid, killing couples on their wedding day. As Oliver raced to stop her, he also considered the nature of love.
Fans of Arrow have often been divided about the romantic subplots on the show, and this episode is a prime example. For those who loved the gritty and dark tone of the first season, watching “Broken Hearts” was like watching The Dark Knight turned into a soap opera. Also, Cupid is one of the most disliked Arrow villains of all time.
11. MONUMENT POINT
Speed Weed, Jenny Lynn and Kevin Tancharoen brought the twenty-first episode of the fourth season, “Monument Point,” part of the big bad Damien Darhk’s plot to bring nuclear destruction to the world. It was also a return of several characters from previous seasons like Anarky and Brick, leading right up to the explosion of a nuclear bomb in a Midwestern town.
The episode had a lot of action and human drama, but some fans felt the character elements were a little underdeveloped. There were also a lot of complaints about how the impact of a nuclear detonation in America was kind of glossed over. After all, that was the first nuclear attack in the US ever, and would cause major impact politically and to the environment.
Oliver needed help to fight Damien Darhk, so in the fourth season’s “Taken” (Marc Guggenheim, Keto Shimizu, Brian Ford Sullivan, Gregory Smith), he got Vixen to use her magical animal powers to find out where Darhk was hiding out. This was the first live-action appearance in the Arrowverse of Vixen after an animated version aired as a web short on CW Seed, so this episode had a lot going for it. “Taken” also brought more magical elements to the series.
A big part of this episode was Felicity, who’s become one of the most controversial characters on the show. While many fans love her, other fans have come to despise her, and her focus in this episode grated on their nerves like nails on a chalkboard. Some also weren’t happy with the end of Oliver’s mayoral run, which had been built up and just kind of stopped.
The fifth season doesn’t get a pass in all this, since we’re going to the twentieth episode, “Underneath” (Wendy Mericle, Beth Schwartz, Wendey Stanzler). In the episode, Prometheus set off an EMP, leaving Oliver and Felicity trapped together in the Arrow Cave. Team Arrow had to work without them while the former lovers were forced to deal with each other and their feelings.
Once again, how much you enjoyed this episode depended on how much you like the Olicity pairing, and those who don’t like or even hate Felicity hated this. Yet even some of those Olicity fans complained about the lack of action in what was basically a bottle episode, stuck in one location with very little of a connection to the overall story arc of the season.
8. SECRET ORIGIN OF FELICITY SMOAK
Directed by Michael Schultz and written by Ben Sokolowski and Brian Ford Sullivan, “The Secret Origin of Felicity Smoak” aired in the third season. As the title implies, it was really all about Felicity’s past with flashbacks of her younger self and her family. Meanwhile, in the present day, Felicity had to deal with her mother as Team Arrow tried to stop a computer virus attack.
As we said before, for some fans, a little Felicity goes a long way, which makes this episode one of their most hated. Felicity took center stage over Oliver, which was something other fans weren’t crazy about either, considering it’s Arrow’s show. All in all, if you love Felicity, this was a favorite. If you hate Felicity, this was a nightmare.
7. THIS IS YOUR SWORD
“This is Your Sword” (Erik Oleson, Ben Sokolowski, Brian Ford Sullivan, Wendey Stanzler) aired in the third season, following Oliver’s decision to take over for Ra’s al Ghul. Oliver had to complete two tasks to end his training, but ultimately turned around and showed his true plan, bringing his so-called change from hero to villain to an end.
As usual, the episode had some good action scenes and plenty of Felicity (if you like that sort of thing), so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that not all the fans were on-board with the “Oliver turns evil” storyline to begin with, so tying it up with “just kidding” didn’t sit well. Also, scenes where even Felicity is able to punch out members of the League of Assassins meant that their threat seemed weaker.
6. SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
Earlier in season 3, “Suicidal Tendences” (Jesse Warn and Keto Shimizu) aired and brought back the Suicide Squad (which was a part of the Arrowverse before the movie). Diggle and Lyla’s honeymoon was stopped by the Suicide Squad’s new mission: to rescue a United States Senator. There was also some conflict between Oliver and Ray, which turned into a full-on battle.
While everybody loves a good superhero fight, the rest of this episode left fans frustrated. It felt like it was a bottle episode just intended to fill out the episode order, rather than an episode that needed to be made. The different storylines never came together, and some fans really just wanted to get back to watching Arrow deal with Ra’s al Ghul, the season’s main villain.
“Guilty” was an early episode in the third season (directed by Peter Leto, written by Erik Oleson and Keto Shimizu). When Ted Grant was suspected of killing a man in his gym, Team Arrow were split over whether Grant was guilty or innocent. The episode also highlighted the relationship between Roy and Oliver, echoed through Grant and his former sidekick.
One of the biggest problems fans had with this episode was the dynamic between Oliver and Grant. Much is made about how Oliver felt Grant crossed the line when he killed a criminal, but that didn’t work knowing how many people Oliver killed, especially in the first season. Some fans also complained the relationship between Roy and Oliver had been ignored, and this show didn’t help.
4. LOST IN THE FLOOD
Written by Brian Ford Sullivan and Oscar Balderrama with direction by Glen Winter, the third season’s “Lost in the Flood” dealt with the aftermath of Darhk’s nuclear attack the episode before. Team Arrow discovered Tevat Noah, a secret underground facility to protect H.I.V.E. from the oncoming nuclear war. Oliver went into Tevat Noah to try to rescue Thea, who had been mind-controlled by Darhk’s drugs.
Once again, Felicity-haters found this episode hard to enjoy with all the “l33t skillz” Felicity and her father used to try to stop Damien Darhk from using the Rubicon. Some viewers also thought the fighting and action were both weak, and the clash of tones between lightheartedness and mass murder didn’t fit well together.
3. BEACON OF HOPE
In the fourth season’s “Beacon of Hope” (Michael Schultz, Ben Sokolowski, Brian Ford Sullivan), a villain from The Flash made the jump to Arrow. The Bug-Eyed Bandit (also known as the Girl With an Army of Robot Bees) broke out of jail and held Palmer Tech for ransom for the bio-chip implanted in Felicity’s spine.
This episode was a prime example of how the show struggled to balance the grounded and realistic tone of the first season with the wackier and slapstick elements of later seasons and other series, and this one just didn’t cut it for some. From its bee-filled puns to its goofy tone, it just went all the way camp. Some fans of the more comic elements loved it, fans of the grit didn’t.
2. MY NAME IS OLIVER QUEEN
The season finale of the third season was “My Name is Oliver Queen” by Marc Guggenheim, Jake Coburn, John Behring, and it was the final chapter of the Ra’s al Ghul storyline. When the League of Assassins released their ultimate weapon, Team Arrow raced to save Starling City. At the same time, Oliver faced a final showdown with Ra’s al Ghul and reclaimed his role as Arrow.
No one is denying there were some great moments in this episode, but some fans were left massively underwhelmed. The whole third season struggled with people acting out of character and poor plotting, and “My Name is Oliver Queen” wasn’t the action-packed thrill-ride some fans hoped would make up for it. Oliver’s decision to quit being Arrow also fell flat, since no one believed it was permanent.
Directed by John Behring and written by Greg Berlanti, Wendy Mericle and Marc Guggenheim, the fourth season finale “Schism” was the final move of Damien Darhk and his H.I.V.E. organization. As they prepared to launch nuclear weapons to destroy the world, Team Arrow tried to stop them.
The title of the episode could also have been a reference to what it did to the fan community. For an audience that was already mad with how season four went, “Schism” left them in a fit of rage. The idea of Arrow having to stop hundreds of nuclear weapons was great, but some felt there was too much talking and inspirational speeches. Also, the much-hyped fight between Arrow and Darhk ended up disappointing.
Which was your least favorite episode of Arrow? Were any of these your favorites? Let us know in the comments!