The CW’s flagship Arrowverse series has soldiered on through six seasons since its debut in 2012. As the show that launched an entire DC TV multiverse, it still holds a special place in loyal fans’ hearts. But as ratings for the current season continue to drop (aside from the “Crisis on Earth-X” crossover special), the sentiment among some longtime fans is that Arrow has run out of steam and should get the axe.
Since joining Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl have consistently beaten the green archer in the ratings battle. Although there has been no confirmation yet from The CW that any Arrowverse series will be renewed, the president of the network has indicated all of them are likely to return. This begs the unavoidable question: How, and when, did things go so wrong for Arrow, and what can the series do to prove that it’s still the show this fanbase needs?
Let’s cut straight to the hard question — do we really care about any of the new additions to Team Arrow? Despite Oliver steadily building up a capable support team around him — Diggle, Felicity, Black Canary, Arsenal and Speedy — the first four seasons of Arrow still felt very much focussed on a gruff, lone avenger archetype. This format shifted dramatically in Season 5 when “The” Arrow officially became “Team” Arrow, with the induction of new recruits Curtis Holt (Mister Terrific) Rene Ramirez (Wild Dog) Evelyn Sharp (Artemis) and Rory Regan (Ragman.) By Season 6, the roster shrank back down to just Mister Terrific and Wild Dog, adding Dinah Drake as the new Black Canary. After a poorly received Season 4 finale, it wasn’t surprising that the writers felt a radically new direction was needed to inject some more life back into the show. Unfortunately, the payoff just hasn’t worked. We’ve had nearly two full seasons to warm up to Team Arrow and, compared to the way that “Team Flash” sparks off one another, the newer series regulars still leave us cold.
For a show that grapples with the morality of corporal punishment, Arrow is very precious with its main characters. Laurel Lance’s death was sufficiently shocking, but that feeling has since been significantly lessened by the regular appearance of her Earth 2 doppleganger. The Season 5 finale also raised the stakes by threatening to literally blow most of the cast away. In the end, the only major fatality was Malcolm Merlyn, who was really just a loose end for the show to tie up by that point anyway. The rest of the team escaped virtually unscathed, save for a concussion that kept Thea out of action for most of the following season.
The concept of death being an ever-revolving door is something inherited from the show’s source material so Arrow perhaps shouldn’t shoulder all the blame. But both of these examples read as the show trying to have its death cake and eat it too, which is especially frustrating when its also proven capable in the past of keeping its dead buried. (i.e. Tommy Merlyn) Without the permanence of death hanging over our main characters as they do in other fantasy action series’ like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, the stakes are never high enough.
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