The CW Network recently gave word on a mass of renewals handed down for a good portion of its prime time catalog. “Flash,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Supergirl” unsurprisingly got greenlit for the next seasons, but “Arrow” was a bit of a wild card in the decision to have it stay on the roster for a sixth season.
This came as a surprise largely in part due to the show’s lagging ratings in comparison to its fellow super-powered dramas, but also because of several thematic issues, among other things. While we at CBR do enjoy seeing Green Arrow come up against some of the toughest villains Star City can offer, we can think of a few reasons why the sixth season should probably be the last for this vigilante.
WARNING: THE FOLLOWING LIST CONTAINS MULTIPLE SPOILERS FOR CW’S “ARROW.”
15. OLIVER HAS FAILED THIS CITY
Granted, having a city in distress on a near constant basis is most heroes’ bread and butter, but Green Arrow himself seems to keep making things worse. He unwittingly attracted Deathstroke’s vendetta to the city where the mercenary unleashed tons of super-powered thugs onto innocent civilians. In his bid to save his sister, Oliver also netted a city-wide attack by the League of Assassins as retribution.
The advent of Prometheus is just another one of Oliver’s problems to add to the fire, as this villain appears (so far as we know) to be yet another product of Queen’s sordid past come back to haunt him. Given all of Arrow’s discussion about cleaning up the town, it seems like Oliver never returning to Star City would have been for the better. Sure it was corrupt, but at least half of it wasn’t getting destroyed by superhumans or subterranean bases blowing up on a yearly cycle.
14. THERE ARE NO CLEAN VICTORIES
Even when Oliver finds himself defeating the bad guy, it seemingly comes with heavy costs every time. He didn’t manage to stop Merlyn’s plans in time, resulting in the partial destruction of the Glades with an earthquake machine. Damien Darhk was put down but the Green Arrow broke his vow to avoid killing in order to do so and the team largely disbanded because of it. Even when Ra’s Al Ghul was finally put down, it came at the price of Merlyn getting control of the League of Assassins.
While it is nice that this is one of the few superhero dramas that carries the weight of collateral going forward, Green Arrow never outright wins in his show. Seeing the stakes rise when dealing with the fallout of a rogue’s activities is inevitable, but it’s somewhat disheartening to never see Oliver come out of things right side up like his fellow heroes manage to do almost weekly.
13. OLIVER’S ROLES IN CROSSOVERS HAVE GOTTEN WORSE
A lot of this probably could be contributed to more meta-humans and folks with super powers showing up, but Oliver Queen continues to be both the literal and figurative under-powered protagonist in the crossover episodes. When sharing the screen with the Flash, Firestorm, Steel or even Supergirl, a lot of Green Arrow’s abilities pale in comparison. In early crossovers like “Flash vs. Arrow,” he established his strategic prowess that could beat out even Barry Allen’s speed. Now Oliver’s gift for militaristic attack planning has been thrown out the window in favor of messy (but thrilling) super-powered clashes.
Even when supposedly taking on the leader role in these crossovers, Oliver’s tactics are still incidental in comparison. Such was the case in “Legends of Today” when Barry reset the timeline after Green Arrow was killed in the fight against Savage. Despite all his experience and know-how, Oliver and his team have been reduced to fairly useless roles when they appear alongside their Arrowverse friends. This has gotten progressively worse with the addition of Supergirl.
12. ITS SLOW BOIL PACE ISN’T WORKING
“Arrow” is a show all about the slow and deliberate build up of conflict. At first it worked out great because it established all of these brand new characters and status quo for the shared universe. Now however, the pace has gone from calculated to downright sluggish. The most notable example of this was during the fourth season, where it took an agonizing 18 episodes for fans to finally find out just who was in the mysterious grave Oliver was seen grieving over in the first episode.
Even with the current season, the show’s pace continues to be a slog. Despite only being 10 episodes in, it took its time establishing the new team and introducing two different villains in a turn of events that still seems to move at a painful grind. Oliver and company may move not move as fast as metahumans, but their show certainly needs to pick things up.
11. THE MAIN TEAM MEMBERS SEEM DONE WITH THEIR VIGILANTE PHASE
The earliest incarnation of Team Arrow consisted of Oliver, Felicity and Diggle, with Roy joining in a touch later. Since then, many of these members have struggled to remain in their posts. Roy exited after season three, now in hiding after faking his own death. Diggle struggled to come to terms with killing his brother and Oliver killing Darhk, and rejoined the military to gain perspective. He was only dragged back into the team when his own military superiors turned against him, so even his return to vigilantism is out of necessity rather than choice. Even Felicity, the plucky hacker with a heart of gold, has left the team and rejoined, with plenty of conversation around quitting again if it becomes too much for her. Meanwhile, Thea took over the role of Red Arrow after Roy left, and even she’s since retired from vigilantism.
Oliver’s team seems largely fed up with being vigilantes and working alongside the Green Arrow. Many of them are rightfully over it, as they have lost a lot in the quest to clean up Star City. It’s hard at this point to think that any of these characters could even muster up the enthusiasm to tackle another year of this stuff when they’ve already quit once.
10. DEATH HAS NO MEANING ANYMORE
“Arrow” was one of the few superhero shows to outright try and keep itself fairly grounded. Things like the above-mentioned collateral damage were a good part of the drama and character motivations as the seasons progressed. Sara’s death at the start of the third year was a great example of this. However, even the Green Arrow isn’t immune to its comic book tropes. Both Thea Queen and Sara Lance were resurrected by Lazarus pits, taking away a lot of the emotional punch their deaths had at the start.
Even the heart-wrenching demise of Laurel seems to have been undone in one way or another, furthering “Arrow” into the rabbit hole where death has no meaning. While it’s not something that can make or break a show, “Arrow” started off stalwartly grounded, practically shunning its comic book origins in favor of gritty realism. To have big character deaths erased at the drop of the hat flies in the face of its strong foundation, and only preps viewers to care even less for who gets offed in season six.
9. THE SUBPLOTS FAIL TO GENERATE TENSION
Quentin Lance’s early struggles with alcoholism, Oliver’s failures at juggling a company and a vigilante lifestyle or even Diggle’s ex-A.R.G.U.S. background coming back to haunt him, “Arrow’s” early subplots were great filler in between the overarching villain conflict. Now however, they’ve plodded onto noticeably weaker characters that fail to really draw interest. Curtis Holt’s recent separation from his husband due to his vigilantism was incredibly underscored and fell flat in its delivery this season. Even the involvement of Felicity’s boyfriend, Billy Malone, in the Prometheus investigation was largely uninteresting, leading most viewers feeling less-than-upset when he gets offed in a plot by the rogue.
The fifth season of “Arrow” has undoubtedly had difficulty in enthralling audiences outside of the big villain appearances. Diggle’s A.R.G.U.S. dealings have become mundane, Thea’s work as a Mayoral aide has been fruitless and even Quentin’s relapse reads as old hat this time. Supporting characters continue to retread the same stories and it doesn’t look on track to improve any time soon.
8. OLIVER NO LONGER GROWS AS A CHARACTER
In Ollie’s early days of donning the hood and arming himself with a bow, he found he had a lot to learn about the world and that what he deemed as corrupt wasn’t always so brutally black and white. His friends helped him understand his flaws and got him to reemerge into the world as himself, not just the Green Arrow. Gone are those days, whereas now Oliver is in a constant feedback loop of making the same bad decisions, blaming himself for it, rinse and repeat.
These past few seasons alone, Oliver has evolved from a no-nonsense killer vigilante to a man trying to turn over a new leaf, only to revert to that murderous intent and quickly pull a 180 on his qualms about killing. Ollie doesn’t seem to learn from his mistakes, still risking his trust on suspicious people or pushing away his biggest supports, and it’s quite frankly getting old at this point. Unless he somehow breaks out of this horrible cycle this season, his growth as a character will likely remain stunted into the next one.
7. THE SUPPORTING CHARACTERS ARE LACKING
Team Arrow has recently welcomed newcomers Ragman, Artemis, Mad Dog and Mr. Terrific to the fold, and all of them have been lackluster so far. Curtis is unfortunately coming off as Felicity 2.0 with few differences for him to break out on his own. Despite having an appearance in the fourth season, Artemis remains annoyingly shortsighted in her motivations. Mad Dog and Ragman both have hinted at having a much larger backstory, but neither have had a chance to elaborate on them. Even Felicity’s boyfriend, Billy Malone, brought incredibly little to the table, making his demise even more humdrum.
This all combines to make an incredibly spiritless cast of characters that fail to generate the same excitement the first cadre did in earlier seasons. Many of them are simply shallow, probably due to the fact that they now have to share the screen with the veterans. The next season can only promise more of the same if Team Arrow’s ranks continue to bloat.
6. IT HAS WRITTEN ITSELF OUT OF SOME GOOD OPPORTUNITIES
Obviously none of the Arrowverse shows are aiming to be panel-by-panel replications of the comics, but “Arrow” has unfortunately written itself out of using certain characters from its source material. The biggest one would be Connor Hawke, Green Arrow’s illegitimate son. In the comics, Oliver and Connor had a great run as a father-son crime fighting team that created both tension and some heartfelt moments. “Arrow” can’t pull from that any longer, as Oliver’s illegitimate son is a small child named William in the show who was revealed and then quickly shelved. Another character bearing the name Connor Hawke appeared in a “Legends of Tomorrow” episode as an easter egg of sorts, but he doesn’t live on in “Arrow” in any fashion.
The same applies for how other characters were introduced such as Speedy, Canary and Arsenal. It’s not that the new introductions are a bad thing, but the way the show has gone about it has made using more Green Arrow-centric characters and plot lines more difficult to seamlessly transition into future episodes.
5. STRONG CHARACTERS LEAVE RATHER THAN GROW
Barry Allen may have been the first, but he certainly wasn’t the last character to get his super start on “Arrow,” only to leave for a different show shortly after. Sara Lance, Ray Palmer and Hawkman all were introduced on the show before being whisked away to join the ranks of “Legends of the Tomorrow.” Both Sara and Ray had season-long introductions detailing their pasts, personalities and motivations within the Arrowverse. This was all wrapped up neatly so they could jump aboard the Waverider in “Legends,” no longer available to bolster Team Arrow’s ranks of strong characters like they once did.
This has become frustrating, as it seems like “Arrow’s” time is used for seeding great and interesting characters, only to lose them to spinoffs. It’s hard to ask viewers to continuously be engaged with new characters as the seasons wear on, because any one of them could be moving on to another Arrowverse platform before you know it. This flaw isn’t strictly limited to spinoff shows, either; we’ve already mentioned how Roy left town, while Sin just stopped showing up one year despite her third season cameo proving she never even left town.
4. THE VILLAINS ARE WEAK
Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson were introduced as cold, calculating rogues that wouldn’t be easily dispatched in the early seasons. Ra’s al Ghul however, was poorly executed and nowhere near reflected the all-powerful demon’s head from the comics. Damien Darhk proved far too mystical for “Arrow’s” grounded themes and left fans bewildered at his demise. Tobias Church had some interest building, but he was killed off by the now somewhat bland villain, Prometheus. Even the smaller fish like Count Vertigo and Reiter have been forgettable in their appearances.
The major players in Green Arrow’s rogues gallery have mostly been weak in their execution on the show. For all their menace, the schemes are either painfully padded out over the season or they are flat out unremarkable. The jury is still out on Prometheus so far, especially since there’s still half a season left to focus on him, but “Arrow” doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to its villains, and it’s hard to see it deviating from that any time soon.
3. ITS TONE HAS GONE FLAT
“Arrow” was much lauded for its gritty and grounded tone when introducing the hero on the CW. However, Oliver’s depressive nature about nearly everything and the incredibly melodramatic feel it has maintained for the past five seasons has gotten old. While it is nice that there’s a superhero show that is more on the serious side (compared to “Flash” and “Supergirl’s” more bubbly natures and the optimistic adventure in “Legends”), it has become too much of the same. The characters are constantly getting trounced on physically and mentally, while the very city they live in consistently seems like it doesn’t want them there.
Originally Oliver’s somber attitude was a nice change, but it now seems like outright self-flagellation at every little thing for the sake of melodrama. The entire show’s premise seems hell bent on having Team Arrow being forever unhappy, but it’s past the point of having become tiresome.
2. IT’S OVERSHADOWED BY ITS SPINOFFS
Flash is busy creating alternate timelines and traveling to different dimensions. The Legends are fixing aberrations and getting into super powered punch-ups across the timestream. Supergirl is fighting alien parasites and experiments by secret organizations. All of this makes a lot of Team Arrow’s work look boring and unimportant in comparison. Indeed, a lot of the things Oliver’s fellow Arrowverse heroes do in their respective shows all have the potential to change or alter “Arrow’s” trajectory (such as with Flashpoint changing the timeline), but the same can’t be said about Green Arrow affecting their shows.
Any way you slice it, “Arrow” is starting to get lost in the background of its own universe. Due to its more grounded nature, “Arrow” lacks the meta-human punch of its fellow Arrowverse shows; which tend to be major crowd pleasers. “Flash” has frequently outpaced (pun intended) Green Arrow’s show and even affected outcomes in it. With a world quickly getting overloaded with super-powered heroes, Oliver has found himself in the minority and may fade into the background for good.
1. THE FLASHBACK FORMAT NO LONGER WORKS
“Arrow” was first introduced under a format where the show would follow Oliver’s present day vigilantism while simultaneously revisiting his past adventures through a series of flashbacks. Ollie spent a total of “five years in hell” and during that time, experienced a whole slew of events that would affect his current situation. Now with the fifth season underway, theoretically everything would be all caught up by the end of it.
If the format continued with the “five years” guideline into the next season, that means viewers would realistically end up watching flashbacks of season one. It isn’t so far fetched, as the show already did a psuedo first-year flashback during the mid-season finale. Season six could also arguably get away with saying all of its flashbacks simply take place over the summer leading up to Oliver’s rescue from the island, but it would still be cheap to do that and doesn’t solve the flashback dilemma beyond a sixth season. Reverting to snippets of the past have been mostly fruitful on “Arrow’s” past seasons, giving even more filler to each episode and backstory to Ollie’s character. If the show has to do away with the flashbacks for good, then the sixth season deserves to be Green Arrow’s last.
Can you think of reasons why “Arrow” can work beyond a sixth season! If so, please let us know in the comments!
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