My name is Christoph Staffl. After years of anticipation and false hope, I could finally watch your first episode in 2012 with only one goal: to see a true DCEU emerge. Sometimes I forget your origins and where you came from. Today, I will remember your accomplishments and your legacy. To do this, I have to become someone else. I must be something else. I must remember my past.
Too much? Maybe. But Arrow is an outstanding show and started the television version of the DCEU. I am still waiting for a full movie DCEU to emerge. Let’s start with the obvious Arrow comparisons, so we get that out of the way: Batman and Iron Man. A rich, pretty, white, and sometimes kidnapped boy is (lost at sea), has to overcome his fears to develop new abilities (you could say, a particular set of skills) and finally comes home to save the world (his city). Though the stories of Iron Man and Arrow are kinda similar (take a B- or even C-List character and make him the new #1), Arrow draws a lot more from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, like The Dark Knight. But all those ingredients are very well handled and form a series that is definitely worth our time.
The first two seasons, in particular, are amazing. They are dark (often quite literally), realistic and brutal. This is an approach that works well for the character of Oliver Queen, especially if you put his previous lifestyle in contrast to what is happening at the beginning of the pilot. He doesn’t have any worries or problems; he doesn’t have to work because his family is insanely wealthy; and he looks good and could have everything. But that’s just on the surface. As the first season of Arrow progresses, we see all the stuff going on beneath that. The secret societies, the corruption, and the conspiracies – and all of that took place even before Ollie became something else.
One thing all shows on The CW seem to have in common is complicated relationships and vast networks. If you would like to draw them, you would need a lot of colors and space to do so. If you then include the spin-offs as well, it gets confusing very quickly. Let’s just agree The CW writers are great at establishing those things and believably deliver them – although these elements can make it difficult for newcomers to a show.
Regardless, I love the Arrowverse. You follow them for years and dozens or even hundreds of episodes, over different shows and storylines. In the end you get rewarded, because you understand what is happening and why, and how it is all connected to a hint in the seventh episode of the third season. The shows develop over time, get more diverse and compelling. They take on villains and “explore strange new worlds.” The Arrowverse does that and so much more. And it all started with a lost white boy.
Bye? That last paragraph would have been a great ending, but I want to talk about some specifics. So, let’s get started with one of the best parts of Arrow: Felicity.
At first she just had some episodes here and there, but in the end, she became a vital part of the show and is deservedly a fan favorite. Her unconventional way of looking at things, the wonders she can accomplish with a keyboard and a computer, her relationship with Oliver, and her troubled past – she fits great into the team and in addition to that, holds it together. Still, in the last season, she lost me a bit, unfortunately.
There were just too many secret organizations and groups and stuff like that. ARGUS, the hacker group, the League of Shadows, the Russians, Team Arrow – it’s just too much, and I am sure I missed one or two (dozen). I didn’t like that Felicity also joined one of these. Everyone is following his or her agenda. But Felicity’s role, at least in my understanding, is to be our anchor. The one person we can relate to most.
One of the reasons why I still think that the first two seasons of Arrow are the best is because of their simplicity. From “you failed this city” to the hero the city deserves, ingrained with a deeply personal villain, everything fits perfectly together. Deathstroke worked so well as a villain for Oliver, because of their intimate relationship. They had a history. We, as the audience, are not sure who to root for again and again. I knew and liked both of them.
Maybe this has something to do with the universe that emerged. They had to get bigger and bigger with every season, introduce magic and new locations for the flashbacks. Don’t get me wrong; I liked the other seasons as well, the story where Ollie becomes the mayor, the stuff with Merlyn and Thea, and the introduction of Damien Darhk, Mr. Terrific and Ollie’s new team – they were great. However, I miss that a current ally becomes the next villain. Something that is set up over the course of several seasons – not just one for the current season (only to be recycled at another show – looking at you Damian, Merlyn, Eobard, and co.).
Prometheus is another great villain, and I loved him. Even more than Darhk sometimes. Mainly because he didn’t have a whole society with him; although – he kind of had one, didn’t he? It was just him and his endeavor against the Green Arrow. The things Prometheus did to Oliver, how he invaded his personal and professional life, as well as his identity as the Arrow surprised me many times. I sincerely hope that the writers keep this direction. Back to the roots. Make it simple. After the finale of the fifth season, I have high hopes for the future of the series.
A big part of those hopes is because we haven’t seen any flashbacks in a while. In the first two seasons, they had a real reason to be there, especially the season two finale. Two fights: Arrow vs. Deathstroke and Oliver Queen vs. Wade Wilson. One in the past, the other in the present. It was perfect: the choreography, the editing, the music – I still get goosebumps when I think of it. But after that, they declined in regards to storytelling and suspension.
Arrow would be nothing without its great supporting cast. I already mentioned Felicity and Merlyn. I could not imagine the show without Diggle as well. His relationship with Oliver, the things they do to each other are unimaginable, even cruel sometimes. Still, they trust each other and would die for one another. I hope Roy comes back at some point, but the current team is great as well. Curtis, Rene, Dinah, and Rory: each of them comes with a rich, engaging history. There is a development and progression of these characters throughout the series that I appreciate. And talking about development: Quentin Lance. Don’t you just want to hug him and tell him everything’s going to be OK? He is the personification of inspiration.
I will talk about other characters in upcoming articles when I get, for example, to Legends of Tomorrow. But as I said at the beginning, Arrow is a complicated show when it comes to characters and relationships. In an article such as this, you can only scratch the surface and hope to deliver the appreciation well enough.
Sometimes I think: Maybe they should have ended the show with the fifth season as they planned to do. I know we haven’t seen anything from the sixth season so far and I am of course curious about it. Nevertheless, I also think some shows should end when they are at a high. When people want more and are not fatigued. Breaking Bad did this perfectly and Game of Thrones may do it as well. Nevertheless, I want more.
I already wrote a perfect ending for this letter at the beginning, so let me end with a video. Another element of Arrow one can appreciate is the insane physiques of the actors. Specifically in this video, every training session Stephen Amell aka Oliver Queen did throughout the first season.