Before we get started, let’s acknowledge that we really like Arrow! The CW’s surprise hit series has turned out to be a satisfyingly nuanced take on DC Comics’ Green Arrow, mixing elements from both Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and some of the network’s more standard angsty teen drama fare to make for a fun, potent, pulpy show.
After a tremendous second season followed by a mixed third and fourth season, Arrow‘s back in top form for season five, introducing a new band of ragtag amateurs for Oliver Queen to train, a mysterious new villain who so far has proven plenty adept at tearing the Green Arrow’s world apart, and intriguing new directions for our core group of Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, Thea, and Lance.
Arrow has played fast and loose with its source material, shifting nom de guerres and canonical relationships. Some of those changes have actually been for the better; Oliver’s mother Moira and his opposite Merlyn are more fully realized in the show than they ever were in the comics. But a lot of times, the creative team behind Arrow would have been better off leaving well enough alone. Here are the 14 Worst Changes To Arrow From The Comics.
14. Getting Rid of Speedy’s Drug Addiction
In the comics, Speedy was the Green Arrow’s first real sidekick, basically a mini-me version of Oliver Queen with a red costume instead of a green one. If that sounds familiar, it’s because that was the shtick given to Roy Harper in Arrow, while the name Speedy was turned into a chummy nickname for Oliver’s sister Thea. And to be fair here, Arrow has worked in a loose riff on drug use into Thea’s character, and there are some references to her past history of partying too hard.
But Speedy’s heroin addiction is one of the most iconic moments in DC comics history and represented a huge, controversial leap forward in terms of superhero comics tackling mature themes and real world issues. Willa Holland is one of Arrow‘s nimblest actors, turning in a rich, layered performance every week. She’s more than capable of handling a portrayal of addiction that would do justice to the character she’s playing and the sensitivity it would require.
13. De-powering the Bronze Tiger
Look, we’ll allow Arrow to change up the Bronze Tiger’s costume because, well, the costume needed a little changing. But let’s take our focus off the giant tiger head for a moment (no mean feat) and focus on the Bronze Tiger himself. In the comics, his name is Ben Turner and he’s one of the most formidable hand-to-hand combatants on the planet. He has beaten the freakin’ Batman in a fair fight for crying out loud, and he did it in one kick. He’s also a complex character who decidedly began as a villain, but has slowly become a more complicated figure, occasionally willing to use his prowess to fight crime… as long as there’s something in it for him.
Arrow was smart to bring the Bronze Tiger into Oliver’s rogues gallery, and even smarter to cast Michael Jai White in the role. But the fact that Oliver has consistently handled him with such relative ease feels like a waste of a terrific character who could be the Green Arrow’s equal, and then some.
12. Sidelining China White
China White has been a fearsome thorn in Green Arrow’s side throughout most of her comic book history and played a particularly pivotal role in the excellent Green Arrow: Year One storyline. Given how large she looms over the history of Oliver Queen, it was only a matter of time before she ended up on Arrow, which makes it all the more frustrating that her appearances have been so lackluster, regulating a formidable foe (one who played a hand in Oliver becoming the Green Arrow in the first place) to a relatively minor role.
At this point, Arrow has firmly established that Starling City is a pretty terrible place to live, subject to ninja wars, multiple mayoral assassinations, artificial earthquakes, a nuclear bombing and a distressingly inept police department. It seems only natural that all this criminal activity would have conniving, untouchable mob bosses running the show, and China White would be an ideal candidate, especially when you have an actor as experienced as Kelly Hu playing her.
11. Making Star City into “Starling City”
This change isn’t so much bad as it is just odd. It’s like renaming Gotham City into “Goth Town.” You can do it, but why would you? Star City is a sensible name for a city. You can see the city founders sitting around a table and deciding that they wanted their town to be known as a city of stars. But… Starling City? It makes more sense as a name for an aviary.
At one point, Arrow tried to have it both ways, keeping the name “Starling City” while making “Star City” the name of a new initiative by tech bro/billionaire/shrinking superhero Ray Palmer. That plot stalled out and Palmer left Starling City for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow shortly thereafter. That means there’s no easy way to bring the whole Star City thing back into the show which is a shame. Because “Starling City” just grates the ears every time it’s said out loud.
10. Not enough trick arrows
Sure Arrow tries to be a deep dive into a more realistic take on the Green Arrow but, come on. You’ve already got a green archer taking out magic ninjas with a bow and arrow. Would it really be such a stretch to add some of Oliver Queen’s iconic trick arrows like the handcuff arrow and the trap net arrow? (Kudos for giving the boxing glove arrow a season three cameo, though!)
This would be more than just fan service — it also serves a practical purpose. At this point, it’s getting a little unbelievable to buy that Oliver’s archery skills are such that he’s able to disarm and incapacitate criminals in the heat of battle with regular old arrows. But if we knew the arrows were non-lethal on purpose — say, if they were designed to give an electric shock instead of stab you — then it’d be a little easier to buy Oliver using arrows while still holding to his no-kill rule.
9. The Death of Laurel Lance
Killing off Laurel was a controversial move from the show’s writers, especially coming right as it started to feel like they’d figured the character out. But regardless, the Black Canary (who goes by Dinah in the comics) is as crucial to Green Arrow as Lois is to Superman, and she deserved better than a cruel death at the hands of a sadistic villain.Now [and SPOILERS ahead for people who missed the midseason finale of Arrow season 5) the show seemed to have realized this all on its own, but this just proves the point. Wouldn’t it have been better to have never killed her off at all than for Arrow to bring back yet ANOTHER person from the dead? As Felicity said in a recent episode, “people come back from the dead every Wednesday around here.” That line is only funny because it’s true, and as good as it is to see Katie Cassidy among the land of the living again, it’d be even better if she’d never been killed off in the first place.
8. Renaming the League of Shadows
To be fair, there is a lot of confusion around the “League of Shadows” moniker. The group led by Ra’s Al Ghul was actually originally called The League of Assassins in DC Comics, but its name has undergone a lot of mysterious changes. At various points, it’s been referred to as “The League of Shadows,” “The Society of Shadows” “The Demon’s Fang” and, yes, “The League of Assassins.”
Christopher Nolan is the one that actually came up with “The League of Shadows” name for Batman Begins, and it’s a significantly cooler name than The League of Assassins. That’s probably why DC Comics has just gone with “The League of Shadows” here and there — most notably in its Young Justice series.
It’s possible that there were some copyright issues with Arrow using the “League of Shadows”, but of all the names to go with instead, “The League of Assassins” is the dumbest.
7. Making Roy Harper into “The Red Arrow”
Arrow tried to do a lot of different things with Thea and her on again/off again boyfriend Roy Harper. As discussed above, Roy Harper serves as Green Arrow’s sidekick Speedy — later renamed Arsenal. The show tried to make Harper into Red Arrow and then Arsenal while Thea got nicknamed Speedy. It’s all pretty confusing and basically left Roy without ever having a real role in the group. He was basically just another handsome, brooding hunk with a mysterious penchant for archery, which left him a little bit redundant with the show’s star (admittedly, he did a lot more parkour than Oliver ever did). That’s probably why Colton Haynes left.
And that’s a shame, not only because Haynes is a fine actor who could have made something out of a more dimensional role, but also because of Arsenal’s tragic, twisty history. In the comics, he has a truly dreadful life — losing both his arm and his young son to Prometheus — which eventually sends him down a dark path, joining the villainous Deathstroke as a member of an evil supergroup. Arrow‘s toying with Oliver’s sidekicks and their shifting allegiances in season 5 and it’s been pretty fun to watch, but it would all land a lot harder if it was happening to a character we knew a little better. A character like Roy.
6. Making Oliver too Serious
At this point, it’s not a secret that the CW is just using Oliver as sort of a poor man’s Batman while the actual Dark Knight is wrapped up with bigger issues in his own cinematic universe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Arrow has inarguably crafted a richer, more interesting world than whatever was going on in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.
But that doesn’t change the fact that Oliver Queen is a different character than Bruce Wayne, and one of Oliver’s trademark characteristics in the comics is a sly, curmudgeonly wit. Arrow‘s done a pretty good job balancing a little humor with its generally grim tone, thanks largely to characters like Felicity, Rory and Thea, but it’d be nice to see Oliver bring a little of his trademark sardonic humor to the table now and then. There’s a fine line between “brooding antihero” and “grouchy stick in the mud”, and Arrow gets pretty close to crossing it at times.
5. Making Wildcat Too Young
In the comics, Ted Grant is a grizzled old heavyweight champ who took on the Wildcat costume to clear his name. He’s one of the world’s best boxers, training Batman and even Superman in the fine art of throwing a punch. He’s also grumpy, tough-as-nails, and cut through with a chauvinistic streak that puts him at odds with some of his more woke crime fighting partners like Power Girl and the Black Canary.
In the CW show, Ted Grant is a young, kindly boxing instructor who takes Laurel Lance on as a pupil. Granted, Wildcat training the Black Canary is a nice nod to the source material, but it’s hard not to long for the nuanced conflict of the comics, where the Black Canary would be infuriated by Wildcat’s stubbornly outdated views on women, but would nevertheless remain his loyal friend, occasional partner in justice, and full-time feminist role model. Who wouldn’t want a little more of that on TV?
4. Turning Amanda Waller into a pushover
The Suicide Squad movie didn’t get much right, but casting Viola Davis as the sly, manipulative puppet master behind a shadowy government agency was a good move. Her shadowy untouchability felt truer to the comics’ Amanda Waller than Cynthia Addai-Robinson’s portrayal in Arrow, though neither were as good as CCH Pounder’s exquisite voice work for Waller in Justice League: Unlimited.
In the comics, Amanda Waller is a master of political intrigue; like House of Cards‘ Frank Underwood with about twice the ruthlessness and three times the security clearance. She’s run a number of covert political divisions, from Task Force X to the Suicide Squad, and she generally manages to get out scot free when they inevitably go belly up. She’s nicknamed the Wall, and she’s gotten the drop on the Justice League a number of times.
To Arrow‘s credit, Addai-Robinson’s performance does convey the sort of all-knowing force the character demands — or she did, right up until she was unceremoniously offed by Shadowspire in season 4. Team Arrow mourned her death the way you might mourn a houseplant you’d forgotten to water, probably because they’ve learned that nobody stays dead long on Arrow so there’s no use in getting all worked up about it. But when/if Waller does return to the show, let’s hope she does so with a little more of the force and gravity the character deserves.
3. Whitewashing Ra’s Al Ghul
OK. There were a lot of problems with Arrow’s take on Ra’s Al Ghul. He’s one of the most terrifying villains in all DC Comics, a worthy adversary for the Green Arrow, the Black Canary and Batman himself, but his storyline in Arrow was convoluted, his motives were murky, and he only rarely exuded any sense of real menace.
But maybe the most disappointing problem of all was the decision to recast the canonically Asian Ra’s as a white man. Australian actor Matt Nable delivered a capable performance, but in a genre notorious for whitewashed adaptations, his casting was baffling and deeply unfortunate. The CW has done an admirable job of casting a racially inclusive group of actors, making Starling City (and Central City) look almost as diverse as the real world. Which makes the decision to cast Ra’s as white all the more confounding.
2. Not Enough Politics
It’s understandable that the CW doesn’t want to get too bogged down in political drama. This is just a super hero show with some soap opera antics on the side after all — adding political drama would be liable to get pretty clunky. But one of Green Arrow’s key canonical traits is his grouchy, Occupy Wall Street, #FeeltheBern-esque policy wonkiness. You know that friend of yours who’s pretty nice but if you get him started on politics, he’ll never shut up about tax hikes on wealthy, investing in renewable energy sources, and lowering minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent drug offenders? That’s Oliver Queen, except he’s found a more inventive way to get his point(!) across.
The show tried to get a little political with Oliver’s mayoral run, but with all the political unrest in America right now, the Oliver Queen of the comic books has never felt more relevant. It’d be fun to see them at least try to have Oliver talk about some actual policy instead of just vague references to “standing against the darkness.”
1. Oliver’s Facial Hair
This list would not be complete without mentioning the Green Arrow’s iconic, Van Dyke-style goatee which casts him as a dashing, Errol Flynn figure — every bit the Robin Hood he’s so clearly modeled after. It’s ridiculous, it’s out-of-place, and it would make it awfully difficult to conceal a secret identity, but it’s canon. And it’s not in Arrow.A goatee like the Green Arrow’s hasn’t really been in style since the 17th century or so, and it’s written in stone somewhere that every single guy on a CW show must have a Ryan Gosling-level sense of fashion (with a Kardashian budget), so it makes sense that Arrow wouldn’t be in a hurry to make its leading man look almost criminally out-of-date. They’ve clearly tried to make up for it by giving Stephen Amell a pretty slick five o’clock shadow, but it just doesn’t feel like Green Arrow without the beard.