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Bruce Springsteen Can Help Explain Arrow (Yes, Really)

Oliver Queen on Arrow and Bruce Springsteen

Many would be stunned to learn that there's a secret connection between the television series Arrow and the music of Bruce Springsteen, beyond both The Boss and Oliver Queen sharing a love of social justice. Yet there is a tradition which binds the two shows, with the penultimate episode of every season of Arrow taking its name from a classic Bruce Springsteen song.

The tradition was started by Executive Producer and self-described Springsteen super-fan Marc Guggenheim. Originally, the title-sharing was meant to be an Easter egg to amuse the production team. Over time, however, the running gag became somewhat more significant, sometimes being used to reflect the theme and story of each episode, as well as being a clever reference. Arrow season 7's penultimate episode was thus called "Living Proof".

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The use of "Living Proof" in Arrow season 7 is a prime example of how the Arrow/Springsteen connection has come to be more about thematic resonance than clever jokes. Released on the 1992 album Lucky Town, "Living Proof" was inspired by the joy that Springsteen felt as a young father. While Oliver has experienced precious little of this joy in season 7, having been separated from his son, William, and being too worried by work to focus on the now-pregnant Felicity, the songs lyrics reflect the sort of man Oliver is.

The second verse of "Living Proof" speaks of the singer crawling "deep into some kind of darkness, Lookin' to burn out every trace of who I'd been" - a sentiment echoed by the introduction to Arrow, where Oliver Queen speaks of needing to "become someone else." The song also mentions being trapped in a prison, but this prison is a metaphorical one made of repression rather than iron bars - another fitting metaphor for how Oliver has felt trapped by his circumstances even after being released from Slabside.

Green Arrow is Stephen Amell

The Arrow season 1 episode which started the tradition, "Darkness At The Edge of Town," was both thematic and literal in its appropriateness. The title could be taken to refer to the Glades - the bad part of town near the outskirts of Star City, that was endangered by Malcolm Merlyn's Undertaking. The lyrics of the song seemed to reflect Oliver Queen's state of mind at the time, as he tried to hide the vigilante he had become from his family and friends: "Well, everybody's got a secret, son, Something that they just can't face." The song also seemed to make reference to Merlyn, who was driven to destroy the Glades with an earthquake generating machine after his wife was murdered there: "...I lost my wife, Them things don't seem to matter much to me now."

Arrow season 2 was more literal with its penultimate episode, "Streets of Fire," as Star City burned while Deathstroke and his Mirakuru-enhanced soldiers attacked it. Things took a spiritual turn in season 3 with "This Is Your Sword," a song that encourages people to hold to their idealism and love even as they fight against despair - something Oliver Queen had to do while being brainwashed by the League of Assassins as he was being groomed as the new Ra's Al Ghul. The song "Lost In The Flood," a parable describing three young men dying because of an inability to escape their surroundings, doesn't seem to have much connection to Arrow season 4's penultimate episode beyond both works evoking a lot of Biblical imagery.

Related: Did Emiko Queen Accidentally Create The Arrowverse?

Season 5 saw another literal pun, with Springsteen's "Missing" (a song about a man waking up to discover the woman he loves has dumped him and left their home) being used as the title for an episode where everyone on Team Arrow except Oliver is kidnapped by Prometheus. Things took a metaphorical turn in season 6, which took its name from the song "The Ties That Bind." The song speaks about the importance of people coming together for common cause despite their hurt and mistrust - something that the heroes of Star City had to do just before the season 6 finale, after spending most of the season split into two different teams.

It remains to be seen if the tradition will continue into season 8, which is due to have a shorter ten-episode run, before Arrow comes to an end.

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