If anyone doubted the number of comic book fans that the CW's Arrow could draw, last week's episode put that debate to rest. The appearance of Deathstroke the Terminator in episode 5, "Damaged," saw a 30% ratings increase to 3.7 million viewers for the budding comic book TV series, providing some of the CW's highest ratings since the show's premiere.
Since a larger dose of comic book lore actually worked to improve ratings for the show - not undermine the more grounded approach - the motivation for Arrow's producers to inject even more comic book references just got a lot more promising.
Those in charge of Arrow haven't kept their intentions a secret by any means, revealing early on just how many heroes and villains would be making work for Oliver Queen's vigilante persona. The assassin Deadshot marked one of the first 'costumed villain' incarnations to appear in Starling City, but that was just an appetizer. Given the amount of viewers, the well-advertised Deathstroke cameo couldn't have come at a better time.
Deathstroke didn't disappoint, showing his skill with a blade while proving just how capable Yao Fei (Oliver's mentor) really is. Since Deathstroke was still sporting both eyes, it's safe to assume we haven't seen the last of him. How the 'Terminator's mask ends up tattered, arrow-pierced, and displayed on the beach of Lian Yu - and who put it there - remains to be seen.
A 30% increase in viewers is almost a guarantee that Arrow's writers will make the most out of Deathstroke's remaining story beats - but makes it even more likely that Arrow can become a showcase for other DC heroes and villains, as well. The show's producers have already confirmed eleven other DC characters will be appearing, and that was before the fan reaction could be factored into their plans.
The next episode is set to introduce the Royal Flush Gang, Firefly and Huntress, marking the first costumed appearance of another DC anti-hero. If we were the 'conspiracy theory' type, we might even think three recurring characters from the Batman universe are meant to foreshadow something to come...
The links between Arrow and modern portrayals of Batman are too numerous to count, beginning with their comic book origins and ending with the similarities between Arrow's pilot and Batman Begins. It's definitely too soon to assume DC or Warner Bros. have any plans for the Dark Knight prior to Justice League in 2015, but Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim has made it clear that the crossover is one he wants to see happen.
A crossover or team-up of the two super-powerless anti-heroes makes sense on several levels. As the executive producers have explained, the lack of magic or superhuman powers in Arrow is the main reason a crossover with Amazon's Wonder Woman wouldn't work. That could all change when Count Vertigo appears in Starling City - but for now, we'll assume the writers have an idea for what's to come.
Whether or not the increase in ratings changes the plan at all, Huntress' role is too important to be a one-time appearance. If her character - or possible hints at her connections to Gotham - are similarly embraced by viewers, who knows what the future might hold.
Which heroes or villains would you most like to see make an appearance on the CW? Should Warner Bros. use their TV shows to help build a shared live-action universe, or would you rather Arrow's writers focus solely on Oliver? Sound off in the comments.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with ‘Legacies’ @8pm on The CW. Watch a preview of the episode:
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.