[Warning: Spoilers for those not caught up on Arrow]
Despite fan and critical consensus that season 3 of Arrow has paled in comparison to its stellar second season, several episodes - along with the addition of The Flash to its crossover canon - have proven the show can still hit the bullseye and raise the stakes for our bow and baton-toting heroes. Unfortunately, you can only raise the same stakes so many times before thrill simply becomes routine.
The season 3 finale, airing tonight, will see Oliver take on Ra's al Ghul for the second time - hopefully not atop any snowy cliffs - in an attempt to save Starling City from bio-weapon destruction. This will mark the third time in as many finales that Oliver's beloved hometown has faced the threat of extinction, leaving us to wonder: just how many times can Starling City take a beating without eventually staying down for good? And more importantly, just how many times can the show repeat and revisit the same climax without eventually boring its audience?
Whatever the answer, a lot of fans would see that Arrow is in need of change. Luckily, the season 3 finale promises to do more than blow up the city; it promises to blow up the entire show.
While speaking with Vulture, showrunner Marc Guggenheim teased a major, potentially lethal crisis, setting the stage for a complete series facelift heading into season four.
By the end of the season finale, people are going to think, Holy heck, how are they going to do this show anymore? I’m a big fan of the shows that can blow themselves up and then reconstitute themselves.
This certainly is not the first time those involved with Arrow have teased game-changing plot twists. Before Roy left Starling City, Colton Haynes, Stephen Amell, and David Ramsey all hinted at the death of a major character via their social media accounts. Though, the implied death turned out only to be a departure. That being said, Guggenheim confirms the change coming to the show will not be another temporary departure from the norm. Ultimately, he realizes the need for reinvention and growth:
The show has to constantly be evolving, otherwise you can get stagnant very quickly, and you can find yourself in a situation where you’re just repeating old character dynamics and, God forbid, old plotlines. That’ll get you through a season, but you’ve just really shortened the lifespan of your show because the audience picks up on that pretty quickly. One of things we say on Arrow is, "The only constant is evolution."
And that evolution could come in the form of a slight tonal shift for the series. Although Arrow's signature darkness is what separates it from its brighter counterpart in Central City, it's also often what brings out the show's inner soap opera. Felicity can only cry so many times before it become maudlin rather than meaningful. Guggenheim addressed this dilemma when asked what he and the Arrow writers learned from season 3.
I think, for us, we got as tired of the doom and gloom as everyone else. By the end of the season, we in the writers’ room were all craving a lighter tone. I don’t think the show will ever be as tonally fun as The Flash. They’re Metropolis, and we’re more Gotham City. But at the same time, there’s a desire on our parts as writers to move our characters into a happier place.
That being said, don't expect It's Always Sunny in Starling City to premiere next fall; but do expect the show to finally move out of its brooding, melodramatic corners and into lighter territory, ripe with opportunities for Oliver Queen to smile and actually enjoy being a superhero - and potentially, future non-CW crossovers.
What would you like to see different in Arrow's fourth season? Overall, has season three delivered or disappointed? Let us know in the comments.
Arrow season three concludes tonight with its season finale "My Name is Oliver Queen" @8pm on The CW. The Flash season one concludes Tuesday with its season finale "Fast Enough" @8pm on The CW.