The CW network is gearing up for perhaps their most watched season ever this fall. They have created the most interconnected superhero universe on TV, with four hit shows in Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl. The lineup has been making headlines all summer that range from the introduction of Superman to a week-long crossover event between all four shows. However, at the foundation of DC Comics on television is the show that started it all, Arrow.
Arrow has proven to be adaptable over its first four seasons. It has deftly changed it's tone from a grounded vigilante show, to one that is at home with shrinking people and ancient wizards. By the fourth season, the series began to lose a little bit of the luster that it had managed to build up.
In a recent interview with IGN, Arrow executive producer Wendy Mericle explained the new approach to the series' fifth season:
"The show was always meant to be a gritty crime drama at its heart. And then Flash came along, and oh my gosh, we have meta powers. And then Damien was, well, we haven't done magic on the show, let's try to do that. I think for Season 5, just because it is an answer to Season 1, and we are sort of closing this chapter out, we did want to go back to our roots and figure out what is specific to this show. What is our universe? Go back to, 'What is Arrow?'"
The Green Arrow has always been a hero that has been defined as more than his skillset. After all, he is simply a common man and lacks any true superpowers. However, what has made the character endure both on the page and now on the small screen is Oliver Queen's sense of empathy for his friends and community. His lack of fantastical powers is actually what separates him from the other shows and it seems that the writers will lean into Queen's humanity in the fifth season.
One of the biggest complaints of last season is that the supernatural elements, particularly the Damien Darhk character, made the show feel less potent. It was revealed that the big bad of season 5 would be the mysterious dark archer, Prometheus, which should simplify the villainy in the show. Mericle briefly addressed the new big bad for the fifth season:
"[He's] not going to have magic, no powers. He has a very personal grudge and axe to grind with Oliver and he's going to come at him in a really interesting, sociopathic kind of way."
The interconnected nature of the four comic book shows allows for story possibilities that would be otherwise unavailable. At the end of last season, Barry Allen changed the course of history on The Flash, which will lend itself to some dramatic storytelling opportunities. Arrow's Stephen Amell had previously mentioned that Allen's meddling with the timeline may affect the events on Arrow. As we get closer to the show's October return, Mericle explained a little bit more about how "Flashpoint" may alter the show:
"Flashpoint provides an interesting jumping off point for all the shows this year, in that we have this reset button available to us if we want it. We've landed on a few things, but the door is open. That's the fun part. You can play with it in whatever way, shape, or form you want to. I think it will be small in some ways, and big in others."
It may be unreasonable to expect all Arrow viewers to be up to date with the events of The Flash. So we shouldn't expect the showrunners to lean too heavily into the convoluted science fiction of the companion DC shows. However, "Flashpoint" does still allow for more subtle changes to the characters' personalities and show's tone.
It's natural for any long-running program to tinker with the feel of the show each new season. "Flashpoint" gives a narrative explanation for changes in personality and inner motivations that were jarring in previous seasons. (Such as Oliver Queen suddenly gaining a sense of humor or Laurel Lance becoming a trained vigilante.) Meanwhile, the bigger changes Mericle alluded to will probably be addressed in the four-day crossover event in the form of a common villain or threat.
From the sounds of Mericle's comments, it seems that they will be attempting to make Arrow stand out by going back to the basics. Hopefully by embracing the character's street-level roots, it will help to define the program as the true crime-fighting show that is at the property's core. If not, it's easy to see how Arrow could get overshadowed by its superfriends.
The Flash season 3 will premiere Tuesday October 4th at 8pm on The CW, Arrow season 5 will premiere in the same timeslot on Wednesday October 5th, Supergirl season 2 on Monday October 10th, and Legends of Tomorrow season 2 on Thursday October 13th.