[WARNING: Spoilers ahead for those not caught up on Arrow season 4.]
Arrow has gone through a lot of changes in its four seasons on the air. What began as a one-man show of violent vigilante vengeance has morphed into a team superhero effort, the dangers to one neighborhood in Star City now escalated to the threat of global nuclear destruction. Spin-off shows The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have added more characters and crossover plot twists to the mix, further complicating the original themes of the show.
Some of the changes were welcomed enthusiastically by fans, including Oliver's season 2 transition from his isolated revenge missions to building relationships and becoming more of a true hero. Over the past four years, however, some characters and plot lines have divided viewers. The various romance elements, constantly shifting allegiances, exasperating flashbacks, and addition of supernatural elements to DC TV's most grounded show haven't all gone over well. Negative reactions to the season 4 finale were especially strong on social media, peaking with Arrow's subreddit switching the topic to Netflix's Daredevil in protest.
Before that controversial finale even aired, Arrow star Stephen Amell was feeling frustrated with all the hate on social media. In an interview on Larry King Now [h/t ComicBook.com], the actor spoke about the "factions" that develop online, and why he thinks there's too much emphasis on certain corners of the Internet:
"I think Twitter largely is overblown. I'm not saying that these people aren't passionate and I'm not saying that their opinions shouldn't matter, but I do think that their voices tend to be so loud that we think the crowd is much bigger than it actually is. I happen to think that it's much smaller. Most people still enjoy a show in the traditional way, which is to watch it ... and not to tweet constantly throughout it."
Amell goes on to explain that he thinks Twitter isn't valuable because of the anonymity that leads to a lack of accountability. He insists he has a great relationship with fans in person, where he says negative opinions are expressed in a "relaxed, calm way, that's much longer than 140 characters."
As with many things online, the biggest attacks are often towards the female characters and the actresses who portray them. While valid criticisms can be made about how Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) have been written on Arrow, many of the "factions" Amell describes are mostly concerned with which woman is a better love interest for Oliver. The actor seems mostly bemused by the "Olicity" handle bestowed on his character's relationship with Felicity, but he still finds the online battles disappointing:
"I think there are sections of the fandom that take to liking a certain character by way of attacking another character. I feel like if you're going on the attack for fictional characters, you're probably not real fans of the show."
Despite the entertaining villain and enjoyable lighter moments this year, few could argue that there weren't some major problems with Arrow season 4. The Olicity storylines became contentious by committing the same errors many TV series do, by dragging out a potential relationship too long, and then quickly sabotaging it in a way that damages the likability and credibility of beloved protagonists. That said, a poorly-written episode of Arrow shouldn't rise to the level of hate-filled tirades and death threats to the cast and crew.
This level of animosity on social media also works against its ultimate goal. When the lead actor says he's perfectly willing to hear legitimate criticism, but admits he considers any comments on Twitter as just "noise," it shows that any hope to influence the trajectory of a show is likely fruitless. Anyone who's ever been in fandom knows that it can be tough to keep warring "shippers" from taking over, but if fans could stick with the noble geek tradition of biting, clever commentary over irrational lashing out, there's a greater chance of showrunners actually listening to what the viewers want.
Arrow returns with season 5 episodes in Fall of 2016, on Wednesdays at 8pm on The CW.
Source: Larry King Now [via ComicBook.com]