Six years and counting and Arrow, plus the rest of the DC CW verse – or Arrowverse – (The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow) is still going strong.
This gargantuan success is in large part due to the Arrowverse largely embracing, and doing right by, the complex DC comics mythology – at least the DC comics mythology that the CW network has access to – with a meagre television show budget.
What started out as a teen soap opera dressed up in Nolan Batman clothes with Arrow season 1, has matured into a series distinctly unashamed of its source material.
Now the Arrowverse often deftly juggles heart, humour, and propulsive storytelling, even on an average episode. Simply put, we’re a long way away from Smallville‘s no-fun rule of “No tights, no flights.”
However, the road will inevitably get rocky, especially when the shows go too far in a particularly questionable direction. Whether it be overcooked drama, repetitive emotional beats, pushing the suspension of disbelief to its breaking point, or overdoing it with some of the perceived likeable elements of the show, the Arrowverse stumbles hard when it takes certain things too far.
With that being said, here are the 15 Times The Arrowverse Went Way Too Far.
15. When Felicity Nuked a Small Town
Damien Darhk, a powerful thorn in Oliver’s side during season 4, launched a nuke at a major city. Team Arrow’s hacker, Felicity Smoak, couldn’t disable the bomb in time. Instead she redirected it to a smaller town, killing tens of thousands of people.
It is a cataclysmic event, even by the standards of the Arrowverse, shocking enough to disrupt the world for decades.
Felicity, ever the paragon of spunk and wit, would surely be psychologically traumatised.
Except… such consequences never happen. To say that Arrow doesn’t give this plot point its due is a grotesque understatement. In trying to make Damien Darhk the baddest of the bad, they made Arrow even more ludicrous than a Saturday morning cartoon for a time, at least until season 5 righted the ship.
14. Misery, Misery, Misery
The Flash and Arrow hit a similar wall in their third season: they got too obsessed with tragedy.
Of course, it’s necessary for there to be conflict and a dose of teenybopper angst (lest we forget that it’s the CW, after all). A little levity goes a long way, though, and is necessary for the drama’s edge to remain sharp.
However, from Sara’s death to Oliver Queen’s graphic near-fatality and Laurel taking lying to her father to sociopathic extremes to Felicity shrugging off spunkiness in lieu of constant tears, Arrow season 3 was a relentless misery fest.
13. Flashback Ollie Goes Dark-er
Oliver Queen was brought to his lowest point in season five when the vengeful Adrian Chase wrung a terrible truth from the hero’s soul: Oliver Queen enjoys killing.
It’s a hell of a revelation, one that the show has been building to since Arrow introduced us to a costumed avenger who was a little loose with his morals. However, this episode, as per the show’s format, included a flashback of young Ollie in his formative years as a crime fighter.
In that flashback, Ollie ended the lives of several gangsters for “practice.”
12. Oliver’s Insane Recovery
Ra’s Al Ghul defeated Oliver Queen in a duel in Arrow‘s mid-season 3 finale. As in, Ra’s plunged a sword through his bare chest and kicked him off a cliff. Credits.
Team Arrow having to go on without a leader and Oliver Queen’s inevitable resurrection were exciting story ideas to contemplate over the mid-season break.
The excitement was for nought because, surprise, Oliver wasn’t dead. He just needed to rest in a cabin for a while and drink some tea– anti-climactic doesn’t cover it.
However, more than that, it broke the suspension of disbelief, which, for a season in which a street vigilante battled the immortal figurehead of a death ninja cult, is impressive– in all of the wrong ways.
11. The First Count Vertigo
Acknowledging that he took “big risks as an actor,” Seth Gabel’s villainous Count Vertigo, ostensibly meant to be more in line with the Joker than with any incarnation of Count Vertigo in the Green Arrow comics, proved to be way too over the top.
It makes sense to go big or go home when playing a freak of the week antagonist on a comic book show.
However, tempering that theatrical sadism with a little humanity is always a good thing.
Seth Gabel’s Count Vertigo is completely off-the-hinges in a way that’s unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally?) hilarious. Gabel’s mugging and scenery chewing would have been perfectly congruent with, say, Gotham, but in Arrow it was quite jarring to say the least.
10. Secrets and Lies Ad-Nauseam
A character keeping a secret is a great tool for storytellers to create drama and comedy. However, like any other tool, it can be misused.
Arrow and The Flash are sometimes guilty of misusing secrets as a storytelling device. How many times has a character kept a secret in the name of protecting someone they love? To the point where lying doesn’t make any sense and is actually abusive?
However, the most egregious example is when Laurel, donning her dead sister Sara’s Black Canary identity, modulated her voice to mimic Sara’s, to reassure their father that she was okay.
9. Fridging Sara
Killing a female character for the purposes of advancing a man’s storyline is a trope as old as time, and never worth much more than an eyeroll.
Arrow used this trope early on, when Sara Lance was killed in the accident which set Oliver Queen on the course to becoming Star City’s hero.
It also provided fuel early on for the will they/won’t they dynamic between Laurel Lance and Oliver.
However, Sara Lance was revealed to have survived the accident and underwent training in secret to become a certifiable awesome fighter in her own right.
8. Arrow Gets Political in Spectre of the Gun
Although Arrow sometimes has a veneer of grit, for the most part it’s an escapist adventure show. We’re not meant to think about a bad guy’s family when he’s mowed down by Team Arrow anymore than we’re meant to feel sad for the Stormtrooper felled by a couple of laser bolts.
It just isn’t that kind of show, and that’s alright. However, for 45 minutes, Arrow became that kind of show in season 5’s episode, “Spectre of the Gun”.
The after-school-esque messaging on gun rights, gun control, and all that came to light in the apolitical show after a mass-shooting at a Star City police station– an event that by any longtime Arrow viewer’s reckoning seems to happen at least once a month. However, now, and only now, within a Very Special Episode, will an adult discussion about violence be had. Hmm, sure.
7. Killing Laurel Lance
Arrow season 4’s premiere fast-forwarded a few months into the future to provide viewers with a tantalising glimpse: someone close to Oliver Queen had been put six feet under, but who?
It was a question that granted the first half of season 4 some semblance of interest when the going was slow.
As we found out in episode 18, the unlucky one was Laurel Lance.
Having gone on her own journey to get her life on track and honour her sister’s memory, Laurel was unceremoniously shanked by the season’s villain Damien Darhk.
Arrow, having killed a Lance twice already, had now killed another. Setting aside Laurel as a character, it was difficult to feel the weight of her death when you were thinking “There goes another Lance.”
6. Setting Up Tertiary Characters
It’s a necessity for the Arrowverse – or any kind of TV or movie ‘verse – to build a character in one property and spin them off into another one.
This was done extremely well in Arrow season 2’s “The Scientist”, which introduced Barry Allen/The Flash, integrating a charismatic and different character seamlessly into the episodic plot. It made the buildup to his show The Flash even more exciting.
However, in season 3 of Arrow and sometimes in Season 1 of The Flash, there was a little too much narrative real-estate devoted to setting up Ray Palmer and Firestorm respectively for their own show, Legends of Tomorrow.
Cross-pollination is no bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the joys of a live-action shared comic book universe, but when it bogs down the proceedings of the show you’re most invested in, it can be a little much.
5. Cisco Forgave Barry… But Not in The Flash
When Barry Allen used his powers to alter the timeline and unwittingly created Flashpoint, it created a world where his best buddy Cisco has a dead brother instead of a living one.
Cisco was understandably mightily pissed at Barry. For much of season 3 of The Flash, their relationship was strained and awkward.
Barry’s bouts of selfishness were beginning to have real ramifications that darkened the very tone of the show.
Howeve, their friendship was renewed in the giant crossover even Invasion. Not in a Flash episode though, but in a Legends of Tomorrow episode. This seems like a giant miscalculation, an emotional moment you would’ve missed entirely if you were only watching The Flash and none of the other CW DC shows.
4. Barry’s Too-Cheery Disposition in Season 4 of The Flash
It was understandable that the showrunners of The Flash, post season 3, were looking for ways to move past the depressing and mopey Barry Allen and get him back to his old optimistic self.
Barry sacrificed himself to the speed force at the end of season 3, a mea-culpa for his selfish decisions fuelled by grief. It represented real growth on his part.
However, the season 4 premiere, titled “The Flash Reborn”, was far too eager to rip Barry out of his own personal hell and give him a new lease on life, without any introspection or soul-searching.
Does CW’s version of Green Arrow have more in common with the playboy, goatee-rockin’ leftie disruptor of the Green Arrow comics or with, say, the brooding and obsessive Batman?
Although Oliver Queen isn’t the same Bruce Wayne carbon copy he was in season 1 of Arrow – he’s a little jokier, now, and a mayor – he still shares too many similarities with Batman.
This can often make him feel like Diet Batman rather than his own character.
Arrow made this comparison to Batman most obvious to comic book fans when he and a shirtless Ras duelled to the death, a scene ripped straight from a Denny O’Neil Batman comic. Let’s also not forget Laurel Lance seeming like a Rachel Dawes stand-in season 1.
2. Leaking Oliver Queen’s Secret Identity (Again)
Arrow‘s season 6 premiere ended with Oliver Queen outed as the Green Arrow. It would’ve been an exciting shakeup of the status quo were it not for the fact that Arrow already drew from this well early on in season 1.
Of course, Oliver Queen was exonerated and his secret identity remained a secret. To reuse this plot point is to strain credulity; you can’t leak someone’s secret identity twice.
It’s impossible to finesse the genie back into the bottle. When that kind of storytelling device is used a second time, the tension dissipates.
1. John Diggle’s Problem
In the murky world of Arrow, Oliver Queen’s best buddy John Diggle has remained a shining example of integrity and honesty. He’ll tell the truth no matter what and damn the consequences. Except for when the plot requires John Diggle to be what he’s not– a liar and a coward– in order to to generate tension.
At the end of season 5, Diggle sustained a shoulder injury that would permanently put him out of the crime-fighting game.
Instead of coming clean to the team about it, he takes drugs to suppress the pain.
However, it’s not enough to cover for his bad shoulder, and even as he pretends all is fine, it puts his team in mortal danger more than a couple of times – all for his pride.
As David Ramsay said in an interview with E! News, “It’s to kind of underscore a different John Diggle, a John Diggle we’ve never seen before, and that’s really the purpose of it to use as a story prop.”
When did you think the Arrowverse went too far? Comment and let us know!
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