It’s hard to believe that only a few years ago, the idea of a superhero TV series was pretty unusual, and that Arrow was the only major DC/Marvel series on the air (in live action). Arrow took advantage of the huge success of superheros on the big screen, bringing a lesser-known DC hero to TV: Oliver Queen, a.k.a. Green Arrow (Stephen Amell). A relatively straightforward origin story, Arrow told two parallel tales: Oliver’s time ‘on the island’, and his life after he returned to Star City to become a masked vigilante.
It was a fantastic concept, helped in no small part by the stunningly handsome leading man, and one that quickly gained popularity and success. With Arrow doing so well, the CW expanded their DC TV universe, adding the spin-off The Flash, quickly followed by Legends of Tomorrow. In addition, the network took on Supergirl after a poor first season on CBS, folded the character of Constantine (Matt Ryan) into the Arrowverse after that series was canceled on NBC, and has now picked up Black Lightning, a series originally intended for Fox.
In many ways, it seems that the Arrowverse can do no wrong, as it continues to expand, win awards, and pull in viewers… but the show that started it all is no longer the jewel in the DCTV crown. Instead, Arrow has been slowly losing viewers and recycling old stories… and with the Arrowverse growing every season, it’s time to retire Oliver Queen and create space for something new.
The First Five Years
A lot of the current issues with Arrow come down to the simple fact that the original premise has been wrapped up, and it doesn’t know where else to go. The first five seasons of Arrow charted Oliver Queen’s journey to becoming a hero – both his training on the island (and off it), and his forays into superhero-dom in Star City. It was the kind of origin story that fans loved, but with that wrapped up by the end of season 5, Oliver is left without many places to go. Now Oliver is an established superhero in Star City, with an ever-changing team behind him, and his identity has been revealed to everyone that he loves.
A lot of the tension of the first five years came from surprises: the reveal that Oliver wasn’t actually on the island for the full five years, the moments where his loved ones discovered his identity, the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between Oliver and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett-Rickards), the deaths of major players… all things that have now been essentially dealt with. The other major change is in the viewers themselves; at a point in time where there was no contest, Arrow was fantastic simply by being a superhero show. Now, with heroes bursting onto the screen on every network, and multiple new heroes joining the ranks of the small screen every season, simply being a kick-ass hero isn’t enough to keep Arrow alive.
Arrow Has Lost Its Edge
It doesn’t seem like Arrow is going to be able to re-gain the success of its early years. Oliver’s origin story has been well and truly told, his family members have all been explored (and his secrets revealed), and we’re left with a show that has started to become extremely repetitive. Season 6 has already seen several old storylines trotted back out, and it’s simply no longer thrilling. Oliver’s identity is revealed! Diggle (David Ramsey) has to take his place under the hood! A teammate has betrayed him! He doesn’t totally trust his team! There may be a new big bad on the horizon, but so far, season 6 has been extremely stale.
Oliver continues to make the same mistakes – mistakes that should have been resolved through the Prometheus storyline in season 5. His relationship with Felicity is also bordering on boring, as it’s only really possible to have so many break-ups and make-ups before fans just start rolling their eyes at the whole thing. While it’s still exciting to see Team Arrow join forces with the rest of the Arrowverse in the now-annual crossovers, these are now the high points of the series – as the ratings prove. Arrow saw a 29% drop in its overall season 5, followed by a further 17% drop in ratings for season 6 so far. However, the crossovers marked a season high for Arrow, with a whopping 200% rise for Crisis on Earth-X… even though that’s still a 31% drop from last year’s crossover episode.
Time To Ride Off Into The Sunset
Although we already know that Arrow has a seventh season on the way despite falling ratings, the series really needs to wrap things up with that season – and an eighth season is simply unnecessary. At this point, Oliver’s story feels complete, and it’s time for him to (finally) marry Felicity and settle in with her and William (Jack Moore). He’s increasingly finding that he can clean up his city through his work in politics – something that he will risk losing if he continues to work as the Green Arrow. His most recent team has separated, and bringing in another new team starts to make Arrow seem not just repetitive, but cluttered. Oliver has learned his lessons, and it’s time for him to hang up the hood and move on.
The seventh season provides the perfect vehicle to wrap things up, as well. Season 6’s ensemble of villains and his recent issues with the team seem to be guiding Oliver toward the long-overdue realization that he cannot continue to try and be the biggest hero in Star City; it’s time to pass the torch. Season 7 could be a perfect farewell to Arrow, as Oliver and Felicity get their happy ending, as the other heroes of the city take their rightful places out of the shadow of the Green Arrow, and the lessons that Oliver has learned are cemented as he says goodbye.
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