Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen in Arrow
Oh, where even to start. From that first line, you probably have an idea of where this review is going to go. Maybe you don’t. This season has definitely had its up and downs but underneath it all, was there a story worth telling? That is the question I ask myself when looking back on an entire year of a TV series. The Flash has had a pretty darn good freshman year itself. But with the awesome finale last season, could Arrow still have the same quality it has had for the past two seasons?
To answer that question, you have to look at this show honestly. Was season one actually any good? Or were we comparing it to what we had gotten from superhero shows up until that point? Heroes was already long over with and that show left a bitter and stale taste in our mouths with how it decided give us numerous seasons coated in mediocrity following an amazing first year. Smallville was…well, it was Smallville. It had its moments and while it is still one of my favorite shows (I’m a Supes fan and always will be), I can definitely see it for what it was. It was a show that went on longer than it probably should have and it had some of the corniest scenes you will see on TV. You think Iris and Barry are corny on The Flash? Watch Clark and Lana again and come talk to me. When it was good, it was really good. But when it was bad, it was insanely bad.
So Arrow was the first legitimate superhero show that had the darker tone and the story to back it up. It was done really well, for what it was. I will never say Arrow is the best show on TV because it isn’t. No where near it. It is still a CW show. It still has its faults. So I will make this clear. Season one was decent. It had some rough acting for a bit but it ended strong. Season two was amazing. It had a rocky first half with a weak villain who I came to appreciate in the later episodes more, but then it had those flashbacks. The flashbacks, mixed with some twists and turns around the halfway point all to make a great villain for the final episodes. I was getting excited because it seemed that this show just seemed to get better and better with each season.
That brings us to this season. Sorry for the long intro with the comparisons but I feel that Arrow is put up on this pedestal because it was the first of the new wave of superhero television shows. It came before Agents of Shield and The Flash. Those shows work because this one worked. And as much as I would really like to defend Arrow, I just can’t anymore. This season was rough. I’ve been saying this from the beginning; give them a lesser episode count. Limit the filler garbage and focus all on the story. And that is where this season faltered.
This season featured a season-long villain named R’as al Ghul (maybe you’ve heard of him from Neeson’s Batman Begins days), but the problem wasn’t with the villain himself, but with the lack of appearance by him. For the first several episodes, he is just a name being tossed around. He has been mentioned by Merlyn since season two. You see little glimpses of him here or there and then he will show up for a full episode to make his presence known, and then you wouldn’t see him for four episodes. I give credit to Matt Nable because when he was on-screen, he nailed the part of R’as al Ghul. Just look at the midseason finale end fight scene.
But the issues just pile up. Arrow has been often criticized for trying to make the hero a little too much like Batman, and what do they do this season? They rip a story right out of the Batman comics with R’as al Ghul. But I gave them a pass because they had proven to write some good stuff previously. But nope, the writing this year was so cringe-worthy in parts, I often wondered why I hadn’t abandoned this show. What happened to the good ole’ days when Oliver would fight crime, with Felicity on the computer and Dig in his ear? Those days are gone, my friends. They traded good storytelling and character development for sappy love bullshit to give in to the fans. Where are you looking, Marc Guggenheim? Stop going to Facebook and Tumblr for your fans’ opinions. You will see a heavy “Olicity” presence among them. We don’t want to hear Felicity whine and see her cry every episode. That’s just not good TV, not matter who the actress is.
Thus is the biggest problem. The Felicity and Oliver drama takes up way too much screen time. She used to be this likable character who was witty and sharp and amusing. Now, she’s just some girl who has taken too much of a center role. They’ve made her unlikable with her emotional lectures and hypocritical nonsense. I used to not really mind the tension between the two characters but now it’s so bad, its unbearable. When Laurel is more likable than you, there’s a problem.
Oh, hey. Another issue. Laurel and her rushed Black Canary stuff…really? She takes boxing classes and can now fight the League of Assassins? Get the hell out of here, guys. I feel bad for Katie Cassidy, I really do. Because I like the actress. I loved her on Supernatural way back when. She has personality to bring to the role if they would let her lighten up a bit. There is so much unnecessary secret-keeping and lies on this show, that it turns her into that character no one wants to hear or see. But, I was quite surprised with her stint on The Flash. Her, and Starling City as a whole. It wasn’t painted as this dark and ominous city. Seeing it in daylight really helps, guys. But her rapport with Carlos Valdes’ Cisco character was refreshing. They let her smile and have fun and crack a few jokes. And it was good stuff. I want to see THAT Laurel on Arrow. This show could take some lessons from Dr. Crane from Batman Begins.
Now that I’ve gotten my bitching out of the way, we can talk about what was good about the season. Surprise! Yes, there were good elements. Laurel did get better as the season progressed. After her fighting lessons, she did get better and more tolerable as the season went on. Or maybe Felicity was so bad, she just made her look good. But her friendship with Nyssa was handled well, and her addition of the Canary Cry was kind of cool for me. Every scene with John Barrowman was a blessing because you didn’t get much of him and he steals every scene he is in. He is just one of those actors I love to watch. And the fact that they underused him until the final two episodes was depressing to me.
The acting, as a whole, isn’t bad for a CW show. I shouldn’t have to make that statement, but I did. Stephen Amell has really grown into his role as Oliver Queen. He seemed a bit lazy this season because he didn’t really have to act a whole lot. But the few scenes where he did have to show some acting chops, he did come through. The weird way this show balances its characters out is mind-boggling. You give fan-favorite Diggle less to do (I won’t even mention that awful “Suicide Squad” episode) and Roy more to do. Roy was actually one of the highlights of the season for me, but it came at the price of John Diggle aka Mr. Irrelevant. Which is sad because David Ramsay does great work. Maybe next season they will give him some good material.
But the best part of the season goes to Brandon Routh. For me, he was hilarious. He lightened the show up a bit before the dumb romantic triangle took up half the episodes. I’ve never considered him to be anywhere near a good actor but he nailed the timing of his awkwardness this season. I am probably in the minority here, but I am actually glad his character is getting a spin-off. Take him away from the crying and romance garbage and you could have one very entertaining 42 minutes of television.
By the way I’ve talked about this season, you probably think that I hate it. I don’t. I’m just very disappointed because it set the stage for the new wave of superhero shows and had a very average and very lackluster season. It was okay. But okay isn’t good enough. The story lines were predictable, the villain wasn’t around enough to seem like a credible threat (and don’t even get me started on the awful final fight), and the flashbacks were terrible. They were filled with plots totally unrelated to the current timeline (until the last episode), characters you couldn’t care less about, and just bland action scenes to fill up some episode time. The flashbacks, as bad as Felicity is, was the weakest link of the season. Guys, bring back Manu Bennett in some form. I don’t care how. Don’t piss on his character and have him do something worthwhile. I don’t know if he was the only reason season two reached the heights it did, but the show misses him and so do I.
This = shit
All in all, this season of Arrow was very disappointing. Stop listening to the fans, Guggenheim! Get rid of the sappy crap every week. They need a return to form, that’s for sure. Maybe they should throw this season into the Lazarus Pit. It’ll come back and as something different. Well, one could hope! It would be a better excuse to use than the one they gave us on the show. Or they could revive this show to its greatness by using some of those magical herbs that healed Oliver. Apparently, they didn’t have any left for Thea. But really, one can just hope that Barry Allen runs so fast, that he erases this season from the timeline. Because it was definitely a bump in the road. But it can bounce back from this lackluster season. Just, don’t do it again guys. Please.
THINGS I LIKED
- John Barrowman, as always
- Made average characters more likable. I’m looking at you Roy and Laurel
- Brandon Routh!
- Some of the R’as al Ghul drama was handled well
- The midseason finale ending
- I appreciated the effort with Thea but….
THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE
- ….at the end of the day, Thea will still be Thea
- Bad writing
- Felicity, all season. Just go away
- Underused Merlyn and Diggle
- FLASHBACKS…awful. Just awful.
- The finale and the final showdown…meh.
- The villain was just a name for 75% of the season