by Bunnypwn Gold
Spoilers ahead. If you haven’t seen Arrow, then be warned that I will be talking about details of the show and the season finale. If you haven’t seen Arrow, go fix that immediately.
As I’ve mentioned in a previous article, I watch Arrow, the CW show about the DC superhero Green Arrow loosely based on Green Arrow: Year One. It is my favorite depiction of the character ever. Before watching this show, the way I’ve always seen Oliver Queen depicted was as a largely useless Batman ripoff who acted like a spoiled, womanizing billionaire playboy all the time, whether he was being the hero or not. Yes, Batman is a billionaire, but he spent his whole life training, and while he sometimes acts like a playboy type, it doesn’t dominate who he is. Oliver Queen, in the comics, spent a few lousy months on an island, somehow developed an enormous amount of skill in archery while trying to hunt animals, and when he got back to the States became a superhero for some reason. The only thing he’s good for is to be a contrarian on the Justice League (and to allow Roy Harper to be around, because he’s awesome). But Arrow gives his character a much greater amount of depth, it gives him a much more plausible and much more meaningful reason to be a superhero, and it gives him a much more relateable feel in a lot of ways. He is no longer a crass brat who hits on every woman he sees, he’s no longer an indignant child, and he’s no longer doing something just because it feels good. And on top of all these great developments on the character, the show also has pulled in a good number of other DC characters into the fold in fantastic ways. Overall, this is a brilliant show.
Oliver’s time on the island is very different in this show than in the comics. To begin with, the expanded story of how he got there is great. It adds to the personal drama between him and the Lances in amazing ways, but perhaps more importantly it gives him an amazing foundation for everything that happens later. The introduction of his father’s “failures” for the city and subsequent suicide to save Oliver’s life were both quite dramatic and powerful moments for the series and for Ollie’s character as a whole, and I was quite pleased with the choice - not because I like watching fathers kill themselves for their sons or anything, but because it adds a powerful motivation to the tragedy that he goes through, because it gives the whole island meaning. His time spent there, expanded to a reasonable and much more potent five years, also had a much more dramatic impact on him, much better than the current continuity. He didn’t just stumble on a heroine operation headed by an extremely racistly-named mobster: he stumbles on a terrorist plot led by Edward Fyers, a character originally introduced as a plain government agent. Ollie meets a Chinese man named Yao Fei, a name belonging to the Accomplished Perfect Physician of the Great Ten, who takes him in and trains him. This job is later taken up by Deathstroke, who, in this incarnation, is a member of the Australian Secret Intelligence, and is also still a complete boss (by the way, the choice to use the black and copper for his mask instead of turquoise and orange was the best thing in the world and completed the nerdgasm I had when I saw him on the island). Through these two men and Shado, introduced here as Yao Fei’s daughter, he learns to fight and everything like he does. Not only has Ollie’s time on the island been turned into an amazing story filled with DC greats, but it’s telling is being handled in a good way. The use of flashbacks has allowed his experiences there, which he doesn’t talk about, unfold in a slow trickle to the audience, inform them of the things they need to know at an appropriate time, and act as a longstanding subplot for each episode. In my opinion, they’ve been fairly effective in using flashbacks.
The changes made to his friends and family have also been good choices, and have made for some great drama. The effects of the five-year gap on them has made for great tension, and the increased time table allowed them to not only grieve for the most-likely dead Ollie but also move on with their lives. Of course, it’s hard to say too little about his mother, Moira. She has played a great part in the show on both sides of the line she dances, and she makes for a great mother figure in general. Her character development has been handled really well, and it’s been one of the gems of the show. His sister, Thea, presumably a play on Mia Dearden in some form, has also been a lot of fun. Though she clearly doesn’t get with as many guys as Ollie got with girls at her age, she’s been an effective way for new Ollie to interact with old Ollie, as well as add a level of responsibility to his life that he doesn’t have in the comics. Walter Steele is kind of a bland character in a number of ways, but he’s also been the most steady and solid of the Steele-Queen family, which places him in an important spot. Tommy Merlyn is a great guy - and for just a second, due to the events of the second-to-last episode, I need to say: Poor Tommy! He’s generally a fun character, and the love triangle he’s completed with Ollie and Laurel hasn’t been too predictable. Laurel herself, of course, has been a rather interesting take of the Black Canary. I didn’t think they were necessarily going to go with the sonic scream, and quite frankly I was waiting for a while for her to become a vigilante, too, but with the way they’ve drawn her personality and all, she works better if she doesn’t become Black Canary. She’s a great moral contrast and in general has been a more constant source of hope and compassion in the show. Her father, Quentin Lance, has been a solid source of tradition and order, as well as a classic crusty cop, because they’re always fun. Roy Harper has been really good so far, and I love the direction his character has gone. I can’t wait to see what he’s going to do next season when he finally meets Ollie as the Vigilante. John Diggle, besides having the best last name in history, is also a hit. He’s fun, strong, a great balancing force for Ollie, and his last name is Diggle. And last but not least we have Felicity Smoak, a character first introduced in Firestorm as a love interest. Felicity is a great choice to put in the fold of the Vigilante operation if for no other reason than how very innocent and naive she is. With Ollie we see what they’re going to do, with Diggle we see how they’re going to do it, and with Felicity we see how people are going to react to it. Plus she’s really funny.
One of the strong suits of the show has been to incorporate characters from across the DCU into the mythos. I’ve already mentioned Deathstroke, Felicity Smoak, and Yao Fei (though he isn’t really what he normally is), but there’s more. My personal favorite villains pulled in from another rogue’s gallery is the Royal Flush Gang. I’ve always liked them, and they’re use in the show went very well. Firefly was also pulled in, and his episode was really good. Deadshot has been pulled in multiple times as a recurring villain, and was even named as John Diggle’s brother’s killer. The Huntress was a brilliant storyline, though I kind of want to see her come back after she’s killed her father just to see how they play her off without that revenge motivation. McKenna Hall was an interesting choice of character to bring in, and her brief time on the show was pretty good. And then there are the little references everywhere. McKenna had to leave to Coast City for physical therapy. Dinah Lance moved to Central City to live (she said she would be there “in a flash”). Bludhaven was moved from Gotham to Starling City. Robert and Moira Queen went to a Ted Kord fundraiser five years prior to the series. And of course, there’s the Markov device, an earthquake generator that was used to level the Glades (more on that later), created by Brian Markov. All those little references and the characters pulled in from outside Green Arrow’s private set of characters have been interesting choices and have all made the series better.
The overall themes in the show have taken a number of current trends into account and have all been folded into the Green Arrow identity very well. A lot of shows and movies made in recent times take economic issues into account, but this show has done a lot more with them than others have because it is led by the perfect hero for the story. Green Arrow, like pretty much all archery-themed heroes, takes inspiration from Robin Hood, though much more directly since he wheres green and dresses in generally similar-looking clothes as Robin Hood. However, when he was first introduced in the comics, the Robin Hood aspect of his character wasn’t as prominent because they didn’t need a character to steal from the rich and give to the poor. But here, in Arrow, the atmosphere of the current recession and the general anti-Wall Street sentiments that have prevailed political and popular speech make a great soil for a real life Robin Hood character. Ollie lives in a city where the rich are not only still doing well - in fact, better than ever - while the rest of society stagnates, but the rich are actively stealing from and cheating the less fortunate and the working classes. Whether or not you think that’s really going on, this narrative fits well with the current pop culture and political trends, and Ollie’s crusade to right these injustices has been a great use of the character. Then add Malcolm Merlyn and his plot to destroy the Glades - the ultimate symbol of excess and greed claiming that the only way for society to move forward is to destroy the poor - and you have a powerful use of symbols and current events in a superhero show. The extension of the time on the island to five years also plays into this to an extent, because five years in harsh wilderness, surrounded by criminals and terrorists, and with no prior outdoors training or knowledge is arguably enough time for someone raised in luxury to forget what it’s like to have all their needs taken care of and to really appreciate what they have. When Ollie returned, with the burning motivation to fulfill his father’s dying wish and a new appreciation for life and prosperity, he could really be a well-rounded Robin Hood: not only did he have a powerful sense that the poor need to be protected from corrupt, greedy forces, but he knew what it was like to be those corrupt, greedy forces.
The finale of the season was quite surprising to me. Of course, like we’re all trained to do, I assumed that Ollie would eventually find a way to stop the Undertaking (which is a really lame name) from happening. The whole episode controlled the tension made by the last-minute attempt to save the Glades, the battle with Merlyn, and the expectation that the Glades would be saved very well, and when the hammer fell and the Glades were destroyed anyway…that was a rather bold choice. I didn’t see that coming. It can be taken multiple ways. It could be a statement that the forces at work that have created the vast inequality in our society are too well prepared and organized to stop, and that the enormous losses suffered by the lower classes are inevitable. It could be telling us that no matter how hard one or a few men work to save their home, or their ideal of what their home is, they ultimately cannot compete with larger forces that have been working longer and just as hard to do the damage in the first place. It could be a metaphor for infertility; the poorer part of town is named the Glades, like the Everglades in Florida, a sensitive ecosystem that has been afflicted with poisonous elements for a long time, especially in recent time, and though dogooders can do plenty of good once they find the problem is happening, damage has been done, and it may be impossible to save it in its original form at this point. More hopefully, the destruction of the Glades is the darkest part of the night before dawn. Merlyn wanted to destroy the Glades to transform Starling City, to make it into something better in his mind. That can still happen, but Moira and Walter and others can step in to take control from Malcolm and try to let the Glades be rebuilt in a more positive way, in a way that doesn’t go with straight gentrification. The Glades could be built into something for the people already living there, and it could become a lightning rod of positive change and reform among the city’s elite.
All in all, this show has been a great, fun ride all the way through, and I highly recommend it. I applaud the season that has just ended, and I await the next season with great anticipation.