Geek TV part four: Arrow

Green Arrow first turned up on television as a rare bright spot in the mostly problematic sixth season of Smallville (well, problematic if Lex Luthor and Lana Lang hooking up gives you the jibblies, as it should). Two years later, he was added to the main cast, as the show adjusted to its post-Lex identity.

In the months that followed Smallville calling it a day, rumours began to circulate that the CW network was looking to fill the Smallville-shaped hole in its schedule with a show about Green Arrow, since the Smallville fans took to him so well.

However.

This would not be a spinoff of Smallville, they made clear. Justin Hartley would not be returning to the role. This would be about Oliver Queen’s early days, in a world without other heroes (at first).

I’d been a fan of Green Arrow since Kevin Smith relaunched the character in 2001. That he might get his own TV show seemed astoundingly improbable: that it would actually be legitimately good seemed miraculous. And yet here we are: Arrow is the gold standard for comic book TV shows.

Sorry, I meant LIVE ACTION TV series.
Correction: LIVE ACTION TV shows.

Which isn’t to say the show is flawless. It is not. But as season two improved on the freshman year, so too can season three build on that momentum. Here’s some thoughts as to how.

Challenges: don’t get sucked into old habits

No series embraced “the illusion of change” like Smallville. This is a storytelling trick familiar to anyone who reads superhero comics: you change things up in a major way while still leaving the door open to put everything back the way it was when you need to. Examples include the Death of Superman, Bruce Wayne getting his back broken in Knightfall, Dr. Octopus taking control of Peter Parker’s body in Superior Spider-man, or introducing a new, more diverse Avengers line-up that totally won’t be tossed out the window when the classic line-up hits movie screens in May.

Only two of these people are in the next movie, and one is the guy they've made even whiter.
Only two of these people are in the next movie, and one is the guy they’ve made even whiter.

But Arrow… Arrow is at its heart a show about evolution. In the flashbacks to Oliver’s time on (or nearish) the island of Lian Yu, we see how he changed from spoiled playboy to the deadly vigilante, known as “the Hood,” we met in the pilot. And in the main storyline, we watch Oliver grow from murderous vigilante “the Hood” to would-be legitimate hero “the Arrow,” and presumably from there to Justice League member Green Arrow.

So this is a show that embraces change. In the vein, here’s some tropes from Arrow’s first two seasons that maybe we could tone down a little.

1. Someone is insufferable

Mostly Thea. I know, you’re on the CW, and the network of Gossip Girls who keep Vampire Diaries about the Next Top Models seems to require a certain percentage of YA melodrama. Thea Queen, Oliver’s younger sister, takes the brunt of this, making her the first season’s least likable character, including the guy who’s master plan was “kill all of the poor people.” Sometimes she improves, but she keeps falling into that “angry pouty brat” place. And when she isn’t? When she’s actually likable? Laurel or Roy just take her place. Someone always seems to be irrationally pissed at the world, especially the part of the world that’s Oliver, and maybe this could be fixed by a five minute conversation, but that just brings us to the next issue…

2. Felicitous interuptus

Any time Oliver has to have an important personal conversation, be it an attempt to salvage a relationship, protect his company, or prevent his family from collapsing under the weight of the latest soap opera twist, you can bet that one of his team, Digg or Felicity, is going to show up with news about this week’s villain. And he’ll have to miss another fundraiser/board meeting/intervention to go shoot arrows at Count Vertigo, because he’s a hero and responsibility and all that.

Guys… I’m your biggest fan. I absolutely am. But even I think it’s getting old. Whatever your lead, Felicity, I’m sure it could have waited five god damned minutes.

3. Oh no! The team’s collapsing!

Again, YA melodrama demands a certain amount of tension between the leads. But elsewhere on the network is Supernatural, which really only has two leads. And let me tell you… Sam and Dean splitting up and getting back together (as a demon-slaying pair of brothers, don’t get ideas) once per season is getting tired.

I’m not saying Oliver, Digg, Felicity, and Roy have to stay best of friends every week, but… there’s a middle ground. Community found it back in season two, when they buried “the gang splits up” as a possible threat once and for all.

Opportunity: get weird

You’ve done something you never did before. You’ve added something that was never there. And it’s something that’s a guarantee against going stale.

With the debut of the Flash, super powers now exist in the Arrowverse. The line was sort of crossed with the introduction of mirakuru last season, but now there’s people who can run faster than sound and control the weather. Sure, most of that’s currently happening in Central City, but that’s no reason not to let it bleed into Starling.

How would Oliver deal with legitimate super powers? He had enough of a struggle with mirakuru, what would he do against someone legitimately bulletproof? In a world with the Flash, Firestorm, and the Atom, is a guy who’s good with a bow still relevant?

Which is exactly what I wanted to see last year, but couldn’t, because that would have meant connecting Arrow to Man of Steel, and that’s been declared as off the table. But now that we have open talks of seeing Firestorm on Flash, and Brandon Routh talking about having seen concept art for his Atom costume, we are clearly off to the races.

Go ahead and work the non-powered villains like Cupid, Komodo, and Captain Boomerang. Bring in non-powered heroes like Wildcat, Manhunter, and Katana. But remember that your big bad this year is an immortal, and your sister show is filling itself with people who have or will have super powers. So go nuts. Embrace the larger world that Flash has opened up, and then shoot arrows at it.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap this up with a look at the last man to the party (in terms of airing dates), John Constantine.

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