I call myself a “hero geek” a lot. For me, I use that to mean I’m a huge fan of superheroes in comics, novels, tv shows, and movies. Despite people complaining about “superhero fatigue” (which the box office seems to disprove each time a new movie comes out), I think it’s a great time to be a fan of masked heroes. Between the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in all its corners, and the various hero shows on tv, hero fans have never had so many choices.
There are a lot of hero tv shows right now, more than ever before. There were a few isolated ones in the past, oddly, all DC barring the Bixby/Ferrigno Hulk series. Now, there are multiple related shows, with Agents of SHIELD being part of the Marvel movie network (the Netflix shows less so), and so many related shows on the CW. The modern age of hero shows was arguably kicked off by Smallville, which ran for ten seasons. Smallville did give us the first live action versions of many characters, including Green Arrow, Aquaman, Mera, Cyborg, Zatanna, and Impulse. There was a Flash show a bit earlier, which was great and still holds up well, but it was plagued by scheduling issues and sadly only lasted one season.
After Smallville, the stage was set when the CW took a chance on one of DC’s middle-rank heroes, and Arrow debuted in 2012. At first, the show seemed to struggle against its comic book roots, refusing to use the hero’s actual name, Green Arrow, and not using the mask or costume or trick arrows the archer is known for. They even changed his city from Star City to Starling City. But, time passed, the fans bought in, more fans came to enjoy the show, and it grew.
I’m a comic book purist at times, and I frequently question it when adaptations diverge from the original in seemingly random directions. Arrow did some clever, creative things, including two of its longest running original support characters, John Diggle/Spartan and Felicity Smoak/Overwatch. Diggle has even made it over to the comics. Felicity, it should be noted, was originally an obscure character from another hero entirely, serving as a minor antagonist to Firestorm in the comics, and later his stepmother (don’t ask, long story). Both characters have been fleshed out and became, in my opinion, great additions to the Green Arrow mythos.
We’ve seen all sorts of characters show up, in variously recognizable roles, like Huntress, Speedy, Arsenal, Bronze Tiger, and even the Human Target. The show put together a decent version of the Suicide Squad until company politics stepped in. Despite DC Comics declaring that the movies and tv shows were wholly separate, they reached out and quashed the Squad as it was on Arrow, killing off the better known members like Deadshot and Amanda Waller, also reducing a Harley Quinn cameo to an off-screen voice.
What has made the show has been largely Stephen Amell. The man behind the bow started off as a relative unknown, with a few tv roles here and there before landing the lead role. He made Oliver Queen an interesting character, a driven vigilante who went from righting his father’s wrongs to an actual hero for the people. Amell has been impressive in the role, and almost as much outside it. From all reports and appearances, his success has not gone to his head. He has been active in social media not promoting himself and his show, but seeming genuinely grateful to the fans and for his opportunities. He has spoken out on social issues, and even guest-starred on American Ninja Warrior, in part to quiet those who thought he used a stunt double for his workout scenes, as well as raising money for charity.
Wednesday, March 6, Amell surprised a lot of people by announcing that Arrow would return for a very limited season 8 (10 episodes compared to the usual 22) and then the show will conclude its long run. The show spun off Flash, another successful series, and the two of them donated support characters to a third series, the much more light-hearted Legends of Tomorrow. Supergirl was later brought into the fold (and I still have hopes for Black Lightning joining eventually), and the collection of series is even called the “Arrow-verse” by many.
Amell has gone from a single man to a husband and father during the series, and I completely understand his decision to walk away while the show is still doing well. I will miss it. I’ve watched from the first episode, and reviewed each one. Oliver, Felicity, Diggle, and the others that have come and gone have been part of my world for several years. The show had an undeniable effect on hero culture, and brought obscure characters to the general viewing public who would probably otherwise never have heard of them.
I don’t know how this will affect the other shows. There are a lot of unanswered questions. Is this year’s crossover still on? Will Batwoman take Arrow’s spot as the more grounded of the DC/CW hero shows? Will any of the characters migrate to other series? Will they all survive whatever is planned for the finale? Did they time this deliberately so the announcement coincided with the release of the final issue of the current run of the Green Arrow comic?
Whatever the future holds, I will say this much: Stephen Amell continues to strike me as a class act. The show was a lot better than I originally worried it would be, and spun off a whole collection of other shows. It may have even helped Marvel to decide to go ahead with their various series, like Agents of Shield, Cloak and Dagger, and the Runaways, as well as the sadly cancelled Netflix/Marvel shows.
Gotham is ending this season, and now Arrow is going out on their next. Batwoman is hopefully becoming a series, although officially its still only approved for a pilot after the most recent CW crossover. As a hero geek, I owe a lot to Arrow and its influence. It will be interesting to see how Star City’s vigilantes’ careers are brought to a close, and what comes next.
It’s the beginning of the end for Arrow. Let’s hope they go out on a high note.