I’ve been remiss in my TV watching lately, allowing genre-related TV shows to stack up on my must-watch list. This led to binge-watching over the weekend, which I’m not a fan of. Usually if I watch too many episodes back-to-back-to-back, they begin to blur one into another.
One such show I caught up on was CW’s Arrow, and I must say I find it dangerously close to jumping the shark. When last I caught the show, Oliver Queen had left Starling City to confront R’as al Ghul in Nanda Parbat. In a battle to the death, the leader of the League of Assassins stabbed Ollie through the chest and then tossed the body off a cliff.
With the Arrow now MIA, the thug known as Brick manages to push all civil authority out of the crime-infested neighborhood known as the Glades. However, Team Arrow – Diggle, Felicity and Arsenal – are joined by Laurel Lance as the Canary and her father in leading an uprising against Brick and his criminal army. It’s touch ‘n go at first, until the Arrow returns and rallies the good citizens to victory.
Hmmm. Let’s recap: A masked vigilante defends his crime-infested city. The mythic League of Assassins seemingly defeats said vigilante, never to return. With the city now vulnerable, a thug leads the forces of evil to defeat lawn and order. But then the good people rise up against the villain and pave the way for the hero’s return.
Does that not sound remotely familiar? Sure, in the early days, Green Arrow was little more than “Batman with arrows,” but that’s no excuse to rip-off the storyline of the Dark Knight Rises. And it was a bad imitation at that. At least in the movie, the leaders of Gotham City were able to call in the National Guard for help. On TV, the city leaders folded faster than Superman on laundry day.
I realize when dealing with comic book-based properties, realism becomes subjective, but a little reason and logic goes a long way toward relatability.
Another problem I’m having with Arrow at the moment is it’s ever-increasing cast of heroes. When it started, we had Oliver Queen, assisted (sometimes) by his bodyguard Diggle. Later, Felicity Smoak was added as a tech guru. Good enough.
Last season, they added Roy Harper (Arsenal), whose physical abilities are boosted thanks to a dose of a Japanese wonder drug; and Sara Lance as Canary. This season, Merlyn has been training Oliver’s younger sister, nicknamed Speedy. Oliver recently revealed his secret identity to her, opening the door for her eventually becoming part of the team.
Also this season, viewers were introduced to Ted Grant, who once fought crime in Starling City under the name Wildcat. He is training Laurel Lance as she takes over the Canary persona for her sister. Perhaps if Grant had been featured merely as a former boxer, I’d be okay with that, but making him yet another vigilante was a bit much.
And leave us not forget Ray Palmer, who has taken control of Queen Industries so he could create his Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism suit, that he might fight crime to avenge the death of his fiancé.
Yes, we’ve seen it all before. It is the incestuous nature of the comic book world that there are no original ideas anymore. Instead, we are given variations on a theme. People turn vigilante to avenge the death of a loved one, or a billionaire industrialist creates a super-suit to fight crime.
When not borrowing plots from other comic book projects, Arrow seems to have embraced all the clichés, and is pulling them out one by one, creating one masked vigilante after another. I wouldn’t mind if this was building the cinematic DC Universe. However, DC Entertainment has gone on record to say that shows such as Arrow and the Flash are separate from big screen versions of Superman and Batman, and will not eventually dovetail into the forthcoming Justice League movie.
The first season of Arrow featured a number of Easter eggs that were treats for comic book fans, but meant very little to the general audience. My fear is that the producers have painted themselves into a corner by allowing those Easter eggs to drive the storytelling, They have evolved from subtle winks into ambitious story arcs for which they not have a suitable resolution.
I feel Arrow would do well to scale back and tell good stories, without getting bogged down too heavily by the rest of the DC Universe. I don’t believe that’s a sustainable strategy for any TV show.