Last night’s episode of CW′s Arrow brings eight seasons of one of DC Comics’ oldest superheroes to a close as the CW aired the show’s series finale. Focused on Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow–one of the costumed characters off to the sidelines over the years in the shadow of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman–the series would be a resounding success for the network and executive Greg Berlanti, sprouting several other DC Comics adaptations under the banner of the Arrowverse. And what a long, strange trip it has been. It’s been seven and a half years since I first watched the premiere of CW’s Arrow in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con 2012 at the panel featuring the creators and stars Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy (I reviewed the pilot first here at borg). My initial reaction found the show a “refreshing, intriguing update to the superhero game,” and “even for a fan of the traditional character’s story, updates made for TV were well thought out and did little to detract from the core of what makes Green Arrow the unique character that has survived as a key comic book character for 70 years,” and that the pilot “deftly managed to alter far less of the source material than, for example, the Green Lantern movie released in 2011, and in doing so created a truer, more refreshing story with appropriate nods to the past, and one that promises to survive, should it find its fan base.” Who knew that survival would mean greenlighting so many more superhero shows, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, Batwoman, and the forthcoming Superman & Lois?
The series accomplished a lot even if it didn’t get everything right. Arrow suffered when it veered too far from the DC Comics stories, or when it pursued too deeply the more arcane corners of the DC universe, the biggest side trip being the dominance of fan-favorite minor character Felicity Smoak in the series, ultimately knocking Dinah (or Laurel in this version) Lance aside to be Oliver’s romantic partner, which again took center stage in the finale episode.
This winter’s ambitious Crisis on Infinite Earth’s crossover event killed off Oliver Queen in the grand tradition of killing any superhero character (aka until his inevitable return, which we’ve seen in Kevin Smith, Phil Hester, and Ande Parks’ comics story arc). Although the finale itself, “Fadeout,” was much like an old 1980s “filler” episode (with many scenes spliced from past episodes) and like the final Crisis episodes it was about mourning Oliver and preparing for his funeral. But the penultimate episode, “Green Arrow and the Canaries” (which aired last week), would make for a good spin-off. That episode took Katie Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (the only actor we ever expected to be Black Canary in 2012), and teamed her up with Katherine McNamara’s Mia (Oliver and Felicity’s daughter trained by Oliver last year), along with Juliana Harkavy’s Dinah Drake, all in a future world of Earth in 2040 (introduced earlier in the series). How long will the CW Arrowverse continue without its flagship series? Only time will tell, but viewership already switched over to make The Flash the CW’s #1 watched show.
The names of characters always amounted to interesting throwbacks and dicing of old character profiles into new forms, finding some of the spirit of the source material while at other times missing the core of the character that made them popular. So viewers saw several takes on the comics’ Speedy and Arrow characters, a few Deathstrokes, and so many Black Canary (Dinah, Laurel, Sara, and Drake/Lance) variants. More welcome was the odd gold nugget from the comics, characters like Mike Grell’s Shado (Celina Jade), and well-done cameos like The Huntress (Jessica De Gouw). When Arrow got something right, viewers knew it, like the look of Queen in his origin story from Andy Diggle and Jock’s 2007 Green Arrow: Year One comics series. The Speedy (Willa Holland)/Arsenal (Colton Haynes) team-up also had some high points, including an appearance in the finale episode last night. Surprises that made for good TV watching that were entirely created for the series included John Barrowman’s Dark Archer and David Ramsey’s John Diggle. Fans practically begged the CW to make Diggle a Lantern character, but that was another element that would never take fruition (except for a too-late glimpse at the possibility).
But the CW never seemed to find the Oliver Queen from the Dennis O’Neil/Neal Adams era, the Mike Grell era, or the Kevin Smith/Phil Hester/Ande Parks era, opting more for the most recent version of the character or changing him entirely. The Crisis event is the kind of thing that could expand future series in infinite directions, and maybe one day yet we’ll see another Green Arrow that more closely follows the characters’ best known story arc, the “Hard-Traveling Heroes,” with Dinah Lance and Green Lantern. The time is probably right for a reboot of Green Arrow tales on TV. Or even on the big screen.
For now, that’s 170 episodes of superhero TV, bringing a lesser known character into the mainstream. It’s ready to be viewed in reruns and binge-watching for the next generation. The rest of the Arrowverse continues forward on the CW Network.