ARROW: How Season 5 Has Completely Changed The Show
Let me preface this by saying that Arrow has been one of my very favorite shows for the past couple of years, so the fact that I barely recognize it anymore really, really hurts. Having just reached the huge milestone of its 100th episode, The CW show has been through a lot in the past five seasons, introducing us to characters that have become fan-favorites across the world.
Arrow is a special case when it comes to characters and storylines because, besides Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), the other two main characters were not supposed to be main characters at all when the show first started. Felicity Smoak and John Diggle – played by Emily Bett Rickards and David Ramsey, respectively – were supposed to be secondary characters. Felicity was actually only supposed to be in one episode, but Rickards and Amell had such an amazing chemistry on screen that they kept bringing her back, until she became a regular and, eventually, the female lead for all intents and purposes.
Of course, there was the whole Olicity thing – which was more than earned, by the way – but it was handled so poorly in season 4, that it is one of the reasons that led to this shadow of a show in season 5. But Olicity was not the only problem here. The main issue with Arrow is that it seems like they just don’t know how to balance the different aspects of the show. In 2012, it started as this gritty, vigilante show that was pretty cool, but it lacked spark and charisma. Once they brought Felicity Smoak into the fold, the show became a little lighter and funnier and Felicity was just so endearing and awkward, that we all couldn’t help but fall in love with her.
For the first three seasons, we had some of that balance. It wasn’t perfect, but it was still a great show. We had action, drama, romance, amazing stunts and – most importantly – character development. The journey all characters went through – and not only Oliver, Felicity and Dig, but also Thea, Laurel and Lance and everyone else who has passed through the show – was nothing short of amazing. When season 3 ended, it felt like season 4 had the potential to be one of the best seasons yet, and it actually was at first. Up until episode 8, things were going amazingly well. But then that crossover happened and we were introduced to the single most ridiculous storyline ever on this show, when they erased all that amazing character development in Oliver Queen by having him keep a major, life-altering secret from Felicity.
That, right then, was the beggining of the end.
Then it all hit the fan and Felicity dumped him, for obvious reasons, and then Laurel was murdered and it all went to hell. Arrow – my Arrow that I absolutely loved, despite its flaws – had suddenly become a soap opera. It was all drama, just for the sake of drama and that was incredibly frustrating. But in the season 4 finale, things actually looked hopeful, despite the grim circumstances all the characters found themselves in.
But season 5 came along and all that hopeful outlook we had when season 4 ended went out the window. Because the characters that returned this past October were completely unrecognizable. Not only that, but instead of dealing with the original characters’ unfinished storylines, they decided to poorly introduce countless new characters, with zero charisma, and push back the people we have come to know and love for these past five seasons.
While season 4 was an endless soap opera-ish drama, season 5 is an endless sequence of action stunts with a poorly executed season arc. Like I said, it’s all a matter of balance, and Arrow is seriously lacking that.
What happened in season 5, it seems, is that they decided to throw all the endless drama out the window and thought, hey, let’s just stick with cool stunts and action scenes. And remember those amazing original main characters we had? Let’s just forget about them and focus on new recruits, so those stunt scenes will look even better!
If that was actually the plan going on in their thinking tank, it has failed spectacularly. They have failed Oliver Queen, when they made him revert back to his self-loathing season 1 self; they have failed John Diggle, when they have basically pushed him to the backburner, despite the whole fugitive thing; they have failed Thea and Lance, who don’t really have any important storylines going on and are just there to help Mayor Queen; but most importantly, they have failed Felicity Smoak.
And that hurts most of all. Because Felicity has always been the heart of this show – the glue that keeps it all together – and after reaching female lead status, it seems that they just decided over the hiatus that they were done with her. She went from being Oliver’s partner and equal and best friend – romantic relationship or not – to his assistant. Her grief and guilt from being responsible for thousands of deaths when she diverted that missile to Havenrock (which could have been a fantastic arc, if they had handled it right) basically ended in only a couple of episodes, leaving her with only a new boyfriend storyline that, quite frankly, no one really cared about. And now the boyfriend is dead, so she doesn’t even have that anymore.
The problem here isn’t the lack of romance or the end of Olicity – even though the way this relationship was handled was completely atrocious. The problem here is that they relegated this amazing character to being comic relief in most scenes, with lines and situations that honestly make me cringe most of the time. They took a fan-favorite character – my favorite character – and turned her into a shell of the strong, capable, smart and kickass woman that she was. She’s still smart and capable, don’t get me wrong; but that’s all she is – she gets things done, she helps on the missions and has bad one-liners to diffuse the tension. There’s no more spark, no more of those endearing Felicity Smoak light speed, awkward rants, no nothing. This is no longer the Felicity we all know and love, and that is a disservice to both the character and Emily Bett Rickards, who has worked so hard to bring this beloved character to life.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Arrow has become a 40-minute stunt show. While those are really well done, this is not what this show is about. From all nine episodes so far, I can highlight the premiere and the midseason finale as the only episodes that were alright. The episodes in between have focused solely in Oliver’s relationship with the new characters, who have not been developed enough, or have enough charisma to make us care in the slightest about them.
And don’t even get me started on the midseason finale cliffhanger. I
admit I was surprised at first. My first thought was that it was just something else that Barry had screwed up with Flashpoint; but on second thought, that wouldn’t be possible because we had already seen them grieving Laurel’s death in the first few episodes of the season, so she was still very much dead. The other possibility was that Sarah had maybe done something that changed history, but nothing of the sort happened in Legends of Tomorrow, so that theory went out the window as well.
Then I came to the only possible conclusion: it’s Laurel’s doppelganger from another Earth and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it’s Black Siren from Earth-2. The last time we saw her, Team Flash had her locked up in the pipeline, but who knows what else Barry screwed up by going back in time?
But the point here is, they might be introducing that over the top drama again by bringing Laurel back and that just makes me sad. Have they learned nothing? Balance, guys. It’s all about balance.
Bottom line is, the Arrow I fell in love with back in 2014 is no more. I can only hope that those remaining fourteen episodes will be enough to fix the mess they have found themselves in.