Arrow is really bad now. It’s just so bad, all y’all! If you thought season four was its nadir, have I got news for you! Its sixth season quality has become inversely proportionate to Gotham season four. I would’ve posted this sooner if I didn’t keep finding new layers of terrible as I unraveled it. This is 2,225 words, which means I either spent too much time on this or not enough.
Remember how I kept complaining about Prometheus being absurdly unbeatable despite being a cover band of villainy? Well this season has taught me Arrow’s antagonist standards can get much, much lower! Cayden James, despite being played by the fantastic Michael Emerson, is a stereotypical evil hacker with the serial numbers filed off. It felt like the writers regretted giving its lackluster Calculator a surprisingly complete redemption arc & wanted a do-over. His magical ability to hack things that can’t be hacked is the most groanworthy yet. (Did you know that The Room With The Internet In It is located in Star City? They really should’ve moved that after all the annual disasters.) Because the series insists on being so somber, it sucks all the campy fun to be had from such absurdity. Despite Oliver being married to Felicity Smoak (so she can’t be compelled to testify against him), cybercrime isn’t a visually dynamic threat for him to devote multiple episodes in a row to. Although touted as a supergenius, he doesn’t notice Green Arrow was set up for killing his kid.
It was promised Vigilante’s identity would be revealed as an existing character since Adrian Chase was a red herring. A season later it turns out he was Black Canary’s boyfriend who’d only been previously seen briefly being murdered. That’s not a mystery you could puzzle together at home! He got Deadpool powers from the STAR Labs meltdown. Instead of getting vengeance on the crimesters that tried to kill him like Dinah did, he tried to assassinate Star City politicians? I’m not sure if that was supposed to be part of his cover for infiltrating Cayden’s flunkie squad. I can’t believe they made Dinah carry the idiot ball to prioritize Vigilant-E over the thermobaric bomb! It turns out Black Siren could kill him, so good work on wasting that insider intel he gave his life for.
The mystery villain pulling all the strings is … Ricardo “Dragon” Diaz? The new guy who has no characterization beyond generic thug minus the charisma of Tobias Chuch or Brick needed to make him engaging? Of course framing Green Arrow for killing Cayden’s son to drive him crazy so ARGUS would rendition him forcing Felicity to spring him in exchange for Helix helping with Prometheus knowing that he would terrorize Star City in revenge is a convoluted nonsense strategy. Captain Frank Pike dying in a homage to the best cautionary tale against sentient elevators & its remake, The Lift & Down, to make way for his corrupt replacement aside, there was no tangible benefit to him. He didn’t need a siege to kill the last Bertinelli to control the city harbor either. Unless he’s literally precognitive, no part of Ricard-0’s convoluted strategy is believable. (Say what you will about The Thinker, but at least The Flash convincingly established that he’s been unbeatable because his power makes him essentially clairvoyant. He’s also collecting additional superpowers.) Did he just really want terrorism charges added to his rap sheet? Killing his patsy in police HQ also alerts everyone to massive corruption in the force. Now he’s dealing Vertigo because they didn’t have the decency to get Peter Stormare back? Green Arrow couldn’t even shoot one arrow into Ricard-0 Dragon during the Roy rescue? Oliver’s put arrows through Arsenal’s & Wild Dog’s knees just for being helpful!
I’m glad this wasn’t another plot set in motion by Prometheus, but it’s also not a satisfying twist. Anatoly Kynazev would’ve been a better mastermind since he has an actual history with Oliver. Netflix’s Marvel shows are superior at main villain switcheroos. This also could’ve been an opportunity to highlight China White. She’s been a recurring foe since season one, but she’s barely a character. She’s a high ranking Triad member that Amanda Waller was willing to blow up an entire passenger plane for, so at least she’s an established threat instead of this rando. She even has the world class martial arts skills this adaptation of Richard Dragon lacks. Who wouldn’t want more Kelly Hu on TV?
According to Ricard-0 & Laurel-2, she actually did steal the $70 million. It wasn’t a fake video he had doctored up to schism the team. So within a day she somehow left the city under lockdown, flew to Corto Maltese to get the money, flew back in without anyone noticing, & then waited around the city under threat of being blown up in case Cayden was being honest about evacuating them? I really expected Quentin Lance was going to point out how ludicrously impossible this was to break up the team infighting. And someone stole her stolen loot to boot?
Black Siren sticking around pretending to be Earth-1 Laurel is ridiculous. All they need to do to expose her is exhume Laurel’s grave. Vibe can come by to give expert testimony that she’s from Earth-2 based on the fact that Laurel-1 wasn’t metahuman too. Why are they just rolling over for all their enemies? Why does Quentin have to live with her? Hasn’t he suffered enough? (His attempts to make her a replacement for his dead daughter are icky.) Don’t try to redeem this unrepentant murderess! Just send her back to Earth-2 so Jesse Quick can speed-punch her lights out.
Responsible dad Mayor Oliver Queen is dull, which is a shame because Stephen Amell seems like a cool dad in real life. When James got the public to vote against vigilantes by leaking footage of them fighting his mercs disguised as cops, why didn’t he have Felicity leak refuting evidence so he wouldn’t have to contend with real police as well as crooks? What happened to his cunning? It’s taking Oliver too long to go to prison. Are we not supposed to be rooting for FBI Agent Samandra Watson? (I’m unclear how ARGUS relates to other federal agencies, but couldn’t Lyla have nipped this in the bud by claiming Green Arrow as a top secret asset?) His cardboard son, William, makes me appreciate Supergirl’s Ruby. (Why’d they make Dig’s son Connor Hawke instead of his?)
John Diggle may have the dumbest arc this season, which says a lot. Shrapnel from exploding Lian Yu gave him secret nerve damage in his arm. (This contributes to Wild Dog being injured.) Instead of consulting the two geniuses on his team, he buys black market experimental steroids from Dragon. Oliver asking him to fill in as Green Arrow while he’s under FBI investigation would be a clever idea if it wasn’t destined to fail. Aside from being a different race, Diggle is not an archer. They had to build him a gigantic crossbow that fires regular arrows in a late attempt to compensate. Now that his handicap has been fixed, he’s fixated on becoming Green Arrow again. Spartan’s Diggneato helmet is dopey, but maybe he should look for a new identity that plays to his strengths. He must really hate spending time with his wife & son.
The team splitting would feel more dramatic if Oliver hadn’t proven adept at alienating allies before. Ordinarily I’d side with the rookies, but they’re smug hypocrites too. Did they not expect Felicity “Overwatch” Smoak to spy on them during an emergency? She’s the surveillance state personified! (Mr. Terrific surreptitiously fed Felicity tracking nanites last season, so it’s even a glass house for him.) They deserved to be spied upon because they proved untrustworthy. After Oliver helps Wild Dog get custody of his daughter, he instantly snitches on him to the FBI? If these newbies (they’re calling themselves The Outsiders, but Black Lightning deserves that team name more) can’t put their personal squabbles with the veterans aside for the good of the city, they’re not the vigilantes Star City needs. Dinah Drake is the Black Canary I’ve wanted since season one, & the writers made me dislike her too! Of course the original nameless team has been building up my resentment for years, so who am I supposed to be rooting for? What’s the point of making me hate everyone? Showrunner Marc Guggenheim has overestimated our love of character assassination.
During season four, I wondered why they didn’t officially rebrand the series Green Arrow. I mistakenly hoped it was because Speedy would be taking up the main archery duties in season five whilst her brother weeded out corruption from within city hall. Thea Queen actually has the attitude I associate with comics Green Arrow! Instead they had Thea quit being Speedy in the fifth season premiere, resign from her mayor’s office job over covering her brother’s back (Felicity didn’t catch any blowback for her part in ruining that reporter’s career), & spent much of season six in a coma. Since Thea Queen is a composite character invented for the show, it’s not like there’s a bevy of multimedia alternatives where she’s not misused. (Emiko “Red Arrow” Queen has been introduced in the comics to fill her niche.)
At least they didn’t manage to completely botch Speedy’s return too. She’s the one character they haven’t ruined. Apparently Willa Holland has wanted off the show since before season five started. This adorkable interview with Holland & Katrina Law occurred after season four wrapped, however, & she sounds legitimutantly enthusiastic to continue being Speedy. The theory that her departure desire capsized much of the writers’ plans & necessitated bringing in replacement characters doesn’t seem as likely based on this. (Unless she deceived us with the power of acting?) Surely she would’ve stuck around if they planned follow to through on Thea’s potential. (It’s not like she’s got tons of enticing gigs lined up.) They had two seasons to plan a satisfying exit, & they didn’t even bother to seed it through. It was a bunch of ill-defined League of Assassins retcons thrown together at the last minute, yet it was still one of the best non-crossover episodes of the season because it served up Nyssa al Ghul trolling Felicity. It also sets up a spinoff that doesn’t exist that I’d rather be watching. Thea Queen deserved better, but at least she didn’t die or fully retire. Farewell, best character! May you return soon on a superior CW show! Now here’s the objectively best Thea Queen tribute video:
At least we got a Deathstroke palate cleanser. Manu Bennett makes up for a lot of crummy writing. So now that they finally circled back to the son he mentioned in season one, they’ve set up … what’s that? DC is embargoing Deathstroke because WB might make a movie about him? Well those episodes sure were pointless then!
Remember when this used to feature the best action on network TV? The fights are now repetitively dull. Now it only flexes its imaginative potential during crossovers. Ollie wearing a disguise Van Dyke would be less absurd than the umpteenth time he ziplines into a warehouse full of armed mooks without being shot. They’re also too dark to see anything. Its murder ethics remain equally murky.
As an avid viewer of comic book television, I have a high tolerance for stupid. The problem is this series doesn’t understand how stupid it is. As the least outdlandish CW DC series, it has less leeway with shoddy writing. I may not know exactly how the Speed Force works, but I do know bows cease to be precision weapons when used repeatedly as cudgels. If it wasn’t so overwhelmingly dour & unimaginative, it’d go down much smoother. Felicity & Mr. Terrific being discount one-liner vending machines is tonally insufficient. You can’t stress that you’re a serious grounded show then have the lead depart by shooting an arrow into an unseen cloud & floating away with it. The tone makes scenes like that moronic instead of adorable. It’s like they felt compelled to steal even the worst aspects of Christopher Nolan’s overrated Batman flicks.
I naively thought ditching flashbacks (for the most part) would finally give the series room to breathe. Without them, it’s more apparent Arrow has nothing left to say. The underwhelming antagonists can’t convincingly fill up twenty-three episodes against experienced superheroes, so the extra screentime is given over to the most infuriating of manufactured conflicts. Everything else feels so rote.
A normal person would’ve bowed out already, but I guess I’ll stick it out until the end of the season. I doubt the series can un-ruin itself with what episodes remain. What tricks can it have in its quiver when the lead barely uses his signature trick arrows? The CW didn’t even have the decency to take (Green) Arrow behind the barn & put it out of our misery. Watching this series may not be as painful as what St. Sebastian is famous for, but it’s an apt visual metaphor to class up my whining. May my misery be entertaining if not constructive.