Arrow has been on the air for over 3 years and so far has produced 88 episodes over 4 Seasons. Moreover, it's success has been singlehandedly responsible for the creation of the DC Television Universe with spin-off shows, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and even Supergirl. Furthermore, DC also expanded into television further with both Constantine (who's titular character appeared in Arrow) and Gotham. Thus, a lot can be attributed to Arrow's success. It's annual crossover with The Flash continues to garner stellar ratings for the CW, helping both shows achieve even greater heights.
Over the course of those 4 years, the show has evolved significantly. Despite losing it's way in many people's eyes, around Season Three, Arrow has once again reclaimed it's glory as Season 4 continues to air weekly. However, as darn good as Season 4 of Arrow has been, it is it's own kind of brilliant. Season 1 and 2 were brilliant for their own reasons and this is why I believe that they will always be the show's greatest accomplishments.
For a long time, when it came to comic-book adaptations, I would really hate how the modern day ones would seemingly insist on this idea of "Realism". At the end of the day, they are based on comic-book characters, what's the point in taking the mystique out of them? However, Arrow is an exception to that rule. The Green Arrow is one of the few comic-book characters who can adhere to this rule perfectly. Just like Batman, the emerald archer is a billionaire by day, vigilante by night. Oliver didn't start out doing this to be heroic, he did it to right his father's wrongs. What we got in Season One of Arrow was a dark, gritty vigilante who would stop at nothing to kill the corruptness in Starling City. Thus, in effect, during it's first season, Arrow was quite reminiscent of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy. In fact, I believe I recall one of the producers comparing it to the Nolan Batman films on the Season One special features.
While the realism aspect had to be put aside in the later seasons to incorporate famous comic-book staples such as The Flash, metahumans, League of Assassins and the Lazarus Pit, Arrow always made an attempt to do these magical/mystical things in the most realistic way possible.
This realism helped to ensure that Arrow was rife with haunting moments. Although Arrow was one of the biggest comic-book TV successes since DC's colorful Batman 1966 outing, this was most certainly not a colorful superhero television program. Arrow introduced us to a dark, gritty, crime-ridden starling city. Oliver Queen's alter-ego "the hood"/"the vigilante"/"the Arrow" was not a hero. He was a dark avenger who, to quote Harrison Wells "carried out a dark reckoning on his city". The series began very like Marvel's Daredevil, heavy on storylines, fight scenes, violence and focused more on the realistic villains than any of the costumed ones. The tone was dark and that made the show more compelling than any other comic-book adaptations ever seen on TV.
One of my all time favorite scenes of Season One was when the Vigilante/Arrow confronted the "Savior" in that train in an attempt to save Roy's life. As the Savior couldn't be talked to and tried to take Roy's life, the Vigilante had no choice but to send an Arrow plummeting into Joseph's chest as Blake Neely's haunting "Salvation" bellowed in the background. To this day, it was one of the most powerful scenes Arrow has ever delivered.
When you binge-watch them back-to-back, you will notice that both the first and second seasons of Arrow tell a complete story. Little hints and allusions are peppered along the way which eventually end up being a trail of breadcrumbs which lead us to a shocking moment, even across seasons. Slade Wilson's introduction mid-way through Season One in the flashbacks eventually led to the Deathstroke helmed Season Two. Furthermore, Sara's subsequent return was hinted at right through Season One and was eventually fulfilled when "the Woman in Black" turned up in Season Two. However, her appearances in the flashbacks tie the story together beautifully. The flashbacks throughout the entirety of the first two seasons feel like they tell a complete story. Unlike the third season's flashbacks which confused a lot of people, the first two season's flashbacks took place over a period of time and built up friendships and relationships that were tested in the present scenes.
Another arc explored is Oliver's ascension from vengeful vigilante to city hero. His determination to do what needs to be done by any means necessary dwindles throughout each episode until he finally vows to never kill again at the beginning of Season Two. However, when pushed by Count Vertigo, he must resort to his old ways to save Felicity's life and thus, deal with the consequences. Once again, this scene was incredibly performed and scored.
Furthermore, Felicity's initial introduction as a recurring guest star who barely appeared, only to help Oliver with his "unusual requests" eventually led to her becoming a series regular, the Arrow's right-hand woman and perhaps the love of Oliver Queen's life. Once again, amazing storytelling!
Emily Bett Rickards and Stephen Amell have both delivered strong performances throughout the "Olicity" saga and it couldn't have been done without the amazing stories they told in the first two seasons.
Season One and Two of Arrow are basically one long extended film. And what a fantastic film it is!
The "Big Bads"
Arrow has had some amazing villains over it's run - but none were more amazing than the ones in the first two seasons. Of course, their first "big bad" was none other than the Green Arrow's arch-nemesis from the comic-books - the Dark Archer, Merlyn. But the amazing writers didn't stop there, they added a whole new emotional depth to the storyline by creating a background for the character, making him Oliver's best friend Tommy's father. There were some incredible fight sequences between the Arrow and the Dark Archer, particularly the Season One mid-season finale and the season finale.
Furthermore, like I stated above, the slow introduction of Slade Wilson, first in flashbacks on Lian Yu and then into the present day Starling City as Deathstroke, was downright incredible storytelling. Deathstroke may be a Batman villain but the writers did an incredible job of making him seem like an Arrow-exclusive villain because his second season reign of terror was quite possibly even worse than Merlyn's the year before. The usage of a Batman villain proved so successful, Arrow adopted this trick again the following year with Ra's Al Guhl. Although, it wasn't quite as amazing, it still made for some awesome scenes.
Season One and Two also included other amazing villains such as: Deadshot, Dodger, Bronze Tiger, the Huntress, Firefly and China White. And can I just say, Seth Gabel was quite frankly show-stealing as Count Vertigo!
In conclusion, Arrow has slotted beautifully into the crop of it's colorful successors. Though it still provides amazing moments week, week out and is still considered the darkest of the pack, nothing quite comes close to the darkness and cinema-like experience of watching the first two seasons back-to-back. Everything in these two seasons reeked of dark tones, realistic violence and some of the best storytelling ever done on network television. Some may have been skeptical of doing Arrow on TV not so long after the Green Arrow was featured prominently in Smallville, but let me tell you, it delivered in every way possible. Arrow did NOT Fail This City!
Arrow continues to air on The CW every Wednesday Night!