The CW has become a safe haven for superhero shows. And it knows how to make them. The Flash is consistently in the discussion for the best superhero show on television, while Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow have each gained a passionate followings. This, however, hasn't stopped people from noting a perceived downgrade in quality of one of these shows: Arrow.
Arrow is the oldest of these shows, first premiering on October 10, 2012. It brought to the screen a dark and serious, though it did have it brighter moments, look at one of DC's oldest heroes, The Green Arrow. It was a hit for the The CW from the start and in the second season set up it's first spin-off, The Flash. And during the first half of their current season, its fourth, it helped set up another show, Legends of Tomorrow.
So, why all the backstory? Well, Arrow's third season is consider by some the worst season of the show, and though season 4 has been considered an improvement (and it is), the show continues to be the weakest of the three shows. The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow is the reason for this.
Minor Spoilers for Arrow, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow
Superpowers and The Mystical
The first season of Arrow was more of an action-drama series than a superhero show. It was a show about a highly-trained man that was trying to take down criminals in his city. As Greg Berlanti once told the Wall Street Journal: "We always pitched this show more like Jason Bourne than a comic book."
However, with The Flash becoming part of the universe, the show had to embrace the comic book aspect of the character. And that meant bringing in superpowers. And it worked for a little while. The Mirakuru soldiers and Deathstroke worked well as the season two villains. But the existence of Barry Allen and other meta-humans caused problems for the show in season 3. The show wasn't built for powers and it took Arrow time to readjust. And I don't think it ever really did.
Ra's al Ghul brought even more problems. Mainly the Lazarus Pit. This was the introduction of the mystical on the show. With Damien Darhk in season 4, the mystical became the main focus. And it just doesn't really work. It works in small doses, like with Constantine and Vixen. However, magic is a weak part of the show.
Arrow is at its best when Oliver and the gang is fight street level crime. When they are fighting Slade Wilson and his army, Malcolm Meryln and the undertaking, or even the League of Assassins from season 2, the show is at its best. Hopefully, next season, we get back to this.
The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow embrace the comic book of it all. They can be dark at times, but overall they are lighter affair. Arrow is the dark and brooding older brother. It always has been dark and serious. And it fit the show. The show was telling a story about a street vigilante and it needed to be dark. However, The Flash forced a slight change in tone.
Arrow and The Flash crossover all the time, with there being big two-part crossovers once a year. For those, Arrow gets lighter and The Flash gets darker. And that works. It is a good mix of the shows and characters. However, this season Arrow has tried to be lighter. And it just doesn't quite work. Like with the superpowers, the show just wasn't built for it.
Yes, season 3 was darker than it should have been, the producers purposely aimed to make season 4 lighter. Marc Guggenheim told io9:
"I happen to like dark and I like the fact that Arrow is a pretty dark show particularly for a network show. That said, every year you want to mix things up and there was sort of a collective desire on all our parts to try to inject a little bit more lightness into the show, a little but more humor. It’s not going to radically change. The show’s still going to be the show but in terms of tone, we’re coming off a very, very hard season for all of our character. We wanted to try to mix it up a little bit.”
Maybe they really shouldn't try to mix things up.
Setting Up Legends
Setting up The Flash only took up two episodes of Arrow. Setting up Legends of Tomorrow took much more time. The Flash had this same issue. Arrow was charged with getting Sara and Ray ready to join the spin-off. And with the crossover with The Flash, it had to help set up Hawkgirl, Hawkman, and Vandal Savage. And it dragged down both shows.
Arrow had to bring Sara back to life and find Ray, who Damien Darhk somehow found after Ray shrunk. This meant many episodes, most of the first half of the season, was committed to this. Though I believe that Arrow handled this better than The Flash, it did cause a slow down for the plot for the show.
Plus, bringing Sara back too life was a mistake. Don't get me wrong. I love Sara. She is the best part of Legends of Tomorrow, and she is a complete badass. But bringing her back to life created problems for the characters on Arrow. Laurel has always been trying to live up to Sara, and she finally was. But with Sara back, she has to start trying all over again. And this was all done to service a different show.
Anyway, that's just my opinion. What's yours?