Does anyone take Arrow seriously anymore?
Based on the often overly serious tone and always stern look on everyone’s face (other than Felicity’s), I do suspect that the people making Arrow still take their jobs very seriously and are working very hard to do this little corner of the Berlanti superhero TV universe justice. But do you still take any of this seriously?
This is a natural question now that Arrow has detonated a nuclear bomb on American soil in one episode and all but ignored it a week later (Felicity did look super sad while watching a newscast for a minute). For some, this is finally too far. We’ve accepted, so, so much from this dang show over the past four seasons, to the point that when you re-watch season 1 episodes on Netflix it almost feels like watching a completely different TV show. Back then, the villain was a Dark Archer also known as The Magician; this season, the villain has literal magical powers derived from a deeply stupid-looking magical totem.
In the latest episode, “Lost in the Flood,” we saw more Smoak family drama (apparently, Felicity’s dad never actually abandoned her but was instead forced out of her life by Mama Smoak), Thea’s temporary brainwashing (which is clearly the best kind of brainwashing), computer hacking duels which were turned into action scenes, Neal McDonough and John Barrowman perfectly chewing the scenery and the latest installment in the pointless island flashbacks (that one girl got her own magic and instantly became power-hungry). The villain’s plan is still really stupid, and it was made even worse when we learned one stray arrow against a gas tank could set off an explosion of Damien’s entire underground biodome.
Pretty par for the course for season 4, really.
That’s what this show is now. Fine. Whatever. But, come on, you just nuked a city, killing thousands, and then you follow it up with an episode in which Curtis fires off pop culture references and one-liners galore while hanging out with Felicity and her hacker celebrity dad?
Is that finally too far? Or is it just the latest example of why it does us no good to take Arrow remotely seriously anymore? After all, Arrow is set in the same universe as Legends of Tomorrow, and that show is a straight-up cartoon which breaks all of its own rules and features actors whose every melodramatic, “the stakes have literally never been higher!” line reading constantly assumes we’re about to cut to commercial.
Collider is admirably still trying to greet Arrow with intellectual debate:
I lack the imagination to picture a world in which a nuclear missile decimating an American city and extinguishing tens of thousands of lives would be answered with attempts at witty humor and much folding of clothes. Even more unfathomable is that this behavior would be exhibited by the very people who were unable to stop the attack from happening. Surely there should be some guilt, some urgency, some emotion on the part of these otherwise well-meaning heroes, but no. Any semblance of reality has waved bye-bye to Arrow.
And yet this is a show that spent an entire hour allowing the cast to mourn the loss of one of their regular crime-fighters, so there’s clearly an intent to establish emotional attachments. The worst part is that the writers could have used this horrific and tragic event as the impetus to put a stop to Darhk’s machinations once and for all.
Uproxx, meanwhile, realizes snark is every Arrow viewer’s best friend:
Last week on Arrow, Felicity nuked a small New England fishing village, and felt really bad about it, even though all we lost was probably, like, five tourists and eight antique shops. But they prevented Damien Darhk’s master plan, so now they just need to try and find Thea. Simple, right? Not so much!
At this point, all I really ask of Arrow is that it at least remain watchable. Granted “watchable” is a nebulous concept, entirely dependent upon just how much you actually want to engage (emotionally or intellectually) with something. Give me some passable fight scenes, mildly diverting villains, and plots that at least kind of hangs together and my fondness for Oliver, Diggle and the rest will carry me through. I probably won’t deeply care about any of it, and there will be all kinds of nitpicky things which jump out at me. However, at the end of the day I can simply escape into this increasingly goofy little universe. That type of entertainment has value, and I recognize that others still deeply connect with this show and these characters.
Ever since Laurel Lance’s death, Arrow has turned out a series of increasingly watchable episodes, leading me to ask last week if the show was legitimately good again or at least better than it had been since the beginning of the season. Turns out, I spoke too soon because “Lost in the Flood” was an incredibly poor episode.
It’s not just that they didn’t do enough to honor the horror of having allowed a nuclear strike to happen on their watch. Heck, they made it even worse since who knows how many Star City residents died when the bio-dome crumbled. More importantly to this episode, though, there was just too much repetition of familiar themes. Are Malcolm and Thea still arguing about his love for her and her hatred of him? And why must his solution always be “brainwash”? Is Oliver still struggling with what it means to be a hero?
The current word is that season 5 will bring about several significant changes in the show, with Oliver possibly returning to working on his own. That might be a step back, but at this point it feels like Arrow could benefit from a bit of a shake-up.
Before we get there, though, we have one episode left in season 4. Here’s how I see this all playing out: Full-on Ghostbusters II. No, there won’t be literal ghosts (although Damien’s ghost soldiers will be around), slime, or monuments brought to life by Motown. But I think Oliver’s scene in “Lost in the Flood” with the family which volunteered to let Damien destroy the world was Arrow‘s version of Ray’s Ghostbusters II speech:
“You know, I just can’t believe things have gotten so bad in this city that there’s no way back. I mean, sure, it’s messy, it’s crowded, it’s polluted, and there are people who would just as soon step on your face as look at you. But come on! There’s gotta be a few sparks of sweet humanity left in this burned-out berg. We just gotta find a way to mobilize it!”
Next week, Oliver’s going to mobilize that sweet humanity left in Star City, and their combined positive energy will somehow cancel out Damien’s magic. As for stopping the missiles, um….I don’t know. We’ll have to wait to see. I just hope that it’s more watchable than “Lost in the Flood.”
1. Weekly Update from Pointless Island: That one girl got her own magic and pledged to use it to save her town back in Russia. Boom! Now we know what Oliver will be doing in the flashbacks next season, although I don’t think that girl will be along for the ride. She’ll be all kinds of dead by the end of the season finale, right?
2. Nitpick: I already pointed this out, but, seriously, one stray arrow took down that entire bio-dome? Serious mother flippin’ design flaw there, Damien.
3. Did You Notice When…: Oliver pulled a Hawkeye from The Avengers and pulled an arrow out of his quiver in mid-air and shot one of the Ghosts during the chase through suburbia? That. Was. Awesome!
4. Leave it To Barrowman…: To make the simple act of holding your mechanical hand at your waist look like the grandest, campiest gesture possible.