SPOILER WARNING FOR FLASH‘s “PARADOX” AND ARROW‘s “THE RECRUITS”
So, everyone on The Flash now knows Barry changed the timeline for entirely selfish reasons and he can’t fix it, and the new recruits on Arrow know Oliver is the Green Arrow, a secret he entrusted to them as a sign of faith after his more typical blunt methods (i.e., he kicked their asses exactly the same way the Russian mob kicked his during initiation) caused them all to temporarily quit.
Surprise, surprise – Barry Allen can sometimes be recklessly impulsive, and, worse yet, he rarely has to face the full consequences of his actions since everyone around him bends over backward to cater to his needs considering how often he plays the dead mama drama card on them. Also, Oliver Queen is kind of a jerk. But for one week Barry’s friends were allowed to weigh the ramifications of his actions, actually be angry at him and debate whether he deserves their forgiveness, and Oliver realized that when everyone close to you either leaves or tragically dies you might be part of the problem and the old ways might not work anymore, if they ever did in the first place.
It was almost as if both shows underwent a critical self-evaluation over the summer, striving to put right what they’ve done wrong so many times before (and, yes, that was just a very forced Quantum Leap reference). Or maybe some of their stars, producers and/or writers dropped in on some Reddit threads, Twitter conversations or fan conversations in-between seasons and saw firsthand just how pissed fans were. After all, thanks to TheHollywoodReporter we know some of these actors actually make more money from conventions than they do in CW salary. If they’re all out there seriously overcharging for autographs maybe they’re actually hearing some of that negative feedback from the fans, and going back to the producers with ideas for improvements.
Or maybe I’m projecting because for the first time in my life I actually attended a fairly major fan convention this summer, and I was witness to the considerable outrage displayed by Flash/Arrow fans.
- The time: June 3-5, 2016.
- The place: Dallas FanExpo
- The Arrow/Flash people in attendance: Katie Cassidy, Candice Patton
The season finales for each show had just aired two weeks prior. Emotions were still running high. As you might recall, Arrow‘s season 4 finale went over so poorly (and rightfully so) the moderators of the show’s subreddit gave up entirely and turned the subreddit into a venue for ex-Arrow fans to talk about Daredevil, the clear heir apparent. As they explained at the time:
After two successful seasons, the original showrunners for Arrow left to start the Flash television series. They were replaced by an established writer named Marc Guggenheim before season 3. The new showrunner gave more prominence and screen time to Felicity while simultaneously reworking the character’s traits. She cried a lot and mainly became a love interest for other superheroes. A number of questionable decisions were made like removing Roy and Sarah Lance as well as establishing Laurel as the Black Canary. Also, season 3 had a weak flashback story. Overall, season 3 was poorly done compared to its superior prior season.
The decreasing quality of the show continued in season 4. Felicity became more prominent than the show’s main character. She was everywhere. The writers’ “organic” style favored her a lot and it heavily skewed the show from what the original fans recognized. Episodes became less interesting as the season progressed until the writers made a decision that would split the audience permanently. They killed Laurel Lance, the new established Black Canary. Though Felicity and Oliver became lovers at the end of season 3, Dinah Laurel Lance is endgame. Not only did the writers kill Dinah off, they made her an Olicity shipper with her final breath. The bandwagon boarded that evening and many fans dropped the series. To add further insult to the character, the writers introduced a new Black Canary mere minutes after Laurel had died in the following episode. During this time, Felicity kept receiving more screen time. She is the main character at this point and her family drama sifted throughout the final episodes of season 4.
I dropped the show during the penultimate episode. Seeing Felicity’s mom squealing at the thought of her daughter being pregnant during a nuclear fallout revealed, to me, that the writers had given up on the show.
To some, that explanation might read like any other standard missive written by an anti-Felicity fan. However, it’s also fairly undeniable season 4 was swallowed whole by Felicity-related drama as the show went full-on, unabashed soap opera before culminating in a truly insane nuke-the-planet finale, Arrow‘s version of jumping the shark.
As such, when I attended Katie Cassidy’s panel at FanExpo I wasn’t necessarily surprised to see the majority of questions she fielded were of the “Why did they kill off Laurel?”/”When are you coming back to the show?” persuasion. One fan even tried to trick her into admitting any kind of personal dislike for Emily Bett Rickards or the character of Felicity, which Cassidy rose above. “I couldn’t do that to Emily. She’s a lovely person, and I don’t want to see anything bad happen to Felicity” she replied, before adding to great applause “even if she did steal my man” (In person, Cassidy displays a charm and seemingly natural comic timing which has never really been utilized on Arrow).
What did surprise me, though, was the raw emotion on display. It’s one thing to see people passionately criticizing a show online; it’s another to see them doing it in person in front of someone who’s actually on that show. You can really feel the outrage over the death of Black Canary once you’ve seen a little girl dressed as Canary start to cry tears of joy from being so close to the “real” Canary only to then be lifted to nirvana when Katie Cassidy jumped off the panel stage and gave her a hug. Moreover, you get a better understanding of just how “over it” many people are with Arrow when you see them openly admitting to Cassidy they’ve stopped watching the show, not just because of her character’s death but also because the endless brooding, manpain and Felicity of it all finally proved to be too much.
Thus far, Arrow‘s fifth season is clearly trying to win them back. A statue has been elected in Laurel Lance’s honor. Losing her as sent Quentin into a downward spiral, one which Thea may or may not be able to pull him from. Oliver is constantly bringing up her death as a reminder of the true stakes involved in the life of a vigilante. Oliver’s also gradually learning to pull back from all the glowering, and not because Felicity has helped him refind his smile (as was the case at the start of season 4) but because he’s owning up to his failures, as much as he’ll allow himself to at least. “The Recruits” rather efficiently pointed out that Oliver’s leadership techniques ultimately failed Roy, Sara, Laurel, Thea and even Diggle. It’s high time he take a different approach with his team, which now consists of Curtis, the second Black Canary, Wild Dog and maybe also Rag Man.
To be fair, Oliver’s intransigence is not really what everyone at FanExp or the moderators on the show’s subreddit threat were mad about. Those same people probably wouldn’t be too happy to see how close we are to slipping back into Oliver-Felicity romance melodrama (i.e., she’s giving Oliver loving, heartfelt motivational speeches while also keeping her new boyfriend a secret), or by the hamfisted reveal that Laurel’s last wish was for someone to pick up the Black Canary mantle in her honor. Frankly, a lot of those fans probably aren’t watching this season, and may never come back. Can’t blame them. Still, in all fairness – Arrow‘s now two for two in the good episode department this season, thus far making interesting use of Oliver’s position as mayor, worldbuilding around Diggle and Thea in ways that don’t have to be entirely Oliver-centric and hinting at plenty of interesting new drama to be derived from all of the new characters.
Turns out, Candice Patton is actually from the Dallas area meaning FanExpo was a real homecoming for her. She even discovered through a fan question at her panel that one of the local colleges had claimed her as one of its famous alumni even though she only ever took one class there back when she was still in high school, picking up some early college credit. She also discovered just how mad fans were at Barry for changing the timeline in the season 2 finale.
Or, more accurately, I discovered that as I witnessed one fan after another ask her about Flashpoint, and how exactly Iris would feel if she realized Barry altered her entire life seemingly on a whim. Patton was a good sport, even joining in the ribbing, joking that Iris gave Barry permission to take all the time he needed to mourn his father, not to radically alter reality and unwittingly fuck with her life and memories. She did, however, add that perhaps Iris could have waited to make her romantic declaration, perhaps not throw that on the guy after he just buried his dad. Ultimately, she claimed ignorance as to where the storyline was heading, and sued for patience, assuring several visibly upset fans that it would all work out and Iris might even get a chance to let Barry know how she feels about his questionable choices.
That chance finally came in “Paradox,” the moment when, at long last, The Flash seemingly realized all of these characters have lives and families of their own to worry about and are thus not dutybound to instantly indulge/forgive Barry’s selfish attempts to reunite with his mother. Remember, back in season 1 Barry’s friends made astonishingly little noise about the fact that if he traveled back in time to save his mother he was essentially killing each and every one of them, at least that version of them. In this new timeline, though, Cisco’s brother is dead, and Iris apparently never got to know her mother prior to her death last season. Plus, Barry works with Draco Malfoy now, but let’s put a pin in that and see how it unfolds in upcoming episodes. More importantly, significantly life details changed, and not everyone’s cool with that, nor should they be.
Until, of course, Barry just tried to undo it again, stopped only by a Jay Garrick-as-Doc-Brown “You’ll tear a fabric in the space time continuum!” speech, everybody ultimately forgave him because he’s family and this is just one of those little uh-oh’s family members do sometimes, and Iris gave him a big ole, slow-mo kiss at the end.
Baby steps here, people. Baby steps.
But, hey, Cisco has gaunlets, and Caitilin has freeze powers now. That’s pretty cool, right? (Did you see what I did there, using “cool” after mentioning Caitlin’s powers? You did? And you rolled your eyes? Yeah, not my finest moment).