Despite its increasingly annoying winks at the audience, “A Matter of Trust” was another relatively strong episode in a season which has thus far pulled Arrow back from latter era-Smallville territory and turned it back into something actually watchable again. But is it all for not? As a cultural and ratings entity, is Arrow dying? Moreover, how do we even know when a show is dying these days when all of the traditional measures no longer matter (unless you’re an old person network like CBS)?
Quick answer: Dying? Dude, it’s been dead for a while now. No, we can’t actually measure that the way we used to with Neilsen ratings, but that won’t stop us from trying:
Of Arrow‘s first 92 episodes, only one, specifically season 4’s craptacular penultimate episode “Lost in the Flood,” was watched by less than 2 million people in the United States, at least according to Neilsen’s live+same day rating.
Of the first 3 episodes in Arrow’s current season, not a single one has been watched by more than 2 million people. The season premiere set a new series low with 1.87 million viewers, and now “Matter of Trust” sunk even further, netting a mere 1.79 million viewers.
Yes, most networks have more or less disowned the live+same day rating at this point, deeming it (and rightfully so) an inaccurate reflection of the way people watch TV these days. And, yes, The CW has long since been at the forefront of that movement, regularly renewing shows with anemic live+same day ratings but strong enough DVR, On Demand and streaming (Hulu, CW website) numbers. And, yes, by taking the billions from Netflix to put full seasons of their shows on the service mere weeks after they’ve concluded and then turning around and walking away from Hulu over the summer The CW effectively de-emphasized the importance of individual episodes. What matters more now is that these shows all make full seasons so the network can deliver the content which was promised to Netflix. Whatever meager ad revenue they’re making from shoving commercials down on our throat on the new CW app pales in comparison to the, again, literal billions Netflix is now paying them.
As such, Arrow‘s crappy ratings this season aren’t likely setting off any panic buttons, and by bringing them up I am no way trying to suggest the show is under any threat of cancellation should things not turn around across the rest of the season. However, I point to them for some statistical evidence to back up the more anecdotal feeling I have that there is simply not a lot of passion for Arrow anymore.
Stephen Amell is still a guy people love to see at conventions, so much so that it’s become his primary source of income. Heck, he’s probably on a plane to make his weekend-long appearance at WizardWorld in Tulsa, Oklahoma as we speak. Plus, the show still has a bigger fanbase than Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Jane the Virgin combined. The TV insiders at sites like TVLine are still inundated with questions about what’s going on with Oliver and Felicity this season and what the heck is going to happen in the increasingly crazy sounding 100th episode.
But where’s the passion? Where are the essays arguing the show has kinda, sorta turned things around this season? Where are the rants about how terrible the show is? Where’s the sense that this is a show people still watch because they love it as opposed to still watching for completist reasons? Where’s the sense that this is a show worth talking about anymore, regardless of whether or not you want to praise it or condemn it?
Gosh, this is a real funny way of reviewing “Matter of Trust,” huh? I’ve barely even talked about the episode. Let’s get to that:
Favorite Moment: Oliver’s stone-faced reaction to Felicity’s dog metaphor to explain why Wild Dog disobeyed him: “You are really taking this Wild Dog name thing too far.”
Ragman and Curtis geeking out in the field, with Ragman, looking so terrifying and sounding so scary, sounding positively gitty when describing how he actually has no idea what his rags will do but it still looks so cool.
Least Favorite Moment: The moment I realized I had lost track of all the meta jokes, be they about guest star Cody Runnell’s past career in the WWE or the quick nod to Stephen Amell’s ill-fated time as Casey Jones in TMNT: Out of the Shadows. That being said, the joke about whether or not the company which made and installed the Arrow elevator suspects anything was a solid bit, one I had never actually considerd before.
Biggest “Haven’t We Seen This Before?” Moment: Oliver’s back-and-forth with Wild Dog seemed awfully familiar, like exactly the type of thing we’ve seen him do with both Roy and Laurel at the start of their vigilante careers, if you want to call it that. However, it does seem like he admitted his faults faster than usual, and is actually trying harder to meet Wild Dog in the middle than he ever did with Roy or Laurel. The similarity to and crucial differences with those earlier relationships is probably intentional.
Shipper’s Delight: Oliver will find out about Felicity’s boyfriend in episode 5, but in “Matter of Trust” he briefly met him while in his Green Arrow guise. Good for him.
Theories About the Big Bad: Thanks to the new DA, Oliver finally knows about the new Dark Archer, but there wasn’t much time to explore that. A story for a different day, but what are your theories about who the new big bad might be? Leading candidates: Felicity’s new boyfriend, an escaped Deathstroke. My money’s on the latter.
Off the Mark (aka My Nitpicks): Can we please retire the whole hero-accidentally-drops-the-bad-guy-in-a-vad-of-acid origin story? Sure, it’s nice to see Arrow stealing from the Burton Batman instead of the Nolan one for a change, but, still, way too familiar.
Also, um, is the new Black Canary ever going to get her sonic scream back? There were so many times it would have come in handy in “Matter of Trust.”
Also, am I the only one who finds Curtis aggressively unfunny this season after genuinely liking him last season? Too often this season, he feels like a redundancy, a male Felicity who steps over other people’s lines with his adorkable quips and awkwardness. When they are not forcing Felicity-esque moments down his throat he actually shines, standing up to Oliver that one time, being a friend to Felicity in “Trust.” More of that, please.
Hope Going Forward: We’ll actually spend some time with Wild Dog, new Black Canary and Curtis away from the Arrow Cave and vigilante life.
Fear Going Forward: That most of the new characters will all remain bit players in the Oliver-Felicity show. I’m 5 seasons in. I’ve seen Oliver do just about everything he’s ever going to at this point, use all the emotional tools at this disposal. Tell me more about Wild Dog. Show me where the heck Black Canary even lives, and explore whether or not she’s genuinely interested in trying to date. Focus on Curtis getting caught in the web of lies he’s been telling his husband.
You’re Schmacting is Showing: A reader of the site once referred to the acting on the CW comic books shows as “schmacting,” in the sense that it’s so unabashedly schmaltzy and is often the work of youngish actors who are learning as they go. I’ve since come to associate this term with the often unavoidable outright bad acting which pops up on these shows, such as seemingly every time Emily Bett Rickards is asked to cry on Arrow. Sadly, “Matter of Trust” called upon Rickards to deliver again, giving her a mere minute to tell the new guy “Sorry I killed everyone in your town.” Predictably, Rickards’ on-the-verge-of-tears line reading was par for the course fo her, but it was also a poorly scripted moment to begin with.