Dropping the Pen – The Storytelling flaws of Arrow

His name is Oliver Queen, and we’ve heard everything about him by now, both in the present and in the ever-expanding story of his five years on an island. But while I love Arrow, one of my favourite TV and most definitely one of the best comic adaptations on TV, I have started to see patterns emerging, flaws in the writing and storytelling that I just don’t like.

So it’s time to take a look at how Arrow drops the pen!

One of the major ‘features’ in the series is also its greatest storytelling flaw. The Island and the five years Oliver spent there. At the start it was quite brilliant, showing you the hard choices that Oliver had to make to become the vigilante we know in the present. There’s heartache, loss and pain and it helps you understand why Oliver has so many nightmares when he comes back.

But then as the seasons rolled by, it stopped being about the character’s evolution and it became a way to introduce season villains or explain some knowledge or contact that Oliver has at any given time. At first they played it as a nice and interesting coincidence, but they kept piling them on until we got to the Constantine episode. That was a bit too much, it was too forced and made an already shaky flashback season even shakier. The flashbacks lost their grip on the second season where it’s all about the “Mirakuru” and then to Oliver’s trip to torturer school in Hong Kong, which is all about introducing Haseo so he can later appear as a servant to Ra’s Al Ghul. The reason for his current return to the island is perhaps one of the most contrived reasons ever put on TV.

That’s another thing. The Mirakuru was ridiculous. I loved the storyline and the concept of the super soldier formula that makes you go insane, but I groaned every time they dropped that pseudo-Japanese name. It’s simply the word Miracle in Japanese phonetics and if it’s instantly apparent to the audience, it had to be to the characters, so their continued mention of this name just made things impossible to take seriously.

Characterisation is pretty good overall in Arrow, particularly the villains. Yes, they do steal enemies from other DC properties but the spin they give them is pretty cool. Manu Bennett as Deathstroke was brilliant, as is the modified bio in which the Mirakuru makes him go crazy and see visions of the woman he loved. Ra’s al Ghul was terrific, as was the complete storyline, including Oliver’s turn to the dark side to infiltrate the organisation and destroy it from within. And no one can forget Merlyn, a character that even as an ally is dark and dangerous.

But the same quality of writing doesn’t extend to Laurel Lance and Thea Queen. These two characters have gone through so much these seasons and they still aren’t compelling enough. They’ve both gone through addiction and trauma storylines that writers usually split among the cast over the course of a series, just to get some love for them, but they’re just uninspired and it’s a shame because Black Canary is an awesome character. The series also suffered from Flash-induced universe expansion to include metahumans—and now mysticism. It meant that Laurel could now have the Canary Cry but as she wasn’t a metahuman, she needed the technology. I can now predict that something will happen between this and the next season that will give her that ability permanently, without the need of the toy. I’m guessing it’ll happen after another traumatic experience, most likely her father dying, as per the rules of the DC ‘metagene’.

As for Thea, I can’t see her be any better as a character. The actress does a fantastic job with what she has, but the writing has taken her from bratty teenager to bratty murderer. She’s aged in the story but hasn’t matured, and still behaves the same way she did when she had those coked up moments in the first season. One of the hardest things to handle on television is character evolution between the teenage years and adulthood and Arrow still hasn’t managed it.

Overall, Arrow has tight writing, so I don’t have as much ammunition as usual, which is a good thing. Good writing is necessary for TV series, particularly with Superhero ones, where cheesiness can easily creep in.

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I love everything readable, writeable, playable and of course, edible! I search for happiness, or Pizza, because it's pretty much the same thing! I write and ramble on The Mental Attic and broadcast on my Twitch channel, TheLawfulGeek

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