Arrow -- "Green Arrow" -- Image AR401B_0057b -- Pictured: Katie Cassidy as Black Canary -- Photo: Dean Buscher /The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.
Comic Books & Graphic NovelsOpinionTelevision & Film

Has ARROW Jumped the Shark with a Fridge?

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The reactions have been mostly negative. As they should be.

Arrow finally caught up with their flash-forward scenes with Oliver and Barry at the grave, and we finally know who’s there. The most recent episode gave us the death of a major character, along with a much-reviled piece of dialogue that really serves no purpose from a story standpoint.

Stand by. Rant commences.

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Over season three of Arrow, the story wandered all over the map, and speaking for myself, I thought the show had lost its way. Oliver’s arc was a shambling husk of a story, with the League of Assassins borrowed from the Batman mythology (like almost everything else on this show) to give Oliver some kind of moral quandary? Really, why not just give us the Oliver Queen we know from the comics?

And Felicity was a hot mess.

Remember when she was first introduced? The IT girl — smokin’ hot, but quirky, which made her more attractive — and nothing like her comic book counterpart. In fact, Felicity Smoak was a supporting character in the Firestorm comics. Already a corporate bigwig and not a fan of Firestorm. The similarity between the comics version and the TV version began and ended at the name. Until Felicity somehow ended up the CEO of Palmer Technologies after… dating the boss? How exactly did the board of directors go along with IT-girl Felicity dropping into the big chair after Ray’s “death”? Huh?

Which brings us to this current season, and the grave with no name. Producers have admitted that at the beginning of the season, they didn’t know who was in that grave. It could have been anyone, and speculation ran rampant. Given Barry Allen’s presence, many felt it might be Felicity or Diggle. But later flash-forwards revealed Felicity in the limo. So maybe it’s Captain Lance or Felicity’s mother. Why would Barry be there?

In the “Eleven Fifty-Nine” episode, Damien Darhk manages to get the idol that allows him to recover his powers. As a consequence, he gets Team Arrow in a compromising position and stabs the Black Canary with an arrow. This leads to the rush to the hospital, emergency surgery, all the angsty waiting and tears, followed by Laurel coming out OK.

Until she doesn’t.

Here’s where it gets wonky for me (and for many fans): Laurel has gone from jilted ex-girlfriend to alcoholic to assistant district attorney to the Black Canary. She’s the Black Canary, for pity’s sake. Trained by Wildcat and Batman, daughter of the Justice Society’s Black Canary, Dinah Drake, and founding member of the Justice League. Black Canary. She can easily go toe-to-toe with Green Arrow, and that’s the character we were getting glimpses of in this show.

However, producers (Guggenheim) said that the show is not beholden to comics continuity, where Green Arrow and Black Canary are a couple (married in some stories). So there’s no compulsion to maintain any kind of relationship between Oliver and Laurel. Regardless of what fans may have thought.

And let’s be clear: the fans were divided. Many thought the show should hew to the comics continuity and eventually put Oliver and Laurel together. Others felt that the chemistry between Oliver and Felicity took first place when it came to Ollie’s love interests. In fact, Felicity seems to be the litmus test character. She’s now the “love her or hate her” character, which does a disservice to Emily Bett Rickards, who turns in a great performance pretty much all the time (although season 3 Felicity was way too weepy…).

But fans have a legitimate gripe that Laurel’s death is 1) unnecessary, and 2) served the #Olicity fans and not the overall story.

Let’s look at that last one first. Laurel’s in the hospital, apparently out of the woods, and she reveals to Oliver that even though he’s moved on, he’s always been the love of her life. In the space of about two minutes, the show drops a nice little bomb into the story — Laurel’s been carrying a torch for Oliver this whole time? Really? And then in that same moment, the writers put words in her mouth that have fans frothing at theirs: “I’m glad you found Felicity.” This has many in the audience throwing shoes, because not only is the show fridging Laurel, but it’s also doing it while paying fan-service to Olicity shippers.

Yes. Fridging the Black Canary, folks.

Laurel hasn’t had a lot to do this season, and rumors had been flying for a while that Katie Cassidy would be leaving the show. Now, we haven’t heard anything about how she was treated (not like Ricky Whittle or Nicole Beharie), but the departure of any major character always fuels speculation. The fact that Cassidy will appear as the Black Siren on The Flash seems to indicate that the parting is on good terms, and producers (Guggenheim) say death is never the end on these shows — what with flashbacks, time travel, the Lazurus Pit, alternate Earths, etc. — but Dinah Laurel Lance of Earth-1 is no more.

Past her appearance on The Flash, however, if Katie Cassidy is gone for good, there could be a big drop in the show’s audience. There’s a reason why so many are using the #NoLaurelNoArrow hashtag. She’d earned their respect with her arc, and now she’s been cut down just as she got interesting.

Now, we don’t know what Laurel made Oliver promise. We don’t know if this could be a huge fake-out as part of a bigger scheme (likely it’s not). We don’t know if there’s some plan to bring Black Siren from Earth-2 to Earth-1 like what happened in the comics. We don’t know if there’s some work going on to establish a Birds of Prey spinoff (likely it’s not).

Right now, the death of Laurel Lance is supposed to further Oliver’s story. And we’ve talked about this recently on H2O, how the series is about the lead character, and eventually everything has to be about the lead character. This show is called Arrow, and it’s about Oliver Queen and his time as Green Arrow. If the show had been called Black & Green, for instance, we’d have a problem.

But then consider that a new Black Canary is set to appear in the 19th episode. Madison McLaughlin will be the next Canary. A plot to keep Laurel’s death secret? A groupie stepping in?

Laurel’s death was a cheap death. It was a death that ultimately may pay off, as in Sara’s case, but right now it feels cheap. Arrow‘s become more of a soap opera than a superhero show, and I swear if I hear Oliver say, “It’s complicated” one more time, I’ll start throwing shoes. That’s his answer for everything — lying about his son, forming an alliance with Malcolm, hiding his Arrow antics from Thea, deflecting questions about Amanda Waller, etc. etc. — and after four years, it’s tired. Oliver Queen, the character, has had very little growth in these four seasons. And it’s starting to wear a little thin.

My appreciation for Arrow? The reasons I may still watch?

Well… It’s complicated.

 

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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