May 15, 2013



The success of ARROW was a big win for CW and for DC Comics this season.  The appeal of CW’s single-girl soaps was running thin, while DC has been reeling from the otherworldly success of arch-rival Marvel’s grand Avengers strategy.  Arrow has given them a franchise they both needed.

The series started out terribly clunky, seemingly as concerned with showcasing star Stephen Amell’s abs (which, to be honest, were often more expressive than his declaimed dialogue) as much as telling an involving story.  To the credit of the network and series creators Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, though, Arrow steadily improved.  Amell’s Oliver Queen/The Arrow benefited when the scripts stopped making him act like playboy Bruce Wayne in his daylight hours, something Amell didn’t do well.  Giving him a sidekick, former bodyguard Diggle (David Ramsey) helped, and even better, the creators showed they were quick on their feet by realizing that day player Emily Bett Rickards, as girl-from-IT Felicity, was bringing some wry humor to her scenes that the very solemn show sorely needed, and they made her a full-fledged member of the Arrow’s team.  (And a not-impossible romantic interest.)  The narrative became more than a vehicle for action scenes when it shifted from the Arrow vanquishing a baddie-of-the-week for “failing” Starling City into a serialized approach that allowed for the development of Big Bad Malcolm Merlyn/The Dark Archer (John Barrowman).  The romantic triangle between Oliver, his best friend and Malcolm’s son Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), and spunky defense attorney Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), Oliver’s ex, Tommy’s current and the daughter of the police detective (Paul Blackthorne) who just knows there’s something up with that Oliver guy, was better off in the background.

Tonight’s season finale, written by Guggenheim and Kreisberg (from a story by Berlanti) and directed by David Barrett, was remarkably ambitious in scope.  If anything, it was overstuffed, straining against the limits of its CW budget and breaking off for end credits when it seemed like it might have 15 minutes left to go.  It very satisfyingly culminated the season’s main story about The Undertaking (not to be confused with Revenge‘s The Initiative), which was to destroy the low-income part of Starling City known as The Glades through a man-made earthquake machine, because of its high crime rate.  (This is all, remember, based on a comic book.)  The Merlyns both perished (Malcolm at Oliver’s hand, Tommy in rescuing Laurel), Oliver’s mother Moira (Susanna Thompson) publicly admitted her own part in the plot, and thanks to a nice twist (“If I’ve learned anything as a successful businessman, it’s redundancy”), the Glades were indeed leveled, although most of its inhabitants survived.

Arrow is well-placed for its second season, with the right amount of story resolved and plenty still left open.  I could personally live without the flashbacks to Oliver’s time on the island where he spent 5 years before the action proper of the series began.  That “deserted” island is about as empty as a multiplex when the new Iron Man movie opens, and its action, complete with British mercenaries and Asian tutors, never connects all that well with what’s happening in the present.  The show also needs to make Laurel more interesting than she’s been so far–Cassidy is an appealing actress, but it’s a problem when Felicity is stealing the show from the supposed leading lady.  Alternatively, it should bring back Helena (Jessica De Gouw), Oliver’s crazy ex-girlfriend who provided some sex and danger to the storyline when she switched from fellow superhero to homicidal villainess.

Conventional wisdom is that superhero shows don’t work on television, because of the impossibility of competing with big-screen production values and the open-ended format, but Arrow‘s done a nice job of proving that wrong.  At its current level of success, it’s guaranteed an indefinite run at CW, so the hope is that, like its hero, it will work with a vengeance to continue improving itself.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."