As Arrow chugs along, banging through the lackluster first few episodes to – where it is now – a pretty solid back-half of a season that’s put some interesting long-term stories into play, some things are becoming clear.
OK, some things other than “Man, they are not spending a lot of money on this show” and “Vigilantes don’t need peripheral vision.”
Perhaps most satisfying is the show actually displaying some interest in examining and reassessing Oliver Queen’s tendency to murder the hell out of people, and how that lines up with his own slowly evolving morality. Throughout the season, he has moved further away from his Island Trauma, received a humbling pummeling at the hands of his buddy’s Barely-Secretly-Evil-Father, and started broadening his mission to include things other than threatening rich people and telling them how disappointed in them he is.
So the show’s getting to be solidly entertaining while also addressing some larger concerns I’ve had, which means I feel more comfortable addressing smaller things the show’s NOT doing well. By which I mean, any time it mentions something from a DC comic.
It wants SO BADLY to play in the DC sandbox but give the concepts a veneer of Dark Knight-on-a-budget “realism,” and as a result kinda fails at both. And the show knows this! Why else would it keep shouting DO-OVER! so often?
For instance, pretty early on, we got some fairly pointless nods to Green Arrow lore, with the winking nickname “Speedy” for Thea Queen, and giving Oliver’s rich-dude-bud the last name Merlyn. But at some point, the producers realized, “Oh wait, those names actually belong to characters we should use!”
And so it was revealed that the Well-Dressed Man With No Character Name turned out to be an elder Merlyn who was also some kind of crazy-good archer/weapons master. And here comes Roy “Actual Speedy” Harper in an upcoming episode.
Even Deathstroke has a double! In an early episode, we were introduced to a mercenary in a
Deathstroke mask, who proceeded to beat up and torture Oliver in flashback. OK, well, not the most captivating use of the character, but sure, why not.
But then we got to meet Slade Wilson, a separate character on the island who ALSO has the Deathstroke mask. Turns out the dude we assumed to be Deathstroke was, in fact, Deathstroke’s Buddy (Bill Wintergreen, because – like an earlier mention of the city of Bludhaven, Arrow doesn’t always realize that names that read well in a comic sound awkward as hell when heard aloud). So now he is dead, and the show gets a free do-over to develop a more interesting version of the character.
Under normal circumstances, I’d say “Wow, that’s some short-sighted work,” but the versions 2.0 of both Merlyn and Deathstroke have been such marked improvements that I can’t wait for them to fix their other half-assed attempts at DC concepts, such as:
In DC Comics…Deadshot is a popular and complex assassin with an odd sense of loyalty and an underlying deathwish, as well as one of the greatest mustaches in all of comics
In Arrow-World…Deadshot is a contract killer with a wrist-mounted cannon and a comically oversized scope over his eye who for no given reason, tattoos the names of his victims onto him. Shot in the eyeball with an arrow, but not really confirmed dead.
How to fix: Actually, they’re bringing him back next episode, so I guess, so we’ll see. Still no mustache in that preview though.
In DC Comics…A well-respected multinational team of pilots who fought in World War II
In Arrow-World…A vaguely Blackwater-esque private security firm whose employees rob armored cars on the side. Characters introduced all dead, company remains.
How to fix: Making them seem a little more formidable, like say, giving them an office that looks a little more impressive than an Avis Rent-a-Car location, would be a start.
The Royal Flush Gang
In DC Comics…A rotating group of flamboyant, high-tech playing-card themed thieves and ne’er-do-wells, often including a giant android.
In Arrow-World…A family of four (sorry, no 10 for this group, because a 5th actor would’ve cost too much, I guess) who start robbing banks wearing hockey-masks with a tiny little card suit decal on them. Characters dead or in prison.
How to fix: See, I’m actually working on a spec script addressing that problem right now, so shush.
In DC Comics…Eh, a pyromaniac/arsonist 3rd-tier Batman villain who also can fly.
In Arrow-World…A scarred, embittered firefighter getting revenge on his old company, and he can’t even fly. Dead.
How to fix: Firefly’s kind of a shit villain, so this death was probably wise.
In DC Comics…the vertigo-inducing, power-hungry count of a fictional European nation. It’s pretty much all there in the name.
In Arrow-World…A chemist/drug dealer hamming it up with one of the worst Ledger Joker impressions you’ve ever seen. Character accidentally overdosed, left insane in a hospital, so you can see where this is probably going.
How to fix: Actually giving him the vertigo-inducing power would be neat. I mean, you don’t even have to do anything magic, just give him some kind of sonic dohicky, done.
In DC Comics…is actually Dinah Laurel Lance, Black Canary.
In Arrow-World…is a crusading lawyer for a nonprofit, ex-girlfriend of Oliver, daughter of what seems like the only police officer in Starling City, and with her boyfriend Tommy Merlyn, the biggest time-suck in this whole thing.
How to fix: Well, I think the Deathstroke route is best here: Introduce her cousin from out of town Dinah, who’s a motorcycle-riding kung-fu badass. And a blond. With a thing for fishnets. Which actually makes me think they’d introduce her as a roller-derby enthusiast…which actually kind of amuses me.
In DC Comics…is a freelance spook and mercenary, generally popping up attached to whatever government agency is giving Oliver shit or manipulating him into doing their work for them, before eventually becoming an ally. He has one of the other best mustaches in comics.
In Arrow-World…is the head mercenary of whatever weird organization that’s operating on the island during the flashbacks. He has an English accent and no mustache and that INFURIATES me.
How to fix: If they don’t kill him on the island (which they probably will), then he should show up in present day with a mustache, an American accent and if anyone asks him, it was part of his cover.
Now, you may have noticed something about this list: Arrow’s been borrowing a lot from the Batman toybox. This isn’t so much a fault of the show, just that Green Arrow’s rogues gallery isn’t exactly deep. It’s already used Vertigo, Merlyn, Fyers and China White, and there’s really not much beyond that.
With this in mind, I now provide a list of Arrow-friendly properties the show could probably use that are not all C-level Batman villains, and are relatively goof-proof. They are practically impossible to mess up. Here you go, Arrow, this should hold you for like half a season:
– The Question – Here, a blue-clad investigator/martial artist who is not Batman for you to use
– Checkmate – Shadowy superspy organization, for when the urge to ape SHIELD strikes
– Catman – Tracker and survivalist with a tiger motif, sounds like the show’s speed
– The Terrible Trio – I just remember really liking that Batman: TAS episode about those three rich board assholes, again, something you could probably do something with, right?
– Kobra – It is a martial-arts cult based around snakes
– Captain Boomerang – Honestly, all you have to do is introduce an Australian asshole named Digger Harkness who throws things, they don’t even need to be boomerangs, since even in the DC universe people seem to recognize how stupid a weapon that is
– Pretty much any of the Flash’s rogues, really, I’m sure nobody will mind
– The Shade – Black-clad English cool-guy who works in shadows, you don’t even need to worry about the immortality or the shadow-powers
– The Mist – Crazed, sunglasses-wearing daughter of an elderly bad guy
– Look I just really want to see some Starman characters in live-action
– Cluemaster – Because eventually you will want to do a Riddler episode and he is the Riddler’s non-union Mexican equivalent (Senor Ridlero)
– Electrocutioner – He is a dude who electrocutes people, it’s not terribly complicated
– Argus – A special agent in deep cover with the mob who is also a vigilante (do anything you like with him, nobody remembers that Flash annual that introduced him but me)