There’s a war waging on Twitter and Reddit about the future of Arrow. On one side, we have Olicity shippers, cheering on the show’s direction; on the other, we have people claiming Arrow has turned into “Felicity and Friends”. While I agree with the latter — the show has become too focused on Felicity — it has improved in other, subtler ways.
Arrow is much less violent than it used to be. Seasons 1 and 2 were overflowing with neck-snaps, fatal arrows, and torture; the show, just like the character, used to be pretty dark. There’s no intrinsic problem with Arrow being dark, but it did eliminate potential viewers that are sensitive to violence. I, for one, stopped watching in season 3 because of violence, and only began watching again when I heard season 4 was not as bad.
Even if you were fine with the violence, the change has opened up more air time for character development. We’ve seen Oliver become a dedicated fiance, Diggle forgive his brother, and Laurel become the voice of reason. Even Damien Darhk is better developed than previous villains. Malcolm and Slade had simple reasons for their villainy: Malcolm wanted to destroy the Glades as revenge for his wife’s death, and Slade wanted to destroy Starling City as revenge for Shado’s death. Darhk has much more complex plans — he wants to raze the city and build it anew. Arrow has had the time to tell this narrative, artfully in bits-and-pieces every episode, since it’s not using up all its time on action scenes.
Arrow has also introduced more new characters than previously: Donna, Curtis, and Andy. Donna adds little to the show — so far, she’s served as comic relief — but Curtis and Andy are huge additions. Curtis is similar to Felcitiy in awkwardness, but his heightened compassion could bring a lot to Team Arrow; imagine if he poured as much effort into fighting H.I.V.E. as he did Felicity’s spinal chip! Also, it’s great to have another married character on the show — already, Diggle’s balance of family life and vigilante-ism is a great dynamic. Now that Curtis’s husband chewed him out for disappearing, will Curtis stay away from Team Arrow? Or will he continue, and keep his night-time activities a secret? Andy is also a fascinating addition; not only is he interesting in his own right, as Darhk’s ace-in-the-hole, but is also productive as he pushes along Diggle’s development. Diggle has to decide between treating him like a criminal and like a brother, and we get to see every step of that decision.
Okay, okay — I tried to make it through this entire article without talking about Olicity, but I can’t. Let’s bite the bullet (or arrow) and talk about it. Felicity has been written poorly the entire season; her sappy speech to Cupid about love is just one of many examples. But what about Oliver? Oliver’s actually been written well. We see his growth; he’s no longer the man who promptly sleeps with Laurel when she’s still sort of dating Tommy, but the man who promises to marry Felicity in even the darkest of times. So, if we’re going to be hating on Olicity, let’s be clear: she-who-must-not-be-named is the problem. (Yes, Oliver, she is Voldemort.) The relationship itself is not that bad.
Arrow is no longer a dark show about a vigilante who’s willing to murder. It’s about Oliver Queen and his teammates, and how they develop and interact as they fight crime and villains and Star City. Sure, right now the team is monopolized by Felicity — but hopefully that will change, and we’ll still be left with these other fantastic changes.