The CW's Arrow was a cultural phenomenon when it burst onto the scene in 2012. It was the first comic book property to translate that Dark Knight, DC Comics grittiness to the small screen; it didn't hurt that the chiseled and brooding Stephen Amell was the face of it. Men and women, boys and girls, cats and dogs all flocked to it. And in its first couple seasons, there was real drama, real poignancy.
Alas, the poignancy has faded into that darkness Oliver keeps yammering on about. Arrow has become stale. The network, showrunners, and writers have tried different tactics in the last few seasons to breathe new life into the show, but most have ironically missed the mark. Get it? Because Oliver never misses his mark? Whatever. Just read through these critiques of Arrow's current state and vote up those you agree with.
A simple recap of events supports this argument:
The Green Arrow has a couple run-ins on the street with Wild Dog before he deigns to let him try out for the team—totally not predictable or anything; Oliver then snags Artemis from a Wendy’s or something, and the two recruits go into training alongside Curtis, who is only just now proving himself to be anything but a liability, which begs the question of why he was ever allowed to go out into the field in the first place; the introduction and initiation of Ragman is actually handled okay (you’re welcome, Arrow), but Oliver goes on to berate the newbies repeatedly, telling them he only works alone, even as he continues to train them—cue Felicity’s frantic speech for the 50th time about how Oliver needs people, and BAM!, the new Team Arrow is born sans any discernible chemistry. And don’t even with Dinah Drake. Just. Don’t.
Okay, fine: an Earth-2 doppelganger of Laurel shows up posing as the Black Canary; Oliver realizes he misses Laurel and decides they need to find a replacement; lo and behold, there’s a woman with the same powers nobody's heard of a few towns over; Team Arrow goes to recruit her and she puts up a totally-not-familiar fight about how she works alone and just wants revenge (she’s not a hero, she can't be saved!), but ultimately capitulates; fortunately, within an episode or two, her mania is quelled and she has unprecedentedly intimate, bestie-inducing moments with both John and Oliver—you know, the guy whose inability to let anyone in is the central tenet of the entire series—and she becomes an integral member of the team.
Arrow did something quite daring this season: They introduced new characters and decided not to tell us anything about them. Well, maybe not so much daring, as stupid. Evelyn and Rene seemingly came out of nowhere. Yes, Evelyn was technically introduced in Season 4. And yes, they were eventually given backstories. But Evelyn's was a ho-hum surprise-I'm-actually-bad-because-you-killed-my-parents, and Rene is just another soul tortured by his past. Yawn.
Rory was actually the most defined. In fact, just when he was starting to prove himself to be the most human character, he left the show. Evelyn, on the other hand, was exceedingly forgettable, and Rene has always felt like a caricature. The writers tried to beef up Rene with out-of-nowhere flashbacks to his marriage, which may have worked if he even checked on his wife when she was shot. We know you were protecting your daughter, but damn, man! At least glance in the direction of your life partner when the gun goes off!
Arrow apparently doesn’t care to ingratiate us to the new characters, so they’re trying to recreate some of the existing ones. The only problem is it’s hard to buy. Thea has stepped away from Team Arrow because she fears the bloodlust—a self-explanatory side effect from her resurrection via the Lazarus Pit. She’s channeling that energy into politics instead, and is an astoundingly capable chief of staff for her brother, the mayor. When a scandal surrounding Oliver and the Green Arrow arises, she pushes for blackmailing an adversarial politician. She's even willing to tarnish the legacy of Felicity's dead fiancé by painting him as a corrupt cop. (Incidentally, Felicity's dead fiancé is fun to say—morbid, but fun.)
Oliver expresses his concern about Thea's willingness to employ such schemes, and she resigns, speculating that the bloodlust is to blame for her cutthroat tactics, which is just dumb. And this from the same character who earlier in the season stood by the relapsing Quentin Lance as she convinced him to return to rehab, gave him a high-ranking position within the mayor’s office, and was ultimately successful in shepherding him through his grief and addiction. Yeah, it’s totally plausible that the same person would do all those things.
Felicity, meanwhile, is fighting her own implausible battle. Halfway through the season, she lost her fiancé with whom she had no chemistry, in part because he was only onscreen for, like, 15 minutes. Which is okay because he was super boring. It took her somewhere around one whole episode to recover from his death. Now, she’s suddenly joining a group of hackers (or “hacktivists”) in secret and using their limitless cache of information called Pandora’s Box with impunity. That’s pretty much her only impact on this season. Maybe they just don’t have her onscreen enough. Regardless, Felicity has become an occasionally erratic, yet sometimes salient, but mostly just ancillary character.
To be fair, new characters are also acting erratically. Susan Williams was having nefarious meetings in dark alleys with shady contacts, digging up dirt on Oliver’s past in her fervor to uncover his secret—in short, engaging in none-too-subtle double-agent behavior. She’s clearly working with Prometheus, right? Wrong! She was just working up the courage to confront the man she actually cares about. . . evidently. Of course, Felicity and Thea get her fired by leaking alternative facts regarding her journalistic integrity. Despite her early defamatory reporting on Oliver that actually did call into question her journalistic integrity, she’s suddenly framed as a sympathetic victim, and Oliver clears her name, setting the record straight so they can continue their unconvincing romance.
Okay, the dialogue has improved from Season 4, but the bar had been set pretty low. It would have been one thing if they just used the word "mystical" 1,000 times—as they did—but the writers had to double down with "darkness." Know how many times Oliver said that word last season? 10,000. Approximately. "There's a darkness inside me"; "This darkness is consuming me"; "I'm losing myself to the darkness"; "Darkness, darkness, darkness, dark side." Although the dialogue has indeed improved in Season 5, it's still lacking in a big way. Felicity has become a prop. She used to be one of the best characters, but at some point, they stopped giving her actual lines and turned her into a quip-machine. And Oliver's refrain, "You have failed this city," is starting to lose its gravitas. Correction: It lost it three seasons ago.
Admittedly, the innuendo about Curtis's balls in episode 15 of Season 5 has earned the writers a little trust back. Keep the testicle taunts coming and you'll be out of the doghouse in no time. Or donghouse, as it were.