It’s one of U.S. TV network The CW’s biggest success stories of the decade. But after eight seasons and a whopping 170 episodes, DC Comics superhero adventure Arrow will be taken off air. Here’s a look at the story behind the hit show and the reason it’s finishing before its many universe tie-ins.
In 2012 The CW network announced that it was developing a brand new show based on DC Comics character Green Arrow. But this was a superhero show with a difference. Indeed, following in the footsteps of Superman spin-off Smallville, Arrow would focus on Oliver Queen’s humanity rather than any superpowers.
Oliver Queen is, of course, the playboy rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams who found himself deserted on a dangerous island for five years. On his return, he becomes a masked vigilante dedicated to cleaning up the streets of his hometown. But instead of using any high-tech weaponry, Oliver prefers to go old-school with a bow and arrow.
But this wasn’t the first time that Oliver Queen and his superhero alter-ego Green Arrow, had appeared on the small screen. Indeed, he’d also been a regular on the aforementioned Smallville for five years. However, The CW wanted to start anew and look for a fresh face to take on the character.
Developed by Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg and The CW’s main man Greg Berlanti, the show found its leading man in the shape of heartthrob Stephen Amell. Filmed in Vancouver, the pilot episode was helmed by David Nutter, who’d taken on the same role for Smallville. An instant success, the show was later handed a full season order by its home network.
The show’s main cast also includes Katie Cassidy Rodgers as Oliver’s ex-lover and fellow vigilante Laurel Lance. Colin Donnell plays Oliver’s BFF Tommy Merlyn, David Ramsey his bodyguard John Diggle and Willa Holland his younger sister Thea Queen. Meanwhile, British actor Paul Blackthorne is Starling City’s police chief Quentin Lance.
Each episode of Arrow’s first five seasons features a story from both Oliver Queen’s past and present. The former is set during his time deserted on the island, five years before he is rescued. Indeed, this method was an attempt to portray how the character evolved into the man that viewers came to know and love.
Even the show’s creators admitted that this way of storytelling wasn’t as easy as it may look. Marc Guggenheim told GreenArrowTV, “Stephen [Amell] has to wear a wig, and his look has to be changed … there’s a lot. It’s actually incredibly ambitious to do these flashbacks every week, every single episode. Because like Andrew [Kreisberg] said, it’s almost like it’s its own show.”
Meanwhile, from the sixth season onwards, Arrow starts to dig into the past of several other characters. Producers also decided to include flash-forwards in season seven. These scenes move the action two decades on and center on both Oliver’s offspring, William, and the man that he helped to mentor, Roy Harper.
Furthermore, each episode sees Oliver do battle with an evil rival. However, his main enemy turns out to be the man hellbent on capturing him, as well as the father of his one-time love interest, Detective Lance. The producers admit the way they map out each story arc was influenced by the Batman trilogy directed by Christopher Nolan.
Meanwhile, Arrow has received a generally positive response from the outset, with its first season receiving a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 85%. The site summarized the show as “a comic book-inspired series that benefits from cinematic action sequences, strong plotting and intriguing characters.” The Los Angeles Times’ Mary McNamara was also impressed, describing it as “an interesting set up with a quality look.”
And viewers appeared to agree. Arrow’s opening episode pulled in a highly impressive audience of over four million. This was the highest rating that the network had achieved in three years. And it enjoyed a similar response when it was screened for the first time in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Arrow has also picked up several accolades over the years. Indeed, it’s been most successful at the Leo Awards, the British Columbia TV and movie industry’s biggest night of the year. But it’s also been recognized at more high profile events such as the People’s Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards and the MTV Movie and TV Awards.
Meanwhile, Arrow’s instant success inspired The CW to develop more shows which would inhabit the same superhero universe. And in 2013 Grant Gustin took the leading role in The Flash, a show focused on the titular character and his background as Barry Allen. Two years later, network boss Mark Pedowitz then revealed that this spin-off would crossover with Arrow every season.
That same year, The CW also launched a superhero cartoon named Vixen. And the same-named heroine later made the move from animation to live-action, when she appeared in Arrow’s fourth season episode, “Taken.” Indeed, the character proved to be so popular that she was given her own vehicle, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.
That same year Matt Ryan, aka Constantine, became the latest DC Comics hero to make a guest appearance on Arrow. The character showed up in season four episode “Haunted” to help deal with the aftermath of Sara Lance’s resurrection. But unlike his predecessors, Constantine’s crossover was strictly a one-time affair.
Then in 2016 producers assembled many of The CW’s DC Comics stars for one almighty crossover episode to celebrate Arrow’s centenary. As well as characters from The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow, “Invasion” also featured a guest appearance from Supergirl, the character whose show of the same name had initially started airing on CBS in 2015, before moving to its more natural home of The CW a year later.
Indeed, the episode “Invasion” became such a hit that network bosses decided to embrace the superstar crossover episode in later seasons, too. In 2017, the dream team reunited in “Crisis on Earth-X” and a year later assembled for “Elseworlds.” Meanwhile, 2019’s crossover was provisionally titled “Crisis on Infinite Earths.”
Arrow has also spawned a number of other tie-ins including comic books such as Season 2.5 and The Dark Archer. And in 2013 Blood Rush, a six-part series of live-action web shorts, helped to expand the Arrow-verse even further. Its characters have also popped up in several video games and novelizations.
But just as Arrow appeared to be heading for the same longevity as The CW’s 15-season running Supernatural, the network dropped a bombshell. Indeed, in early 2019 it was announced that the show would end for good after its eighth season. And fans were left even more disappointed when it was revealed that the final season would consist of just ten episodes.
An official statement made by three of the show’s executive producers read, “This was a difficult decision to come to. But like every hard decision we’ve made for the past seven years, it was with the best interests of Arrow in mind.” Beth Schwartz, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti also admitted that they couldn’t be prouder of their achievements.
The statement continued, “We’re heartened by the fact that Arrow has birthed an entire universe of shows that will continue on for many years to come. We’re excited about crafting a conclusion that honors the show, its characters and its legacy.” The trio then acknowledged the contributions of the actors, producers and writers, as well as “the incredible crew that has sustained us and the show for over seven years.”
Following the news, the show’s leading man took to Twitter to share his thoughts. Stephen Amell posted, “Playing Oliver Queen has been the greatest professional experience of my life… but you can’t be a vigilante forever… There’s so much to say… for now I just want to say thank you.”
Amell later expanded on his feelings about the news during a chat on Facebook Live. Indeed, the actor explained that he’d initially discussed the possibility of saying farewell to Oliver Queen with Greg Berlanti at the end of Arrow’s sixth season.
Meanwhile, Amell admitted that the prospect of spending more time with his family was a significant factor in his decision. He explained on his Facebook Live chat, “I approached Greg Berlanti… and said that I thought both personally and professionally that, at the end of my commitment this coming season, it would be the best for me to move on.” However, the star also hinted that the door remained open for him to enter the Arrow-verse in the future.
Indeed, Amell gave some hope to fans of his character by concluding, “Something tells me even when I’m done, I won’t be gone. If you’ve watched the Arrowverse, you should understand that.” Referring to The CW’s longest-running show, he then added, “It’s no Supernatural, but it’s been a good run.”
Amell certainly made the Green Arrow character his own. But he wasn’t averse to the idea of someone else stepping into his shoes. Indeed, the star told the show’s executive producers that he’d be more than happy for another actor to take over the role so then Arrow could continue past its eighth season. But it was decided that the best option would be for the whole show to quit while it was ahead.
As you would expect, several other Arrow stars took to social media to post their thoughts on the news. David Ramsey, who plays John Diggle, tweeted, “What an awesome ride! Arrow fans have been the best any actor could’ve asked for! Thank you for helping me bring John Diggle/Spartan to life! Love all of you! Can’t wait for you to see what we have in stock for you. Let’s end on a high, shall we?”
Meanwhile, Colton Haynes posted a photo on Instagram of his character, Roy Harper aka Arsenal, standing alongside Green Arrow. He captioned the pic, “Sad to hear the news that Arrow will be ending after Season 8. What an incredible ride this has been. Thank you to all the fans out there who supported us along the way.”
Rick Gonzales, who plays Wild Dog, tweeted, “Thankful and grateful to have had the chance to bring WildDog to life on Arrow. Thank you to all the writers and producers and cast and crew for welcoming me with open arms. And a big hug to all the fans for the love. It’s our job to give you an amazing last ten episodes.”
Juliana Harkavy, who plays Dinah Drake aka Black Canary, posted a very happy and smiley cast photo on Instagram. And she captioned it, “Arrow has been the greatest adventure of my life. If that weren’t enough, I have also made friends I will have for the rest of my life. I am so, so grateful for all of it. Here’s to an incredible final season, and here’s to all of you. Thank you for your passion, your love and your support.”
Executive producer Marc Guggenheim then got in on the act by tweeting, “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Without an audience, there is no show. Thanks to the millions who provided years of employment to hundreds. We aim to craft a finale season that will do you proud.”
Meanwhile, the news about Arrow’s end was announced halfway through its season seven run. And it didn’t come as a complete surprise, either. Indeed, Mark Pedowitz, the president of its home network, The CW, had previously indicated that his current spate of DC Comics shows may have run their natural course.
Pedowitz spoke about the issue during a seasonal press tour for the Television Critics Association in January 2019. He said, “What I’d really like to do is, things will age and we want to get the next generation of shows to keep this CW-DC universe going for as many years as possible.” And just two months later, Arrow was officially canceled.
Pedowitz also hinted at how the Oliver Queen character may depart from the shared universe, and it sure sounds epic. Referring to the Arrowverse’s 2019 crossover episode, the president told reporters, “It will take some big swings. It is ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’ and if you know the history, things collapse.”
Meanwhile, Arrow had also experienced some upheaval both in front of the camera and behind the scenes prior to the announcement. Long-running cast members Paul Blackthorne and Willa Holland both exited the show at the end of its sixth season. And fellow actor Echo Kellum followed suit in its seventh.
However, it turns out we may not have seen the last of the Arrow gang after all. In an interview with TV Line, Beth Schwartz was asked about the possibility of a spin-off taking place in the same timeline as the show’s Star City 2040 flash-forward episode. And the executive producer appeared to be open to the idea.
Referring to that very special episode, Schwartz said, “It was definitely meant to grow the world that we had already built and to see the next generation of what Oliver and Felicity and our present-day team have worked so hard for, and sort of see what happens in the future. We love those characters and would love to see them go on in some capacity after the show’s over.”
And fans of The CW’s comic book stable can also take some solace in the fact that several of Arrow’s successors are still in good health. Indeed, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl will all join the final adventures of Oliver Queen on the network’s 2019-2020 schedule. Black Lightning, which so far hasn’t been connected to the Arrow-verse, was also picked up for a third season.
Meanwhile, if Arrow’s eighth and final season follows the pattern of its previous seven, then it should air sometime in October 2019. However, with a shortened ten-episode run, it will likely finish a lot earlier than usual. But there is no doubt that Amell and the rest of the cast and crew will wrap things up in style.