Why The Flash Is Must-See Superhero TV…& Arrow Is Not

We’ve come to the start of another Network Television season, and I’ve had a summer off to ponder these important thoughts and questions…

  1. Thank God for the invention of the DVR
  2. How many shows can you possibly put in the city of Chicago, and why do I feel compelled to watch every single one of them?? (…not Chicago Fire, though, but we can talk about that another time…)
  3. …….Grey’s Anatomy is still on?
  4. Thank God for the invention of Netflix
  5. I can’t believe the same people are in charge of both The Flash and Arrow

Now, I feel like that final statement needs some clarification.  I love Arrow.  I have been one of its biggest fans throughout its 4 roller coaster seasons.  I will watch it when the 5th season starts in September.  Stephen Amell might be one of my favorite people that has ever existed.  But at the moment, with the finale of Season 4 still relatively fresh in my mind, I feel very confident in saying that it’s no longer a good show, and that I hope Season 5 makes me eat these words.

I also must include that this article has nothing to do with Legends of Tomorrow or Supergirl.  Both shows have a solid premise and should be much, MUCH better than their inaugural seasons displayed, but I’m going to focus on the 2 flagship shows of this much debated, often criticized DCEU (TV version).

 

The Flash vs. The Arrow

Greg Berlanti and Co. truly care about The Flash, the story of Barry Allen, and these characters.  And boy, does it show.  This show is not without its “side-eye” moments and plot holes (…it takes Barry and his ENTIRE group of STAR Labs Super Friends to beat a single metahuman per week for the majority of 2 seasons, yet when Zoom unleashes Earth-2 MetaHuman Hell all over Central City, Allen is able to round them all up in roughly 10 minutes because he has unshakeable confidence from the Speed Force?…hmmmm, I call BS), but it’s the closest thing Network Television has to a perfect Superhero show.  Arrow on the other hand has struggled through its last couple of seasons, having a tough time that is both relatable, exciting and not absolutely out of its mind.  I’ve narrowed down a few of the reasons why I believe The Flash works, and currently, Arrow does not.

Year Long “Big Bad’s” that are actually both BIG and BAD:

zoom(comicvine.com)


Season 1 gave us the Reverse Flash in the form of Harrison Wells/Eobard Thawne.  Season 2 gave us Zoom in the form of Jay Garrick/Hunter Zolomon.  Both characters were steeped in comic book history and lore, being huge players in the narrative of the Flash.  Both were portayed by more than capable actors in Tom Cavanaugh and Teddy Sears, and while not every plot point hit home the way we might have wanted, the characters lived up to the hype.  Arrow began with back to back worthy advisories for Mr. Queen, as well.

Season 1 gave us Malcolm Merlyn, also known as the Dark Archer, who has continued to be both a thorn in the side of Team Arrow as well as a character bright spot in a show where the lights are fading quickly.  Season 2 was Arrow’s “tour de force”, with Slade Wilson, aka Deathstroke, being the show’s main antagonist.  Viewers were able to see his relationship with Oliver change via flashback from Season 1 to Season 2, and having him be part of both past and modern day storytelling, building a character that fans knew, and cared about.

While I’m hoping that season 3 of The Flash doesn’t rely again on the “oh, we thought he was our friend, but he’s actually a time traveling/world hopping speedster” gimmick, both of Barry Allen’s season-long foes were worthy of the label “Big Bad”.  Thawne & Zolomon had a personal relationship with Barry, which made the conflict, well, personal.

STAR Labs Tee Shirts and Hoodies

This is what we saw from Merlyn & Wilson.  Oliver was steeply invested in Seasons 1 & 2.  Regardless of what the show tried to get the viewer to feel (or think), Ra’s Al Ghul and Damien Darhk felt disconnected from Oliver and Team Arrow, no matter who died or whose surprise son got kidnapped.  Making the villains “bigger” does not necessarily equate to them being better.  When you have a nuclear bomb destroying an entire city, yet it feels as if it had zero impact on the direct narrative, I think that is a sign to go back to what worked in the first place: Small scale, gritty and human.  Prometheus, another archer with a personal vendetta against Oliver, is teased as the Season 5 antagonist, and I’m hoping that means the producers agree with my sentiment.

Characters We Care About:

flash-cast(fanpop.com)

Barry Allen might be one of the most likable and relatable characters on television at the moment.  Granted, part of this is because Grant Gustin might be one of the most likable and relatable people in the world (that’s not an exaggeration, I mean it!).  He was created by God to play this role, and I’m very thankful I get the chance to see his brilliance each week.  But the rest of the cast is also made up of likable, competent actors playing likable, down to earth, heartfelt characters that you ACTUALLY care about.  While maybe not quite to this extent, many fans felt similarly about Team Arrow in its first couple of seasons.  These characters cared about each other, they were a family.  Now?  They are stupid, petty people, who make stupid, petty decisions that no real human being with real human being emotions would ever make.  The voice of reason, and breath of fresh air, to Season 4 of Arrow?  Echo Kellum’s Curtis Holt, aka, the future Mr. Fantastic.  He looked at this fantasy world with open, clear eyes, reacting like most of us would if introduced to a team of superheroes, with awe and humor.  And it was awesome.  Bring back…THAT!

 

Do Not, and I repeat, DO NOT, base a Superhero Show Around Romance…like…ever…

olicity(heroesandheartbreakers.com)


When first introduced to Arrow fans, Felicity Smoak was a beautiful, awkward, nerdy, IT genius whose object of affection just happened to be our playboy vigilante.  Their banter was witty and their interactions made us smile.  I was on board for “Olicity” from the very beginning, deciding that I was okay with the step away from comic book lore, where Oli would certainly end up with Laurel Lance.  Then the worst possible thing happened…the producers and writers decided to listen to the fandom.  I will admit my mistake in wanting this “ship” to take place, because throughout season 4 I wanted this relationship to burn in the fire of CWTV hell.  Neither Oliver nor Felicity were the likable characters they had once been separate, now portrayed as bitter people in a relationship with lying, backhandedness (no really, that’s a word), and pure stupidity.  The show focused more on their problem of the week than, I don’t know, say, the possible end of the world due to nuclear war.  “Olicity” has played a major part in the downfall of this show, because it shouldn’t BE the focal point of this show.
Barry and Iris have had their back and forth feelings and some very heartfelt moments, but for the time being, that always takes a backseat to a Speed Demon, a Speedster from the future, and familial relationships.  These shows are not about one character, or one relationship, and when the focus is put on one of these, the rest of the characters, and the show, suffer.

Grumpy Geek – Supergirl – The Best Superhero Show on TV

With all of this said, I still hold out hope for Season 5 of Arrow, I still want to be best friends with Stephen Amell, and I will still be watching religiously the adventures of the Green Arrow each week.  I believe 2 months old is the proper time to introduce superhero TV to my son, so he will be watching along with me.  But please, I plead to the writers and producers: Care about this show and care about its characters as much as we do, because that is so clearly evident on the Flash, not so much on Arrow.

Oh! And bring back the Flarrowverse Suicide Squad.  I get it, the movie is out & the characters are the same, but that was the best thing Arrow had going for it, and I’ll never forgive you for taking that away from me.  Okay, now I’m done.

Lou Mattiuzzo is a full time teacher, full time husband, full time father & full time superhero nerd. The Geekiverse is extremely excited to have him back.

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7 thoughts on “Why The Flash Is Must-See Superhero TV…& Arrow Is Not”

  1. Hmmmm. OK, I will definitely agree that A. Flash is awesome and in the running for the best superhero show on TV, although I may have made the argument last year that a certain newcomer was up there.

    https://thegeekiverse.com/2016/04/23/supergirl-best-superhero-tv-show/

    I’ll also agree that Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke was the best casting Berlanti and company has done. The season was excellent, and partially because those flashbacks tied in so well.

    I won’t agree that Season 1 was very good. It almost lost me. I didn’t like the Malcolm Merlyn story line, although John Barrowman is incredible.

    I really thought Neal McDonough as Damien Darhk was quite good. When Darhk and Oliver were together on the screen, I felt nervous. I was constantly asking, “what will he do next?” I also really liked that,for the most part, the magic was something that Oliver and company had no real weapon against. I like that magic remains a really difficult thing to fight. It made for some agonizing moments.

    Don’t get me wrong. I thought season 4 had some really rough spots, that made it almost unwatchable at times, right up to the final moment where the city council, in the most unrealistic action ever, asks Oliver to be mayor, probably ignoring every succession plan for public office. Schlocky and bad writing.

    I hope season 4 has more to it. I hope Diggle gets his character back. I hope the team replaces Laurel with someone compelling. I look forward to discussing this further throughout the season.

    1. Pete
      Your opinions are completely valid. I’ve met other people who had a hard time following season 1 too, and I agree, it does have its flaws. I just loved it, & it drew me in hard. Season 2 was by far my favorite, but season 1 still eclipses 3 & 4 for me.
      I agree with your assessment of John Barrowman & Neil McDonough. I didn’t like the Damien Darhk storyline, but with that said, I thought McDonough’s performance as Darhk was fantastic. I also enjoyed Matt Nable’s performance as Ra’s Al Ghul is season 3, even tho I wasn’t a huge fan on the storyline. Barrowman is well might have been at the top of his game in season 3.
      I’m looking forward to seeing how Supergirl coming to the CW & Flaahpoint affect Arrow in season 5, and I look forward to discussing those with you as well. Thank you for the comment!

    2. Your joking. Your mixing up the acting with the actual plot and writing which are two completely different things entirely. Blame your liking of S4 on McDonough’s great acting, but saying he and the rest of this cast were literally given ZERO to work with by the writers. The writing of the show has turned into a crappy, romance driven soap opera, which is a far cry from it’s former self. Nobody in the show cares anymore, you can tell, they all like the roles they had in S1 and S2 and the drama is not what they want to play, but they like the money they are getting and have to pay the bills so they can’t argue about it. This show had VERY little detractors in the first two seasons, if it was it was all about plot related stuff. Nowadays problems are everywhere. Plot, fight choreography is absolutely terrible the last fight with Dahrk is one of the worst we’ve seen in the history of anything action related, writing, direction, and in general just like Lou said the writers(Guggenheim and Mericle) don’t care about this show. To me it’s long past gone. Nothing they can do is going to bring this show back after what they’ve done to it. Killing off major characters and making it a romance driven soap opera means this isn’t the Green Arrow, it’s only “Arrow” in title now.

  2. Although you do make some very good points, I have to disagree when it comes to Damien Darhk. The character was just incredibly portrayed and drove the story in different directions. Slade Wilson is my favorite villian from the series because of his deep connections to Oliver and I kind of felt that with Darhk. He scared me most of the season and it was one of the most satisfying moments to watch him die. He was a character that made Oliver question who he wanted to be and made him find himself. I do have to say that the story line did feel a bit drawn out to me, but they really didn’t have a choice when they need to make 20+ episodes.

    One the point of Olicity, I do have to say you make a valid argument. It was nice to see the writers possibly putting Oliver with someone outside the comics, but I believe they may have done it in the wrong way. They should have let the two of them interact more and waited a possible two or three more seasons to build it up. The relationship felt rushed and came out of nowhere. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been a huge Olicity shipper since the beginning, but I was disappointed with how they handled it. Some of the best TV romances took years to develop and I still believe they should be together, but they didn’t do it right. The writers just gave in to what the fans wanted and I still believe that’s why Laurel was killed off. They didn’t want to write about a love triangle anymore and they wanted the fans to stop fighting. Again, don’t get me wrong. I personally was never a fan of Laurel, but her death didn’t surprise me as much as I thought it would. I saw it coming with all of the problems that Felicity’s character presented. By the way, Oliver has always been a person who lies and hides stuff from people. It’s just all he knows. That didn’t change when he started dating Felicity.

    I personally don’t like to compare the two shows because of how different they are. I have not yet seen the second season of Flash so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m wrong on anything. Flash and Arrow may be on the same network, made by the same company, and be in the same universe, but they are completely different. Barry and Oliver both have their own character flaws. Both shows have plot holes in them, but what show doesn’t? It would be pointless to make Arrow and Flash the same. They want to change things up, keep it fresh. They’re both going to try new things and find things that will not work. I believe it’s too early for Flash to be saying that it’s better than Arrow. According to the writer (who did a good job writing this article by the way), Arrow’s first two seasons were great. It’s the third season that caused problems. It could be the same with Flash. We just don’t know yet.

    Overall, great article. It really got me thinking about the quality of both shows. Thank you.

    1. Jen,
      Thank you for your comment! I do agree with you that Darhk was incredibly portrayed. Neal McDonough is a fantastic actor, and regardless of what I viewed as poor writing for the character, McDonough portrayed him fantastically. The whole season 4 storyline never hit home for me, though.
      As I stated, I too was rooting for Oliver & Felicity to get together. Their chemistry during the “will they or won’t they” days of seasons 1 & 2 was electric and I couldn’t wait to see the 2 of them together. In my opinion, I was wrong. And I agree with you, Laurel’s death was a direct result of Olicity, and that bothers me. I HATED Laurel the first couple seasons, and despite becoming a ninja-vigilante in 3 1/2 weeks (-_-), by the time she was killed, I had begun to enjoy her character, hoping she’d end up with Oliver in the future, similar to their arc in the comics. And part of my issue with Olicity was not only the romance itself and how it dominated the show, but what it had done to 2 very likable characters. Oliver, while always prone to lying & hiding things to “protect” those he loved, became a caricature of himself. And Felicity, the most genuine and down to earth of the entire cast at one point, became a bitter, passive aggressive person who often put her negative feelings towards Oliver (after the breakup) front & center during missions to, ya know, save the entire world. To me, the direction Olicity took these 2 characters did not do justice to what many assumed the relationship could bring to the show.
      And for the record, I wholeheartedly agree with you that the Flash and Arrow are 2 completely different shows, and I love that they are. Arrow has prided itself on being dark and gritty, while the Flash is often its more light-hearted, fantastical counterpoint. But I disagree that I cannot compare them. Not only are they both superhero shows, but they take place in the same universe, interact with each other throughout each season & are created by the same team of people. To me, that justifies comparisons. the iron man and captain America movies both have different feels to them, with wildly different protagonists at the forefront, but considering their linked world and connected evolving storyline, I feel I can still compare them on a “what I like/what I don’t like” type of scale. I do not want arrow to be The Flash, or vice versa. I want the writers to care about Arrow the way they care about the Flash, the way they did through seasons 1 & 2, before the Flash came to be. Plot holes & less than ideal moments happen in just about every show & movie in history, I’m not worried about that. I just want to see more thought out storylines for good characters, regardless of what Flarrowverse show they’re on (that extends to LoT & Supergirl as well.
      Jen, the best part of this discussion and our opinions is that you are not wrong, and neither am I. It’s clear that we both care about these shows and characters and want them to be the best that they can be. Too often in the superhero genres now adays, people turn to unnecessary trolling instead of having rational discussions. Thank you for your comment, but also the manner in which you expressed your opinions. 👍🏼

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