Did Arrow Heed Our Advice on How to Make a Superhero Series Work?

TV Guide
Stephen Amell | Photo Credits: Jack Rowand/The CW

With Arrow's first season finale airing Wednesday at 8/7c, thought it would be a good time to look back at The CW's super series as a whole, and see if they heeded our original advice on how to make a show about DC Comics' emerald archer work.

12 things Arrow can learn from Smallville, Buffy and more!

Last summer, we gathered a list of 12 things that Arrow should and shouldn't do in order to be a successful series based on tried-and-true heroic formats, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Lantern, Batman Begins and superhero predecessor Smallville. Let's take a look and see if they listened:

1. Give fans what they want. Oliver (Stephen Amell) was very quick to put on the Green Arrow suit - in the pilot, no less! But other big canon moments from the comics have already found their way into the series, namely coming from his time on the island and introductions of other DC Comics characters (see below), as well as nods to other supeheroes like the Green Lantern with Ferris Air. Ruling: Achieved.

2. Tortured love works. The writers have perfectly balanced the will-they-won't-they tension between Oliver and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) after the consummate hero pushed her towards his best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) so he could focus on saving the world. But the writers also threw those Oliver-Laurel 'shippers a bone by finally having them hook up in the penultimate episode. We're still holding out hope for Oliver-Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), though. Ruling: Achieved.

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3. Keep the action high. Every episode has featured big action sequences, heart-stopping fight scenes, incredibly cool archery shots and fun parkour, but the finale will try to top all of that with the ultimate fight scene on the old Watchmen sets. Ruling: Achieved.

4. Don't take yourself too seriously. While Arrow hasn't been the campiest of series, the introduction of Felicity Smoak added a new layer of levity that was needed in such a dark world. Ruling: Achieved.

5. Keep it simple, stupid. Thanks to Oliver's revenge list, the series found a good balance of "villains of the week" because it was constantly linked to the overarching storyline leading to the Undertaking. Sure, at times it got a little complicated - how many times did Yao Fei (Byron Mann) appear to switch sides?! - but now that we know the reasoning behind the Undertaking, all fans need to know is that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) needs to, unfortunately, die! Ruling: Keep it up.

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6. Don't stray too far from your central characters. Even though Arrow has introduced a slew of new characters who are staying on as series regulars next season, such as Felicity and Slade (Manu Bennett), every story line this season has led back to Oliver, even when it came to Tommy and Laurel's romance. Ruling: Keep it up.

7. Keep it gritty and grounded. The producers promised early on that the story would always be grounded in realism and they certainly delivered. There are no high-flying heroes or telekinetic villains. Plus: Oliver's vigilante ways - murderous when necessary - have kept the series dark. Ruling: Achieved.

8. Don't go overboard with special effects. Sometimes even we forget that each arrow shot is CGI because it's done so seamlessly. There was some rough CGI with the wrecked Queen's Gambit in the warehouse, but honestly, it comes so few and far between that it's hard to complain. Ruling: Keep it up.

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9. Don't assume the audience knows everything about the mythos. The show works for both viewers who know and love the comics and for those who don't. Take the mention of Ferris Air or Oliver's dragon tattoo: If you know the comics, your head likely exploded. But if you're not a fan, it was another mystery you were interested in seeing unravel. Ruling: Achieved.

10. Don't make the hero's real life so ostentatious. Early on in the series, we saw Oliver show up drunk to a ground-breaking ceremony, and then of course, there was the opening of the nightclub Verdant. But all in all, the series mostly focuses on Oliver's alter-ego rather than the façade he has to keep up to the public. Ruling: Keep it up.

11. Bring on the superhero friends. This one we thought we'd have to wait for, but we've already met both superheroes and super villains from the mythos this season, including Merlyn (in this case, Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn as the Dark Archer), Shado (Celina Jade), Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), Deathstroke (Bennett), Deadshot (Michael Rowe), Count Vertigo (Seth Gabel as The Count) and China White (Kelly Hu), among countless others. Ruling: Achieved.

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12. Don't be afraid to take big risks. Since Oliver is in the custody of the Dark Archer, who plans to level The Glades, we'd say this one has been achieved. However, when given the chance to have a character's death (Janina Gavankar's McKenna Hall) actually affect Oliver in the present, the writers opted instead to let her live and leave Starling City. But they did just kill off Yao Fei in the penultimate episode and we could possibly see more death(s) in the finale, so we'll reserve judgment until later. Ruling: Pending.

How do you think Arrow did in its first season? Hit the comments!

Arrow's season finale airs Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW.

(Full disclosure: is owned by a joint venture between Lionsgate and CBS, the latter which also owns The CW in a joint venture with Warner Bros. Entertainment.)

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