So, the last time I mentioned Arrow I kind of went on a bit of a rant about how the show plays in a white liberal fantasy world where all the privileged people are doing pretty much everything related to helping out the community (which is conveniently circumscribed to be just Starling City, because in the DC universe the only real world locations we can use are outside the United States).
This is a post where I literally just watched the last episode of the season a few hours ago, so my thoughts on the series as a whole are still a little scattered, so bear with me.
For anyone who might be wondering, my opinion of the show kind of followed the trajectory of “The first few episodes really suck; hey, this is getting pretty interesting; that’s totally absurd but it somehow works; I must finish this show.” If you haven’t seen it yet, then just trust me that it’s a very entertaining superhero serial with a really rough start. By the time I got to the end of Season 2 I stopped obsessing over the fact that everyone on the show is improbably beautiful regardless of their background (as an example, Roy Harper, who is supposed to be a guy who grew up in Starling City’s slums and has a checkered past before becoming an ascended Arrow fanboy, is referred to repeatedly as “Abercrombie” because even the writers can’t resist poking fun at their cast’s looks). One glaring exception (to my preoccupation with the cast’s appearance) is Amanda Waller, who heads ARGUS, the DC equivalent of Marvel’s SHIELD. In the comics, Waller is an overweight black woman (or at least, she was before the New 52 reboot that DC did a couple years ago), and she is not someone to be crossed. On Arrow, she retains her comics personality, employing methods for dealing with problems that easily fall into morally gray areas compared to the show’s heroes, but now she’s thin and pretty and wears those expensive high heels that have the red soles. Waller’s makeover, while consistent with the current comics continuity, is really problematic because it narrows down the show’s diversity for reasons that are purely cosmetic (even if we accept that it’s for consistency with the comics, that just shifts the problem over to DC for deciding to redesign a female character who was established as being interesting for more than her appearance).
Waller’s treatment is a minor thing, but it does lead into another complaint that I have about the show overall. The female characters are generally well written (for a primetime superhero drama), but a few too many times it felt to me that the writers were just giving them nonsensical motivations in order to heighten the drama. Oliver and his family are about to lose their fortune, so they need to shift their assets into a new trust, but they need all three beneficiaries (Oliver, his mother Moira, and his sister Thea) to sign the papers to make it happen; Thea is angry with Oliver and Moira at this point because she’s discovered that her biological father is actually the primary villain from Season 1 (melodrama!). When Oliver discovers that his father knew Thea wasn’t his biological daughter, he confronts her with this information to show that the genetics are irrelevant because their father loved her anyway. Thea’s takeaway from this revelation is that her father was a liar too, and she refuses to sign the papers, consigning the Queen family to middle class status for the start of Season 3 (presumably; I’ve not seen any of Season 3 and probably won’t until it comes to Netflix next year). On the one hand, I totally get Thea’s anger here, because she’s pretty much the only person on the show who doesn’t know anyone else’s secrets (it’s kind of absurd, but I suppose someone has to not be in the know in order for secret identities to mean anything) and she’s just found out that her father kept secrets from her too. The problem is that the show depicts the scene in a way that makes Thea comes off petulant and spiteful instead of acknowledging her legitimate frustration with the way her family has treated her all her life (with a big set up for Thea to disappear with her biological dad and make a dramatic come back as a villain at some point in the future, I’m sure).
Of course, Thea’s small potatoes compared to Laurel Lance, Oliver’s ex-girlfriend who spends her season arc dealing with substance abuse and systematically losing the trust of everyone on the show despite being the one closest to figuring out the season’s conspiracy (somehow she ends up becoming more clueless about what’s going on after she starts recovery). Laurel’s another character who acts in seemingly irrational ways that the show doesn’t want the audience to sympathize with, but every time something happened between her and another character, I really sympathized with Laurel, even when she was wrong. You stumble across a conspiracy headed up by the city’s leading mayoral candidate and no one believes you because they simultaneously find out you’ve been abusing pain killers and alcohol? That might be gas lighting. You find out your sister, who you thought dead for six years, is alive and back in town, and within a week she’s dating your ex, who cheated on you with her on the trip where they both supposedly died? Yeah, I can understand why you might pitch a fit and kick them out of your home.
Anyhow, despite the problems I have with the way several of the women are portrayed on this show, I still think it’s pretty good television.