CW’s Arrow has been chugging along for about a half a season now. I gave my impressions of its first few episodes before, and I had planned to stick with it for the entire season and give my thoughts on that as well. But, midway through the series, I think I’m dropping out. It’s not that it’s a bad series, exactly. It’s just that it’s not a very good one, either.
Inertia can count for a lot with a TV series — I’ve stuck with a lot of shows that were mediocre, or even outright bad, simply out of habit. But with Arrow I was finding it difficult even to form the habit. I’d forget that it was on. And then I’d forget to go back and catch up on it. I last caught an episode on December 6th. I know that with the holiday season it probably didn’t air every single week this month, but I’m pretty sure I’ve missed at least one episode since then. But when I might normally feel “Oh, I gotta make sure I see what happened”, here I’m just feeling rather indifferent to it all.
Part of this is probably me rather than the show. I’m harder on TV shows than I used to be — when you’re watching a movie nearly every day, a show has to be pretty good in order to justify that extra hour a week that is needed to devote to it. And I’m not precisely Arrow‘s target demographic. I’m not a young adult or teenager, which it does seem to be aiming for. And I’m a DC Comics fan, which arguably works against the show — while I enjoy the little shout-outs to the comics that the series has, it’s balanced by the fact that this isn’t what I think of when I think of Oliver Queen. It’s hard to picture the character played by Stephen Amnell ever growing up into the wisecracking Errol Flynn-like character from the comics. That’s not bad, really — it’s just something that separates the show from what my ideal Green Arrow show would be. And while I enjoy the shout-outs (it tickles me that they brought in a Firestorm supporting character to act as the tech aid for Walter), one can’t watch a show just for shout-outs.
What works against the show, more than anything else for me, is that I can’t for the life of me distinguish most of the episodes from each other. There’s a little progression here and there, but for the most part, one episode feels much the same as the next. There’s not a lot of difference in the plots, as a rule, very little reason to care about this particular bad guy going down, and the exaggerated drama of the series washes out any chance of there being a stylistic difference between episodes. And when one episode has much the same plot as the next, and feels much the same as the next, there’s not a lot of reason to tune into the next. And the season-long arcs are just progressing very slowly, almost at a crawl. While I like the idea Walter, for example, isn’t the stereotypical evil stepfather they could have made him out to be, his investigation of Moira’s activities is moving at a snail’s pace — with him even going off for an episode or two to put the brakes on it even more. And the various pseudo-romantic dramas just aren’t interesting enough to make me feel like they’re worth the time being spent on them.
I do have one quibble on the writing itself as well, regarding Oliver’s reaction to Helena’s crusade against her father’s empire. It never felt like the writers really justified the difference between their courses of action in such a way as to merit Oliver’s rejection of her methods. It came across as “You’re killing people in vigilante vengeance that I was planning to kill for vigilante justice, and that’s wrong!” It was rather unsatisfying.
But the biggest issue I have with the series is that I don’t really have any reason to keep watching it. I’m just not that interested in the next previously-unheard-of corrupt executive to get knocked off, or “Speedy’s” partying ways, or Tommy Merlyn’s romantic overtures to Laurel. Walter’s investigations of Moira could have been interesting, but it moves too slowly. Merlyn being disowned might lead to him being the comic book villain Merlyn, but it’s hard to picture them making that change in his character in a natural manner any time soon — it’s a bit of a catch-22 in that if it’s soon enough to be interesting it’ll feel abrupt, and if it comes naturally it’ll be a season or two down the road.
Ultimately, though, it’s just the fact that I don’t care about the fact that I’ve missed episodes. That’s as good a reason to stop watching as anything.