ARROW Season 7 was the final nail in the coffin of what was once a great series. Yes, Oliver Queen (played by Stephen Amnell) is a whiny, self-hating, fly-by-night, says-he-works-alone-but-really-has-a-team, protagonist, but isn’t that what we also love about Batman? Season 7 of this show muddles through inconsistent villains, a meandering plot, and a future storyline that might have been its only saving grace.
Let’s talk villains, shall we? The first season of ARROW introduced us to the Dark Archer, the foil to everything Oliver Queen was striving to achieve and become. The Dark Archer wanted to destroy the city that the Arrow was trying so hard to protect. The second season introduced us to one of the most iconic villains in the DC universe, Slade, aka Deathstroke. Arrowverse’s rendition of Deathstroke did not disappoint with a good city-destroying plot centered on Oliver and Team Arrow. Season 3 brought us another DC icon in Ra’s Al Ghul with yet another city-destroying plot – there’s a formula here – with the full might and intrigue of the League of Assassins behind him. In the fourth season, Damien Dark introduces magic and the terrorist group H.I.V.E. with a more-than-one-city destroying plan (Egads!). Season 5 gives us the double whammy of both Prometheus and Talia Al Ghul with both a city-destroying and an Oliver Queen-destroying plot because they hate him for reasons.
However, once we get to the sixth season, this is where our villains start meandering, giving us a Russian mobster in Anatoly Knyazev, hacker Cayden James, and drug dealer Ricardo Diaz. However the group starts by working together towards their goal of taking down Oliver Queen until one by one Diaz picks them off becoming the ultimate villain of the sixth season. In the recent seventh season, however, we get Diaz for another 7 episodes, still trying to kill Oliver. It then transitions to Dante and the mysterious 9th Circle, only to conclude with Emiko Queen, Oliver’s long lost sister.
To say that these villains were weak in comparison to their previous season of counterparts would be an understatement. This has as much to do with their lack of character development as it does with ARROW breaking one of the foundations of film and television writing – show don’t tell.
While previous villains have shown us the danger they posed to both our heroes and Star City through their deeds and their plots, the only sense of danger we get from the 9th Circle is from Lyla and ARGUS who basically just makes them high priority targets. This forces us to believe that they’re worse villains than the now-captured Diaz. Speaking of Diaz, why did we get another 7 episodes focused on a hyped up drug dealer? We didn’t get that many additional episodes with any of the iconic DC villains who have given Team Arrow continuous trouble throughout their comics and other media. No. That honor went to the weakest villain (at the time) of the series, a decision that left many ARROW fans scratching their heads.
Now, while season 7 of ARROW definitely tried to do some fun things with out-of-the-box episode formats, they didn’t keep consistent with the format, breaking the viewer from the immersion. The documentary episode was a lot of fun until we suddenly saw scenes that were taking place in secret from our documentarians, completely breaking the documentary-style of the episode.
However, the saving grace this season is that they didn’t try to stuff yet another year of Oliver’s missing life into flashbacks. It was starting to get to the point where the math wasn’t adding up with how long he was “missing”. Instead, season 7 introduced us to a future where Oliver was gone and the children of our current Team Arrow were trying to save the city from their own threat. There was enough fresh story and questions of how-did-our-characters-get-there that, at many times, made it more interesting than the present-day story that ARROW was trying to tell.
All in all, it’s a good thing that season 8 hasn’t been renewed for a full season. It’s pretty clear that ARROW is scraping the bottom of the barrel for content. The only thing to do now is wrap it up with a not-deplorable ending.
The seventh season of ARROW is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.