Team GATV Roundtable: Looking Back at Season 1 Team GATV Roundtable: Looking Back at Season 1
The GATV Staff holds a roundtable discussion to reflect on the first season of the hit CW series Arrow. Team GATV Roundtable: Looking Back at Season 1

Unfinished BusinessSix weeks following the outstanding season finale of Arrow allowed us to both process the events of the episode and the season as a whole. (We also waited out the final two chapters of the tie-in digital Arrow comic, which completed its season and tied in directly with the aftermath of “Sacrifice.”) What we know is that there are still many questions left by the finale and just how things move forward into Season 2 and beyond.

As we anxiously await the show’s return in the fall, we wanted to do a follow-up to our roundtable discussions back during the winter hiatus to track how the show has improved and/or changed and what effects that has had on our opinions of the series. To refresh your memory and serve as reference, here are the four discussions we had six months ago, when the show had completed its first nine-episode run:

Team GATV settled in for a lengthy discussion, and we now share that with you. Buckle up, Arrowheads! As always, we welcome your comments and questions. Feel free to share below.

BROAD OVERVIEW, WHAT IS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THE SERIES BASED ON THE FIRST SEASON?

Darkness on the Edge of TownSTEPHANIE (Writer/Episode Guide Archivist): I have found Arrow to be a generally interesting and action packed drama. While it is not my favorite series at the moment, it has kept my interest with many of its unpredictable moments and blend of serialized and stand-alone episodes. I do think there is room for improvement in season two, but I would still classify season one as a positive start.
CRAIG (Webmaster/Editor-in-Chief): I think the first season delivered on its promises and in many ways exceeded those promises. The show, and in particular Stephen in the role of Oliver Queen, seemed to win people over, including many who might have been doubting the show before it premiered. I think it can also safely be said that the show got better as it went along, as if they, too, knew there were some hiccups early on, and they took the time to make them right.
Dead to RightsDEREK (Writer/Reviewer): I’ve never seen something improve so quickly. Frankly, I was uneasy about the show at first. I tried to be positive and optimistic during the 2012 episodes, but there was a part of me that just didn’t like the show. But — and I mentioned this in my review of the finale — I swear, every complaint I had at the beginning was mediated or fixed or justified by the end. It’s one thing to come up with something decent but plateau at the beginning. It’s another thing entirely to deliver something flawed but with potential, and then not only live up to that potential, but have the balls to attack every possible problem head-on. It’s almost scary how many gripes we listed early on that, to me, were totally course-corrected by episode 23.
STEPHANIE: Derek is spot on. The show improved tremendously with later episodes and that helped shape my more positive look on the season. The first run of episodes seemed acceptable, but once the team emerged and started functioning reasonably well, it gave us an added element to root for.
ANDY (Writer at companion site KSiteTV.com): My impression of the series has been incredibly positive since the show returned from its winter hiatus and while there have been few downs on the road, there has been many strong aspects with it. Arrow‘s first season did what every first season with any show is supposed to do: giving a proper introduction to the main character, his world, the people in his life but also his main goals which has been cleaning Starling City and connecting with the world again. I have been pretty pleased with the majority of the things that the show started on; after every episode ended, I always wanted more.
MATT (Writer/Reviewer): I love that the showrunners have given interviews where they copped to how much they were still finding the voice of the series during that first 9 week run prior to the winter hiatus. While “Year’s End” still stands up as one of the better episodes of the season, once they got to episode 12 or 13, all of the sudden the show completely transitioned. Like Derek mentioned, it felt like they had done an objective look at what was working and what wasn’t, as well as reading through audience feedback, and made serious course corrections. But they did it in a way that it felt like a natural transition not some jarring reimagining of what they were doing.
CRAIG: There are still a few things that aren’t gelling as well as they should (Laurel), but when you consider how many characters there were to juggle, and how much story had to be told cohesively for the first season arc, I’m pretty impressed.
ANDY: That is what I love with first seasons: the creative team being willing to do risks and see what works or not.
CRAIG: That cohesive arc is something I really appreciate, especially now on a rewatch: There are hints as far back as the pilot that are paid off by the end of the season. They had a direction they wanted to take, and they got there.
DEREK: I haven’t rewatched the season yet, but I’m looking forward to it. More than I usually look forward to a season rewatch, actually.
STEPHANIE: I usually find that I become more invested in a show during a marathon rewatch, so I foresee that being the case here. And it will be easier to catch those little hints planted early.
ANDY: Yeah, I can’t wait to do my rewatch. I have been watching some episodes here and there but I’m definitely going to start from the beginning.
The Huntress ReturnsCRAIG: I like that The CW is giving the audience a chance to watch over the summer, and I LOVE that cast and crew have been tweeting during the repeats. That’s the other aspect that really helped “sell” Season 1, I feel. The cast and crew being so accessible; they really give the viewers a feeling of being included. I get the feeling, without putting words into their mouths, that this cast feels genuinely blessed and grateful that people love them.
MATT: And blessed and grateful for both the work and the strength of the show.
CRAIG: Yes, definitely. From a first time lead on a show (Stephen Amell) to a first really big role (Emily Bett Rickards). Even someone like Colton Haynes, who already had a legion of fan love for Teen Wolf, seems to be very thankful and engaging to the Arrow fandom.
MATT: One of the great things about this cast is how much they are involved and invested in promoting the show, seemingly without the gun-to-the-back-of-the-head feeling that often stars feel like when they are promoting their projects.
ANDY: Stephen recently did a tour in several countries, and it amazes me how dedicated the main star is: traveling to several countries that still hasn’t finished the first season but still does it because of the support he gets.
Screen Shot 2013-04-19 at 1.46.27 PMCRAIG: Using Emily as a perfect example, how much of a success story is that? What could have been a tiny, one-shot, one-scene role has become the second female lead of the show. I’m hoping this is just the start of many good things for her; she’s a cool person.
STEPHANIE: I love how excited everyone involved with the show has been because that has made it more enjoyable to tune into, and I really appreciate their enthusiasm.
DEREK: The show benefited from how it played out its first arc, which is very simplistic if you think about it. Bad guy wanted to demolish a part of the city. No big deal, in the grand scheme of superhero stories. But it was played straight enough that the full terror in that scenario worked, and its simplicity and straightforwardness meant it wasn’t going to be a letdown when all was revealed, even with a season full of mystery.
MATT: For me, once they pulled away from the list for a bit — without forgetting it entirely — the world took on a life of its own. Team Arrow coalesced and the impetus of the story started to flow very well. There were obvious growing pains throughout the season, as is common with the first season of any series, but also some definite growth. I think, in this age of “instant gratification,” there is an expectation of a series to hit the ground running and perform immediately or they get dropped. There were aspects to glom onto in the first part of the season, but it definitely became a stronger show by the end of the season and took over a particular niche in TV that nothing else is fulfilling at the moment.
ANDY: I’m not sure where I stand on the decreased focus on the list: I still don’t mind it but I agree that when the list wasn’t the main focus the whole time, the show allowed itself to expand on their storylines while still having it there in the background.
STEPHANIE: I’d prefer it be a background aspect or minimized for the opportunity for Oliver to figure out his own path.
MATT: We can get into it more down the road, but for all intents and purposes, the list is done.
ANDY: At least as the A-story device.
CRAIG: I agree/think you’re right, Matt. I know Marc Guggenheim has said that Arrow the vigilante is gone now, and Arrow the hero will emerge. I’m sure the list will factor in at some points, but I think the approach will be different. I’m very excited to see what they do.
DEREK: Yeah. But at least in its season one shape, I’m glad to see the list go.
ANDY: While I enjoy that tease, I hope that it won’t go too fast for Oliver to get to that point, and that it will still be something that he deals with throughout the whole season.

Speaking of the actors…

HOW WELL DO YOU FEEL STEPHEN AMELL HAS DONE IN THE ROLE THIS FIRST SEASON?

ARW-CW12-0024CRAIG: I already referenced “exceeding expectations,” but I think this is another place where those words have to be used. He seems so dedicated to the show, and the character, and put in a performance that was so strong, that no one would dare say “they should have just kept Justin Hartley.” (Though, I do hope to see Justin as someone else on the show, eventually.)
ANDY: The fanboy in me would scream “Where is his Emmy for Best Male Character in a Drama Show” or something. On a serious note, Stephen’s job this season has been phenomenal. I remember thinking around this time last year that “I’m sure he is gonna be great,” because I was unfamiliar with him. Then, as I started seeing his dedication and respect for the role, my expectations increased. He exceeded them at several points throughout the season.
CRAIG: There were times in the early episodes where there was some stiffness; but it was really fine, because Oliver, too, was really stiff. He was in a new world after a very traumatic experience. I think that’s another reason why interactions with characters like Felicity and Diggle are so important; they make Oliver smile from time to time, and that further makes me think the initial stiffness was intentional.
ANDY: Even before his increased interactions with Team Arrow, I knew he could do the emotional and comedic aspects of his character, it was just the writing that didn’t let him at the beginning of the season, which makes sense.
STEPHANIE: His incredible dedication to the part is hard to miss, so I have great applause for him. From what I can tell, he seems to be handling the responsibility well. His acting doesn’t blow me away, aside from the emotion scene in the finale, but it’s good enough that he has proven to be the right guy for the role.
Unfinished BusinessCRAIG: I have to say, on a non-smiley note, seeing him crack and almost regress to a child who lost his best friend in the season’s final moments…. Stephen knocked that out of the park. So, obviously he can play drama, and he can play it very well.
ANDY: Couldn’t have said it better myself. His performance in that final scene in “Sacrifice” still makes me emotional and amazed of him as an actor.
MATT: Yeah, Steph, I think “proven to be the right guy for the role” nails it. I think garnering this role, being a lead with so much focus, having to spend so much of his time on the series while filming as he does, has been a master class for him. There are still a few actor-y things he does that are kind of uncomfortable to me, but I think he has grown as an actor and been given a chance to really explore what he can do. Not only has that allowed the character to grow on-screen, but I don’t feel he would’ve sold the moment with Tommy in “Sacrifice” as well at the start of the season. That’s not a knock on him as it is an observation. Seems like he needed a role like this to tap into what he is capable of, and I think he’s stepped up.
ANDY: I can only remember one point in the season when I was either uncomfortable or unsure — not sure which term is best here — which was when he was sitting on the floor and just ordered Felicity to do something without looking at her with a very intimidating voice. I think it was episode 22 as it had something to do with Malcolm. I don’t know why that moment was weird to me when I’m used to seeing him angry and terrifying as the hood.
DEREK: He just seems like a great person in general, like you all have said. I think my favorite acting from him — after his scene with Tommy in the finale, obviously — is his silent reactions to hearing the tape of Moira talking to Malcolm in “Betrayal.” He’s really great at conveying what’s bubbling under the surface. Same with that moment of rage in the hallway when Malcolm calls him over in “Darkness on the Edge of Town.”
MATT: I’m with you on that. There are little moments that really show his commitment and immersion in the role vs. the big stuff that have sold me on him. Everything that has become of Oliver on the island and what Amell has done with that has been tremendously enjoyable. His change in voice, clearly demonstrating a younger inner world, the naive presence; all of these little choices make such a huge difference. I’m hugely impressed by that. The quiet moment where Oliver offers to be there to hear about Felicity’s day — can’t recall which episode that was off the top of my head — was written that way, but there is such a small, pointed way where you can see the real connection between the two when he says it that has completely sold me on him in the part.
STEPHANIE: I like that you brought up that scene because it’s one of Oliver’s most genuine and sweet moments, even though it’s so simple. I’m glad it came off as pure friendship instead of anything more — it gives Oliver more layers — more for Amell to dive into.
MATT: Totally agree. Obviously, Felicity has a thing for Oliver — and the shippers are eating it up — but there are just these kind, friendly moments that Stephen brings to their interaction that sells such a human side of Oliver.
ANDY: I can’t wait to see all the great Felicity and Oliver scenes again because I agree with you Steph, it gives Oliver more layers and Amell a chance to present that he is capable to show those sides.
STEPHANIE: In terms of actor-y things, there have been a few times when Oliver is in the base under Verdant, and Amell delivers lines almost passively. I guess for Oliver he’s not concerned about persuading Diggle and Felicity to do something because his authority from fighting skills in the group basically does that for him. And that is something so minimal that it doesn’t tarnish my impression.
MATT: The one actor-y thing that really gets my goat is he has this tendency to look off to the side with just his eyes when he’s in conversation with someone. It’s a bit distracting.
DEREK: I’ve noticed the eye thing too. It doesn’t bother me, but it’s an odd choice. I always got weirded out by how he had a tendency to keep his arms straight down in front of him all the time in civilian form, no matter what the situation. I don’t think it happened as much later, or at least I didn’t notice, but it was always strange to me.
MATT: Yeah, the arm thing was one of the others, but I think I’ve become acclimated to it. The eye thing seems less like a choice and more like one of those actor ticks that we all have.

Alright…

WHO HAS BEEN YOUR FAVORITE CHARACTER?

Lone GunmanANDY: Does this include guest characters as well?
MATT: If you favor a guest character more than a regular character, sure.
STEPHANIE: Felicity, hands down, even though she was not one of the original stars. She brings the humor and lightness early episodes were lacking. Her computer skills and occasional random knowledge have become quite useful and haven’t yet crossed the line into implausible. Honestly, I have difficulty imagining the series without her now.
CRAIG: I, too, love Felicity and what she brings out of every other character. That guy in the green hood is pretty cool too, though.
ANDY: Well the thing is, Oliver is my favorite character, but I think that is so obvious because he is the main character. My favorite male character other than Oliver is Diggle because he is such a fascinating player and partner. He will support Oliver, but he will also stand up to Oliver and question his methods, which is why he will never be a sidekick to me. My favorite female character has to be Felicity because she brings such a different aspect to the table as a member of Team Arrow. I was always hoping that I could say that Laurel was my favorite female character because Katie Cassidy is one of my favorite actresses out there, but sadly, she hasn’t been allowed to really expand as much as Felicity and that is mostly because of the writing. She does the best she can with what she gets.
BetrayalDEREK: Man, I don’t know anymore. I’m at a point where a handful are a “favorite” but for different reasons. I dig Manu Bennett as Slade; the flashbacks improved exponentially when he was given a bigger role, and he’s a great mix of fun, snarky, but still dark and serious enough to work. That said, that has more to do with Bennett’s charisma than the character.
MATT: I don’t know anymore, either.
STEPHANIE: That’s a good problem to have, considering how we mentioned in the last set of roundtables that many of the characters were too underdeveloped, even though that may still be the case for some.
ANDY: I never expected to say “Slade Wilson” and “funny” in the same sentence, but it really makes the Wilson/Deathstroke character more interesting and perhaps a bit different from the comics.
MATT: Felicity and Slade both jumped out as such strong characters that helped not only to endear the world to the audience but also helped to add more depth to and bring out more character in Oliver. Diggle is still a sentimental favorite to me, though one can’t ignore that he kind of got lost along the way there for a chunk of the latter part of the season.
Darkness on the Edge of TownDEREK: Moira is still way up there for me. I think Quentin has potential to be what I’ve wanted him to be this whole time now, but his arc leading up to it was uneven, so he’s not perfect yet. After Oliver, Tommy had the best character arc of the season, I think. Even with the slip-up in “Salvation” and “The Huntress Returns,” when they forgot what he was mad about.
ANDY: Moira was a character that I felt a lot for as well; I still cry when Moira had her breakdown in the car after Frank died. Such a powerful performance by Susanna Thompson.
DEREK: As much as I’m down with symbolism, I still have to chuckle at the ridiculous on-the-noseness of Moira literally wiping the blood off her hands in that scene. Susanna certainly sold it the best she could, though.
ANDY: Remember when I wasn’t as interested in Quentin as most people were, back in our first roundtable discussions? I have made a total 180 on that front because I love Quentin a lot more now. Once the “I-hate-you-Oliver-because-you-killed-my-daughter”aspect was dialed down, he got to be such a better character. I realized in the finale why Oliver needs this on and off obstacle: he is Green Arrow’s Commissioner Gordon.
SacrificeSTEPHANIE: Quentin has slowly grown on me, but I’m still not to the point of really liking him yet. If he were to become Arrow‘s version of Commissioner Gordon, that would be a good use for the character instead of having him being bitter at Laurel’s choices and the Hood’s actions all the time.
MATT: Paul Blackthorne aside, I still don’t have a high level of interest in Quentin. I’m open to seeing the Batman-Gordon style relationship next season, but I have to see it first.
CRAIG: I, too, hope to see a Commissioner Gordon-type dynamic with Quentin next season. I admit for a few moments there in the finale I thought he was a goner. I think now that he [might] be more involved with Team Arrow, too, he might become much more interesting.
ANDY: I really thought that Quentin was going to die, but hey look at it this way: the finale really made it look possible that anyone of them could have died.
MATT: I’m still not happy about how the rift between Oliver and Diggle was wrapped up so quickly. That was a storyline with some meat that deserved more.
ANDY: I think we are far from done with that aspect between those two.
MATT: I would agree with that. I just felt like they didn’t show the seams of that relationship after Diggle came back to help.
ANDY: Thea is definitely close after Felicity because, as a young person, I feel that I can relate to her. I hope that the love for her in this group has increased since we last spoke because she is definitely not the same teenager that everyone was complaining about at the start of the season.
MATT: That’s interesting to me because I don’t feel as strong of a connection with Thea. Wonder if that is an age thing.
ANDY: Possibly.
BetrayalSTEPHANIE: I don’t feel like I connect with Thea at all, and I’m not that much older than she is.
DEREK: I can’t say I feel a “connection” with her, but I liked her fine. I was less passionate either way at the end, though; I think, aside from giving something for Roy to play off of, she got put on the backburner towards the end. Though, that’s perhaps for the best.
ANDY: I agree to a certain degree. She was put in the back a bit but that will change for sure in season 2. I really love her dynamic with Roy, though. Definitely my favorite couple out of all the couples that we have had this season.
STEPHANIE: I am ambivalent about her relationship with Roy. It seems that it was built more out of convenience than attraction, but that’s not to say they’re not attracted to one another. I don’t see them being one of television’s “epic romances.”
CRAIG: Thea became more interesting to me as soon as she got away from the storylines involving drugs.
STEPHANIE: It does keep Thea from partying or complaining about Oliver’s distance in her life, which I appreciate.
CRAIG: It’s odd, because I think one of the flaws in Laurel is that she is defined by the men in her life rather than herself. Yet, I think a big part of what’s worked for Thea is her interaction with Roy. He brings out the best in the character, and almost seems to give her a mirror in a way. “This is what you don’t want to be, this is what you want to be now.” The characters are all learning from each other, which I like.

WHO WAS YOUR LEAST FAVORITE CHARACTER?

SalvationCRAIG: With no offense meant to Katie Cassidy, it’s still Laurel. I don’t know if Laurel is boring or Katie is just bored, but half the time she’s on screen I’m just pretty apathetic. I think Laurel is the character still most in need of rehab. While characters like Quentin, or Thea, or even Oliver seemed to grow and improve, I don’t feel like we got to see Laurel’s improvement that much, even when we had storylines like her mother coming back to town. I’m hoping that with Season 2 that might be taken care of. Obviously she’s not going back to CNRI.
ANDY: Not sure if Cassidy is bored but I think the writers may need to give her better things that doesn’t perhaps has to do a lot with relationships. I can’t wait to see though what they will do with her in Season 2. Could anyone here see Laurel possibly join her dad in the police force?
STEPHANIE: Oooh, Laurel at the police station, that could be interesting, although she doesn’t yet have enough boldness in the character for me to be convinced that she could be an officer.
DEREK:I actually wouldn’t mind the idea of Laurel working with the cops and going through the training. I’d be nervous about how silly it might look, but it’d be a good springboard for her. Because at this point, yeah, she’s still my least favorite.
ANDY: I think if they just keep her and Oliver away from each other — at least on a relationship aspect — then I think she will be able to get more fleshed out than she did in this season. We know that she can definitely kick some serious butt, so if she would end up working with the police, we would get to see her more in action. I think it could also be an interesting dynamic between her and Quentin as well.
The Huntress ReturnsDEREK: Part of the problem for Laurel is that any decent storylines for her have gotten shot down. She had a brief bout of playing Lois Lane to this hero with the secret phone business, but she didn’t get to do much with it before her dad (and Oliver, sorta) put a stop to it. And then her mom came to town and was pretty much a wet blanket the whole time. Still can’t believe Alex Kingston got wasted like that.
ANDY: I liked Kingston and while I did get what I wanted out of her appearances, which was to see her and Laurel reconnect a bit, it was really painful to see Quentin having to suffer again about his dead daughter.
CRAIG: I still can’t believe Alex Kingston, err, Dinah Lance didn’t get to meet Malcolm Merlyn.
ANDY: And none of her dialogue included “Sweetie!”
CRAIG: Dinah Lance doesn’t seem the type to say “sweetie.”
VertigoMATT: Outside of the main characters, I would have to say my least fave characters on the season were Dinah (muddled story with no heft), Helena — though, I know for a lot of people her inclusion is what kickstarted their interest in the series — Cyrus Vanch (didn’t live up to potential [yet]), and The Count.
CRAIG: I liked The Count, but I admit some bias there because Seth Gabel is awesomesauce. Maybe a little more removal from Heath Ledger’s Joker would help, but for the most part, I was okay with him.
MATT: The Count could offer so much to this series but they really seem like they have little grasp on what they want to do with the character, which makes it hard for the audience to understand him or care.
STEPHANIE: As much as I loved Seth Gabel as The Count, and Seth Gabel in general, he could have been more present. He didn’t have enough scenes to build up the character. I can’t even remember what his motivations were, if he had any. The mental instability of The Count was intriguing and his few scenes were enjoyable, but overall, the character was not the most clear.
ANDY: The Count is basically the Joker of this show: I liked that because he was sort of Scarecrow and Joker but then in his last episode, he really became more of a Joker-character.
MATT: The Joker’s influence on the Count is very evident but his influence on the show is nowhere near the Joker’s. Poor plotting with him, so far, is destroying his effectiveness.
DEREK: I love Seth Gabel, but The Count didn’t quite work for me. It was a valiant effort, though. I welcome more return appearances, if they can figure out how to use him effectively.
ANDY: But let’s look at it this way: would it have worked if he had been more of a count that he was in the comics instead of the version that we got? I think it was a great example of the villains that Oliver will be responsible for in their creations.
MATT: I’m not saying I want the Count from the comics. I’m saying I want a character who is clearly defined and has strong motivations, even if his actions prove to be a wildcard. The Count as written so far is too nebulous to be that effective of a villain, especially if he’s planned to be the series’ Joker.
CRAIG: I think my other Laurel issue at the moment is we’re told that she and Oliver had this epic romance, and while I do admit there were a FEW more sparks in the flashback in “The Undertaking,” I don’t really see the chemistry on camera. That’s another thing that I also wonder if it is intentionally awkward, given Oliver’s many years away.
ANDY: My issue with that is that they brought it back so late and unexpected in the season. I had discussions with some people after we found out that Oliver was still in love with her, and I wasn’t sure if I really believed it because I was so convinced that he had moved on from her or at least didn’t want to interfere between her and Tommy. I just wished that they had showed more of it and earlier.
CRAIG: It could be that Laurel appeals to Oliver’s younger self — that same “kid” who just lost his best friend. Kid Oliver, Laurel was his ideal. Maybe Oliver feels that being with Laurel can bring that childlike feeling back to himself. The other problem I have with Laurel is she seems very wishy-washy. “I love Oliver, I love Tommy, no I love Oliver, oh I hate Oliver, here let me sleep with you, Oliver!” Make up your mind.
DEREK: I liked the explanation in the finale. It didn’t justify it, but I get what their deal is supposed to be and can see what Oliver likes. She always saw him as the good guy he was destined to be. But it’s strange that so much effort was put into Oliver purposefully not trying to make it a love triangle that it was kind of backtracking to bring that drama back to the front. I didn’t mind it since it played into Tommy’s downward spiral, which was super engaging, but it’s definitely weird.
MATT: Yeah, Laurel is just a crux of problems. I think one of the advantages of Tommy being gone now is they can pull her outside of being merely a love interest to be tossed around by two best friends.
DEREK: I can see what Craig is saying, though. I think a big part of Oliver’s arc at the end of the season was getting back to the things the island scraped away but shouldn’t have. It made him a better warrior, but he lost his ability to be warm and openly show love, etc. So, going against his better judgment and darting to Laurel’s apartment to make out with her in her window was an old piece of him, the kid who would do stupid things for love, coming back when he was thinking his mission was over.
MATT: Obviously, the way Tommy sacrifices himself, Laurel is going to reject Oliver for the time being. That gives her an opportunity to focus on other things in her life and hopefully build the character and branch out her role in things.
CRAIG: Preferably things involving wearing fishnets.
Black_CanarySTEPHANIE: She has a long way to go before she makes me believe she would rock the fishnets.
MATT: Oddly, I’m not fully interested in seeing her become a hero just yet. I wouldn’t mind the focus and direction that training could give to her, but I have a feeling the show is starting to become lousy with heroes. Now, we’ve got build-ups for Felicity and Diggle. Then, we’ve got Roy and Thea. Quentin is transitioning, building upon his cop background. Pretty soon, everyone is going to be a crimefighter, which runs the risk of making the show less effective.
CRAIG: At the rate we’re going, though, that’s exactly what I think we’ll see: A big old Team Arrow in the Arrowcave. (We need to discuss where that’s going to be.) I mean, at the very least, Thea and Roy are going to be in on everything by the end of Season 3, right?
MATT: So, Laurel’s progression has to be substantive, but it shouldn’t be as deliberately down the fishnets path. There needs to be interesting ins to make it work for the character and the show.
ANDY: The thing is that — at least for me — I know that Cassidy could give us such a strong female character who is much more intriguing. It’s just that she needs to be able to have storylines that don’t involve a relationship and so on. We have seen her when she is a lawyer, when she commits to a case like that little boy, and how great she can with that role.
MATT: Whatever the case, they need to find other, better motivations for her, as she is the weak point in the show. And that really falls on the writers, who have to clearly define for themselves what they want to do with Laurel. Love interest and third-rate Lois Lane didn’t work all that well in this first season.
ANDY: I don’t know if I would call her the weak point of the show. At least, she was more interesting than McKenna, who I wished had been Sandra Hawke instead. McKenna was a bit over the top sometimes which bothered me but not that much.
CRAIG: McKenna was okay. She seemed to come and go rather abruptly, though. At least she wasn’t a psycho ex-girlfriend like Helena. Eesh.
ANDY: Andy goes and cries in the corner because the other children don’t like Helena.
MATT: I wasn’t into McKenna her first couple of episodes, but I eventually bought into her and was sad to see her go.
DEREK: McKenna served her purpose well, and the actress was great. But in the end she was sadly forgettable. I thought she had potential, but the season was too crowded when she came in.
STEPHANIE: I don’t understand how Oliver so easily claimed he was still in love with Laurel after he had relationships with both Helena and McKenna, which he looked invested in.
ANDY: I really hope that relationships won’t be focused as much as it was on Smallville. No disrespect to that show. That said, I still say that the best relationship we had this season was Thea and Roy.
CRAIG: If we’re talking relationships, I just want to also put in some good words for the Walter/Moira relationship developments. I went from assuming he was a bad guy in the pilot, all the way to the season’s end, where he seemed genuinely betrayed by Moira and that Undertaking nonsense. He had the balls to be like “you know what? Screw you. I’m leaving.” But in a much more awesome Colin Salmon voice. I love Moira, but I thought having Walter respond in the way he did was a bit unexpected (TV-wise) and perfect. I also liked that those scenes showed Thea’s reactions, as, to Thea, he kind of was “Dad” for a while there.
ANDY: I had almost forgotten about the Moira/Walter stuff. First of all, props to the writers for not killing either one of them because so many people were speculating that. I love that Walter was smart and just walked out on her but at the same time, leaving the door open for him to come back.
CRAIG: YES! When Moira turned herself in in the finale, I actually breathed a sigh of relief. I kind of worried Moira would be a goner, and that meant she’d be safe for now. I admit I wondered why, earlier in the season, Malcolm didn’t just kill Walter. But that whole Blüdhaven rescue sequence made it all worth it, too. Suddenly, “why they didn’t kill Walter” made total sense.
ANDY: The only thing that bothered me with Walter was the fact that at some point, everyone seemed to have forgotten him. I remember a few friends of mine that are watching the show going, “Who is he? Oh right, Moira’s husband” and I’m sure because Salmon wasn’t available but still, they could have referenced him a little better, or at least that Moira was still looking for him.
CRAIG: Yeah, it was weird that for a few weeks there there wasn’t much of a mention of Walter being gone.
ANDY: I would have been fine with hearing “we are still searching” a 100 times instead of having one or two references of him.

Not originally a question but deserving of her own little tangential section…

HELENA

VendettaANDY: By the way, Craig, Helena wasn’t psycho, she was just emotionally damaged.
CRAIG: No, she was psycho. I’d change my locks and skip town if I ever had her in my life.
ANDY: I’m one step away from doing a Leave-Britney-Alone video for Helena.
MATT: Like I said, I’ve seen a number of people who really liked Helena and felt like her addition to the show upped the quality in huge ways.
CRAIG: She made us hate Laurel less. Kidding. I actually do understand Helena’s role in the series. It’s kind of like how Roy is a mirror for Thea to see, Helena is what Oliver could be if he didn’t check himself.
DEREK: AV Club gave “Vendetta” one of the highest grades of the season, and I think we got quite a few comments on our reviews defending her. She’s got a fanbase, for sure. She’s just divisive. I think we don’t much like the character, but what she brought to the series in concept — and the fact that the show went upward in quality after her two-parter — lends some credence to those in favor of her.
CRAIG: That’s an important part of this whole Arrow journey; for Oliver to become a better hero. Part of getting there are the lessons he learns from his interactions with others – Helena, Diggle, Felicity, even Tommy’s sacrifice.
MATT: I do agree with that. Something in the execution of Helena, though, doesn’t play that angle well for me. Though, yes, she was definitely improved in her third episode.
Muse of FireSTEPHANIE: Helena could be an extreme version of Oliver if he didn’t have anyone to work alongside and call him out on his errors.
ANDY: This is the reason why I enjoyed Helena so much: first of all, I’m a bit familiar with her in the comics but mostly from the animated shows. I think what I really liked about her was that she was at a point in Oliver’s life when he really was just starting to connect with his world again. She had a similar background to him and, while she hadn’t physically been trapped on an island like him, she has been trapped. She has lost something personal and had been betrayed by her so-called family. I think that one of the lessons that I like seeing Oliver go through is that he will be responsible for certain creations in his life because he can’t even take care of himself. Huntress to me has always been this positive obstacle character, someone that can challenge other heroes, in this case Oliver. In reality, they are both doing the wrong thing by killing people. When she returned in the 17th episode, she was more emotionally damaged because the man that killed the love of her life was about to be free. By portraying her the way they did, it showed Oliver that before he can help anyone, he needs to help himself. Now, I’m not going to defend her when she went after Felicity because I never want to see that woman again lying on the floor, tied, crying and without her glasses because you [just] don’t do that to Felicity Smoak.
STEPHANIE: Helena was definitely psycho.
ANDY: Not as psycho as The Count!
STEPHANIE: True, but — and I’m not condoning poor decision making while under the influence — The Count was on crazy Vertigo, literally not in his right mind. Helena chose to act that way completely sober.
ANDY: May I ask this though: would you be OK if she returned but in a better way?
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I, by no means, hate her as a character and wouldn’t mind seeing her come back toned down a little. I liked that she gave Oliver a new type of job to do. Rather than taking down a villain, he had to stop her from doing essentially the same thing he does but without his justification. I cannot postulate where the writers would take Helena next, but if they used her to have Oliver teach a sort of code or rulebook to her for an episode or two and then sent her off to another region of the country, I’d be fine with that. Something different for her than running around with vengeance and anger all the time.
ANDY: OK, sounds good. Sorry for my crazy passion for Helena, guys. Maybe I’m a bit psycho, too.
DEREK: I hope she’ll take a route similar to Faith on Buffy. She’s hit rock bottom, but will eventually work her way up when she comes to her senses.
STEPHANIE: Yes! I loved Faith. I could see that happening to Helena and working out well.
ANDY: Faith was great. Helena is now a character that needs to go a path of redemption. Hopefully, when she returns, the writers will give her a story-arc like that that will take its time but still resemble the character that we know from the other incarnations. Hey, maybe Eliza [Dusku] could be the next Whedon-verse actor to guest on Arrow.

This leads well into the next question.

HOW EFFECTIVE HAVE THE GUEST STARS/GUEST VILLAINS BEEN?

ANDY: Like I said in the previous discussions, this show has done such a great job with its casting with characters such as China White, Malcolm Merlyn, Roy Harper, Huntress, Deadshot, Slade Wilson and so on. Now, that doesn’t mean that they were flawless because I had a few hick-ups with some of them. But to answer the question: the majority of the guest stars has been very effective for the show, especially Roy because it made Thea a better character. I like the fact that they decided to introduce so many of the Green Arrow characters from the mythology because we don’t get to see very often in superhero shows or movies where they introduce so many imperative characters from the source material. It establishes the world right from the start and from there, you can work with these characters around the time when Oliver has just started his life as the Hood. Now I have to say that the most effective guests has been characters that are DC characters. I think the only guest star that was a DC character that I was let down with was Ted Gaynor because even though he was supposed to have a big impact on Diggle, it wasn’t just enough. I didn’t mind original characters like Cyrus Vanch, but I remember in particular that Manu Bennett over-shined David Anders in that episode.
STEPHANIE: I would say that guest stars have been used more effectively than guest villains. I temporarily forgot David Anders guest starred until Andy mentioned it. Aside from Malcolm Merlyn, and possibly The Count, there haven’t been very many worthy opponents for Oliver. The “bad guys of the week” who cheat people out of money in one way or another never posed a real threat. Malcolm, on the other hand, did. But that being said, since I’m unfamiliar with John Barrowman’s work, I still don’t get the hype about him from his appearance as Malcolm. The guest stars have been used well to bring out new aspects in the main characters. McKenna let Oliver have a little romance. Slade, Shado, and Yao Fei taught Oliver to fight.
The Huntress ReturnsCRAIG: I think there are times when names were brought in, though, and not much was done with them in the long run. Cyrus Vanch was pretty forgettable even though I like David Anders’ work a lot. And with all of the hype of Alex Kingston, I expected something more or better with Dinah Lance.
STEPHANIE: I found Alex Kingston as Dinah Lance a letdown. She had no personality or pizazz. It’s not a character that sticks with me.
CRAIG: With the season over now, I’ve actually kind of forgotten Alex Kingston was even on Arrow, just because she seemed to come and go in such a way. The biggest effect I remember from the Dinah Lance arc is we finally got to see Quentin clean-shaven and smiling. It was such a subtle thing, but I really liked it.
STEPHANIE: China White would pop up every now and again never really striking a sense of trouble in me. She never seemed to be a leader on her own accord – being part of the Triad or working for Moira. I wouldn’t classify a great villain as someone who wasn’t obviously above those he/she worked for.
DodgerANDY:That is a good point: the China White that we are familiar with in Year One was definitely a leader.
CRAIG: I hope we get more development for China White in Season 2. It might be more difficult now that Kelly Hu has The 100, which is amazing, by the way.
ANDY: I think Hu said in an interview that she would still be able to do Arrow a few times. Plus, it’s on The CW, so I’m sure they will be able to work it out.
MATT: Who they cast in the show is amazing and I hope that’s a tradition that continues. Using them effectively hasn’t always been the best. I’m hoping we see characters like Vanch and the Dodger again to see them fleshed out more.
CRAIG: I think the success of guest stars like Manu Bennett, Emily Bett Rickards, and Colton Haynes is evident with their new series regular status. But, yes, more times than not, these “names” often did bring more rather than less to the show. It also shows that the Arrow producers are geeks like we are, and I mean that in the nicest way. I mean, they even got in J. August Richards as Luke — I mean Miles — I mean Mr. Blank.
DEREK: I agree that the guest stars are hit-or-miss. I guess the upside is that the ones that worked are the ones who’ve had and will continue to have a major presence, while the ones who didn’t…well, we can just forget them. In addition to David Anders, there’s also Tahmoh Penikett, who was pretty wasted outside of “Oh! It’s that guy from Dollhouse/Battlestar Galactica/Smallville!” But really, aside from maybe J. August Richards, there hasn’t been a one-shot villain who goes down as memorable or successful. Anyone who made an impact has appeared multiple times.
Home InvasionMATT: JAR’s Mr. Blank was one of the most effective of the one-shotters. Or rather, the one-shot villains with name guest stars. I might be alone in this, but I still find Firefly to have been a very well-used villain with a lot do to the actor’s performance and an odd approach to the adaptation.
ANDY: He was a very well used emotional villain to me, because he was the first one that Oliver had to deal with after he got defeated by the Dark Archer.
DEREK: I liked Firefly, too. It wasn’t perfect, but it was creative and different. And I like creative and different.
STEPHANIE: Perhaps I’m too familiar with Criminal Minds relying heavily on their guest villains as prominent characters of the week that it’s skewed the way I look at how Arrow uses them. I enjoy seeing familiar faces in Arrow and hope they continue casting them, but figure out how to have them make a lasting impression.

Wait, that’s not all! The very long discussion continues here!

Matt Tucker Editor/Senior Writer/Reviewer

Matt Tucker is a stage and film actor, writer, Seattleite, comics nerd, sports fan, and aspiring person. Someday, he’ll be a real boy. He's an editor and senior writer for KSiteTV network (GreenArrowTV, DaredevilTV) and the sports blog Sonics Rising. He's also Movies/TV editor at SmarksOn. Follow him on Twitter at @MattBCTucker.

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