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Humanity in Tragedy, or What I Learned from Arrow

I thought it would be too much action, except that the action scenes all have a specific purpose to drive the plot forward. Many times you don't find out exactly why until later. Besides driving the external storyline and making things exciting, every action scene contributes to the emotional journeys of the characters in a crucial way. Things that they take with them and use later.

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It's crazy hard to do this kind of momentum for a variety of reasons. It might not come across as believable. It's too easy to write action scenes just to have an action scene instead of furthering the plot, getting tied down into the details of the fight and forgetting why you have the action there in the first place. And, for those of you that haven't written action scenes, they are really hard to choreograph. Action scenes are often the slowest-going scenes I write. Arrows pulls off constant action, but every bit of action has a larger purpose.

Felicity Smoak's Impact on Oliver (and the series)

I have to admit that I wasn't sure I was going to keep watching the series after the first two episodes. I do not tend to enjoy grim stories. I understand their value; I just have no fun reading or watching them.

I felt like Oliver was too serious, and he didn't seem entirely human. His ticking bomb personality made sense with his back story, but even though had had tender moments with his mother and sister Thea, they we're too bittersweet, and he remained emotionally closed. I didn't connect to Oliver, and when I don't connect to the main character of a story, I tend to tune out.

Then came a moment in the third episode that brought me in for the first time. Oliver went to have a laptop hacked by IT girl Felicity Smoak, and for the first time in the series, we saw behind Oliver's mask. Oliver smiled. And not just the plastered fake smile he used with his family, pretending like nothing was wrong, but an honest, charmed, and slightly puzzled smile.

Emily Betts Rickards was a guest star, only knowing that she had a small part to play for that episode. But whether it was Oliver the character, or Stephen Amell, the actor, that was charmed by Felicity Smoak the character or Emily the actress, Oliver suddenly became a real character for me in that Mona Lisa smile.

Felicity charmed me, too. She's smart, earnest, brave, moral, capable at her job, more than a little awkward around guys (especially Oliver), but she stands her ground when she feels strongly about something. Felicity doesn't win through strength, but through brains. She provides a complete contrast to Oliver, and on-screen, he lights up whenever she's in the room. Oliver becomes more accessible around her, more vulnerable, and more approachable to the audience.

After that episode, an entire fandom was formed. "Olicity", as they are now known, has a huge following on social media platforms like tumblr.

Even the most grim stories need a human element, something to which the audience can attach and sympathize to the main character or important secondary characters. Frodo had Samwise Gamgee, Harry Potter had his friends, and Katniss Everdeen had her sister.

Diggle's Conscience

If Felicity provides compassion, John Diggle is the conscience of Team Arrow. Whenever Oliver is about to run out of the lair for the wrong reasons, Diggle cuts to the heart of the problem and redirects Oliver in a better direction.

David Ramsey, who plays John Diggle, has had some epic lines. Diggle is able to say what others cannot, and what Oliver doesn't want to face, but he also says them in ways that are like a sucker punch to the face. He doesn't reserve these lines for Oliver, but Felicity, Oliver's mother Moira, and others have had doses of Diggle's sharp and funny wisdom.

Diggle isn't without his own vendettas. The tables turn sometimes, and it's Oliver who keeps Diggle in line. The incidents are rare and very specific, but it gives Diggle depth, and allows him grow, too.

Oliver's Changing Mission

One thing I've especially enjoyed about the series is how it reflects Oliver's journey in the short introduction summaries. Ultimately, the story is about how Oliver changes into someone who not only cares about the welfare of others, but he does something about it on a large scale.

Oliver goes through several stages where he thinks he has his mission nailed down, and then something happens to change his mind. This happens both in the modern scenes, and the flashback scenes. While I think flashbacks work way better on TV than in fiction, they serve to frame how Oliver changes and has changed, and they are just as full of action and suspense as the modern scenes. As Oliver's mission changed, the intro summary changed the key phrases to match his progression.


Oliver's journey has not been instantaneous, but a constant stream of major events in his life which have whittled away the chaff. The things that have happened to him, mostly pretty terrible, have changed him and made him what he is. The people he surrounds himself with keep him from falling into despair and vengeance.

Oliver has changed from someone who lives in the moment to trying to save a whole city. We've seen a reasoned and deliberate journey of becoming for the main character. He's gained compassion, moral direction, and the tools to accomplish his task. Team Arrow works like a team, and has gained valuable allies outside the lair.

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Posted in Landscaping Post Date 04/28/2020






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