Why Arrow is the most influential superhero TV series of this decade


Arrow is ending with its eighth season airing this fall.  Here’s why its the most influential superhero TV series of this decade.

The long-running superhero TV series, Arrow, will take a bow, with its eighth season airing this fall. It marks not only the end of an era, but also the conclusion of the most influential superhero TV series of this decade.

Step backward in time to a short period when there were virtually no superhero TV series airing on network television. It was the fall of 2011; Smallville had just wrapped its 10 year run on The CW (previously The WB), and the network was looking to fill the Superman-sized hole in its programming schedule.

Enter the unlikeliest of heroes: Oliver Queen. The only exposure TV audiences had to a live-action rendition of the character was in the aforementioned Smallville, in which the Green Arrow was played charismatically by Justin Hartley.  It would take a strong effort to convince audiences that a TV show starring a B-list DC Comics hero, portrayed by a new actor, could work.

Spoiler alert: it worked. On October 10, 2012, Arrow premiered on The CW, and lead actor Stephen Amell defined the role of Oliver Queen in a truly engaging take on the character. Later that month, a Deadline report revealed that the series premiere was The CW’s “most-watched telecast of any show on any night in three years, and the CW’s most-watched series premiere since The Vampire Diaries in 2009.”

Recent years have seen Arrow lose some of that popularity. Like most TV shows, viewership has dwindled over the years, and positive viewer response has ebbed and flowed over its many seasons. However, none of that changes the irreversible impact the series has made on the network television landscape and beyond.

More from Arrowverse

Without Arrow, there would be no Arrowverse — the collection of interconnected superhero series airing on The CW, including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, and more. Even with the Emerald Archer riding off into the sunset this year, the Arrowverse continues to expand with new shows like the upcoming BatwomanArrow may be ending, but the Arrowverse lives on.

Arrow was the measuring stick by which viewers judged every subsequent superhero series that came to television – even if it wasn’t a DC Comics property. When Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. premiered in September 2013, viewers both derided and defended its quality based on how it compared to Arrow. A quick Google search of “arrow vs agents of shield” returns a slew of circa 2013 blogs about the very topic.

Arrow didn’t just draw comparisons, however. It directly affected the explosive popularity of superhero TV series on network television, cable, and streaming services in the last seven years. Warner Bros. expanded to another network with Gotham on Fox in 2014. Marvel Studios created its own crossover-ready series on Netflix with shows like Daredevil in 2015 and Luke Cage in 2016. Maybe these superhero TV shows would have still existed without Arrow. Maybe not.

The reach of Arrow grew so strong that some viewers begged for Warner Bros. to crossover the DCEU films with The CW’s stable of DC characters so Stephen Amell could portray Oliver Queen on the big screen. That never happened, but there was a television inter-network crossover with The Flash/Supergirl team-up on CBS that probably played a hand in the Girl of Steel being folded into the Arrowverse to escape cancellation.

Related Story. 30 Greatest Arrowverse Heroes Ranked. light

Arrow is truly the most influential superhero TV series of this decade, and its legacy will continue long after the show ends with its eighth season this fall. What will the future hold for superhero television? No one knows for sure, but with the loss of Arrow it will truly become something else.

Arrow airs Mondays at 8pm ET on The CW.