Dear Marc, Wendy, all the Arrow writers, cast and crew,
As we anxiously await this season's final chapter, I wanted to take a moment and, first, congratulate you. Filming for Season 4 is almost complete. Ninety-two hours of television is an astounding accomplishment. Season 5's renewal means Arrow will hit the coveted one-hundredth episode. Many excellent shows never reach that lofty threshold. Also, you get cake, and that's nifty.
Second, I wanted to write you a letter because, given the recent events of the past episode, there's been a barrage of negativity. It feels like an overwhelming amount. So, I thought it was high time to send you what can only be called a long and detailed thank-you note.
I've been watching Arrow since the very beginning. I am a TV addict (there is no cure). Every fall my husband and I hold what I like to call Fantasy Fall TV. It's my version of fantasy football. We review what new shows are premiering, determine what we will watch, what will succeed and what will get canceled. There are color-coded highlighters and everything.
Four years ago, I saw a promo for Arrow and asked my husband what it was about. He responded, "It's about the Green Arrow." To which I asked, "What's a Green Arrow?" My husband's succinct explanation was, "He's Batman with a bow and arrow."
Disclaimer: I have absolutely no comic-book knowledge whatsoever. I am, however, a HUGE Batman fan and my husband, of course, knows this. Batman: The Animated Series defined my childhood.
Let's be clear, Oliver Queen is NOT Bruce Wayne. Oliver is emotionally evolved compared to Bruce Wayne. I have since debated this point with my spouse, and he's retracted his previous statement because he was wrong. His description, however, sold me, and we have thus arrived here. So, he's forgiven.
My husband refused to watch Arrow's pilot for some ridiculous reason. I think he watched Animal Practice instead. I skew towards the older side of the 18-34 age demographic. So, I say this with all sincerity and with ample television viewing under my belt: Arrow is the best pilot I've ever watched. I immediately told my husband to drop Animal Practice (gee, I hope that's not why they were canceled) and watch Arrow. He agreed so I would stop pestering him, and watched in absolute silence. When the pilot finished he only said one word: Wow.
I am a lover of stories. Books, poems, movies, television, plays - I'll take a story any way I can get it. I love everything from Whitman to All My Children. The medium matters little to me as long as it's a good story. Superheroes are good stories. They are rich in symbolism with narrative history dating back to the Greeks. Superheroes are our modern mythology. I enjoy watching their evolution, as writers and creators like yourself, introduce new interpretations. I firmly believe adaptation is ultimately how these stories survive.
Admittedly I knew nothing about the Green Arrow and, while I understand the premise of Arrow is an origin story for this comic book character, for me, Arrow is about saving a man's soul. I enjoyed the crisp pacing and action as much as any other fan, but I fell in love with Arrow because of the story. Oliver Queen and his relationships always mattered more to me than his skill with a bow and arrow.
My favorite television show of all time is Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon is a god among mortals. As a teenager, I was obsessed with this show and quite frankly it hasn't waned in my adulthood. Around Season 2 of Arrow, I noticed how much I was bringing up Arrow in conversation. It became the first show I wanted to see on the DVR, and I spent an ad nauseum amount of time discussing it with my husband post viewing. The depth of my interest was something I hadn't experienced since my Buffy The Vampire Slayer days.
I can pinpoint exactly what shifted Arrow from enjoyment to obsession: Olicity.
While I enjoyed Season 1 of Arrow, the one aspect of the show that was lacking for me was the love story. This isn't a reflection on Oliver or Laurel as individual characters because I happen to like them both very much. I did not, however, enjoy the two characters together. Arrow is quite reminiscent of the Odyssey, especially in Season 1. Odysseus is a complex character like Oliver Queen and they share many similarities. In my personal opinion, however, the one similarity we could have skipped was the cheating... especially with sisters. Just my two cents.
A big part of a hero's journey is the hero's great love. I was frustrated because I wasn't emotionally investing in Oliver Queen's love story with Laurel Lance. Then, in episode 3, Oliver brought a bullet-ridden computer to Felicity Smoak. The chemistry between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards was so palpable it almost felt like magic. Oliver smiled, and I distinctly remember thinking, "Oh, there you are Oliver."
While I understood Oliver loved his family, friends and Laurel very much, he kept them at arm's length. Very little cracked Oliver's painfully crafted hardened shell, but Felicity Smoak did. When Oliver smiled at Felicity I could see, for the first time, The Green Arrow. I could see the hero you were creating because I could truly see the depth of his warmth and goodness. I could see his humanity.
Sadly, I had very little hope of Felicity ever becoming Oliver Queen's great love. I was instructed by my husband that Laurel, the Black Canary, was Oliver's comic-book love story. They were destined. In my experience, TV shows seldom deviate from their "Plan A" romance.
Yet, I so desperately wanted Oliver and Felicity to be together. It felt organic. It felt natural. It felt right. It was the love story I was falling in love with.
It wasn't until the Season 2 finale that I realized I fell in love with Oliver and Felicity because you, the writers, absolutely intended for that. I fell in love with Oliver and Felicity because YOU fell in love with Oliver and Felicity first. Arrow dared to do something I rarely see in television. You chucked "the plan" and went with what was organic. You captured lightning in a bottle, and you rolled with it. You let the story take us where it could. To me, that's fearless writing. That's a commitment to the art form I so dearly love. It's a bravery I haven't seen since Joss Whedon.
It wasn't until I convinced my parents to watch Arrow, however. that I really knew you were on to something. My father doesn't watch very much scripted television, but he had a heart attack. He was recovering and my mother was searching for ways to keep him occupied. We loved watching Batman together, and he's an avid archer. It seemed like a no brainer.
My parents binged Arrow and loved it. Around mid-Season 1, my father complained, "Why doesn't Oliver love Felicity? He should love her!" My mother replied, "He does love her. Felicity is the love of his life, and Oliver is hers. But this is scripted drama. So settle down. It's going to take a couple of seasons!"
If I said the word "shipping" to my parents, they'd think I'm referencing the US embargo to North Korea or Iran. They don't care about any of that fandom stuff. They just know a good love story when they see it.
I think one of the reasons so many of my friends and family connected to Oliver and Felicity's love story is because you have done a beautiful job of fleshing out Felicity. She’s smart, funny, quirky, brave and has a strong sense of self and moral code. What’s more - she doesn’t take any crap, especially from Oliver Queen.
Felicity Smoak is a rare gem in the creative world. She loves deeply, passionately and intensely with utter faith and devotion. She also continues to love herself. Felicity is a multifaceted, layered character. The same as Oliver. You explore the gamut of human emotions in Felicity. The same as Oliver. She's not an archetype. She's a human being. It's what makes her a strong female character.
You matched the excellence of your writing with a cast who brings your words to life. They make the story come alive.
Stephen Amell is a master class in subtle acting. He conveys everything Oliver is feeling in a single look. Through the power of Stephen's performance, I understand that, despite his stoicism, there are no limits to the depth of Oliver Queen's love.
Emily Bett Rickards steals every scene. She sparkles with her charming nervous babbling, perfect comedic timing, earnest concern and innocent yet insightful observations. She illuminates the sides of Felicity Smoak like holding a crystal to the light. The multifaceted sides are infinite and each more brilliant than the next.
Emily is one of those rare actresses who has chemistry with almost everyone, but there is something special between her and Stephen. I often think she's the Lucy to his Ricky Ricardo. The funny woman versus the straight man routine, but it's deeper than that. Emily exudes a natural warmth and tenderness as Felicity Smoak. So much so she softens the cool and gruff Oliver Queen. It allows Stephen to display his natural warmth, which humanizes the damaged Oliver. It is a connection on which Oliver and Arrow survive. Not only is she the heart of the team, Felicity is the heart of the hero. Her masterful portrayal makes Emily the heart of Arrow. Oliver is lost without Felicity and Arrow would be lost without Emily.
The exceptional cast doesn't stop at Stephen and Emily. David Ramsey's John Diggle is the anchor to Team Arrow. He is the one who holds the story steady to its course. When I think the characters are too far off track, Diggle sets them straight. David Ramsey brings a worldliness to his performance that gives gravity to John Diggle. Diggle is Yoda, and you don't question Yoda. David, however, exudes a gentleness that makes Diggle the safe place to land, no matter how bad things get.
In these three characters, Arrow found its heartbeat. Oliver, Diggle and Felicity are each a beat, and their relationships form the rhythm of the show. When you add in the stellar supporting cast of Willa Holland, Paul Blackthorne, Katie Cassidy, Colin Donnell and Susanna Thompson....is it any wonder I became obsessed?
In the summer of 2014, my husband gently explained that, while he loves me very much, he just couldn't talk about Arrow with me anymore. He suggested I start a blog. So I did. I found my people. My husband found peace and quiet. We avoided marriage counseling. Win for everybody!
What came next can only be described as a gift. Arrow brought writing back into my life. I was burned out from college. Then after marriage, baby, career... I simply didn't have time. This show created a necessity in me to make time. Whether it's obsessively long weekly reviews, in-depth character analysis, fanfiction, or just conversing back and forth with fellow fans, I rediscovered a part of myself that I deeply missed. As a wife and mother, it's difficult to find time for myself. It was a challenge to carve out a piece of my life that's just for me, and Arrow gave that to me. It led me to fellow writers who graciously allow me to contribute to their websites. I write reviews not only on Arrow, but for The Flash and Blindspot. You reignited a passion for writing. For that I shall forever be grateful.
The blog led me to the Olicity fandom, which is so much more than shipping. It's filled with artistry, humor, friendship and a deep abiding love for the story you are crafting. It brought people into my life I would have no other earthly way of ever knowing. Friends who have become family to me. Yes, we talk about Arrow, but we also talk about our lives: jobs, spouses, children, breakups, loss and joy... we share it all. I have been overwhelmed with their generosity and kindness. They've made me laugh until I've cried, and when I'm crying they make me laugh. Flarrow premieres, conventions and Nocking Point parties have become more about us spending time together. The fact that we are fifteen feet from Stephen Amell, drinking his booze, is just a bonus. (A really spectacular bonus). We have built memories and relationships that will last long after Arrow has gone off the air. These people bring me so much joy. If you had not created this show, if you had not created this couple... I would not have them in my life. So thank you for being the bridge for us.
The Arrow and Olicity fandom continually reaffirms my belief that most people in this world are good. Time and again, perfect strangers had my back whenever I've reached out. I am inundated with support and encouragement. I receive so much more than I give. I watch in quiet awe as these people rally around the casts' charities and one another. I am astounded by their generosity and compassion. Sometimes it's as simple as letting a someone know we are here, and they are never alone.
No fandom is perfect. We disagree and fight like any globally interconnected family does. There are some who spread hate and negativity, but like any anything, we take the good with the bad. It’s sort of like that crazy uncle who lives in the woods, shows up to weddings in camo, rejects personal hygiene, and talks about how the invention of electricity is when the world went to hell. (I'm not saying this example is based on any real life family member of mine. That said, there's no way Uncle George will ever see this. He doesn't believe in computers.) My point is... those who choose to hate are indeed the vocal minority, at least in my experience.
Arrow is so much more than just an origin story about a superhero. It's an examination of humanity. We talk about love, hope, faith, forgiveness, pain, loss, grief, guilt, and self acceptance. Almost on a weekly basis, I read about the impact your show has on someone's life. Your fans are taking life lessons from Arrow and applying it to their own lives. For so many, life is a struggle for countless and varied reasons, but week after week my followers share with me how Arrow gives them a break from those hardships. It's a welcomed and precious distraction. It gives them something to look forward to. For one hour they can lose themselves in the magic of your storytelling.
I guess that's why I wrote this extremely long thank-you note. I think in all the hoopla of Laurel Lance's death there is something being missed. "Eleven Fifty Nine" was a beautiful story.
I don't always agree with every writing choice made. The answer is always more Diggle and not less. I will never understand marrying Nyssa and Oliver. Let us not speak of The Great Lie of 2015.
So, I absolutely understand the despair, anger and frustration of those who loved Laurel Lance. I'm sure if it was Felicity who died, I would need a prescription for Xanax. We fall in love with these characters and it hurts when they die. It should. It's supposed to MEAN something. When death stops being meaningful, that's when you have a big problem. Arrow has been close to falling into that pitfall. I am pleased to see you've addressed it head on and without apology.
Every year there's a mystery that needs to be solved on Arrow and creating theories about potential storylines with the fandom is a lot of fun. I readily admit, I believed Laurel Lance would and should be the character to die. This belief wasn't based out of a dislike for the character. Despite some inconsistencies, there was so much about Laurel I loved. I especially adored the relationship between Laurel and her sister Sara. They are one of Arrow's EPIC love stories.
After Laurel became Black Canary, however, I felt her storyline became stagnant. I began feeling apathetic toward the character. I wanted her to be impactful again and to move the story forward in a meaningful way. If done correctly, Laurel's death would impact every single character on Arrow and reverberate through the DC television universe on both The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. It would be bold. It would be huge. It would be an event worthy of a season long build up.
You delivered. Thank you.
I also thank you for taking the time to give Laurel the hero's death she deserved. Long before Damien Darhk killed her, Laurel was dying a hero. Raising Sara destroyed the Lazarus Pit. Laurel's decision to save her sister destroyed the only thing that could save HER. Had she known, I believe Laurel would have made the same choice. She loved Sara that much. That's a hero.
You didn't stop there. Laurel became an example to Oliver of holding to the light. She was a source of support for the whole team on countless occasions. Her selflessness, compassion and kindness, all the things I loved about Laurel, were on full display this season.
What I loved most about "Eleven Fifty Nine" is Laurel's self acceptance. Laurel did not have an easy road to the Black Canary, and I admit many of her choices weren't particularly likable along the way. What was so exceptionally beautiful about her speech to her team and to Oliver, however, was her understanding that all of her mistakes, loss, anger, grief, joy, triumphs and forgiveness led to this moment. Every step led to the Black Canary. It's not the life she planned. It's not even the life she dreamed, but it's the life she chose. It's the life she wants. Laurel Lance wouldn't change anything. She would do it all again because every moment led her to the person she is today. Laurel truly died with no regrets. It was a stunning example of self acceptance. After she let the anger and pain go, Laurel discovered there was only love remaining. Love for her family, Team Arrow, and love for Oliver Queen.
It's a lesson Oliver Queen needs to learn. Laurel's death will ultimately push Oliver to be better and do more. She will be the catalyst for the Green Arrow just like Moira, Tommy, Akio, Shado, Yao Fei, and Robert were. Every time Oliver puts on that hood, he honors Laurel Lance, like he honors all those he's loved and lost. It's the impactful death I hoped for. It's more than a good story. It's an excellent one.
The social media explosion gives us fans access to the writers, cast and crew like nothing I've experienced in all my 34 years of watching television. Everyone involved with Arrow interacts with this community in such a fun, humorous and generous way. You give us a lot of joy. I believe this access sometimes leads to confusion though. We, as fans, start to believe we can control the story.
It's not true. We don't control the story. You do. Our role is to receive the story. We are more than within our rights to politely share our disagreement (MARRYING NYSSA? REALLY???) or agreement (OLICITY WEDDING!!!! YAHOOO!!!!) but the decisions are yours to make. This is your vision of the Green Arrow. We, as audience members, only have two choices to make. Either accept your vision or turn the channel. It's that simple.
While I may not always agree, I choose to accept your vision of Arrow because, at the end of the day, you are telling an exceptionally good story. That's all you owe your audience, and I firmly believe you have more than delivered. What's more... you have given me so much more than one hour per week of entertainment. All I can give you in return, besides my thanks, is this promise. No matter where this story goes... I will be with you until the end.