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How ‘Arrow’ Led To A Successful CW Franchise

by Conor O'Brien

A look into how The CW’s Arrow spawned one of the most successful television franchises of all time.

When comparing The CW between 2012 and 2020, things look very different. Almost 8 years after Arrow’s debut, the multiple, successful shows it spawned continue to thrive on the network. Even though the ‘mothership’ series itself ended in January 2020, the story it started continues on in the form of The Flash, Supergirl and other associated shows in the Arrowverse.

So, what made Arrow a success? At the heart of the action was Stephen Amell, a Canadian-born actor. Before landing the role of Oliver Queen on Arrow, he had appeared in episodes of The Vampire Diaries, 90210 and CSI: Miami.

In the role of Oliver, he not only launched a popular show and huge moneymaking franchise that has grown to include iconic DC characters including Superman, Martian Manhunter and Lex Luthor, to name a few.

Aside from Amell, the season 1 cast of Arrow also had a part to play in its success. Particularly David Ramsey, who starred as John Diggle in all eight seasons. Ramsey is the only actor besides Amell to accomplish this feat.

Furthermore, Emily Bett Rickards’ character, Felicity Smoak, was a recurring guest character in the first season. Her popularity led to a series regular promotion during the following year. Ultimately, Felicity’s relationship with Oliver, dubbed ‘Olicity’ became a cornerstone of the show.

Diggle Felicity Oliver
The CW

In Season 2 of Arrow, the show made one of its biggest moves by adding Barry Allen, the man who would later become The Flash, to the series. Glee alum Grant Gustin was cast in the role, originally for 3 episodes. However, Gustin’s third episode was abandoned in favour of a standalone Flash pilot episode, which of course went to series.

The Flash’s storytelling device of multiple or parallel Earths has been a plot point of several crossovers – Crisis On Infinite Earths, Elseworlds, Crisis On Earth X, to name a few. By having this show onboard, the world being created on television became open to so many more possibilities, including introducing new leading characters. Katie Cassidy played a new version of Laurel Lance after the death of Earth-1 Laurel.

In the original multi-verse, Kara Danvers/Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) and her friends hailed from Earth-38 rather than the usual Earth 1. Thus, if she was ever needed or vice versa, there was a lot of travelling to an alternate Earth.

On another note, every great hero needs a worthy adversary. For Oliver Queen, Arrow kept them coming for 8 seasons. Some of the ‘Big Bads’ include Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), Damien Dahrk (Neal McDonough), Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra) and Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo). A well-written, effective antagonist knows how to get under their opponent’s skin and exploit their weaknesses, which the show accomplished.

Much like their friends of Team Flash, Oliver also had a rotating door of allies. Roy Harper/Arsenal (Colton Haynes), Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) and Curtis Holt/Mr Terrific (Echo Kellum) are examples of this. Each character brought a different dynamic during their time on the team.

The CW

Since Arrow’s conclusion, The Flash (which premiered in 2014) is now the longest serving Arrowverse show, going into season seven.

Stephen Amell’s next project is the wrestling-based drama ‘Heels’, set to air on Starz. The cast also includes Alexander Ludwig, Kelli Berglund and Allison Luff.

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