I love Arrow.
It is my favorite comic book show on television.
It is one of my all-time favorite series ever made.
I have rarely had such an intense a relationship with another show like I have with Arrow.
And that is exactly why I’m glad it’s ending.
Of course, it’s bittersweet news. It’s always sad to see something you love nearing its end. No doubt I’ll be an emotional wreck when that series finale finally comes and goes.
At the same time, I’ve been on eggshells ever since the end of fifth season. Where could the show go from here? They finished the five-season/10-year story arc. Oliver had completed his emotional journey and well and truly earned the mantle of Green Arrow and all that came with it.
The show’s quality reflected this. Without that structure which had guided the show for so long, it floundered a bit. Seventh season has stabilized the boat, but doubt still remains. Not necessarily particular to the show, but rather the kind of doubt that rears its head whenever a show starts to show its age.
Arrow is the kind of show that has made a lot of smart decisions in the past. The kind where the narrative and the characters come first. In its best seasons, creative integrity has been integral to the series, which has guided it to some truly daring and utterly amazing years of comic book television.
And I’ve seen it happen too many times with too many other shows, both beloved, personal favorites, as well as many a classic. You achieve success, and that success is so rich a drug, that it’s easy to lose track of needs of the story. And before you know it, your show has gone five, ten, maybe even twenty years too long and becomes a depressing shadow of its former glory. Something that hangs around begging for attention, begging us all to remember when it was great. Even though the creative well has long since run dry, and the law of diminishing returns has whittled the entire concept down to nothing.
MASH had an impressive run of seasons, but it also grew thin it its last few years. At the same time, it was also wise enough to recognize that – despite its juggernaut ratings – it was best to go out on top.
Friends hit a downward spiral after seventh season from which it never really recovered, exploring pointless storylines and creative avenues, while reducing its characters to caricatures.
ER endured a full nine seasons beyond its golden years, with a heightened level of scandal and spectacle as the writers struggled to live up to its earlier heights of quality.
X-Files was a victim of its own success, dragging on well past Chris Carter’s desired end, until Mulder left and Scully was hanging with new characters we didn’t know or really care about, while the whole premise and fabric of the show started to feel increasingly redundant and pointless.
The Simpsons is something of a punchline and, 20 years after its prime, is already starting to enact much of the establishment worldview it used to so thoroughly mock.
Many of the best have ended at a time and place of their own choosing. They pick it out in advance, they know it’s coming, and they lay out the framework in preparation.
Parks and Recreation chose to end with a truncated seventh season and gave us one of the most perfect finales in history.
The likes of Friday Night Lights and Person of Interest had shortened runs due to low ratings, yet both got to go out on their own terms. Both respective finales provided a rewarding and satisfying conclusion to a groundbreaking run of television, retroactively guaranteeing the legacy and quality of the show.
Ending on your own terms is a smart decision. Far more shows have been hurt by running too long than not long enough.
It’s so nice to see Arrow making the smart decision. And with this final run of episodes – shortened to half a season – I have confidence the writers will be able to work toward a reliably effective end.
It guarantees Arrow will remain among my all-time favorites.
So yeah, I love Arrow. And that’s exactly this announcement of its end date is the just about the best possible news that I could hope for.