Midterm TV Report Cards: Arrow

With 2013 coming to a close, students everywhere will be grinding out those final exams and papers in the hopes of pulling out a good grade and creating some hope for the future. These days, network television shows aren’t much different. With so much of television being booked as must-see events, the term “fall finale” has suddenly become a part of our modern television lexicon. Network shows are expected to go out with a bang and leave the people excited to come back in January. It’s a legitimate strategy, but one that can become quite problematic when expectations are placed on a show that can’t match the burden placed upon it.

While Arrow hasn’t quite made it to the halfway point, the potential for an exciting conclusion to the fall is high. While I haven’t been a fan of the show spraying superheroes/villains around like a craps player on a heater, the bones of the show are still there, and they execute a lot of what they set out to do. However, some parts are wildly more effective than others. Let’s see how our main cast has performed this season to date:

Emily Bett Rickards

I love Felicity Smoak. You love Felicity Smoak. We all love Felicity Smoak. Bett Rickards burst on the screen last year as the Queen Consolidated curious IT person and instantly made herself a regular. Her chemistry with Stephen Amell is really impressive, and she’s starting to get there with David Ramsey. In a show that delivers exactly what you would expect of a show like this, Bett Rickards is one of the more surprising joys of this series.

Still, I can’t help but think the show has neutered a lot of her appeal in the second season. She’s still charmingly befuddled, but it’s a lot tougher sell in a skin-tight dress instead of a sloppily worn button down. Felicity is still an enjoyable watch, but the show seems like it wants to turn her into just another CW pretty face. I feel strange about complaining about a woman being too attractive, but somebody has to man this corner.

Midterm grade: B+

David Ramsey

Ramsey’s role as John Diggle remains just as thankless as it was in season one. He’s Oliver’s number one confidante and occasional voice of reason. The show has struggled to color in his backstory. In particular, we’ve never actually seen the reason for the animosity he has towards Deadshot beyond the normal animosity someone would have for an assassin. Yes, I know we’ve been told why, but it’s a visual medium for a reason. We’re going to spend the next 5 years with Oliver on the island, surely we have 15-25 minutes of screen time to give us John Diggle in a wig.

None of those things have to do with the talent of the actor. Ramsey can only play what he’s given. I believe his friendship with Oliver. I believe his calling for the work, and his capabilities in an action sequence. Ramsey is a solid, steady presence. In a show about superheroes, that’s an important commodity.

Midterm grade: A-

Willa Holland

Holland is a capable actress with some skills that would lend itself well to Arrow. Unfortunately, the show is so at a loss for story angles for her, they decided to have Thea Queen run a bar, because why not. Holland herself has been solid, so I can’t ding her too much for the failings of the writing.

Midterm grade: C+

Susanna Thompson

Though she did stand trial for mass murder, Moira Queen’s toughest days would appear to be ahead of her. As such, her midterm grade acknowledges this fact.

Midterm grade: Incomplete

Manu Bennett

Though the island remains one of the weaker aspects of the series, I’m not sure how much of that blame belongs to Bennett. He’s played only one speed since his first appearance in season one. There isn’t a lot of art in how Bennett portrays Slade Wilson. It’s a physical straightforward performance, and Bennett has a well-established history of delivering those types of performances.

Midterm grade: B

Paul Blackthorne

Blackthorne has been given a lot of different things to do. His demotion to officer doesn’t really make much of a storyline difference. Still, the introduction of the Black Canary did give him some interesting beats to play. I thought he sold the part of the concerned father well. Also, he gets credit for being one of the few supporting actors who seems like he’s having fun on a regular basis.

Midterm grade: B+

Colton Haynes

This cast is too big. One of the people that suffers the most is Haynes. He’s got the look of a true CW heartthrob (for whatever that’s worth), but he’s stuck as the 98th lead on Arrow. It’s hard to get a true measure of his skill, but his appearances on screen don’t exactly make the screen pop. If the ladies didn’t want to see his pretty face, he could easily fade out of the show and no one would notice. I’m not entirely sure whose fault it really is.

Midterm grade: C-

Katie Cassidy

Cassidy definitely wasn’t one of my favorites during season one, but she’s a complete disaster in season two. The writers seem to have too high an opinion of her dramatic capabilities. She’s been given the “heavy” storyline surrounding her guilt over Tommy and her subsequent drug abuse, but Cassidy plays it with the feel of an after-school special.

Here’s the thing: She is useful as a tough, ass-kicking lawyer. She was passable last season when she was throwing elbows at guys busting into her apartment. However, ever since her dalliance with Oliver Queen, she’s been trending in the wrong direction. I’ve gone passed just ignoring scenes she’s in. She now causes me to cringe when she’s onscreen.

Midterm grade: F- –

Stephen Amell

My unabashed love for Stephen Amell is well documented. Because he’s on the CW, people are focusing on the pretty face, the great abs, and the smile that melts the hearts of women everywhere. I believe that sells him short. He’s got some real chops. He works well in action sequences, and his dramatic moments can carry some real weight. He’s the unquestioned star and heartbeat of the series.

Quick aside that sort of relates: I was struck by something at the Arrow Comic-Con panel. Amell is not only the star of the show, but he’s the clear leader of the cast. The people on the dais spoke about him with reverence. It was obvious the other castmembers have a lot of respect for him. It just says a ton about the guy’s skill, dedication, and demeanor. That has to count for something when making a television program.

Anyway, I may disagree with the direction of the show in the second season, but I’m never going to disagree with Amell’s performance. He’s been superlative. There’s still room for improvement, but he’s still the best thing about this show by a long distance.

Midterm grade: A