After the CW series Arrow aired its disappointing Season 4 finale almost a month ago, fans were fed up by the show’s convoluted plots, frustrating characters, and subpar storytelling. Arrow fanatics even went so far as to change their subreddit, r/Arrow, into a forum for Marvel’s Daredevil. The gesture was a harsh joke that had a point, but coming on a month into the online shift, I’m curious if the Arrow fandom still knows what they’re doing. If the point is to compel the creatives behind Arrow to shape up, is Daredevil the best show to embarrass them with?
Nobody can deny the ambition of Marvel’s Daredevil. Though not without flaws, the Netflix-exclusive series based on Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s blind, combat-ready lawyer tells a gripping story which revels in the still-attractive appeal of gritty superheroes. Daredevil’s central character, midtown attorney Matt Murdock, walks an ethical tightrope between what’s lawful and what’s right, fueling the Greek epic that is Marvel’s modern noir.
Arrow, based on the DC Comics character Green Arrow starring Stephen Amell as billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, lacks that nuance. While Queen has also struggled to compromise his ethics and his means for the greater good, his journey in comparison to Murdock’s has been less cinematically expressionistic, imitating summer blockbusters than stylistically gritty.
And that’s fine: Arrow is like a superhero movie put on primetime TV, an accomplishment so few shows before it ever managed to pull off. After Smallville, after Heroes, it was Arrow that wrote the playbook which gave way for The Flash, Supergirl, and yes, even Daredevil.
Arrow was good, until it wasn’t, so the gesture by Reddit users to change r/Arrow functions as a cruel joke, with a point: We’re fed up. It’s unclear if the message has been received by the cast and crew, but the subreddit is still treating the move like a joke except in the weekly Daredevil recaps, which are pretty genuine. But if the change is meant to verbalize frustration, it doesn’t help that the TV landscape offers few alternatives.
Arrow fans (“fans”, at this point) are likely already tuned into The Flash or Legends of Tomorrow (everyone should be watching Supergirl, though I know many aren’t). But there is no true alternative to Arrow except for Daredevil, which isn’t fair.
While unrestricted violence does not a good story make, much of the appeal to Daredevil is its elegantly constructed action and indulgence into the psyches of its warped characters. Netflix is a luxury broadcast cannot afford, and while there are outliers — Hannibal on NBC, Scandal on ABC is shockingly perverted — Daredevil gets away with so much simply because it can.
And the change of r/Arrow still feels more declarative than real. It still seems like protest, by fans disgruntled at a once bright series bogged down by bad drama and construction of set-piece action. Daredevil is only moderately better in these areas: Daredevil has fairly received criticism for its plotting, pacing, and incomprehensible action. No one will challenge the brilliance of the one-take hallway fight (though I think the show outdid itself there and will struggle to top it), man — I couldn’t see half the shit on screen sometimes. I’m not alone, and while that’s the point with a character like Daredevil, there has to be a better way than to take out the back lighting.
I get why r/Arrow changed to a Daredevil subreddit. The show’s similarities, plus Daredevil’s own contributions to the genre and television landscape make it an edgier and groundbreaking alternative to Arrow, a show that was good (and sometimes still can be) but whose style is indistinguishable to four-quadrant superhero movies and obnoxiously appeals to dreaded shippers. Daredevil’s noir-ish and dark outlook — and freedom from appealing to the whims of its audience on a weekly basis — is something rare.
The subreddit’s actions spoke volumes. At first. Now, it’s been almost a month and r/Arrow is still recapping year-old episodes of Daredevil. Maybe the joke became an outlet for legit frustration. Maybe it’s just to kill time until Arrow picks up in the fall for Season 5. But regardless, it seems as though the Arrow fans are patient enough to turn their joke (if it ever was one) into something real.