You all know that feeling. That feeling when you watch a certain episode of a tv show and you are truly wondering why you are sticking with something. It happens in TV shows, comics, books, anything that is a long running series. There comes the moment when you are finally fed up with a certain program and look at your hands and ask: “Why am I doing this to myself?”
When it comes to the tv show arrow, that feeling has come to me multiple times over the past three years. All the moments when the show has jumped the shark, all the moments that were just too dumb to believe. Arrow isn’t the only one, of course, it happened to book series, comics I’ve been following, but I always come back to Arrow. And then I realized that this is something I can learn from the show if I ever decide to write a serialized story, and that is to have some live rings to spare whenever one of my plot lines goes south. I’ve watched a lot of tv shows over the past few years, most of which I have decided to quit, but the most enduring show, I have ever followed in its original airing that I still tune into watching, is and remains Arrow. The show knows when to break out of its mold and try something new. More often than not it doesn’t succeed anymore for a bunch of reasons, but the solid foundation it laid four, five years ago at this point, is still strong enough, with enough side plots and one-off ideas that it keeps me invested in at least finding out how that concludes.
The show’s strong point has always been it’s “myth arc”, which is Oliver Queen’s journey from vigilante to superhero. I will take this to heart for my own writing, because it’s an excellent crutch to support a narrative that really doesn’t know where it’s going at points. As a writer, the worst thing you can do, is bork your narrative so much, that it becomes incomprehensible to follow or care about. Arrow still manages to keep that central element going. It might be a line or two per episode, sometimes a b-plot, or even the main course every blue moon, but the ritual of repetition keeps the theme going strong.
You would think, that this is basic storytelling 101, and you would be right to think so, but I think we all know that story is not a writer’s biggest asset, but bullshitting your way through one is. And I would argue that one of the greatest assets any storyteller can have, is the ability to dig yourself out of a storytelling hole. I think this is why I’m still watching the show. Because for however stupid it gets, there is always a back-up idea that can save the show. I find that somewhat endearing and educational.