Why the Arrowverse Needs Green Arrow & the Canaries
The Green Arrow is dead. Long live the Green Arrow.
This article contains major spoilers for the Arrow series finale.
Arrow is no more. It still feels a bit strange to say that out loud after all this time, given that there’s never been a time when the current DC TV superhero universe was on-air when this show wasn’t. And yet, here we are, in a world without Oliver Queen. Life goes on, and the rest of the Arrowverse does too. But that doesn’t mean the story of the Green Arrow is over.
As the series finale illustrated, Arrow ultimately grew to be something much more than just the story of a rich kid vigilante out for revenge. Over the course of its eight seasons, we watched Oliver’s journey, with all its triumphs and setbacks, mold him into the “something else” he referenced so often in the series’ voiceover narration. And Arrow, in turn, became something else as well. It grew beyond the tale of one man and his quest for meaning and redemption. It ultimately encompassed six other series, if you count the upcoming Superman and Lois show that will debut next fall, and dozens of other heroes, both with superpowers and without. Love him or hate him, Oliver Queen taught an entire generation what it means to be a hero, whether that means putting on a suit and fighting crime, using one’s job to battle injustice or running for office to be the change you wish to see in the world. That what Oliver did in his life mattered is evidenced by everyone that has come after him, who continue to fight for the world and the future he believed in.
So, on paper, it might have seemed weird to schedule a back-door pilot for a spin-off of an eight-year-old series as the penultimate episode of its final season ever. But that’s exactly the reason Arrow did it, and why it worked so well. Because the end of this show was never about just about saying goodbye to a foundational character (though it certainly did a fair bit of that). It’s also about what comes next – and the fact that stories don’t ever really end, particularly in superhero world. They’re just passed on. Sometimes literally, in terms of costumes and names. Sometimes thematically, when a second character chooses to embrace the mission of someone who came before her. And sometimes, a little bit of both.
Such is the case with the Green Arrow and the Canaries backdoor pilot, which imagines the future of the Arrowverse in an entirely new and necessary way. The original story of Arrow was a distinctly male story—about fathers and sons, about male rage and disappointment, about learning that the world encompasses more than your distinct perspective. Now, during this glimpse into the future, we see a decidedly female interpretation of that series’ legacy—a world that is full to bursting with women. These women all have problems, agendas and arcs of their own, whose stories don’t exist simply to serve those of the men around them. It is, in short, a world that Arrow itself has been working toward in recent seasons, though it perhaps ran out of time to fully correct the wrongs of its earlier years.
We don’t know yet whether we’ll officially get a Green Arrow and the Canaries spin-off, though if we’re honest, an all-female series is a perspective this universe definitely needs. But, even if we don’t, Arrow itself already made sure to illustrate that Oliver Queen’s story will continue, even after his death, and even if we never get to see it. And that’s all thanks to his daughter Mia, who has chosen to pick up her father’s bow and fight for the future he gave his life for.
Much of Mia’s journey, naturally, will involve following in her father’s footsteps, and living in the shadow of a hero who literally reconstituted the universe as we know it as his final act. But her story is not her father’s—not even close—and that’s why it makes it one worth telling. After all, if a Mia-centric spinoff were just a gender swapped version of Arrow, what would be the point?
Luckily, Mia has already been established as a fascinating character in her own right. One who is her father’s daughter in many ways, but who is certainly on her own journey, particularly in a post–Crisis on Infinite Earths universe. Part of the reason for that is that, now, Mia literally contains multitudes. She remembers experiencing two different lives – one in which she grew up alone, hating vigilantes and struggling to survive, and another in which she’s Star City’s premiere socialite, daughter of its greatest, lost hero.
The idea of a character attempting to forge a future for herself out of such disparate pieces is compelling in and of itself, given the ways in which her competing memories reshape her relationships with Connor, J.J. and William. Her current life had little to no interaction with Dinah Drake and Laurel Lance, but now she also remembers fighting alongside them to save the world. And all of that’s before we add in the whole putting on a version of her father’s famous costume and fighting crime in a mask.
When we first met the original version of her character, Mia’s furious hatred of vigilantes and “superhero” culture was understandable. After all, being the Green Arrow’s daughter has shaped her entire life, for both good and ill. Sure, she had two amazing parents who loved her, but she grew up never knowing one of them and spent most of her life isolated with the other, trained in the art of combat by a literal ninja assassin. That version of Mia didn’t understand the things her father fought for, or why the sacrifice of a life with his family was worth it. This one does, and that’s part of what makes her decision to do the same so emotionally fraught.
At heart, Mia Smoak-Queen is an awful lot like her father, in any reality. She’s stubborn and brave, reckless and self-sacrificing. Yet she has an innate vulnerability that Oliver often lacked – or that he would, at the very least, rarely express. This Mia is one that knows what it’s like to live a happy, uncomplicated life and, as a result, is refreshingly honest about whether or not she’s cut out to do the work of being a hero. She’s not particularly confident in her ability to balance a life lived in the open with one in the shadows, and she certainly doesn’t feel burdened by some glorious quest. (Or complex revenge plot.) But she’s taking on the mantle of the Green Arrow anyway, because she knows exactly what it means, both for herself and the people she cares about.
Additionally, just by virtue of its existence, Green Arrow and the Canaries will be a much more feminist series than its predecessor ever was. The show, featuring three lead women and several additional significant female characters in supporting roles, will naturally lend itself to telling stories that the rest of the Arrowverse hasn’t bothered with. Questions of worth and anxiety are standard in this genre—Oliver Queen himself wrestled with more than his fair share of doubts about his ability to be the hero his city needed. How much further must that fear be compounded when our leads are all women, who exist in a world that doubts their ability to do pretty much anything at all, let alone take down criminals with a bow and arrow? Even in 2040, the world of Star City wants to judge Mia by her fashion choices and family pedigree, rather than her mind and ability. I’m looking forward to watching her prove them all wrong.
The Green Arrow is dead. Long live the Green Arrow.