Warning: spoilers ahead for Arrow's backdoor pilot for the Green Arrow & the Canaries spinoff.
The long-awaited backdoor pilot for the potential Arrow spinoff, called “Green Arrow & the Canaries,” finally hit the airwaves as the original series’ penultimate episode. The pressure was on to deliver something within the span of an hour that could connect to the parent series while also standing on its own and holding an audience. As the show that started the whole Arrow-verse, I think Arrow deserves a spinoff to keep its legacy alive, but is Green Arrow & The Canaries the way to go?
First, let’s jump into a quick recap! “Green Arrow & the Canaries” picked up 20 years in the future. The post-”Crisis on Infinite Earths” Earth Prime changes meant the hellish Star City 2040 of the Arrow Season 7 flash-forwards was a wonderful place that went a couple of decades without crime and included a successful Smoak Tech with William at the head, socialite college grad Mia, non-evil JJ Diggle, and a statue of Oliver Queen.
Everything changed when Laurel came to the future to prevent one of Mia’s friends from being killed. Using tech from J’onn J’onzz, Laurel “woke” Mia and restored her pre-"Crisis" memories. She also tracked down Dinah, who had been zapped to the future after Oliver’s funeral with nobody knowing she’d ever existed. The three women joined forces to save the day, and the episode ended with the new Green Arrow and the two Canaries teamed up to fight crime.
So, did “Green Arrow & the Canaries” have what it takes to deliver the spinoff Arrow deserves? Personally, I have mixed feelings about how well it worked as a backdoor pilot vs. how well it serves as a follow-up to Arrow. Read on for my breakdown of what worked, what didn’t, and what needs to happen next.
What Worked About Green Arrow & The Canaries
“Green Arrow & the Canaries” is an effective backdoor pilot, in my opinion. It revealed existing characters’ new circumstances, set the stage for a conflict that can drive the story, added some friction between the leads to potentially keep things interesting (although more on that later), threw in a complicated romance that already has the makings of a seriously unique love triangle, and ended on a cliffhanger regarding the fate of a beloved character. Seriously, is there anybody who hates adult William?
The backdoor pilot also more or less honored the original series. Nobody ignored Oliver's sacrifice, Felicity's legacy is strong, William and Mia turned out okay, and there were plenty of Easter eggs to ideally keep even the most reluctant Arrow loyalists at least somewhat engaged. It didn’t even inundate viewers with newcomers, so fans had reason to pay attention. If Supernatural had aired a backdoor pilot like this, maybe it would have a spinoff now! As a backdoor effort to launch a new show, I’d even rank it above the Arrow/Flash two-parter that set up Legends of Tomorrow.
“Green Arrow & the Canaries” felt more like a solo pilot than an episode shoehorned into an existing series’ season, though I did spend the first half hour feeling like an Arrow character should be waking up from a dream sequence. The cast of 2040 characters is comprised of capable actors to carry a CW series, and there are surely some Arrow fans happy that the Canaries are joining Mia in the future. Considering “Crisis on Infinite Earths” just reset the Arrow-verse, “Green Arrow & the Canaries” didn’t hold back in exploring its blank slate, for better or worse.
Based on this episode, Green Arrow & the Canaries wouldn’t be an Arrow 2.0, but it would fit into the post-Arrow Arrow-verse that is packed with superpowers, metahumans, time travel, and more fantastical stories than its parent series. Arrow is truly the end of an era.
But the backdoor pilot wasn’t perfect.
What Didn't Work About Green Arrow & The Canaries
Was “Green Arrow & the Canaries” an effective backdoor pilot for an Arrow-verse anchored by The Flash and including Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Batwoman, and now Black Lightning? Sure. Was it the kind of Arrow follow-up that sticks with the legacy of the original and keeps that good old-fashioned Arrow feel in the universe it founded? I would say not. It could be a great addition to the new Arrow-verse, but it doesn’t feel like an Arrow spinoff to me.
A couple of the stunts defied belief, and not in the normal “Holy shit, that was awesome!” way. My knee practically ached in sympathy pain after Mia, Laurel, and Dinah dropped through a roof and landed on their feet without any kind of rope, and my hope that Mia would have to struggle fighting because she had no reason to build up all of those Green Arrow muscles as a socialite was dashed.
Dinah’s comment at the end of the episode about inspiring a new generation of young women feels like Green Arrow & the Canaries is trying to take on too much too soon. I can understand that this is a way to show Arrow viewers that the Canaries will have a part to play in the spinoff and it won’t just be Mia-centric, but these three characters have only just come together. Is it really already time to give them separate missions?
My next issues with “Green Arrow & the Canaries” are admittedly biased, because the Canaries have never been my favorites. I never warmed to Earth-1 Laurel as Black Canary because she was rushed through the superhero journey to get a mask, and I’ve always disliked superpowers on Arrow when the hero was a non-superpowered archer, so Black Siren and Dinah's Black Canary weren't exactly making any personal Top 5 lists.
So, Laurel snarking at Mia through her earpiece while Mia was trying to complete a mission didn’t work for me. The last thing Mia needed was to be distracted, and Laurel’s commentary didn’t feel appropriate as a veteran Team Arrow member trying to impart lessons. In fact, Laurel's commentary about Oliver and their relationship to Mia, who in one life grew up without her dad and in the other watched him die, felt unnecessarily cruel coming from somebody I was supposed to root for. Some friction within the new team was necessary, but not like what Laurel threw at Mia.
Basically, I was objectively impressed with “Green Arrow & the Canaries” as a backdoor pilot designed to launch a spinoff, and I think that spinoff would fit in well with the post-Arrow era of the Arrow-verse, but I didn’t love it as an Arrow fan. Will I warm up to how it once Arrow is over? That remains to be seen.
What Needs To Happen Next For Green Arrow & The Canaries
Look, no pilot is ever perfect, and Arrow managed to overcome first introducing Oliver as a guy with abominable hair who cheated on Laurel with her sister (who seemingly died) and then trying to get viewers en masse to root for an Oliver/Laurel love story after what Oliver did to her. Green Arrow & the Canaries can make some tweaks and produce a show that rejuvenates the Arrow-verse and becomes a staple of the post-Arrow era. Arrow changed after its pilot, and I’d say for the better. There’s no reason to believe the spinoff (assuming it gets an order) couldn’t do the same.
What tweaks would I make? Selfishly, I’d love for Green Arrow & the Canaries to find a way to neutralize Laurel and Dinah’s powers at least some of the time. Just like Oliver’s abilities were overshadowed on his own show once metas started showing up, Mia might be overshadowed by the Canaries. This is an Arrow spinoff, so the Green Arrow shouldn’t be the least of three heroes.
I also think Green Arrow & the Canaries would benefit from focusing on just one of those heroes to start. The project is already threatening to go in two or three different directions, and Laurel and Dinah have been side characters on Arrow. Mia has been regularly central to Arrow stories ever since the Season 7 flash-forwards got into gear, to the point that there were rumbles about a Mia spinoff almost as soon as she was introduced. She’s ready to anchor a spinoff set in 2040; Laurel and Dinah aren’t, and could use some time to grow into bigger roles than they had on Arrow.
The spinoff could spend time developing relationships between these characters and establishing them as heroes before splitting the focus. After all, Team Arrow was one of the most popular parts of Arrow early on, and Diggle and Felicity didn't really join Oliver in the spotlight until after they grew into their roles in Oliver's life.
Similarly, if Green Arrow & the Canaries wants me to root for Laurel, then it needs to direct her sharpest commentary at somebody other than Oliver’s daughter. Friction within a team can be engaging; Laurel bullying the young woman who inherited the mantle of the Arrow-verse’s first hero after upending her life isn’t necessarily fun to watch. One nice pep talk doesn’t outweigh everything she threw at Mia in the previous scenes.
All of this said, there is no guarantee at this point that Green Arrow & the Canaries will get a series order, but I’d say the odds are pretty good. It could be a great show for the new Arrow-verse, if not as an Arrow 2.0. For now, we can only cross our fingers that Arrow ends well and the spinoff, if it happens, delivers something that honors the original while thrilling in the best way.