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Arrow has been more good than bad up to this point in the fourth season. There is, however, a certain something that could spell disaster in the long run. It's hard to care about characters' lives if their deaths won't matter, and the series has a bad habit of untwisting its own plot twists when it comes to killing people off. Arrow really needs to stop pretending to send characters off to that great archery range in the sky if they're not going to stay there.
Arrow has always brought characters back from the dead. In fact, the entire premise from the pilot episode is that Oliver Queen earned his crazy fighting skills because his family thought that he was dead for five years, and the show has successfully pulled off temporarily killing certain characters in the seasons since. Ra's al Ghul running Oliver through with a sword in last year's winter finale was one of the best "Holy shit!" moments of the entire 2014 - 2015 television season.
The problem is that Arrow has served up so many impermanent deaths that some moments that should be "Holy shit!" are instead just drinking game material. Take a sip if a character who obviously isn't going to stay dead is dealt a mortal blow. Take a shot if a character comes back from the dead. Chug if Sara Lance dies.
Season 4 is not even half over, and three major figures have been officially "resurrected" since the premiere back in October. Sara was dunked in a Lazarus Pit. Ray was discovered to have never actually blown himself into smithereens. Andy Diggle had his death faked way back before the series even began. It’s not even surprising anymore. Even worse, the resurrections have opened the door to the idea of bringing back characters that have been very dead for a very long time. After all, if all Sara needed was a quick rehydration to return to badass blonde bombshell status, what’s to stop Tommy or Moira from returning?
Arrow has admittedly taken a few steps in the right direction. The smartest decision that Arrow has made since the introduction of the Lazarus Pit was to destroy the Lazarus Pit. Thea being brought back from being only mostly dead was bad enough; Sara being brought back to life thanks to a handy dandy get-out-of-death-free dip in the Lazarus Pit was enough of a precedent to completely lower the stakes of the series for as long as the Pit remained an option for the characters. Nyssa al Ghul deserves a round of applause and the ring of Ra’s for taking the Pit out of the equation.
Of course, there are still waters from the Lazarus Pit pilfered by Damien Darhk sloshing around Star City somewhere, and time travel on The Flash and upcoming spinoff Legends of Tomorrow offers an alternative solution to trying to sort-of undo death, but Nanda Parbat losing its Lazarus Pit can only be a good thing.
Technically, it is true that two of the three Season 4 resurrections occurred for the sake of padding the cast of Legends of Tomorrow, but Arrow had plenty of options for sending Sara and Ray on their merry ways to the spinoff that did not involve casually undoing death on the fly. Ray never had to be officially "dead" at all, and some time travel hijinks that might have allowed Sara to at least be dipped in the Pit before rotting in the ground for an entire year would have been more believable.
Arrow is only in its fourth season, and it shows no signs of stopping. The series should not yet be delving into the tired trope of bringing characters back from the dead en masse when there’s still plenty of story to be told about the living characters. Death lacking permanency does seem to be a theme on The CW – the boys of Supernatural have literally been to hell and back, iZombie is about an undead heroine, and even The Flash pulled a do-over on death in Season 1 – but it should not be used casually on a show meant to be taken seriously. If audiences are supposed to continue to gasp and scream and yell “Holy shit!” to the heavens when something bad happens to a character, then Arrow needs to stop undoing those bad things whenever the going gets tough.
Stop pretending to kill people off, Arrow. You'll be much better for it.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.