Is Oliver Queen the Worst Protagonist on TV?

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It's that kind of show.
It’s that kind of show.

I love the TV show Arrow, but I’m starting to hate its protagonist.

Let’s start with the love. Arrow, the TV incarnation of DC Comics’ superhero comic Green Arrow, is glorious TV fluff. It’s full of action, adventure and over-hyped emotion. The supporting characters range from the admirable to the adorable. They cast John Barrowman as the lead villain, and that actually works, which says most of what you need to know about the show.

But Oliver Queen, the man behind the Arrow mask, is a total ass. He’s patronising and over-protective of those around him. He won’t let them make their own decisions if that involves the risk of danger, even as he throws himself in the way of villains every week. He’s taken the role of alpha male protector and cranked it up to eleven. His idea of debating the merits of a plan is to let the other people finish talking, then reassert his own opinion in a brooding style, and make clear that his feelings trump anyone else’s thoughts or emotions.

I’m meant to root for him, but that’s getting really difficult.

In the third season, which I’ve nearly finished watching, Queen’s colleagues finally start to call him out about his behaviour. But it’s too little too late for me. They’re still letting him get away with so much, it’s as if the whole moral compass of Starling City had been warped by his presence. Which would be great if the show wanted to explore that, but so far they’ve only nudged it forward as a straw man argument, to be shot down as a reminder that the world needs the Arrow.

I don’t want a show like this to make total sense. It’s the sort of prime time genre work where, if you picked at its logic, the whole thing would unravel like an old jumper in the claws of an angry cat.

I don’t even want them to lose their lead. The character is intriguing, Stephen Amell does a good job with what he’s given, and there’s a reason they kept taking his shirt off in the first series. Sure, right now I’d rather watch the adventures of Ray Palmer, Brandon Routh’s Iron Man stand-in character (and thanks to the magic of spin-off shows I’ll be getting my wish). But what I really want is for Queen to stop being such a prat.

Unpleasant lead characters have their place, but there’s a world of difference between being an antihero and just being a tool. And barring a major plot twist, Oliver Queen remains on the wrong side of that divide.

I’ll still keep watching though. Where else will I get a 21st century superhero Robin Hood?

2 thoughts on “Is Oliver Queen the Worst Protagonist on TV?”

  1. Oliver is an assface. He started off sort of okay, but oddly I had more respect for him when he killed people. He’s been such a giant douchecanoe over the last season or so that I have wanted to poke him in the eye. Like, he’s annoyed that Laurel and Thea brought back Sara, when he literally did the same thing about seven or eight seconds ago. Still, the show as a whole is entertaining enough. Looking forward to the spin-off myself – Brandon Routh and Caity Lotz are a lot more entertaining than the slightly more bland cast of Arrow. If Felicity wasn’t in it I don’t think I would be able to bring myself to watch.

    1. Totally agree with you, and his hypocrisy is particularly galling. He seems to think it’s OK for him to do whatever he wants, but the moment anyone copies his tactics he tells them they’re out of their depth. As you say, assface.

      I’m really hoping the spinoff has a bit more humour to it, and a lot less brooding.

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