Mental Floss

10 Pointed Facts About 'Arrow'

Cody  Schultz
The CW

In 2012, more than a decade after Smallville had introduced the world to an adolescent Superman, Arrow brought a new brand of super heroics to The CW. Focusing on the adventures of Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow, the hooded vigilante from DC Comics, the show was originally conceived as a realistic superhero yarn in the same vein as 2005's Batman Begins. But since its second season in 2013, the series has changed course and expanded into the centerpiece of the network's colorful take on the DC Universe, featuring spin-offs like The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow.

Starring Stephen Amell as the emerald archer, Arrow concluded its eight-season run in early 2020, but is still gaining new fans. To get better acquainted with the story behind the Green Arrow, his ever-expanding supporting cast, and the other denizens of Star City, here are 10 facts about Arrow.

1. Arrow was inspired by The Dark Knight trilogy.

In the mid-2000s, the Green Arrow was languishing in Hollywood’s famed development hell along with the rest of the DC Universe, but he did come tantalizingly close to becoming a movie star. At one point, he was going to be the center of the DC movie Green Arrow: Escape From Super Max, which was to focus on the wrongfully incarcerated Oliver Queen’s struggle to break out from a prison designed to hold the world's most dangerous super villains. Though that idea never came to be, it was the success of the Caped Crusader, as reimagined by Christopher Nolan, that helped Green Arrow come to live-action.

Nolan’s grounded take on Batman’s origins was the perfect template upon which for Arrow creators Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg to base their show. Both stories star spoiled rich kids who turn themselves into hardened vigilantes, and they even share a grudge against the villainous Ra's al Ghul. The comparisons are hard to ignore.

In an interview with HuffPost, Kreisberg explained why Nolan’s Batman was so important to them. “We were heavily influenced, obviously, by Chris Nolan’s take on Batman, especially the second movie, The Dark Knight. If you pull Batman out of that movie you’re essentially left with Michael Mann’s Heat. It really is just a crime thriller. Truly, the only fantastical thing in it really is Batman. That’s the way we approached this material.”

In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Guggenheim stated that the show's first two years were covering similar ground to the origin story told in Batman Begins. "This was always sort of the trajectory we planned," he said. "This has always been the first two years of Batman Begins."

2. Arrow's first season takes numerous cues from Mike Grell's Green Arrow comics.

In the comics, the Green Arrow is more of a left-wing quipster than the brooding vigilante from the show. But his dour demeanor in Arrow does have some comic book inspiration, specifically from writer and artist Mike Grell’s take on the character.

In the ‘80s, Grell did everything he could do to make Green Arrow virtually unrecognizable to comic book fans. He took away the mask, put him in a hood, moved him to Seattle, and stripped him of all his gadgets and trick arrows. Just like in the early seasons of the show, he’s not even called “Green Arrow;” instead, he’s just a vigilante who goes after a more realistic crop of criminals like drug peddlers and human traffickers.

When asked about Grell’s influence on the show, more specifically the comic miniseries Green Arrow: The Longbow Hunters, Guggenheim told HuffPost: “Yeah, well Longbow Hunters, it was seminal for several reasons. But what it really did was it grounded Green Arrow and Oliver Queen in a way that hadn’t been done in the comic books before. He was always with the boxing glove arrows and the Arrow Cave ... That was all well and good. But what Longbow Hunters did was it stripped Oliver Queen and the character down to his bare essence and introduced the idea of this primal hunter, and the hood [he wears]. That was sort of a seismic shift for the character that we’re working off of.”

3. Oliver Queen's mansion has a surprising superhero pedigree.

The Queen family may live in a spacious mansion on the outskirts of Star City, but they’ve got some super-powered company in there with them. The show uses establishing shots of Hatley Castle in Victoria, British Columbia, as the setting of the family’s home, and they’re far from the first comic book family to take up residence there. Most notably it’s used as Professor Xavier’s mansion in Generation X, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, and Deadpool; and for the Luthor family mansion in Smallville. It can also be seen in The Killing, The Boy, and The Descendants.

4. Felicity Smoak was only supposed to appear in one episode.

Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak
The CW

Emily Bett Rickards’s breakout role as Felicity Smoak on the show wasn’t planned to be anything more than a one-off. Rickards told Comic Book Resources that the character was originally written to be a "'possibly recurring' role,” which she admits rarely, if ever, actually happens.

But her performance impressed everyone so much that she became one of the principal members of the cast, which led the character to be reintroduced into the comic books in recent years. She also made more than a half-dozen crossover appearances on The Flash between 2014 and 2017.

5. Stephen Amell really performed the "Salmon Ladder" on his own.

Amell had to get into legitimate superhero shape for Arrow, and a lot of the training montages you see on the show are all him. This includes that dizzying “salmon ladder” routine he did in the pilot.

“It’s one of the most talked about moments in the pilot,” Guggenheim told HuffPost. And for good reason: The thing looks incredibly hard—even for a superhero. Amell did the whole workout for real, foregoing a harness in order to give the camera crew the freedom to shoot him however they wanted.

Amell has become such a salmon ladder master that he even performed it on American Ninja Warrior without a problem (easy for us to say).

6. Originally, no one was supposed to have super powers.

Arrow was originally pitched to be completely free of the super powers, magic, and mysticism that eventually became a regular part of the series. Leading up to the series premiere, the words “grounded” and “realistic” were tossed around by the cast and crew during interviews.

“We tried to make him as real as possible. The character doesn’t have any superpowers. Nobody on the show has any superpowers,” Amell told IGN ahead of the show’s first season.

7. The Arrow folks needed Christopher Nolan's permission to bring The Flash onto the show.

In the wake of his tremendously successful The Dark Knight trilogy, there was a thought that Nolan would be the shepherd of anything DC-related at Warner Bros. It started with helping Batman Begins writer David Goyer successfully pitch Man of Steel to the studio, and for a time it even crossed over into the TV universe.

Nolan’s influence was so all-encompassing at one point that the production team at Arrow had to get the director’s approval to introduce The Flash and his subsequent super-powered world onto the show. During a Fan Expo Canada panel in 2013, Amell explained: "One of the executive producers told me for Barry Allen to appear on the show, we had to get approval all the way up to Christopher Nolan. Because he’s Christopher Nolan, and he’s the czar of all things Warner Bros. and DC. And he likes the show and approved of Barry Allen appearing. So I would say that’s a very good sign.”

8. The series is soaked in DC Comic book references.

Though the show initially tried to downplay its comic book roots, there were plenty of Easter eggs for longtime fans to discover. In the pilot episode, artist Mike Grell provided the police sketch for Green Arrow—then just known as “The Vigilante.” Many of the streets and locations on the show are named after comic writers and artists, including the cross streets of Infantino and Adams (for artists Carmine Infantino and Neal Adams) and “Gail Street and Simone” for Birds of Prey writer Gail Simone.

Another constant Easter egg is how often the show uses the number “52,” such as for fictional TV stations and Quentin Lance's call sign. It might sound odd, but that’s an important number in the DC Universe, as it’s the number of different multiverses in the company—each with its own alternate, and sometimes bizarre, version of Earth.

9. Willa Holland was discovered by Steven Spielberg.

Willa Holland in 'Arrow'
The CW

Willa Holland’s career started off about as well as anyone could ever dream: with a personal endorsement from Steven Spielberg. It all happened when Holland was 7 years old, and the stepdaughter of director Brian De Palma. Her family was in the Hamptons and visiting Spielberg, who was their neighbor.

Holland may have thought she was simply playing at a friend’s house while Spielberg was “filming little wedding scenes and doing home videos,” but when the famed director spoke to her parents later on, he said, “You’ve got to put her in front of a camera.”

Roles in The O.C. and Gossip Girl followed, but her big break came when she was cast as Thea Queen—Oliver’s sister—on Arrow.

10. An archery expert kept the bow action as authentic as possible.

To get the Green Arrow right, you need to start with the bow. Arrow employed an archery technician and coordinator named Patricia Gonsalves, who makes sure they get things right.

Gonsalves worked with anyone on the show who touches a bow—and there are a lot of them—and explained to Archery 360 that, “For safety reasons, the actors must have a lesson in safety before they can shoot a bow.” Usually that training lasted a couple hours; for Amell, that meant two months of archery lessons.

“I’ll get a first draft of the script for an episode and will form an idea of what bow will work for that character or episode," Gonsalves said. "I’ll choose a few bows that will work for the character and then the production department makes the final choice.”