THE WESTERN SKY/ CC BY 2.0 Idina Menzel originated the role of Elphaba in 2003.
In the recent heartwarming Flash-Supergirl musical crossover episode, “Duet,” Arrow’s John Barrowman, a Laurence Olivier Award nominee, rounded out a Broadway star-studded cast, which also featured Glee’s Grant Gustin, Melissa Benoist and Darren Criss.
Barrowman played a gangster in the episode’s West Side Story-esque extended dream sequence rather than his Arrow character, the ruthless villain Malcolm Merlyn. But could we see an Arrow musical episode in the future featuring Merlyn and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) breaking out into a song and dance routine?
Probably not, but it got me thinking: The show’s themes and characters are actually strikingly similar to those of the hit Broadway musical Wicked.
1. Not So Popular: The basis of Arrow is Oliver’s life as a vigilante working to save Star City from corruption and terrorism. While Elphaba (Idina Menzel) was never defined as a vigilante, she is in a sense Oliver’s counterpart in Oz, trying to prevent the silencing and enslavement of animals. Unfortunately, in trying to fight for what’s right, they come out looking like the bad guys.
When Elphaba refuses to work with the Wizard (Joel Grey) to subdue animals, she is labeled “wicked” by the Wizard’s press secretary Madame Morrible (Carole Shelley) and cited as a common enemy to rally more Ozians to the Wizard’s cause. Her continued resistance only makes the label stick harder.
In season one of Arrow, Oliver returns to Starling City after spending five years stranded on an island, seemingly the same ever-eligible playboy as when he left. He has slightly better social skills than Elphaba and the benefit of not being green.
However, when he secretly becomes a green-suited vigilante, Oliver is derogatorily labeled “The Hood,” and painted as a dangerous criminal by the police. He is pursued by the police again in season three, almost to the point of prosecution. Hitting closer to home, his best friend Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), the son of Malcolm Merlyn, calls him a “murderer” when he uncovers Oliver’s identity near the end of season one.
2. I’m Not That Boy: While Wicked revolves around the complicated rivalry and friendship between Elphaba and future Good Witch of the South Glinda (Kristin Chenoweth), Arrow’s first season focuses partly on the complicated rivalry and friendship between Oliver and Tommy. Both relationships are tested by the presence of mutual love interests Fiyero (Norbert Leo Butz) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), respectively.
Initially, Fiyero, a shallow, pre-island-type Oliver, hits it off with the similarly shallow Glinda, and Elphaba melancholically accepts that she doesn’t stand a chance. However, as Fiyero matures, he begins a relationship with Elphaba, leaving Glinda jilted.
Once she comes to understand how much Fiyero loves Elphaba, though, she backs off and even tries to protect Fiyero from The Wizard’s men. Elphaba and Fiyero are eventually reunited and leave Oz together.
Tommy, like Elphaba, never feels that he can measure up to Oliver. Tommy began a relationship with Laurel while Oliver was missing, which picks up again after his return. But this relationship ends when Tommy believes Laurel still has feelings for Oliver, even though he never actually asks.
Oliver calls him out for being a coward but then ends up sleeping with Laurel before Tommy has a chance to apologize to her. Oliver, Laurel and Tommy eventually make amends, but the one-night stand has profound effects on Oliver and Laurel going forward.
3. No Good Deed: In Elphaba and Oliver’s attempts to save the day, their loved ones frequently become collateral damage due to circumstances beyond their control. For example, as a consequence of her defiance, Elphaba’s younger sister Nessarose (Michelle Federer), the Wicked Witch of the East, is murdered by Madame Morrible, who creates the tornado that brings Dorothy’s house to Oz.
Glinda had told Morrible and the Wizard that the only way to capture Elphaba was to make her think her sister was in danger but is horrified when she realizes what she’s done, because she never intended for Nessa to actually get hurt. Devastated by Glinda’s betrayal and by that fact that her own actions are causing her loved ones to suffer, Elphaba vows to finally live up to her image as a villain.
Similarly, when Oliver refuses to become the head (or Ra’s al-Ghul) of the League of Assassins in season three, the current Ra’s stabs Oliver’s little sister Thea through the heart. He promises that Thea’s life will be restored in the League’s Lazarus Pit as long as Oliver agrees to become his successor. Out of love for Thea, Oliver agrees and almost loses himself in darkness in an ultimately successful plot to cripple the League and kill the former Ra’s.
4. Bridges Crossed:In the beginning of the second act, Glinda bittersweetly reflects on her falling out with Elphaba and subsequent rise to prominence in Oz, singing “There are bridges you cross you didn’t know you crossed until you crossed.” In other words, she hadn’t really realized the full impact of what she was doing by abandoning Elphaba until it was too late. She thinks their friendship is past the point of no return.
Oliver has a similar moment of realization during his flashback arc in season three after he brutally tortures an American army general responsible for infecting thousands of Hong Kong residents with a deadly virus, including a young boy Oliver had grown quite close to. Oliver fears there’s a new darkness inside him that will never go away, and he makes the fateful decision not to return home when he has the chance, because he does not want his mother and sister to see what he’s become.
5. Because I Knew You:Fortunately, both Glinda and Ollie prove themselves wrong. Glinda is able to reunite with Elphaba, if only briefly, and reaffirm their friendship. Then, when she believes Elphaba to be dead, she takes up her mantle. Inspired by Elphaba’s bravery, Glinda takes on the corruption in Oz by sending the Wizard packing and Morrible off to jail.
Oliver, meanwhile, is profoundly changed when Tommy dies, saving Laurel from a man-made earthquake set off by Malcolm Merlyn at the end of season one. With his dying breath, Tommy apologizes to Oliver and expresses his belief that Ollie is a hero.
Thus, wanting to honor Tommy’s memory and be the man Tommy thought he could be, Oliver rediscovers a humanity he thought he had lost and stops killing from season two onward, albeit with occasional relapses here and there.