We all know the internet can be a pretty ugly and negative place. With so many people having no issue spewing their hate, I often try to focus on talking about the things I love. I'd much rather support what I enjoy than tear down something I'm not a fan of. However, the CW's handling of promos for The Flash and Arrow has been bothering me for several months now and I just have to talk about it. Yes, this article includes SPOILERS for the latest episodes of the two comic book shows.
The point of a promo is to tease an upcoming episode, not spoil big moments and drop reveals. It doesn't matter how obvious the twists may be; it's just not the job of the promo to show us what should be important scenes in an upcoming episode. The job is to promote the fact those big scenes are on the way, make us think about how they'll play out, and get us excited to eventually see them in context. I've been doing my best to avoid ranting about this for quite some time now, but I simply can't resist after last night's Arrow promo. Again, spoilers ahead.
In Arrow, Oliver Queen has joined the League of Assassins and is on the path to become the next Ra's al Ghul. He underwent harsh conditions and brainwashing to erase "Oliver Queen" and accept his new identity, Al Sah-Him. This week's episode revealed a pretty obvious twist: Oliver's been faking it just to earn Ra's trust. After all he endured on the island and what not, it's pretty easy to swallow him holding up to this kind of treatment. Many of us were assuming that would be the outcome or some plot device will be used to break him free of Ra's influence. Then, Oliver locks his allies in a room and releases the Alpha and Omega virus -- something that apparently has no cure. We're meant to believe he was faking faking it and this was all an elaborate trap to kill the strongest ties to his past in one fell swoop. Many viewers won't believe this for a second, but the cliffhanger ends on a note that attempts to make us believe his supporting cast just died. Odds are that wasn't really the uncurable virus or there's some deus ex machina that'll save them. Still, the objective of this episode is to leave us asking two questions: is Oliver still on Ra's side and did his supporting cast really just die? To many of us, the answer is obviously no and no way. I mean, we know one of those characters will star in the spinoff series and to kill the entire supporting cast likethat would be absurd. But less than a minute after that scene aired, we received a preview of next week's episode -- one that immediately reveals the supporting cast is not only alive and well, but also back in Starling City. Then it also shows us the scene of Arrow standing up to Ra's and exclaiming, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Did I know both of these things will happen? Absolutely. Is it the job of a promo to show me these key things before the episode airs next Wednesday? Hell no.
I find it very difficult to believe next week's episode doesn't have 20 seconds worth of footage that doesn't blatantly show the supporting cast is just fine and it doesn't show Oliver's big moment as he stands up to Ra's. They should tease these moments. Show us a moment of tension between Ra's and Oliver, or a quick shot that'll make passionate viewers go, "Hey, I totally just saw Diggle! See, told you there's no way they're dead!" A promo should reward passionate fans with great teasers and get them speculating about how everything will play out; not show how things play out. When even a casual viewer can get the basic idea of the next episode's story and key parts, you know you've spoiled too much. It doesn't matter that the twists are obvious to many of us; they aren't obvious to all of us and showing us right away immediately takes away any small feeling of there being actual stakes in what just happened.
The Flash is usually a little better with this. For example, the way it recently teased Barry trying to outrace bullets didn't spoil that twist and the one for the latest episode didn't ruin the story progression with Iris or show us cool parts from Grodd's role. However, the "Who is Harrison Wells?" promo blatant reveals they do indeed find Wells' body and that Barry, Cisco, and Caitlin do find Reverse-Flash's hidden room and gaze at the costume. In a promo, you need to give us fan service that doesn't take away from these major plot points. Show Joe and Quentin, Cisco and Laurel, and the team searching. Show a bit of action. Show a reaction shot of the group looking shocked. Passionate fans will be able to recognize the setting and put together the pieces on their own. Casual fans won't be blatantly spoiled. It's more exciting for both groups that way. Oh, and seeing as The Flash already showed us Oliver will stand by Flash in a fight against Reverse-Flash, how can anyone question, even for a second, whether Oliver Queen is still a good guy or at least going to be good in the near future? Knowing he'll be fine takes away a vast majority of the drama, tension and emotion that's displayed as people like Felicity struggle with losing Oliver yet again. There needs to be more communication between the minds behind the shows and the promo department. If I was writing for the show, I'd be upset to see the work I'm doing is being spoiled a week before it airs. Now, I'm sure some of you are thinking, "So don't watch the promos. It's that easy." To me, that's missing the point of this article. I shouldn't have to worry about witnessing game-changing moments and having the whole story spelled out for me in brief promos that air right after the episode ends. We should see footage that gets us excited and leaves us speculating. Imagine if the promo for the final episode of Breaking Bad blatantly revealed the fate of the two lead characters? Or revealed the plot device that plays an important role? That sure would have been ridiculous, right?
Do I know Oliver Queen will stand up to Ra's al Ghul and say his true name? Of course. Do I know his entire supporting cast is still alive? Obviously. But just because I'm certain these things will happen, it doesn't mean I want to see them unfold just seconds after the latest episode has aired. Look, I know I'm being repetitive here, but it's not the job of the promo to spell out and reveal big plot points; it's the job of the promo to tease them. A promo needs to build our anticipation for an episode and allow us to eventually enjoy those critical scenes in proper context; not already witness them and then enjoy them a second time as they play out during the episode. Will fans still love seeing Oliver angrily say, "My name is Oliver Queen!" Most definitely. Should we have already seen this big moment? Well, I'll let Dr. Evil answer that one for me.
I still love you, Arrow and The Flash. But seriously, CW, you can promote your episodeswithout giving away really important and critical stuff. The episodes have more than enough footage to get us hyped, okay? And don't even get me started on how much those sizzle reels spoiled. I mean, finding out Quentin and Ray discover Arrow's identity that far in advance?!
Source: my blog