Content Warning: the following article contains discussions of suicide and suicidal ideation.
Smallville season 9 took a scary turn for Oliver Queen as The CW drama explored Green Arrow’s darkest story in live-action. While Stephen Amell may have played the Emerald Archer on Arrow and in the Arrowverse the longest, he wasn’t the first actor to bring Oliver to life in live-action. Before the DC TV landscape became as big as it is today, Smallville was the only DC Comics show on air from 2001 to 2011. In the later seasons, Smallville brought in Justin Hartley as the first live-action Green Arrow, who became a series regular for the show’s three last seasons. While Hartley’s Oliver was more light-hearted than Amell’s iteration, the Smallville character did have his dark phases.
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Towards the end of Smallville season 8, Oliver began going in a gritty direction, especially after killing Lex Luthor. Following the climax of Clark Kent taking on Doomsday, there was still one loose end that backfired on the heroes. After separating Davis Bloome and Doomsday with Black Kryptonite, it caused the former to lose control. In the Smallville season 8 finale, Davis ends up murdering Jimmy Olsen by running a metal pole through his chest. While Jimmy manages to save Chloe from Davis, the two men pass away. Jimmy’s death is what causes Oliver to go into a depression and identity crisis, questioning his role as a hero at the start of Smallville season 9. While Oliver abandoned his responsibilities and fell into an endless cycle of booze and sex, the Green Arrow’s story was getting darker.
It is in Smallville season 9, episode 4, “Echo,” where DC drama reached the true essence of Green Arrow’s mental health struggle. Toyman returns for payback since Oliver had him framed for Lex’s death. As Oliver returns to Metropolis to attend a shareholder’s meeting, he gets trapped during his speech, learning that Toyman had planted a bomb right underneath Oliver. It’d go off if Oliver stepped off the pressure plate he stood on, as Toyman forces him to come clean about who killed Lex to everyone. As Oliver was close to revealing the truth, Clark manages to get everyone out of the room before stopping Toyman and figures out Winslow’s bomb was a fake. But Oliver didn’t know this, and once he was by himself, he decided to step off the plate and let himself die. Shocked it didn’t blow up, Clark shows up and is stunned when Oliver made it clear he was trying to take his own life.
While the next episode of Smallville season 9 was another Oliver-centric story, that helped him start healing, it was still shocking to see the show explore this sort of story. Despite characters having died in the previous seasons, seeing a superhero trying to end his own life was a first for Smallville. Seeing Oliver hitting rock bottom from losing Jimmy highlighted how much he regretted some of his decisions in the eighth season. While it was always clear that they would never kill off the Green Arrow, it was likely a surprise for some viewers where this storyline almost went at the start of Smallville season 9. Before the superhero TV world was as big as it is now, having Smallville as one of the few comic book properties to explore heroes’ mental health in this way was huge.
Once Oliver began to forgive himself, the Green Arrow began working on himself throughout the rest of Smallville season 9. Oliver’s healing path also included taking on a sidekick with Mia Dearden, a.k.a. Speedy, while also working on his relationship with Clark. This isn’t to say that Stephen Amell’s Green Arrow in the Arrowverse didn’t have some extremely brutal phases too, but it doesn’t negate where Smallville season 9 explored with Hartley’s version of the DC hero.
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