Angry at Arrow


June 29, 2013 by Kira Lyn Blue

I finally caught up on DVR’d episodes of Arrow today and there was one scene that had me absolutely livid. This:

What you’re seeing here is Malcolm Merlyn played by John Barrowman catching, yes catching an arrow that was shot at him by the the hero of the show.


Now, I admit it’s been many years since I’ve taken a physics class, but this is simply preposterous. Let’s look at the factors involved:

1. The Mythbusters Argument: Mythbusters busted the myth that one can catch an arrow in flight in a 2008 episode entitled Return of the NinjaIf Adam and Jamie say it’s a myth, IT’S A GORRAM MYTH! To be fair, their expert “Arrowcatcher” was able to catch an arrow if it was fired directly at his chest and below full strength. And yes, I’m sure you can find videos on YouTube of people catching arrows under similar conditions. 

However, the scene depicted above is with Oliver Queen (Green Arrow, Hood, Vigilante, whatever name you want to call him) and do you really think he’s going to fire an arrow at the main villain of the show in the epic conclusion of the season at less than full strength?

2. Arrow Velocity: Even if you consider that the compound bow that Queen uses for most of the season was busted earlier in the episode and he’s using a simple wooden bow in this scene, the arrow he lets fly still has to be travelling a minimum of 100 feet per second. And this is the Green Arrow we’re talking about. He spends all the time he’s not out slaughtering bad dudes doing shirtless gymnastics in dark rooms.


So, do you really think that Queen is gonna to get less than maximum velocity out of an arrow even with a substandard bow? Ok fine, let’s say he gets 100 fps. I may be a bit off on my math here, but I’m pretty sure that still leaves Merlyn with a window that’s about 2 one hundredths of a second long to capture the arrow. That’s a pretty hellacious reaction time even for the Dark Archer himself. 

3. They’re just humans: I feel the need to point this out since this show is based off a comic-book superhero, but both Queen and Merlyn are human. Well-trained archers and fighters, but still basically normal humans. They have no special powers. Maybe their reaction times are well above average, but good enough to catch an arrow?

Especially twice in one episode?

Oh yes, the creators of the show liked the trick so much they had to use it not once, but TWICE! I feel supremely insulted by the writers of the show that they would expect me to buy this gag.

Ok fine, I’m sure it says something about my taste that I watched the entire season in spite of the rigid and awkward acting, terrible music, and requisite “Hey, let’s have a conversation in the entry hall of the mansion!” scene that happened in every episode. I suppose if I was going to complain about this show there is plenty more I could grumble about, but for some reason THIS is what tipped me over the edge.

Then again, let’s be honest, I only watched the show for requisite Shirtless Stephen Amell scene in each episode. That’s not hyperbole, the producers clearly focused all their efforts on Shirtless Stephen, maybe knowing that that’s most of what the show has going for it. 

But still! Just because your viewers like eye candy doesn’t mean they lack intelligence or a basic understanding of physics.

Writers take note.

18 thoughts on “Angry at Arrow

  1. hopecook says:

    My biggest pet peeve with archers is when they seem to have an inexhaustible supply of arrows and are never shown retrieving any of their damn arrows from dead people. I love Lord of the Rings, but seriously, was Legolas’s quiver magic or something?! I was sooooooo happy when Hawkeye ran out of arrows in The Avengers. Score another point for Joss Whedon’s brilliance.

  2. Aldrea Alien says:

    Yup. Shirtless is only going to get you so far.

    On the other hand. There are still pants …

  3. kokkieh says:

    I recently did a post on MacGyver where I mentioned that television shows are losing the magic. With shows like Mythbusters or even good old Wikipedia giving us all the facts we desire, it’s much more difficult for television show producers to pull the wool over our eyes with these amazing feats of apparently superhuman ability than it used to be. (If it was an actual superhuman it would, of course, been completely believable.)

    And using the same trick twice in one episode? That’s just lazy writing, if you ask me. No serious editor would allow something like that to escape his red pen.

    • What’s worse is they had McQueen anticipate it the second time and he used an arrow with a flash-bang sort of device on it. All I could think was “How did he know which arrow was which when he pulled it out of his quiver? How did he know THIS was the one Merlyn would catch during that second fight?”

  4. Kate Sparkes says:

    Looks to me like shirtless dude is reason enough. NICE.

  5. Not sure what to think of this. The arrow catch is a classic fictional move, which I’m guessing would have had to appear in a show where your hero is an archer. It’s been proven false, but I personally never watch anything with superheroes and associate reality. Just look at Batman and how he’s able to beat everyone, including enemies that could kill him with a sneeze. Would an arrow deflect be easier? Basically, knocking the arrow out of the air with his bow or something.

    • A block or a deflection is more likely because you’re not stopping all forward momentum of the arrow, just changing its trajectory. If you were catching an arrow, the kinetic energy of it’s forward momentum doesn’t just stop (think Newton’s First Law), so your hand, wrist, and elbow joints would have to absorb all of that momentum in that split second to bring it to a dead stop before it entered your chest. And that’s not even considering the grip strength it would require to keep a smooth arrow shaft from sliding through your closed palm under the force of its momentum.

      In other words, deflection or simply dodging the arrow are both much more likely than catching it.

  6. cptam1947 says:

    I saw the Mythbusters episode you are talking about and agree with your statement. But lets for a moment suspend our rational thought. We have a hero running around a city and is yet to be caught by the police. A dumb police force totally lacking any forensic capabilities. No, it is a way to keep the hero in the open and not behind bars. I am a retired soldier and usually deplore any series that makes our nations protectors, be they any law enforcement agency or our military in a ‘DUMB LIGHT’. The Arrow has a balance that makes it enjoyable for me to watch. I would have liked to have seen a little blood dripping from Barrowman’s hand after he caught the arrow. It would have let us know that it could be done, but there is a cost.

  7. MishaBurnett says:

    But… but… Captain Jack can do anything! I tried the pilot of Arrow, lost interest in it. Now that I know John Barrowman is in it, I’ll have to try again.

  8. L. Marie says:

    What did you think of Loki’s catching the arrow in The Avengers?

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