Arrow is about to enter its seventh season, which isn't actually that insane considering The CW's recent standard for renewing older shows (Supernatural will obviously outlive us all), but it still has everyone wondering when and if the show might start creeping towards a close.
There are a lot of factors that contribute to a network's (especially a younger-skewing network like The CW) decision to renew or cancel though, which makes nailing down Arrow's potential longevity kind of a puzzle.
Long-running series like The Vampire Diaries, Charmed, One Tree Hill and more have proven that scripted dramas can have long lives on The CW and age with their audience, and Arrow has a leg up on all of them. It not only launched the Arrow-verse — an entity that now dominates the network's primetime schedule — but also the yearly crossover event superhero fans look forward to and audiences show up in droves for. So long as the Arrow-verse exists, the endless amount of crossover potential within that universe makes keeping Arrow around a justifiable choice. What? You think aliens or Nazis or maybe Nazi aliens are going to invade Central City and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his team are just going to sit this one out? Not likely.
On the other hand, even the longest-running CW shows (with Supernatural as the obvious exception) don't live forever, with most puttering out around Season 8 or 9. Actors eventually want to move on to new projects and storylines can, in fact, run out, even for shows with procedural elements. Just because there's no shortage of comic book villains for Oliver to take down doesn't mean that eventually, we won't get tired of watching Olicity break up then make up, Lance sisters die and come back to life, and Oliver go on trial for being the Green Arrow for the eighteenth time.
As storylines run out, oftentimes so too does viewership, but while Arrow's ratings have certainly experienced a decline over the course of its run, it's still got a passionate fan base that continues to show up. It's therefore hard to argue that it's not just popular enough to sustain itself for several more years. While popularity is great, Emily Bett Rickards recently told TV Guide that the show's future will always rely more on the story left to tell rather than the relative popularity of the show.
"What we only want to do in TV and entertainment is to tell stories and to tell good stories and hopefully influence the world... and sometimes the best way to do that is to have a new show and sometimes the best way to do that is to keep the show going," Bett Rickards says. "I think it would depend on what the sort of goal would be when Season 7 wraps. I think it would have to depend on how this one goes. People could say that's in terms of popularity but I think it also has to go in terms of story and where's the best way to take the story."
It doesn't sound like there are any definitive plans to make Season 7 the last, which means the logical guess would be that Arrow will survive to see an eighth (and potentially final) season. While that would regrettably put the series just shy of 200 episodes, it would give the cast and creators plenty of time to make their way through the Arrow bucket list and wrap things up.
Luckily, should that be the case, we probably won't have to say goodbye to Team Arrow entirely — there's still three other shows for these characters to move to once Arrow's final curtain closes.
"I guess it would depend on what would become more interesting in terms of storyline and what people want to watch," Bett Rickards says of any potential moves post-Arrow. "People can still love these characters and see these characters on other shows."
Whenever Arrow ends, fans shouldn't expect to be taken aback by a sudden cancellation. The CW's tendency to give long-running shows fair warning of their impending demise (plus Netflix's obvious licensing preference for shows that tie things up with a bow) means that we'll see Arrow's series finale coming long before it arrives.
Arrow airs Thursdays at 9/8c on The CW.
(Full Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS, one of The CW's parent companies.)