Tonight's episode of Arrow is titled "Green Arrow and the Canaries," which actually breaks with one of the show's longest traditions -- that of naming the penultimate episode of a season after a Bruce Springsteen song. Beginning with "Darkness on the Edge of Town" in season one and running all the way through season seven's "Living Proof," the naming convention was originally meant to stay in place this year, but it eventually fell to the needs of Warner Bros. Television. Since the episode is a backdoor pilot for a planned spinoff, it was determined that the show had to be titled "Green Arrow and the Canaries," rather than its original title, "Livin' in the Future."
Earlier this year, though, Katie Cassidy directed her first episode. It was titled "Leap of Faith," and while it was not technically named after the Springsteen song, the fact that it shares a title with one is close enough to call it.
In a series that has had a ton of actor turnover and a number of tonal and storytelling shifts over the years, the "Springsteen episodes" have remained a constant. Last year, when there are eight of the songs -- i.e., the number of tracks on Springsteen's career-defining masterpiece Born to Run -- we've collected them together in a Spotify playlist for fans to check out. This year, we updated it to ten, including both "Light of Day" and "Livin' in the Future." You can find that playlist here.
Season seven, episode 21 of Arrow was probably the closest thing to an on-the-nose title there was. Called "Living Proof," the episode was named after a song on Springsteen's Lucky Town album, one of two "twin" albums released together in March 1992. "Living Proof" is a dense song that covers a lot of territory, but given that Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) was just about ready to give birth in the show, fans obviously zeroed in on the song's first verse. It goes, "Well now, on a summer night, oh in a dusky room/Come a little piece of the Lord's undying light/Crying like he swallowed the fiery moon/In his mother's arms it was all the beauty I could take/Like the missing words to some prayer that I could never make/Oh, in a world so hard and dirty, so fouled and confused/Searching for a little bit of God's mercy/I found living proof." That verse is pretty unambiguously about the joy that the narrator (likely Springsteen himself, since at least one popular live performance of the song is dedicated to his son Evan) felt about the birth of his child.
The first of the Arrow episodes to be named after a Bruce Springsteen song was arguably the most obvious (at least for a while): "Darkness on the Edge of Town." Another song off of Darkness on the Edge of Town, "Streets of Fire" was the episode where Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim confirmed, yes, these are Bruce Springsteen titles. Earlier in the season, an episode titled "The Promise" could have been named after a Springsteen song, as well, although that has never been confirmed. Season three featured "This Is Your Sword," a song from Springsteen's then-new album High Hopes, performed with Tom Morello (who wrote the Dark Horse series Orchid and scored Iron Man) on guitar. Season four had "Lost in the Flood," named for a song from Springsteen's debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. Season five featured "Missing," a song prominently featured in Sean Penn's film The Crossing Guard, which starred Jack Nicholson. Penn's previous film, The Indian Runner, was an adaptation of the Springsteen song "Highway Patrolman." And last year's season six had "The Ties That Bind," from Springsteen's 1980 album The River. A regular presence at Springsteen's live shows, the song deals with themes of family and honor that permeated all of Arrow's sixth season.
"Light of Day" was featured on Springsteen's MTV Plugged and Live in New York City concert albums, but didn't get a studio recording by the Boss. It was written for Joan Jett to perform on the soundtrack to the Michael J. Fox movie Light of Day -- a transaction that sounds too strange to be true, but everyone involved insists that it is. Director Paul Schrader, hoping to get a song from Springsteen, once loaned him the Light of Day screenplay, which at the time had a different title. Springsteen apparently wrote a song that used the original title but, forgetting where he had gotten the phrase, released it on its own rather than selling it to Schrader. That song -- "Born in the U.S.A." -- was a huge hit, and Springsteen supposedly later realized what he had done and felt so bad that he wrote "Light of Day" for free.
"Livin' in the Future," meanwhile, was a song off of Magic, Springsteen's 2007 album. A protest song about reclaiming national identity, Springsteen once said that Americans had been forced to change their image of America during the George W. Bush administration.
"This is a song called 'Livin' In the Future.' But it's really about what's happening now. Right now," Springsteen said on Today when he performed it live. "It's kind of about how the things we love about America, cheeseburgers, French fries, the Yankees battlin' Boston, the Bill of Rights, v-twin motorcycles, Tim Russert's haircut, trans-fats and the Jersey Shore....But over the past six years we've had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeus corpus, the neglect of that great city New Orleans and its people, an attack on the Constitution. And the loss of our best men and women in a tragic war. This is a song about things that shouldn't happen here happening here. So right now we plan to do something about it, we plan to sing about it. I know it's early (in the morning), but it's late. So come and join us."
Arrow airs on Monday nights at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.