Spoilers ahead for “Legacy,” the Season 5 premiere of The CW’s Arrow!
The fourth season of Arrow ended with a whole lot of narrative threads dangling, and Season 5 felt like a much-needed course correction to bring the story back on track.
We get new heroes, new villains and a whole lot of changes. After four seasons of ever-escalating insanity, the new arc of Arrow kept things simple and played around with a few of the most promising dynamics from last season.
The short version: Oliver is killing again. He’s also not a great mayor and needs some back-up. Oh, and Felicity has a boyfriend.
Oliver’s run for mayor last season turned out to be one of the most interesting stories of the year, and once he finally took the oath, we had high hopes for how they could dig into that story in Year Five. Thankfully, this week did not disappoint. This season picks up with Oliver flying solo (following Diggle’s departure for the military last season and Thea’s retirement). He’s still taking Laurel’s death hard, and in trying to do everything himself, the city is struggling with a largely absent mayor. Watching Oliver try to juggle those responsibilities is a promising story, especially with the launch of a new police task force aimed at combating the widespread corruption within the department.
The flashback story was also a vast improvement over last season, as we finally start filling in the gaps of Oliver’s Russian mob connections and why he’s an honorary member of the Bratva. They also started planting the seeds for turning him in the man we met at the start of Season 1. With the flashbacks (at least as we know them now) being shelved next season, this should make for a great swan song.
As for the villainy, Chad L. Coleman’s Tobias Church was a nice throwback. No superpowers. No world-ending evil plan. He’s just a bad mo-fo with some brass knuckles looking to fill the power vacuum left behind by Damien Darhk’s death. He has the fighting chops to go toe to toe with Green Arrow, and he’s looking to consolidate power and take over the town. After fighting a magical bad guy who wants to nuke the planet, it was a nice palate cleanser.
Quentin Lance also had a great story that truly felt earned. His struggle with alcoholism has lingered over the entire series — and with Laurel dead, his off-screen break-up with Donna, and the fact that he still doesn’t have his badge — he doesn’t have much left to live for. So he heads back to the bottle. Thankfully, Oliver pulls him out of the spiral relatively quickly and he makes it to Laurel’s ceremony, but it really felt like a human reaction from a character who has been through the wringer.
The action was excellent in the premiere, with solid fight choreography and good stunt/effects work — highlighted by a move that would put The Avengers’ Hawkeye to shame. Diving out of a window, firing a grappling hook into the air, and hooking it into an airborne helicopter? Ambitious, and it didn’t look half bad. Oh, and Parachute Arrow FTW.
Look, after everything Oliver’s been through, it’s no surprise the guy is emotionally damaged at this point. But after seeing how hard he’s worked since Season 1 to stop killing, and the struggles he’s had with that over the past four years, it stung to see him fall back into that habit so quickly. Yes, his reasoning makes sense in the wake of Laurel’s death, but it didn’t feel true to the character as he’s grown.
It was great to see Lonnie Machin back as Anarky as the opening baddie. He’s one of the better recurring villains, and was more savvy than Oliver himself when it came to getting the drop of Dhark last season. If anything, just a bit let down he wasn’t better utilized.
We got a peek at Oliver’s new recruits via the dossier Felicity was putting together, and we met the masked Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez ) on the streets, but it seems building a new team will certainly be a major theme of the season. Having Oliver move into a mentor role feels like a good progression for the character, and could introduce some new storytelling opportunities to keep the story fresh. We also learned the mysterious final words Laurel spoke to Oliver before dying: Don't let her be the last Canary, which you'd have to imagine is also a major factor in taking on these new recruits.
Curtis is finally starting his journey to become Mister Terrific. While searching for Wild Dog, Curtis gets jumped by muggers and takes a beating. So when Oliver finally agrees to field a new team, he insists on being one of the first recruits. We already know Curtis is an Olympic athlete, but he still needs a good bit of fight training. The team has never really had any comic relief in the field, so this could be fun.
Thea’s decision to hang up her bow is also an interesting development, and considering how much insanity she’s been through over the past few seasons, it’s hard to blame her. She’s looking for normalcy, and watching her try to find it could be an interesting story to tell.
What’s the deal with the new, evil archer in town? Safe bets are on this being the DC character Prometheus, but aside from taking out the last few clean cops, what’s his motivation?
Last but not least: Olicity shippers were dealt a blow in the closing minutes, as we see Felicity return home to a comforting back rub from a new mystery boyfriend. UGH.
Lines of the night:
“Putting killing back on the table is a huge step backwards.” - Thea
"No one reads the classifieds anymore.” - Felicity
“I’ve got to get on with my life, even if that life isn't what I want it to be.” - Quentin Lance