The past couple seasons of Arrow have been pretty rough, so much so that the show’s executive producers have gone so far as to promise that subsequent seasons will go “back to basics.” The assurances have always seemed genuine, but the show has yet to return to the magic of its first two seasons. Will the fifth season finally see the show going back to go forward? One episode in and there’s reason for some hope, but there is also this: Arrow has has turned disappointment into an art. At this point the show that opened to door for CW’s other DC series — and even Gotham — doesn’t succeed because the seriousness of the early episodes no longer suits it.
The Season 5 premiere, “Legacy,” is on the right track. Sure, Oliver Queen’s entire political career and Quentin Lance’s kind of laughable “TV drunk” problem remain hard to swallow, but Arrow’s flashbacks are interesting again. And that matters. Fans want to know about Oliver’s time in Russia with the Bratva and they’re finally getting those scenes, which are full of proverbs about sharks and discussions of how Oliver struggles to move forward. Sounds a bit like meta-commentary.
It’s true, by the way, that Oliver can’t stop living in the past. He’s in denial about the disintegration of Team Arrow. So, in classic Queen style, he spends most of the premiere working as a lone wolf in order to make room for the return of his team members who seem unlikely to come back. And it’s not as though there aren’t viable sidekick options. The episode starts with Green Arrow refusing to let baby vigilante Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) join in on his vigilante games. Felicity has also rounded up a list of candidates to join Team Arrow. Oliver’s argument against these potential new team members — whom he refuses to ever call “team” members — is that they’re “amateurs,” which sounds ridiculous because it’s not like there’s a union or anything. That said, the sentiment does make some sense coming from Oliver: He was never an amateur as a vigilante. He started his work as the Hood fully-formed, having gotten all of his on-the-job training from five years on Lian Yu, working with A.R.G.U.S., and getting down and dirty in Russia. He didn’t train on the job.
He was less prepared, however, to become mayor, a job that doesn’t suit him. The Star City Star (a terrible newspaper name) mockingly calls Oliver “Handsome Mayor (a terrible nickname), and as much as Arrow needs the audience to buy him in this role, it’s impossible. His rousing speeches about community don’t make sense within the context of the show. The truth is that Star City is too dumb to function. And the irresponsible voters got what they wanted: broad-shouldered leadership, a human wrecking ball.
Oliver is only effective as a civic leader when he’s got someone to fight. This season that Big Bad will be a gangster named Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman). The man goes by “Charon,” after the ferryman of Hades, but is less self serious than previous Arrow enemies. He’s a human and seems fairly believable. Hopefully he’ll help ground the show by moving it away from wizardry.
Oliver’s other opposition this season will be Prometheus — we’re doing a whole Greek thing — an archer and a murderer. He’s basically Reverse-Arrow and his presence seems designed to remind people about the hero’s origins. It’s a nice touch because Prometheus brings out the Arrow in Oliver Queen. The protagonist is gonna kill again. The mood gets a bit darker, but the show is better for that.
Unfortunately, Oliver’s lone wolf status is compromised after a “flashback” to Laurel’s last words: “Please don’t let me be the last Canary.” We know that he’s gonna have to train someone and that this thing is gonna head in the direction of Arrow: Vigilante School. That’s not “back to basics” as such, but it might work out. It probably all depends on how you feel about Scrubs: Med School.