Over the summer, Arrow producer Marc Guggenheim warned fans to not think about who lived or who died on Lian Yu. After a stellar return to form in Season 5, Arrow resorted to a cliffhanger finale in April, a too obvious an effort to build buzz during the summer and ensure a sizeable audience in the fall. But, fine. At least the anticipation would be worth the payoff. Right?
After the Season 6 premiere, that’s a hard no.
Minutes into Season 6, the show haphazardly answers the question “Who survived Lian Yu?” by jarringly showing off pretty much all of Team Arrow, alive and well, in the middle of a Tuesday night mission. Nothing has changed except Diggle’s bizarre newfound fear of guns (character arc alert!) and Wild Dog donning hilariously protective armor (which didn’t save him from getting hurt anyway, so what was the point?). Hell, Arrow even included the surprise return of Raisa, the former Queen housekeeper who hasn’t been seen since the pilot.
Lian Yu did claim one life, however: Samantha Clayton, Oliver’s one-time lover and mother to their son, William. Oliver’s big Season 6 arc is to connect with William, it seems. Even though the kid lives in a sweet loft surrounded by video games, he’s aloof and keeps his distance from his father.
The only Arrow mainstay in any sort of critical condition is Thea, who has been in a coma since the finale. Otherwise, everyone made it out alive. Even Deathstroke, who in spite of killing Queen matriarch Moira in Season 2 is now super chummy with Oliver, as if they’re old frat buddies. And yes, the show makes it clear that you will see Slade Wilson more this season.
Now in 2017, what Arrow fans have to reckon with is the mere fact the show has reached its sixth season. It’s been around for a long time! Kids have begun and graduated school, a U.S. president served a whole term, and something like fifty iPhones have been released since the first time we met Oliver Queen. If the ten season Smallville is any form of measurement, Arrow is well past the halfway mark.
There are now five years of storytelling, world-building, and stakes Arrow must wrangle with on a weekly basis. And based on the Season 6 premiere, it’s running out of steam. Once again, Oliver and Felicity are in a will-they-won’t-they dance. Once again, Quentin Lance is confronting his alcoholism. Once again, Star City is shocked that maybe Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow.
In layman’s terms, Arrow is back on its bullshit.
Six seasons in, Arrow knows its identity of a gritty superhero melodrama while being anxious its audience may not. The unfocused, breakneck pace of the Season 6 premiere, which flip-flopped between its absolutely comic book-y villain — Stay with me here, it’s Laurel Lance, the deceased ex-girlfriend of our protagonist, but from an alternate universe — and a soap opera subplot of a billionaire playing trying to connect with his illegitimate son. As the CW is advertising its Dynasty reboot, it’s sometimes hard to tell it apart from the one about a violent superhero in a green mask.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.