Nora Dominick ‘17/ Emertainment Monthly Executive Stage Editor
This week, Arrow began its journey into season five. A big feat for the superhero drama that started the “Superhero Revolution” on The CW. This new season presents several new voyages for the show. Not only will it be the last season of flashbacks, but the show looks to go back to its season one roots. In a love letter to longtime fans, Arrow returns with the season five premiere “Legacy.”
Last season was arguably Arrow’s weakest season to date. While simultaneously trying to launch other superhero shows, Arrow’s core values seemed to get lost in the shuffle. The superhero show that once thrived on amazing stunts became caught up in competing with its fantastical superhero rivals in The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. This season, Arrow already has one plus in its corner: there’s no superhero show to launch this time around. Setting the stage with “Legacy,” Arrow begins to rebuild. Although the episode still has flaws, Arrow started to look like its former self.
One of the positives in this Arrow episode is the stunt work. Directed by stunt extraordinary James Bamford, this episode put the stunts in the forefront. One of the first impressive moments comes very early on when Green Arrow/Oliver (Stephen Amell) fights Anarky (Alexander Calvert). The hand-to-hand combat is always where Arrow has thrived. More so than any other superhero show, Arrow utilizes their stunt team to their fullest potential. Bamford has a keen eye for directing these stunt sequences and it shows. The slow motion mixed with Green Arrow and Anarky falling through the floor is a heavenly stunt combination.
Arrow also takes on another major stunt sequence this week at the end of the episode. When Green Arrow hunts down season five big bad, Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman), he refuses to let him escape. Green Arrow swings from Church’s helicopter and engages in a crazy fight sequence. It ultimately ends with Green Arrow launching from the helicopter and using a new, parachute arrow. This stunt sequence is one of the largest Arrow has attempted and it greatly elevated the episode. Once again, Bamford and the entire Arrow stunt team pulls out all the stops, especially for this season premiere.
On the subject of Tobias Church, Coleman makes a grand entrance into the Arrowverse this week. The introduction of Church is simply amazing. In a single episode, he takes hold of numerous other Star City crime organization and stakes his claim. Church is brutal and Coleman portrays him flawlessly. A stray from his The Walking Dead character, Coleman brings his character into Arrow with a violent force. His wild eyes say it all as he hopes to take down Green Arrow and Star City. The only possible downside to this villain is if he will play out a storyline we’ve seen way too often on Arrow. A disgruntled man who tries to take down Star City in order to “save it.” The hope is that Tobias Church has other motives. He also already has competition: the mysterious dark archer who makes a grand entrance in the final minutes.
Something we never thought we’d say after the last two seasons of Arrow, but the flashbacks this week are solid. For longtime fans of Arrow, the flashbacks finally discuss Oliver’s time in Russia and how he becomes part of the Bratva. These are interesting, engaging and tie into moments with Oliver and Church in present day. The flashbacks didn’t detract from the overall story. This is something that happened last season on Arrow and ultimately helped lead to a less than stellar season. Bratva Oliver has already turned up the heat and the flashbacks look very promising.
Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) and Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) or as we like to call them “The Arrow Dream Team,” were also in full force. Kellum makes his grand entrance as a series regular in the season five premiere and it feels just right. After four seasons of Felicity being the only tech nerd on Team Arrow, Curtis is here to stay. Rickards and Kellum continue to be the comedic edge to Arrow. The duo grew their characters last season and season five seems promising for them.
By the end of the episode, Curtis also makes the decision to join Team Arrow after he’s attacked while looking to recruit Mad Dog (Rick Gonzalez). While we’ll miss the original Team Arrow, the idea of Team Arrow 2.0 is very exciting moving into Arrow season five. It’s time to breathe new life into Oliver’s team and it’s great to start with Curtis. Curtis will eventually transition into Mr. Terrific and we are so here for it. Kellum has earned his spot amongst the other superhero actors on Arrow and it will be an exciting transition to see.
As always, Rickards remains a bright spot in the Arrow season five premiere. After last seasons “Olicity” storyline, Felicity is looking to help Team Arrow as much as possible. She’s the driving force behind building Team Arrow 2.0 and it’s great to see her involved once again. Rickards has grown Felicity so much in the last four seasons and she continues to always be a bright spot. Amell and Rickards sexual tension is also off the charts once again. “Olicity” is taking a break when Arrow returns and that’s honestly not the worst thing. The two characters need to grow apart before they can rebuild together.
The only downside to Felicity’s storyline in the premiere comes in the last minutes of the episode. Felicity returns home to her somewhat empty apartment and fans learn that she is now dating new SCPD officer, Detective Malone (Tyler Ritter). Although we knew this storyline was coming going into the season, it’s still disappointing. On our end, we were looking forward to Felicity standing alone and finding her way without Oliver or any man in her life (and no this isn’t just our “Olicity” shipper hearts being crushed). Felicity was originally presented as a strong, independent, female character and now she’s constantly being attached to other, male, storylines. While Detective Malone seems all well and good, we yearn for the days where Felicity could be the brains of Team Arrow without needing to date a man.
This episode of Arrow also shows Oliver’s return to a more violent version of himself. This is the biggest call back to season one as Oliver forgoes his pact to not kill anymore. Right off the bat, Oliver’s violent tendencies come flooding back. He’s shooting people in the leg with arrows and not taking any survivors. He’s once again unafraid to kill. The biggest example of this comes when Mayor Oliver is taken hostage by Church’s lackeys. In another amazing stunt scene, Oliver breaks through his shackles and kills a man in one swoop. Amell brings his A-game to this scene as he brings back an earlier version of Oliver.
The one major downfall to a more violent Oliver emerging is that it almost feels like a step backwards. Season four of Arrow was all about Oliver finding the light within himself. That seems to have been totally erased. We are back to an Oliver that doesn’t care who he hurts on his way to save Star City. While this is a beautiful sight for Arrow fans that loved Oliver in season one, it’s a major step backwards for the man Oliver has become. His reasoning for killing again? Oliver tells Thea (Willa Holland) it’s to honor Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and so no one will die like she did. Thea tells Oliver that she can’t be part of this because it’s a major step backwards. We’re starting to think Thea might be right.
Last season, Arrow said goodbye to one of its longtime character when Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) killed Laurel Lance. A moment that rocked the Arrowverse, but a moment that really didn’t need to carry over into season five. Yes, Laurel will be missed and yes her death with continue to affect every character, but it didn’t need to be a main storyline in the premiere. This also felt like a step backwards. It almost felt like Arrow needed to continue to explain why she was killed off. We would’ve preferred her to be a fond memory rather than a driving force in the episode.
Laurel was brought up so many times and remained the main tie between characters. Between Thea’s reasoning to hang up Speedy to Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) turning to drinking yet again, Laurel seemed too big a part of the episode. It feels like we are reflecting backwards as opposed to looking forwards.
Laurel’s final words to Oliver were also revealed in this episode. She told Oliver that she doesn’t want to be the last Canary. She wants to make sure she’s always out there, fighting, with Oliver. Again, something that makes us a little nervous. It would be better to see another character flourish on their own merits as opposed to simply being pigeonholed in the Canary mantle. Also, why memorialize Laurel as Black Canary if the Canary mantle will continue?
Overall, Arrow returned with an episode that seemed to be a big homage to season one. With a violent Oliver re-emerging to a new Team Arrow, Arrow looks to rebuild by essentially reverting back. The new villains seem promising while some of the characters begin to work on the legacy they will leave on Star City. Already a vast improvement from season four, Arrow season five seems promising.