Fans of CW’s flagship series Arrow have been in an uncertain position over the past couple years. After a strong start and the introduction of many beloved DC characters in the first two seasons and a mostly strong third season, Arrow season 4 took the show to strange places, highlighting magic, the supernatural, and larger-than-life threats like powerful stone idols and “launch all the nukes ever” codes. Additionally, a lot of screen time was spend on interpersonal bickering and soap opera-esque romantic drama between Oliver and Felicity. Many felt that the show had lost sight of what made it so appealing in the early days, and worried the show would never recapture its former impact.
After watching the premier for season 5, I think we have a reasonable idea of what to expect going forward. The writers seem bent on conveying a new tone for the show: more street-level baddies and less voodoo. We see Oliver torn between his daytime duties as mayor of Star City and his now solo crusade against crime as the Green Arrow, made more difficult by the departure of his team. John Diggle has returned to military service, Thea is settling into finding a normal life outside of overnight vigilante justice, and Laurel’s absence weighs heavy on the minds and hearts of the group. With a strictly business-only Felicity and a newly determined Curtis running the base, the pressure is on for Oliver to move forward and create a new “Team Arrow,” and a handful of local crime fighters seem prime for the job.
The mark Laurel left on the city as Black Canary is given much thought throughout the episode, as we see her father struggling with old demons in the wake of his loss, and Mayor Queen directing the city’s attention to a new monument in her honour. It’s at one of these rare “Oliver actually doing his day job” moments that we’re introduced to the full power of new villain Tobias Church (portrayed by Chad L. Coleman, best known as Tyreese on The Walking Dead). Ollie’s sentimental speech is cut off by a group of Church’s thugs, who show up guns blazing and take Star City’s mayor hostage to draw out the Green Arrow.
Out of options, Thea dons her cowl once more to save her brother, who appears to have things under control in his own way. Reverting to his old ways, Oliver breaks a guard’s neck to protect his secret identity, much to the chagrin of Thea. The two fight their way through more of Church’s armed guards with the help of an elite team of police, led by a revitalised Lance to help clean up the city in a more legitimate way.
The episode ends on a note of hope. Mayor Queen is safe thanks to this new team of officers, and praises them as the first step in a plan to make the city safer by the doing of ordinary heroes. Meanwhile, the Green Arrow appears to be ready to accept the help of these new vigilantes, though not without some rigorous training. Things appear to be looking up, until one of the elite officers is killed by a shadowy figure – a dark archer with an appetite for blood and a vendetta against the Green Arrow.
For a show that’s mostly garnered skepticism in recent years, the premiere of season 5 is an exciting start. Getting right to the point and trimming out fluff, while introducing new characters and developing old favourites, season 5 has the opportunity to truly move forward while recapturing the spirit of the show that people were so excited about in the beginning. There are still some less than desirable Arrow-isms peppered in, but this is a very promising first episode back.