Arrow Season 5 Review – Full Spoilers Alert
Arrow Season 5 is a return to form. The many strengths and high-points outshine the weaknesses. On the other hand, the major problems with Season 4 overshadowed the good moments. Often what happens is when a season finishes strong it shapes how people feel about the season as a whole. Some people talk about Season 1 as being a good overall season which I mostly agree with. But when looking at other sites, the review scores didn’t pick up until the latter half of Season 1. With Season 5, not only did it stick it’s landing it was consistently solid, more or less, after the first few episodes.
Arrow always had a 5 year plan. Each season of flashbacks take place over one of the five years after Oliver arrived on Lian Yu. Season 5 is about circling back to the premiere episode to explain how Oliver became the hooded figure in a thick beard being rescued off the island. So Season’s 5 darker tone is both a return to the edgier feeling of earlier seasons and a reflection of Oliver’s essential nature. The viewer received a great pay off after all this time. Season 5 did a good job of taking elements from the past seasons, tying the pieces together and showing them in a different light.
One of the best examples of this is revealing how Oliver’s dark compulsion to kill is embodied in his alternate identity as The Hood/Arrow. It’s a satisfying revelation because it makes a lot of sense. We have always known this about Oliver but it’s compelling to see him complete his evolution into a cold-blooded, killing machine. I sometimes find it a bit repetitive that the previously on segment always has Oliver narrating “I must be someone else, I must be something else”. Having said that, I do like how this statement is fully fleshed out in the storytelling and learning how it originated from Talia Al Ghul. (By the way I’m on Team Nyssa!).
With the strong material, Stephen Amell stepped up his game. I like how his anguished voice started to break as he was holding William and telling Adrian Chase to “don’t even look at him (his son)”. The line is delivered so authentically, I wonder if it was improvised or if it was in the script. Another great performance is during the torture scene when Oliver confessed his secret in way that expressed how it erupted out his dark subconsciousness, the place where he hides things from even himself. By noticing if Amell uses a lower or higher register voice in the flashbacks, I can hear where Oliver is at in his evolution – that and his long hair wig. Those flashback wigs over the different seasons probably deserve its own post lol.
Speaking of flashbacks, I didn’t always fully follow what was happening in Russia. I don’t think the plot mattered that much because the action is quite good. One flashback featured some John Wick style gun play which is a nice homage. As for the big Russian personalities I enjoyed the brotherly Bratva connection and sometimes lighter banter between Oliver and Anatoly. It’s also cool to see Dolph Lungren’s guest appearances, I imagine this is a pretty fun role for him as Kovar. The back and forth over-the-top battle between Oliver and Kovar in the finale pretty much summed up this season’s flashbacks. Another reason I believe the Bratva flashbacks worked well is because it went back to directly showing how Oliver became the Hood that we first met in the premiere. Season 4’s flashback lost touch with that primary purpose, plus it lacked urgency. It should be interesting to see what Arrow will do with the flashbacks moving forward.
Prometheus is the villain that Season 5 needed. Or more precisely, the writers needed to come up with a villain who could hit upon the season’s major themes. Prometheus’ origin is a direct result of The Hood’s willingness to kill people. Arrow is spot on to use the comic book convention where the hero creates the villain. Essentially, the consequences of Oliver’s action are embodied by the villain in which the hero must now take responsibility for. Prometheus also forced Oliver to fully think through his “no kill rule” that he adopted in the past couple of years since Tommy died. The final moments of the season finale perfectly set up an impossible choice, where one way or another there will be blood.
Of course, it’s Prometheus’ fault on whomever may die from the explosions on Lian Yu , but I’d imagine it will weigh heavy on Oliver’s conscience. Clearly both Oliver and Chase have their daddy issues, not unlike opposite sides of the same coin. Oliver himself is an absent father. Arrow has layered in a father and son/child dynamic as a reoccurring motif that can be analyzed further by those interested. Season 5 is about bringing things full circle, as a villain Prometheus functioned to achieve that goal.
Green Arrow’s presence in Star City brings out the villainous freaks. At the same time, his actions gave rise to other vigilantes and crime fighters. My favorite new recruits are Rene Ramirez and Ragman. Artemis’s motivations didn’t completely make sense to me. I mean, she didn’t like that Oliver as The Hood was a killer so she teamed up Prometheus who’s also a killer? If Curtis reduced some of his jokey lines, I think I would like his character more than I do. I don’t have much to say about the other main characters. Felicity, Diggle, and Quentin Lance are rock solid. I could always use more Diggle. Even Thea was utilized in a good way this season.
My top new character is Dinah Drake aka the new Black Canary. I have to say first that the mid-season finale that teased the return of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) got me excited even though I had a strong hunch it would turn out to be Black Siren. As much as I don’t fault Katie Cassidy for how her character was written, Juliana Karkavy brings an edge to Black Canary that was missing from the former. Dinah Drake is immediately believable as a kick-ass crime fighter, something which unfortunately was never easy for Laurel Lance. Sara Lance was also better as Canary. But since Katie Cassidy is still a part of the Arrow-verse family I wouldn’t feel too bad for her.
A notable achievement of Bertlanti production is the Arrow-verse expanding each year. I haven’t caught up on the other shows; however, I do like that the superhero cross-overs are pretty ambitious for network TV. I don’t think Netflix’s Marvel TV shows entirely lived up to their potential, especially with Iron Fist. The handful of Buffy and Angel crossovers back in the day were good too although aren’t comparable to Arrow-verse’s much bigger scale. Credit also goes to the viewers for accepting the different tones of each show. It’s one thing for a more realistic show like Arrow to incorporate meta-humans and mysticism, it’s another for an episode to feature aliens and space ships. Or maybe you don’t like the crossovers and have issues with the tone … tell me in the comments.
Arrow Season 5 went back to the basics of what made the show resonate in the first place. The show didn’t have to reinvent itself. It took the blueprint from what worked the best from Season 2: action-filled flashbacks which told an engaging origin story and connected to present day events, a dangerous villain who is always three steps ahead and focusing on the darker aspects of the main character in an interesting manner. Arrow should also receive praise for the amount of solid fight choreography and action every episode. Some of those Marvel shows barely have enough story for 13 episodes per season. Despite some filler Arrow Season 5 does a good job of sustaining interest for 23 episodes. Arrow surpassed the 100 episode mark. Who knows if there will be another 100? The bright side is that Arrow is in a much better position to reach the 200 episode milestone than they were at the end of last season.