“Make Arrow Great Again.” There, joke over.
I remember watching Mr. Enter’s Animated Atrocities review of The Powerpuff Girls 2016 reboot episode “Painbow” (in which Bubbles and Blossom, along with a weird talking panda, twerked, and no I’m not joking and yes it is as awful as it sounds) and he asked if a show can become somewhat decent after facing a downturn for a while. This got me to think about Arrow and how it’s been doing for a while. It started out as a mixed bag and got great in season 1, got REALLY good in season 2, and then it faced a serious downturn but still had some good moments in seasons 3-4. While there have been a bunch of live action superhero/comic book TV shows here and there in recent years, Smallville no doubt being the longest-running, I like to think that Arrow, and even The Walking Dead, kinda kickstarted the boom these types of shows are having, paving the way for shows like The Flash, Supergirl, Gotham, Daredevil, Agents of SHIELD, and many others. Now that season 5 has begun and already three episodes in, I’d like to think that Arrow has gotten great again, or is at least trying to, depending on point of view. I did feel the same way when seasons 3-4 started, but as they went on, they became the stuff a lot of people ridicule about the show, so hopefully that won’t happen here, right? Third time’s the charm? Oh well.
There are a bunch of shows that have experienced this kind of process: having a bad episode, a string of bad episodes, a bad season, or even a couple of bad seasons, leaving everyone to wonder what’s the point of it being around and if it’ll ever be good again? It seems that the people behind the show have taken this idea in mind and are back to getting what made Arrow good for a lot of people in the first place, while also trying to move forward, which is funny considering that it’s a DC show and DC Comics is also experiencing something similar with their Rebirth and Young Animal initiatives for their comics.
There were a bunch of things that plagued Arrow in seasons 3-4 that made it almost unbearable to watch, such as Team Arrow going up against illuminati-type groups in the forms of the League of Assasins, H.I.V.E., and Shadowspire (honestly I wouldn’t count that group because they were so forgettable and it made me wonder what was their purpose on the show), the constant parallels to Batman becoming more apparent/obvious, the use of Ra’s al Ghul as a main villain, the flashbacks becoming pointless and nonsensical, unsatisfying finales, not to mention DC/Warner imposing limits on what characters and ideas couldn’t be used due to stuff going on in the Extended Universe, thereby shooting themselves in the foot with their idea of having a live-action multiverse and having multiple versions of stuff, and a bunch of other problems, but probably the biggest one of them being, in my opinion, Olicity. For some baffling reason, the show’s creators decided to listen to a group of fans on Tumblr who wanted Oliver and Felicity to get together. This was something so out of left field and so ridiculous, it made Twilight and 50 Shades look good in comparison. Not only did this make the characters look and act like cardboard cutouts of bad teen soap operas or bad fan fiction, but when taking another look at it, it almost made Oliver seem like an asshole, trying to justify to himself that he needs some “normalcy” in his life, and unfortunately, Felicity gets caught in the crossfire in this, making it painful for both of them to experience and for the audience to watch, as well as it being stupid, annoying, and leaving to wonder what the heck the creators are smoking when doing it. Thankfully this’ll hopefully stay in the past and be a lesson on how NOT to do this kind of stuff in a show like this, as well as while it’s ok to listen to fans, sometimes it just depends on which ones are being listened to and how to or how not to implement ideas from them, if at all.
But there were also good things in those seasons. Character development for Roy, Thea, Laurel, and others were good, Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/The Atom which was a sweet relief amidst all the craziness going on, the crossovers between Arrow and Flash were excellent, Matt Ryan reprising his role as John Constantine from Constantine was awesome and made me wish for Constantine coming back someday, the acting was great despite bad writing/direction, the action sequences were superb, and while Ra’s al Ghul and Damian Darhk seemed a bit out of place as being villains for the seasons they were in, the performances by the actors playing them (Matt Nable and Neal McDonough) were great and a breath of fresh air at times from the silliness that Arrow was getting into, among other stuff I liked about those seasons. I guess it’s a just a matter of having to go through some pretty bad stuff to get to the good stuff.
Season 5 looks to be getting back to the show’s roots somewhat while also moving forward. Oliver Queen must fight crime now on two fronts: as Mayor of Star City and as Green Arrow. He has to deal with all the things that come with those fronts, such as the growing crime rate and those to wish to take advantage of it such as the imposing Tobias Church, trying to work with people helping him such as Thea, Felicity, Adrian Chase (secretly the masked figure known as Vigilante) and the new recruits in his team like Mister Terrific, Wild Dog, Artemis, and Ragman, the absence of Laurel and Diggle from the team with the former dead (or is she? yeah I don’t know if they’re doing anything with that or not since Katie Cassidy signed a contract allowing her to appear on multiple Arrowverse shows) and the latter going back to the Army but it’s not going too great for him, and a mysterious new Big Bad in the form of Prometheus, among other things that Ollie must deal with. That’s not even counting the stuff that affects the wider Arrowverse as a whole such as Barry’s time-traveling shenanigans that resulted in John Diggle Jr. being born instead of Sara Diggle and whatever else, as well as the upcoming four-way crossover between Arrow, Flash, Supergirl, and Legends of Tomorrow, which apparently will be based on the Invasion! miniseries that involves an alien invasion, but that’s more or less something to wait and see at this point.
So with that said, let me talk about what I like from season 5 so far:
One of the most signature elements of the show is the flashbacks, particularly the ones about Oliver’s time before coming back to Star City as Green Arrow, and this season will probably be the last of em since it is about the fifth and final year before he came back home and became what he was at the start of the series. There’s usually a thematic and/or narrative connection between them and the present day. Seasons 1-2 showcased that, but seasons 3-4 struggled with it. This time around in season 5, there is more of a correlation between them and the present like in seasons 1-2. Oliver’s time in Russia, being inducted into the Bratva, and his early steps venturing into the criminal underworld were stuff I actually wanted to see and it was only a matter of time before it was ever shown. While this may be the last season for these kinds of flashbacks, there’ll probably still be a use for flashbacks in the future, it’ll just be about stuff other stuff instead of Oliver’s time before coming back to Star City. Also there’s that plotline about him assassinating a government guy who was briefly mentioned in season 4, but I guess it’s wait and see for how that pans out. But hey, David Nykl is back as Anatoli Knyazev aka KGBeast for the flashbacks again (probably because DC/Warner is relenting after previously imposing their “no multiple versions of certain stuff” rule in order to have him in Batman/Superman played by Callan Mulvey) to help Oliver and Dolph Lundgren is gonna be in this season too as a villain or something, which sounds awesome.
Oliver Queen has definitely gone through an arc of sorts throughout the show, with different sides of his character being shown. Stephen Amell even said that he saw multiple roles tied to the character. He’s been a billionaire playboy, a brooding vigilante, a thrillseeker, a survivor, and now he’s a politician. Him becoming mayor is taken from the comics and it leaves open a lot of story possibilities. While I haven’t read stories from the comics in which he was mayor, I can see how it would be implemented. A superhero having a double life is nothing new, whether their civilian side is a CEO, photographer, reporter, detective, lawyer, or something else, but it’s not often that being a politician is utilized. Being Mayor of Star City allows Ollie to do more for his hometown in addition to his efforts through his masked persona as Green Arrow, and he’s not alone in doing this with his sister Thea and Quentin Lance helping him, as well as newcomer Adrian Chase being the new district attorney (and secretly the masked vigilante known as, well, Vigilante). I don’t know if the show could do stuff that other political thriller/drama shows do, but it’d be interesting to see something like that happen with superhero stuff added to the mix, since Oliver is gonna have to improvise how to balance the current state of his double life, being a mayor by day and Green Arrow by night.
The New Team Arrow
With multiple characters either dead or taking a break, so far Felicity Smoak is the only person to have remained with Oliver on Team Arrow (though it’s probably only a matter of time before Thea and Diggle come back, maybe Laurel too). Bearing that in mind, Green Arrow needs help in protecting his city, and who better than some fresh new faces? Curtis Holt is brought on from season 4 and already becoming Mister Terrific, sort of like a male version of Felicity but being out there on the field more and utilizing his tech, physical attributes, and genius in the team’s crime-fighting efforts (and hopefully the T-spheres too). Wild Dog is, well, the “wild dog” of the group, being a little out of control but not so much that he can’t see reason and is able to work with the team when the situation demands it (also they change his name from Jack Wheeler in the comics to Rene Ramirez, but whatever) and since he’s a vigilante with a hockey mask, expect Stephen Amell to make references/quips regarding his role as Casey Jones in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows, which have happened and will continue to happen. Evelyn Sharp, who temporarily took over as Black Canary following Laurel’s death in season 4, is now going under the codename of Artemis (seems like the Arrowverse creators are fans of Young Justice, and speaking of which, can we PLEASE have Young Justice back?) and is probably the only new member that I don’t see much out of, though it’s only been three episodes so there’ll possibly be more development for her later on. My favorite new addition, however, is Rory Regan aka Ragman. I already talked about him in my second Top 10 list of characters for LOT and it’s actually pretty fitting he’s put in Arrow (between him and Hourman being added to the Arrowverse, are the creators reading my blog? if so that’s probably a step up from listening to Olicity fans lol). Best way to describe him is that he’s kind of portrayed as a more supernatural version of Green Arrow or Batman in context of this series, in that he’s a masked vigilante driven by a personal tragedy and trying to bring justice to the world, using his mystical rags, containing the souls of the dead people of his hometown, in order to do so. While he does have a supernatural background, it’s not the main focus for this show, something of which I think the creators have learned after season 4. He also has this wide-eyed sensibility in which he’s kinda baffled yet also amazed by the team’s dynamics and how Oliver carries out his crime-fighting endeavors. He’s also from the town of Havenrock, which was nuked in season 4 by Damien Darhk’s missile and Felicity Smoak redirecting it there instead of a more populated area that was originally targeted, something of which she feels immensely guilty for and immediately tells him about instead of hiding it from him and revealing it later, something that I can actually admire and feel relieved by considering the show’s history, as well as other shows, of doing the “secret” gimmick of someone having a secret and making it such a big deal that it really just gets dragged on and tedious. I don’t know if he plans on forgiving Felicity but something tells me the workplace is gonna be more awkward. Given what I’ve seen so far of Ragman, I actually look forward to more of him and hope that he becomes a big thing, maybe get upgraded to a main character on the show, appear on multiple shows, get a spinoff series, and heck give him a new comic series since he’s had several short-lived series, one-shots, and other stuff. Also that banter between him and Mister Terrific regarding his appearance, powers, and “scary voice” was pretty funny and made me think it was poking fun at modern superhero stories since Christian Bale’s Batman, in which the hero uses a “scary voice” that’s become kinda gimmicky and hokey in recent years, and it also reminded me of that conversation those two had in Infinite Crisis about religion, heroes, and themselves. But what about the old team? Well…
The Old Team Arrow
Team Arrow has been through the ringer in seasons 3-4, with Roy leaving and coming back for a short period (and again in season 5 from what I hear), Thea getting killed and resurrected and all kinds of personal hell happening to her resulting in her wanting a break from being Speedy, Laurel getting killed (and again, possibly coming back), Quentin losing his daughter and relationship with Donna which got him on alcohol again, and Diggle killing his thought-to-be-dead brother Andy, after he threatened to go after his own family, and feeling guilty about it and going back to the Army. Still, with all that happening, it does seem like it’s only a matter of time before the old Team Arrow gets a reunion of some sort. So far, the past team members that are still alive seem to be having a somewhat stable if not satisfactory post-superhero life. Thea is helping her brother with mayoral responsibilities, Diggle is back in the Army, Roy is still in hiding, Quentin is struggling with alcoholism but is given a second chance by being deputy mayor, and Laurel may be dead but not forgotten, having her own statue made in memory of her (and again, she’ll probably be back at some point, who knows). While all their stories are interesting and how they intertwine with Oliver’s, it’s probably Diggle’s that is the strongest for me so far. Rejoining the Army in order to find something within himself after going through some pretty rough stuff is a pretty compelling story all on its own and the show doesn’t make it seem like its padding exactly. It’s kinda confusing about his commanding officer (who’s played by Garry Chalk, the guy who voiced Optimus Primal in Beast Wars, which is weird but whatever) wanting to sell a nuke originally owned by Damian Darhk and frame Diggle, but it does lead to a pretty powerful moment in which Diggle breaks down and surrenders to his fate of being imprisoned, feeling that he’s being punished for killing his own brother despite that he was evil. However, what really sold that moment for me was something I was surprised by…
Deadshot was the first character on my first Top 10 list of characters for LOT, and for good reason. In the comics, he’s portrayed as a snarky, grizzled hitman with a heart of gold who straddles the lines of good and evil, making him an antihero of sorts, and having a death wish. In Arrow, however, this concept is used to some extent, but the best way I can describe him is that he’s like the Boba Fett of the show, someone with an air of mystery and danger, not much is known about him and you want to know more,he’s just an all-around badass, who does what he does based on how much he gets paid, and looking and acting cool while doing it. Michael Rowe portrays this very effectively despite a few appearances, but when he does appear I just get excited. Heck, I even got the action figure of him. It’s a shame though that his character was (supposedly) killed off due to bullshit going on with DC/Warner not wanting to have multiple versions of certain stuff despite wanting a live-action multiverse, thereby shooting themselves in the foot regarding it as I’ve said before. Don’t get me wrong, I like Will Smith’s portrayal of the character in Suicide Squad, but I’m just gonna go ahead and say I liked Michael Rowe’s more. Maybe it has something to do with the phrase “less is more” or something, but whatever. So far it seems like the powers that be are relenting and allowing multiple versions of characters and other stuff, such as Tyler Hoechlin’s portrayal of Superman in Supergirl, and now the return of Michael Rowe as Deadshot…I think. See, when Diggle is framed and put in jail, he’s apparently sharing a cell with Floyd Lawton. They talk about the stuff they’ve been up to, how Deadshot apparently survived that building explosion in season 3, and how Diggle is haunted by killing Andy, who was supposedly killed by Deadshot on the orders of H.I.V.E., of which Diggle sought vengeance after, and turned out he was alive and later killed by Diggle himself. There’s some level of dark irony played out when Deadshot himself points out how pointless it was that Diggle was after him for something he was set up for and he ended up doing the deed that he accused Lawton of doing, which was killing Andy. However, the twist that plays out in the episode was that Deadshot was never really there, he was a hallucination manifested by Diggle’s guilt and how sorry he was that he went after the wrong man for the wrong reasons. So yeah, Deadshot is still dead, but it does leave me wondering if he’ll be back again in the future, be it as a hallucination or, more preferably, revealed to be alive. He does play a major role in Diggle’s story, after all. At least this shows that DC/Warner is starting to open up on actually utilizing their live-action multiverse.
The Criminal Underworld
Green Arrow going up against the criminal underworld is something I’ve wanted to see happen on the show for a while. There have been episodes here and there that do this, the biggest showcasing this being in season 3 when Brick tried to take over and it resulted in an all-out battle between him and his group versus the citizens and Team Arrow, but so far there’s never been a full season doing it. Season 5 seems to be exploring this route, with the flashbacks about Oliver getting inducted into the Bratva and now the present day in which he’s back to fighting street-level crime, which is a nice relief considering the illuminati-type groups he’s faced lately. He has to fight this on two fronts as both Green Arrow and Mayor of Star City, each of them having their own challenges. The figurehead for the criminal underworld this time around is Tobias Church, who’s a pretty intimidating and intense figure, and while he may be an original character created for the show, so far he’s definitely a force to be reckoned with, but not the main villain. Speaking of which…
Each Big Bad for their respective season had some level of buildup, which was part of what made them so great on the show. Prometheus seemed like a random choice with no buildup, but from what I understand this season is aiming for, about how everything Oliver has done since coming back to Star City at the beginning of the series is coming full circle, then it kinda makes sense. Oliver has done and been through a lot in his five years away from home, some of which have come back to bite him in the ass after coming back to Star City as a vigilante in the form of Deathstroke, so now it seems only fitting that something comes back to bite him in the ass from his early days as The Arrow in the form of Prometheus. Given what I mentioned about Prometheus before, it seems only fitting he’s the main villain for this season. Sure, he may not have interacted much with Green Arrow aside from Justice League stuff and the Cry for Justice miniseries, but given the character’s nature and modus operandi in the comics, he is a perfect fit for what this season is trying to do in trying to go back to its darker and grittier roots but also trying to move forward. It’s also yet to be revealed who Prometheus really is in the show (rumor has it he might be a resurrected Tommy Merlyn, and he is reminiscent of Malcolm Merlyn/Dark Archer in season 1), his motivation to kill GA, and whether or not he’s linked to The List, among other things, but so far I like what I’ve seen of him and hope it leads to more satisfying stuff and even better, an epic finale fight scene between the two of them, especially after the lackluster finales of seasons 3-4. He’s already made Tobias Church his bitch, so that makes him awesome lol.
So there it is. My thoughts on Arrow season 5 so far. With what I’ve said and more to come, like Human Target appearing (though not played by Mark Valley from the Human Target show, instead by Wil Traval from Jessica Jones, haven’t watched that yet but I’m excited anyway), characters like Roy and Deathstroke possibly returning, and other things, I think it’s gonna be good. Do you agree/disagree with me on how it’s been? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading! 🙂