Review: Arrow Fails to Redeem Itself Yet Again in Season 5 Premiere

Wednesday, 05 October 2016 - 10:19PM
DC Comics
Arrow
Wednesday, 05 October 2016 - 10:19PM
Review: Arrow Fails to Redeem Itself Yet Again in Season 5 Premiere
There's no denying that Arrow became something totally different (and decidedly worse) in season three. Even the creatives behind the show knew this, as they've gone on record about the need to course correct more than once in the past. They promised something different in season four, but in the end, all fans were given was more of the same lackluster storytelling. A version of Green Arrow that dates his techie partner instead of Black Canary, that focuses on romantic relationships more than it does the action, sounds more like bad Green Arrow fan fiction than it does a serious attempt at a superhero TV show. Yet that's the route they decided to go down, and they've failed epically in their attempts to get things back on track. Though there were a few promising aspects of its season five premiere, Arrow has ultimately failed to redeem itself yet again.  

In Legacy, Ollie totally abandons his no-kill rule and struggles to take down his new enemy, Tobias Church, without the help of his now disbanded team. Tobias eventually decides to kidnap Mayor Ollie and a few other hostages in an attempt to draw out the Green Arrow, an event that leads to Thea briefly putting back on the hood to save him. Returning in costume and with the help of a few honest police officers (the SCPD is now utterly corrupt), the Emerald Archer takes on Church and manages to save the hostages. Ultimately, Church escapes, but as Ollie sees how much he benefited from the officers' aid, he finally gives in to Felicity's pleas to recruit some of the vigilantes he's inspired to fight alongside him.  

So what exactly went wrong in Legacy? Firstly, though there was much more emphasis on action in the episode and some improved choreography, fans found out pretty quickly that the absurd, fake punch in the trailer for season 5 is not the only absurdly fake punch to be featured in the opening episode. From Ollie's flashback fight in Russia to his present battles in Star City, there were a number of terribly executed punches that quite literally and clearly missed their mark entirely. In such a large-scale superhero TV show, this is totally unforgivable.  

Likewise, the season opener utterly failed to set significant stakes. While Chad Coleman is an excellent actor, very little motivation was provided for Church's actions. Thus, the conflict between he and Ollie failed to captivate on the level it could have with more build-up and time. Just as well, after two seasons of focusing almost purely on Arrow's team dynamic (a decision that sacrificed Ollie's character development), the show assumes that viewers should care about whether or not the Green Arrow builds another team. After all, shouldn't more superheroes be exciting? Actually, not when it comes at the cost of quality storytelling. The only conflict that was even somewhat engaging was Detective Lance falling off the wagon and basically giving up on life after the loss of Laurel, but of course the writers immediately rushed that conflict to a resolution.

The show also continues to neglect any character development on Ollie's part. How many times has he flip-flopped on his no-kill policy at this point? Perhaps that's just because the writers have decided to really dedicate themselves to characterizing Ollie as a politician, but if they're actually trying to restore the show to its glory days as they say, they need to come to the realization that what made Arrow so special in its first two seasons was Ollie's character development. It almost seems as if they forgot that it was ever a thing after the start of season three. There has been little to no consistent evolution in Ollie's convictions over the last two years. Just because he's mayor now doesn't mean that substantial change has taken place with his character.  

Despite such astounding flaws, there were a few things that the show did manage to deliver on. Of course, the cast is as talented as ever, even if what they were given to work with was cringeworthy (the dialogue is as fake as the punches). There were also quite a few really cool action sequences, such as when Ollie jumped from an exploding building, or when he sent Church flying across the room with an explosive arrow. Just as well, the writers actually managed to connect a significant plot point to the flashback in this episode (which hasn't happened in a while), with an explanation of how Ollie learned to slip a pair of handcuffs in Russia.  

Overall, however, the season premiere only lived up to the expectations of those who were expecting it to to be more of the same lackluster storytelling that has been ever-present in the past two seasons of the show. There were a few promising moments, and perhaps the new recruits to Team Arrow can bring some new life to the narrative. Still, Arrow missed some big opportunities to set stakes and make its audience really care about the events that will unfold this season. Hopefully, when the effects of Flashpoint start to manifest, the show will take advantage of the opportunity for a clean slate.

Arrow will return next Wednesday, October 12th, at 8 p.m. ET. on The CW.
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