Last year I was seriously wondering if Season 4 was going to be my last for Arrow. Too many bad decisions, overused characters and further expansion of the Arrowverse seemed to take its toll. Arrow was becoming a chore to watch. Fast forward a year and Season 5 has once again made Arrow my comic book TV viewing obsession.
This was a dramatic turnaround that shook off the plummeting momentum since Oliver got impaled by Ra’s al Ghul. So how did Arrow become so awesome again? Here’s five reasons. Spoilers ahead naturally.
5. Re-purposing the old guard
Following the Season 4 fallout, Team Arrow decided they needed a break. Diggle rejoined the military, Quentin Lance went off to try and make his relationship with Donna work and Thea became Oliver’s chief mayoral aide. Thea benefited the most from the status quo switch.
She was fine as Speedy the archer, but she found a better niche navigating the political minefield like her mother. Lance also fared well with the switch to the chief of staff position. The Arrow Cave was getting full, but having two important cogs in the mayor’s office helped make these scenes feel important.
Most importantly, Felicity stopped being the perfect woman. Now she’s allowed the luxury of being treated like a fully-developed character and not Arrow’s comic relief, conscience and expert in all things involving a keyboard. Felicity’s arc has been very engaging, which seemed highly unlikely for a character a year ago a number of fans were hoping would be killed off.
4. Arrow & The Outsiders
With the old crew gone, Arrow and Felicity had to find an all new team of vigilantes to protect Star City. Initially that seemed like a terrible idea given how Season 4 so often failed to utilize the established Team Arrow. But, this group wasn’t the same family dynamic as before and was a hastily assembled crew allowing for mistrust, a steeper learning curve, poor teamwork and even betrayals.
Arrow’s Outsiders weren’t Team Arrow, but over the course of the season, watching them come together has made for solid subplots.
3. Doing right by Laurel Lance
One of the most shocking moments in the series’ run was Black Canary’s death. That was the impetus for Arrow’s vendetta against Damian Darhk, but it also killed one of the foundations of the show. Barring a miracle resurrection courtesy of Flashpont, there was no good way to bring Laurel back.
The writers wisely made Laurel’s death a focal point of Season 5. Her death naturally weighed on Team Arrow leading to Quentin falling off the wagon again. And she was regularly cited as a cautionary tale for Arrow’s Outsiders. We even got a clever tease with Katie Cassidy returning as Black Siren playing off of Prometheus’ knowledge of all things Oliver Queen.
But the best tribute to Laurel? Bringing in Dinah Drake as a more comic book accurate version of Black Canary complete with super powered Canary Cry and kick-tail fighting skills.
2. Eventful Flashbacks
Of all his various post-island exploits, Oliver’s time with the Bratva seemed the most tantalizing. Getting in with the Russian underworld has led Oliver to some dangerous and exciting escapades. From Dolph Lundgren’s Konstain Kovar to Oliver first donning the hood and becoming something else under Talia al Ghul’s tutelage, there’s been a slew of good moments. And the solid fight scenes — including that crazy ice hockey rink one — have definitely keep this season’s flashbacks from being fast forward material.
Arrow always works best when the villain is personal. Think Slade Wilson or Malcolm Merlyn. Ra’s started off promising, but Season 3 ultimately failed in making that conflict feel genuine. In too many ways Season 3 felt like a personal Batman story with Arrow filling in as the substitute. Damian Darhk was a great villain, but way too powerful for Oliver. Not to mention his end game was literally scorching the Earth and wiping out the planet.
Prometheus hardly has such grandiose plans. He wants revenge for Arrow killing his father. It’s a simple motive, but it works. Arrow isn’t going to change a timeline, ruin the time stream or fight in an alien death match. He needs a villain who can fight on his level, but is patient enough to play the long game to make the payback plan truly have an impact. And Josh Segarra has been amazing in every facet of this complex character. He’s charming, focused, sinister and disarming. We might soon be approaching the point where future Arrow villains are compared to Prometheus and not Slade.
In Prometheus, Arrow has a villain who’s bested Oliver/Arrow at every turn. He’s outmaneuvered Oliver into tainting his mayoral stint and masterfully manipulated him into killing Billy while questioning his effectiveness as a hero. Not even Slade was this effective at breaking Oliver and Prometheus hasn’t even had to kill anyone close to Oliver … yet.
Photo Credit: The CW