After five months off, Arrow finally returns this Wednesday with its fifth season premiere, “Legacy”. Season four ended in a dumpster fire on fire, the show devolving into a narrative, structural and characterisation mess with plot holes abound and by the end, it was exhausting to even watch. But a new season brings new opportunities, and the chance for the show to redeem itself.
And while “Legacy” is at the very least an improvement from the final eight of last season with some promising aspects, it’s still a real mess that suggests the writers may have shaken off some issues but somehow picked up new ones.
There’s a sense of familiarity about where most of our characters start the season; the cast and crew have frequently made clear over the summer that this season is about getting back to the show’s roots. Oliver is out on the street fighting crime by himself, Thea’s no longer a vigilante, Diggle’s back with the army, Felicity has moved on from Oliver, and Quentin has problems… again. Meanwhile, Oliver’s mayor with Thea as his press secretary, the city is about to honour Laurel as the Black Canary, and there’s a new villain in town – Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman).
The premiere does a solid job of setting up many of the major storylines for the year, including the conflict between the Green Arrow and Church, but it so haphazardly handles the majority of the character arcs that by the hour’s end, I felt little confidence in the show’s ability to handle all of its key players. Many of my concerns would be considered spoilers for the episode, but what I will say is that the regression given to two characters in particular is passed off as character development, and that’s not a good thing, especially when one of those has already been down the exact same route on more than one occasion in the show’s run. It’s lazy writing at its laziest, the show evidently incapable of dreaming up fresh arcs that further the characters.
That includes Laurel, whose character legacy was apparently not dealt enough of a blow in her swansong hour last season. Her final words are revealed here, and they are anger-inducing (I quite literally had to pause the episode in frustration). They reek of words written considerably after the fact – like they hadn’t decided on the lines until the end of season four, inserting the tease as a way to leave fans on edge; what does that remind you of? – and ones that do a disservice both to her character and try to force a disservice onto Oliver.
Other elements in the premiere include Oliver maybe-perhaps-but-he’s-not-happy-about-it building a new team, some flashbacks including Anatoly that are infinitely better than whatever it was we witnessed last season, a trick arrow that is hilariously terrible and some action sequences that are bizarre.
While it’s true that I feel more content moving forward that Arrow may be able to recover from last season, that’s not a high bar to get over. This episode has way more problems than it needed to, and though the idea of baby steps isn’t terrible, more needed to land for me to have any sort of positive expectations moving forward.
Some teaser quotes:
1. “If I were you, I’d put that back in my bag.”
2. “You need someone from the outside.
3. “Ok, you cannot keep hiding behind that, and you know that’s not what she would have wanted.
4. “It was a promise that I made.
5. “Would I cover up this beautiful face with a mask?
Arrow’s fifth season premiere, “Legacy”, airs on Wednesday 26th October at 8pm on Sky 1.