This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 5 Episode 2
The finale of Arrow Season 4 left us all scratching our heads thinking, “they sure have written themselves into a corner here, haven’t they?”
Oliver (Stephen Amell) and his estranged girlfriend, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), were the only members left on Team Arrow after various members quit or, you know, died. Somehow, in just two episodes, the series is edging out of that plot corner while simultaneously finding its footing in an expanding TV universe.
First, let’s go all the way back. The series started in wonderful 2012 with a heavily bearded man being discovered on a deserted island after five years stranded. That man ended up being the highly-trained archer and vigilante now known as The Green Arrow. Bob’s your uncle, a Deathstroke here, a Ra’s al Ghul there, five years passed and the show’s gimmick of showing us one year of that island adventure each season has run out. We have until the end of this season to figure out how Oliver became the raging badass we know and love.
Frankly, after the lackluster flashbacks of Season 4, I’m not at all convinced that the man traipsing around Eastern Europe could hold his own in a bout with Season 1 Ollie. So how has the show decided to finally explain how the Star City vigilante got his mojo? By allowing the character to pay it forward.
After finally admitting his usual cohorts aren’t returning, Oliver agreed to get the ball rolling on a new team. Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez), Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin) and good old Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) are brought in to train with Green Arrow. It doesn’t take long before his brutal methods start to paint a very clear picture of how he came to be the man that he is. After watching the flashbacks flounder to achieve relevance last season, it was so refreshing to see the two tangential storylines influence one another so seamlessly for a change.
This did crack the door open for a strange parental relationship between Oliver and Felicity, as she tried to be the voice of reason while he did what it takes to create crime-fighting superheroes. With her apparently dating the hot shot new detective in the SCPD, how much mileage are we going to get out of the will-they-won’t-they dynamic between these two characters? We’re in an episode that’s essentially introducing three new key characters, that’s enough to hold my interest. The frustration of watching these two Ross and Rachel each other just feels like unnecessary filler.
Speaking of new characters, enter Ragman (Joe Dinicol). Without getting too into the character’s DC comics origins, let’s just say that his backstory in Arrow is radically different. For the show devotee, he was in the blast at Havenrock that Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) launched in Season 4. He’s the only living survivor after his father wrapped him in some old rags that are, apparently, magical and thousands of years old. Presumably, more on that later.
He enters town as a villain, out to get an executive from Amertek Industries. The corporation is going to fund Mayor Queen’s We Get It You’re A Good Guy Clinic. Turns out, Amertek’s was the only missile that made it through and caused the massacre in his home city, so he’s out to do a bad thing, but for good-guy reasons and that’s about as close to benevolence as it gets on this show, so he’s alright. Green Arrow and Ragman cross paths in the climax of the episode, when the archer takes another shot at Tobias Church, played by The Walking Dead’s Chad L. Coleman.
It was disappointing to see the hero get his ass handed to him by a glorified street thug, even if he’s packing brass knuckles, but it was worth it to get a super-powered being like Ragman on Team Arrow. The hero taught him mercy and, just like that, he’s now dedicated to the very specific goal of saving Star City.
Look, everyone’s motivation for being on Team Arrow 2.0 is a little spotty. I’m willing to grant that. However, it’s a backdoor for interesting new blood, characters plucked from the pages of the written source material and, God willing, a little levity to enter the series. So, unless we’re going to start throwing Emmys at Arrow, let’s maybe take the good with the bad and greenlight our own fun.
The show did a beautiful thing in creating the springboard for the larger DC TV Universe. However, in a world where The Flash is punching through metahumans in parallel dimensions, the Legends of Tomorrow crew is messing with time travel and Supergirl even exists, this street-level character was starting to feel a bit overshadowed.
The new team scenario sets Arrow up to both ground itself while giving it some much-needed pacing and substance within this ever-growing cavalcade of madness. The first two episodes of this season have been easily comparable to Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil, which does a tremendous job of balancing realistic stakes against a very unrealistic universe. The only question that remains is whether it will stick with that pace and remain the high-stakes, low-impact series it should be, or if it’ll get drunk on itself and go too big once again. Frankly, if the fight scenes remain as good and frequent as we’ve seen so far, fans will be pretty much good either way.