Arrow is making a lot of effort in season 5 to get back to basics and bring the flavor of what people loved about season 1 to this much, much larger world. So far it’s been a bit of a mixed bag, but as the season gets closer to its big 100th episode crossover event spectacular, “Vigilante” brought things down to their grittiest.
An immediate criticism of Arrow, in general, is its constant ping-ponging about whether or not to make Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) a killer when he dons the Green Arrow moniker or not. Just last week, the hero caught flak from his new team when it was revealed that he originally returned from Lian Yu with a hit list. Obviously, fans have been conditioned to believe that murdering the people in the Green Arrow’s style is no way for this to remain a superhero (emphasis on the “hero”) series, and short of the occasional big bad villain, nothing has really shaken anyone’s perception on that point. That is until a new player on the board starts picking up Oliver’s old M.O. in a really effective way.
The main crux of this episode was on the new player in town, mysteriously known only as Vigilante. Although we don’t learn his identity this episode, it’s not-so-subtly implied that he’s Adrian Chase. DC Comics lore backs up that statement, but that’s not even the point of all this. He’s basically a copy of the Punisher, and it’s worth noting that the DC Comics character has decades on that particular Marvel anti-hero.
So the real focus of this episode was forcing Oliver to grapple, for once, with something beyond the basic morality of killing; he must now weigh its effectiveness too. Vigilante comes onto the scene and starts actually crossing off bank robbers and other murderers. This of course poses a problem for the new team, but not for Star City, which can enjoy a life without these criminals on the street. A lot of time was spent last season setting Oliver Queen up as a hero by both night and day. Now that every other mayoral candidate is dead, he’s running his hometown and the fake metropolitan area is not a lick better for it. Meanwhile, with the single pull of a trigger, Vigilante is looking to put down criminals that were previously in Iron Heights only to escape or be paroled.
This was one of the more compelling parts of the episode, and it dealt with the series’ biggest through-line. Sadly, Arrow showed, yet again, that it’s terrified to let its audience deal with any kind of moral gray area. In his quest to put an end to a group of bank robbers, Vigilante wastes a handful of innocent people, referring to them as “collateral damage.” He doesn’t stop there either, threatening to kill Mr. Terrific (Curtis Holt). So it wasn’t that hard for Oliver’s dilemma to be solved with a simple pep talk from his new love interest (who also happens to be the worst journalist in the world). Still, the plotline did its job, and the question of murder’s effectiveness is back on the table and probably will be for a while more.
That doesn’t make this, by any means, a bad episode. With the incredible one-on-one between Vigilante and the Green Arrow, as well as the one-on-one between young Oliver Queen and Konstantin Kovar (Dolph Lundgren), it’d be hard to file this one in anything but the above-average column. Then we add the reveal that Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin) has started working with the season 5 big bad Prometheus and subtract the weird Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) B-story and you’ve actually got a good outing for the aging CW series.
Sure there’s the occasional dialogue problem – such as Vigilante accusing the Green Arrow of not losing anyone despite the highly publicized murder of the Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) or Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) taking too many liberties with Diggle (David Ramsey) and his family. However, this episode was a far cry from the series’ worst and could even give some of its best (season finales notwithstanding) a run for its money. Yes, another hero on the board makes things a bit clunky for the already bloated season, but who are we kidding? We’re all here for the costumed fighting.