Arrow Season 5 Premiere Review: Legacy

Arrow tries to re-establish its identity in the increasingly crowded superhero TV landscape in its season 5 premiere episode, "Legacy."

Arrow Season 5 Episode 1

Arrow, for lack of a better way to put it, has been in danger of getting lost in the CW superhero shuffle as (sorry) flashier shows continue to come along. There aren’t any dazzling special effects to cover the occasional storytelling difficulty, costumes are relatively low-key, and there are no alternate realities or diverging timelines for the show to explore. The show’s fourth season really suffered as it tried to reestablish some kind of consistent tone of voice in an increasing sea of more colorful and high-powered characters.

So what’s an urban vigilante to do?

Well, if “Legacy” is any indication, the plan is to focus on what made Arrow the foundation that the DC TV Universe was built on in the first place. Keep the spotlight firmly on Oliver Queen, double down on the fact that Oliver Queen has the most experience and history of any of the other superheroes on the small screen, and deliver the finest fight and stunt scenes on TV. Arrow always seemed like an unlikely starting point for what has become a multiverse of superheroes, but it worked, and “Legacy” is a fine reminder of why.

And that’s exactly what “Legacy” does. Directed by Arrow stuntmaster James Bamford, “Legacy” is a tight, fun hour of TV. It’s colorful without losing site of the show’s original “grounded” mission statement, there are no fewer than three stunning hand-to-hand throwdowns (seriously, Netflix’s Daredevil gets all the love, but when Arrow is on its game like it is here, it’s a contender), and there’s some ambitious larger action pieces complete with brand new gadget arrows.

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Season four meandered, with a villain who felt out of place and flashback sequences that were an absolute chore to sit through. While it’s still too early to tell whether Arrow Season 5 will solve the pacing issues that plagued the second half of season three and all of season four, the villain and flashback issues might not be problems anymore. “Legacy” introduces The Walking Dead‘s Chad L. Coleman as Tobias Church, a physically imposing crime lord who has a plan for Green Arrow. For the moment, it appears that we’ll be spared another secret society or doomsday device, and instead focus on a more traditional street-level dynamic between Green Arrow and his opposite number. Even the flashbacks, which it’s no secret take place in Russia this time around, open hard, and so far they introduce a new flavor to the proceedings.

There’s a real sense of fun on display in “Legacy,” like the show has once again found confidence in its own voice and what it brings to the table. Oliver Queen’s multi-season arc from driven vigilante to genuine superhero and now, to a completely different kind of leadership and responsibility, is one of the most interesting we’re ever likely to get from a show like this. And really, even on bad days, Arrow‘s solid cast and action movie aesthetic make it worth tuning in for. Even with Team Arrow in the fractured state season four left them in, everyone is here to lay the groundwork in this episode, and it’s remarkably effective about getting all the pieces in place without overbearing exposition. 

Arrow is every bit the superhero show that The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and Supergirl are, it’s just got more moving pieces and the challenges of its own history to deal with these days. If Arrow is going back to basics, focusing on relatively grounded menaces, introducing a new round of colorful characters to the formula (we meet a couple in this episode), and delivering the kind of eye-popping action that made this show so much fun early on, then “Legacy” is the right way to do it. 

DC Universe Watchtower

– Anarky is back! I…guess that’s exciting? I do dig his slightly evolved supervillain look, though. Now, if only they’d let him have his comic book duds…

Nah, probably never gonna happen.

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– Who’s that hockey masked vigilante? Well, I’m glad you asked! That’s Wild Dog!

The comic book version of Wild Dog is Jack Wheeler, a former marine. His mini-series from 1987 by Max Allan Collins and Terry Beatty is worth tracking down in comic shop dollar bins, though, if you can find it. He did a spell in backup stories in Action Comics back when that became Action Comics Weekly in the late ’80s.

He looks just like his comic book counterpart, too…

– During the flashbacks, there are names read from Ollie’s book, which are familiar enemies from early season one.

– Anatoli is back! Maybe we’ll finally get him as the KGBeast (actual name from the comics) this year.

– We also have Konstantin Kovar…a Teen Titans character so obscure that I can’t even pretend to have any previous knowledge of him.

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– Who the hell is that mysterious archer at the end? That’s Prometheus. However, it’s apparently not the Grant Morrison/Howard Porter version who menaced the JLA a few times. That Prometheus was the son of two career criminals who decided to become a supercriminal after watching them finally get gunned down by law enforcement. He was kinda badass, but bears little resemblance to this guy.