Arrow S5: E1 – 'Legacy'

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers Television
3.5

Another 23-episode long rollercoaster on Arrow is now ready to begin. As per recent tradition, the theme of the entire season to come can be found in the season premiere title, in this case Legacy. Unfortunately, the legacy of the show itself has become even rockier over the last two seasons than Oliver/The Green Arrow's legacy in Star City.

It didn't start that way in each case, as the first episodes of the last two seasons kicked off with such promise, along with the next several episodes after that. It was about in the seventh/eighth episodes of each season that the wheels really started coming off and never really spun back on. As such, there still has to be caution about whether this third straight promising premiere will actually be the charm.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW

For once, an Arrow season premiere doesn't start with Oliver running, as the opening scene doesn't even have him at all. His absence is particularly felt at a gala that Mayor Oliver is late to, in order to tie up the Season 4 loose end of Anarky for the moment. But when he gets back, he does channel his inner Bruce Banner from The Avengers in referring to his green alter ego as "the other guy" to Thea.

Oliver's newfound position as Mayor brings us back to the old conflicts of a secret identity making his public life much more difficult and ineffective. Maybe this semi-rehash could have been avoided if Oliver had revealed himself as the Green Arrow during his inspirational season finale speech, as I hoped he would have. But hopefully that will be the ending of this season instead.

Speaking of rehashes of the past, Legacy is likely only the first episode this season to pay homage to/remake Season 1. This isn't just because there are no more magic powers, or that there's more intense street level fighting from director James Bamford, or even just because Oliver is killing again. The fact Oliver is the only mask left on his team puts it over the top, even though this is the last episode where it will stay that way.

This is a year where a brand new Team Arrow is born, although Oliver does everything in his power in Legacy to halt the birthing process. Saying Oliver is in denial about Dig and Thea hanging up their masks for good is likely the mildest word for it, and there's no doubt that it doesn't just apply to their absence too. The more Felicity tells him that it is time to move on, the more obvious it is that she isn't just talking about Team Arrow, even before the introduction of the newest man in Oliver's old loft.

Of course, one can only dread how that will get her bashed and criticized online in some circles. It certainly did when the writers botched everything about the Olicity breakup and everything else to do with Felicity in the second half of last season, leaving her/Olicity to be the human shield of backlash in their much more deserving place. And surely it is only a matter of time and several Olicity free episodes before other critics say that dumping Olicity 'fixed' Arrow, when their creators and their misguided storytelling philosophies were always the real problem instead.

The other big 'fix' that seems to lie ahead for Season 5 is to bring it back to the violence and darkness of Season 1, or at least to put Oliver closer to that violence and darkness. However, that is built on the flawed theory that Season 1 was something to really emulate, given that things got much better in Season 2 when they and Oliver found much better tactics. Coming full circle to a show's beginning is usually something that's done when a show is nearing its end, but it is rather doubtful the CW will let Season 5 be the end, and it is 50/50 at best that they'll let Season 6 be the end either.

Still, an era is coming to an end this season, although it hasn't exactly been a celebrated one lately. After two years of pointless flashbacks, the final year of Oliver's "five years in hell" seeks to end them with a bang, and with actual relevance to the stories of the present. It also happens to give Stephen Amell more excuses for more shirtless fight scenes and for wearing a wig in flashbacks again, with the long beard of the opening pilot scene still to come.

As Oliver takes the first steps towards joining the Russian Bratva, thanks to old Lian Yu friend Anatoli, they even have an old Russian proverb reverb in how both past and present Oliver can't move on. But as past Oliver evolves/devolves into becoming the Hood under his Bratva training, perhaps seeing present day Oliver do better in training his new team will be a valuable parallel. At the least, maybe it will keep us from zoning out every few minutes for more than a few episodes this year.

Going back to the last steps of how the killer Hood was born does remind us of how Season 1 Oliver was a dark, desolate dead weight a lot of the time before Diggle and Felicity came around. An even bigger reminder comes in how Season 5 Oliver drags things down in Legacy the more that no one can get through to him.

But in truth, it is equally similar to how Oliver just expected things to go back to normal with Felicity an episode after their breakup, when he wasn't actually willing to do the real work of truly fixing things, or confronting the impulses that made him lie and conceal to her in the first place. Considering how Arrow did everything possible to stop him from even trying afterwards, all so they could delay the process till later this season or the next year, it reminds us that both Oliver and the writers need to try much harder and go much deeper to change for good this season, since this year may be their last plausible chance to find redemption.

While Oliver is stuck in the past, it looks like he isn't alone at first, considering the state Quentin Lance is in when he is back in town. He not only has no daughters left on Arrow, but he is also without his sobriety and without Donna Smoak, which means 'SmokenLance' turned out to be yet another Season 4 plot point that ultimately meant nothing at all in the end.

At first, putting Quentin back through this familiar ringer seems like yet another case of the Arrow crew just rewriting old plots, instead of trying anything more original. Yet ironically enough, it is a speech from Oliver at the dedication of a Laurel/Black Canary statue that gets him to start thinking differently.

Quentin manages to share this with Thea, who seems to be thriving more than anyone in the new order of things. It does help that Oliver is leaving most of his Mayorial duties to her, while still thinking she'll be Speedy again soon. But this appears to be the first season ever that isn't revolving around a killer Thea, or a half-Merlyn Thea, or a Thea being kept in the dark by family lies. If it actually sticks for longer than a few episodes, so much the better, especially if Willa Holland keeps taking advantage like she does in Legacy.

As for Quentin, it is still unclear what his official position this year will be, since he remains an ex-cop and we now have Felicity's new beau to represent the SCPD. Yet his journey in this episode, and the work of Paul Blackthorne in the process, provides hope that there won't be too many speedbumps in making sure at least one Lance is still on the show.

The speedbumps with Laurel over the last four years have been long documented, but it would appear the page has been truly turned. Of course, with Katie Cassidy brought back to fill in the blanks of Laurel's farewell scene in this episode, and with the brand new teasers from Wendy Mericle of future appearances to come, it may not be quite that easy.

When Laurel was killed and laid to rest, they did a convincing job of honoring her as a real hero, except when Laurel actually showed up in her 'final' episodes. By giving her a death where she didn't even get to have one final heroic act, and by giving her cringe inducing flashbacks with Oliver after Tommy's death an episode later, it undercut everything they did to send Laurel off as a hero when she was off screen. Unfortunately, that pattern continues with the missing moment in her final hospital scene.

One of the Season 5 trailers indicated there was more to the scene than they showed in Legacy. Instead, what they did show as Laurel's final request was the plea for Oliver to not let her be the last Canary, so that "a part of me will always be with you." There are too many ways for people other than Laureliver fans to cry foul at that one, so let us just hope that the next Canary in Evelyn Sharp/Artemis will get a much cleaner slate once she debuts next week.

As for the foes that Artemis, the other new team members and the old ones will fight this season, two new ones were introduced off the bat. A red herring Big Bad may be Tobias Church, who seeks to call out the Green Arrow by kidnapping Oliver, in a plan that has more than a few holes. Interestingly enough, Church understands even moreso than Oliver that he can only get things done by using a whole team on his side, albeit criminals that he isn't exactly giving a choice.

However, while Church has the benefit of being played by Chad L. Coleman, his time at the top of the Arrow villain pecking order should be short, thanks to the real Big Bad in Prometheus.

Arrow borrows a page directly from The Flash, in introducing its supposed masked Big Bad at the very end of the season premiere. Unlike Dr. Alchemy, however, Prometheus actually appears in the flesh, and demonstrates his own archery powers in the process. In going back to the old Season 1 formula, using a dark archer appears to fit right in, although this one was reportedly created by Oliver's Season 1 killing spree somehow.

Unlike when they introduced Damien Darhk straight out of the gate last season, it looks like there'll be a guessing game for some time on who Prometheus really is. Hopefully it says something that Felicity's new boyfriend is seen with her right before Prometheus attacks, and that we will be spared him being Prometheus and spared an episode of a jealous Oliver suspecting he is. But if they avoid using that premise in at least one episode, it may well be the most shocking twist of the season.

A much more welcome twist would be if the show gets through the first nine episodes this year without setting the stage for disaster in the next 14. Only then will it feel safe to make any definitive statements that Arrow is on the way back, or that things are really going to be different, or that all could be forgiven for the last two seasons.

Arrow needs to do the hard work in things that really matter to prove it has earned redemption, but it has barely started to truly try, exactly like Oliver has. Time will tell if the new masks plausibly put him on his way, although they have a long way to go to match the impact that even the small Oliver/Diggle scene in the episode can provide.

The possibilities for a better path and a more worthwhile season are all there in Legacy, but they were there in Green Arrow at this time last year and The Calm two years before that. It will take quite a bit more until guards can really be lowered down, especially with the other warning signs that the writers may not be trying especially hard in other avenues this year.

For this first step, however, Legacy earns a 7 on the TMN.com scale but is really closer to a 7.5. At the least, this season premiere provides more of a bang and of a solid way forward through potential potholes than The Flash premiere does. But as always when it comes to Arrow, the difficult part is actually going forward in the right way for 22 more episodes after that.