There comes a point in the life of a television show when things get so hopelessly bad that you consider not even watching the next season.
In the case of Arrow, however, I couldn’t have been more proud of myself to choose to watch its fifth season instead.
After seasons three and four were questionable at best (that is being nice), Arrow’s fifth – and arguably most important season – makes one wonder how it was even possible that the same show could be as bad as it was.
Arrow is the first DC CW Network show, the one that kicked off the entire Arrowverse, and follows Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen and his crusade in Star City.
As was the case for my review of The Flash season 3 yesterday, there is a strong spoiler warning attached to this one.
One of the biggest reasons I didn’t like the previous two seasons of Arrow is because of ‘Team Arrow’, who didn’t blend together as well as they should have, making the show seem crowded. In seasons one and two, there were only two or three people on Team Arrow at once, and that worked brilliantly. Three and four took it a bit too far.
Then the promo for the fifth season arrived at San Diego Comic Con, and it promised a new Team Arrow… One that was bigger than ever before. I thought the writers had gone insane. My already low excitement for the season dropped even more.
However, I would be proven wrong in my doubtfulness. This Team Arrow actually had real chemistry, and all of them were great together on screen. It was refreshing for a show that was so bogged down by its main cast in earlier seasons.
Of course, having a new team was also intended for story purpose, as this season was quite possibly the most personal one for Oliver, which is really saying something.
As the season goes by, two of the Team Arrow members pictured above, both to the far right, are no longer on the team. Evelyn Sharp, or Artemis, betrays the team, and Ragman leaves for personal reasons. Another member is later added, that being Dinah Drake, the supposed ‘replacement’ for Black Canary.
Having said all that, I need to talk about all these characters. Dinah was a welcome addition to the team, one who didn’t receive the most attention for the season, but shone when she did. Having her connected to the particle accelerator explosion on The Flash all those years ago was a nice touch.
The returning characters this season are all basically core cast members that the show can’t go without. David Ramsey returns again as John Diggle, the greatest character in all of movies and television. That isn’t even an exaggeration. There’s just an air to him every time he’s on screen. His character may have evolved only a little this season, but that’s okay, considering the roller coasters he’s been on the past four years.
Felicity Smoak is back, and is the most mixed character this season. There’s a stretch in the middle of the season during which she works with a hacker group named Helix, that sort of… Dissolves away. Ultimately, Helix didn’t really have anything to do with the overall arc of the season, so the whole thing sort of felt tacked on. Emily Bett Rickards is always great, but Felicity’s character is really up and down this season. Also, Olicity is sort of a thing again, despite it being the single most agonising wound of season four. It was handled alright though.
Echo Kellum’s Curtis Holt was introduced last season, but this time returns as a regular, joining Team Arrow as Mr Terrific. There is nothing negative to say about him. He’s perfect.
Quentin Lance has had basically one role for the entirety of this show, and that is to have the saddest life humanely imaginable. This season gives him more than that, though, and it is actually nice to see him be more than the crying alcoholic.
Now, when it comes to the new cast, there is a bag of hits with a couple of misses, the biggest being Rory Ragan, or Ragman. He is set up for an interesting conflict with Felicity, who had to destroy his hometown and basically kill his family at the end of last season, but that just wraps up and he leaves early in the season, not to be seen again. He’ll probably return next season, but it’s still a little disappointing.
The other letdown was Evelyn Sharp, who betrays the team for the villain (who I will get to) in the middle of the season, and then just goes away until one episode in the middle and towards the end.
However, Wild Dog is great. His character is great, his interactions with the team is great, his backstory is great, his relationship with Lance is great. Everything is great.
I’ve written over eight hundred words and haven’t talked about the villain this season, who was the biggest highlight of the lot.
Prometheus is introduced as just another archer, and I really wasn’t looking forward to that. He felt too much like Malcolm Merlyn. However, as this character would develop, he would become my favourite Arrow villain of all five seasons.
The story this season initially felt like it was desperate for substance when it picked out a random target in Oliver’s initial killing spree from season one, and had the victim’s son be Prometheus, out for revenge. The identity of this masked figure was just some guy who was never seen before… Or was he?
Adrian Chase, pictured above, was the district attorney in Oliver Queen’s Star City administration (Oh yeah, Oliver is the mayor, no big deal), and spent the first half of the season just being a likeable guy who wanted justice for all. He even helped get Diggle out of prison after he turned himself in for killing his own brother last season.
As the Prometheus story developed, however, Oliver discovered that Prometheus was trained by the same person as him… None other than Thalia Al Ghul (This show loves Batman lore). After seeking out Al Ghul (who is another villain this season because she’s bitter that Oliver killed her father), she reveals to him who Prometheus actually is… And he was right under Oliver’s nose the whole time.
It’s at this point that this season truly turns into something special. Adrian Chase isn’t hinged when Oliver discovers who he is, and only uses it to his advantage. For a section this season, both men are bitter enemies but have to work together as colleagues, which was great to see. Prometheus’ plan just goes on and on and Oliver is never able to catch up with him.
With the help of Helix, eventually, Prometheus’ identity is made public, and still, Chase isn’t outsmarted.
There were flashbacks this season, of course. If this felt abrupt and interrupted something more interesting I was saying, that is exactly how I feel about the flashbacks on Arrow, which have been there from season one. The only good flashbacks, in my opinion, come in season two, when they are directly related to the main story.
This season, Oliver is in Russia, and the story is around his inclusion in The Bratva and his vendetta against Konstantin Kovar. When this story is good, it’s great. But there are large chunks of it that are very disposable. However, towards the end, the flashbacks are very compelling.
The flashbacks on Arrow are supposed to tell the story of Oliver’s five years away from Star City, and this being the fifth season, they culminated with the very first scene in season one, in which Oliver comes home. The ending of the flashbacks in the finale features a phone conversation between Oliver and his now-late mother Moira, and it is painful to watch, now that we know where all these lives will go.
Okay, back to the main story. Adrian Chase is out to prove that Oliver Queen kills because he likes it… And he succeeds. In what is possibly the best episode of the season, and maybe the best ever, episode 17, Oliver is captured and tortured by Chase until he finally discovers within himself that he likes to kill people.
This episode showcased two things. First, it displayed Stephen Amell’s ability to act to an insane emotional degree. Second, it really brought the entirety of the show and everything it stands for into question, making Oliver – and the viewers – have to look at himself and question his entire purpose.
This very personal conflict is what makes this season amazing, and enables it to come full circle from the five years Oliver Queen was missing to the five years the show has been running. Gone are the days when Oliver is running around killing rich people and (thankfully) becoming the heir to Ra’s Al Ghul. This is real. This is what this show needed and it is what made this season phenomenal. Oliver had to truly find himself.
Adrian Chase also complicates things with the inclusion of Oliver’s son (the existence of whom is a long story), and uses him as leverage leading into the season finale.
With two episodes left, Prometheus gives himself in after supposedly being ‘beaten’. In the next episode, he captures Team Arrow members one by one, and send them all to Oliver’s island hell, Lian Yu. Chase himself escapes while being transferred to another prison, and sets up the greatest season finale this show has ever seen, and maybe will ever see.
The past four years have seen Star City be in some kind of devastating scenario in the season finale. This year it was very contained and very perfect. This season was all about Oliver on a personal level. Having it culminate on the island that turned him into who he is was a brilliant, brilliant decision, and it helps serve not just as a finale for season five, but for the whole show over five years. Oliver is greatly outnumbered in his mission to rescue his friends, and so he has with him the big bad from season one, Malcolm Merlyn, the big bad from season two, Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and the daughter of the big bad from season three, Nyssa Al Ghul. Having these three with him, particularly Deathstroke, was awesome. But it wasn’t just for cool fight scenes. Having these three on his team shows how far Oliver has come, being able to forgive the person who killed his father and the person who killed his mother. Seeing Deathstroke again, and seeing how much he’s changed, particularly with his conversations with Oliver, was very fulfilling.
The season finale had a lot riding on it, but in its essence, it was pretty simple. Oliver had to find his team and his son, and stop Chase. Of course, it’s revealed that Chase has placed C4s under basically every square inch of the island, so that’s there.
Chase himself doesn’t appear until the last third of the episode, and while that initially put me off, it made sense. He didn’t need to be around until then. Oliver rescues his team and still has to find his son, and Chase won’t give in. The only way for Oliver to find out is to kill Chase, and Oliver is adamant in his stance that he isn’t a killer anymore. Chase does not die, and instead takes a boat out away from the island.
Oliver gets onto the boat for the very final confrontation, and Chase reveals that Oliver’s son, William, is on the boat. With a gun pointed to William’s head and Oliver pointing an arrow at his, Prometheus offers Oliver a choice. If he doesn’t kill Chase, Chase kills William. If Oliver does kill Chase, then William lives, but the entire island’s explosives go off, and Team Arrow turns to dust.
Oliver shoots Chase’s leg and retrieves William. Everything seemed to be fixed.
Then Chase shoots himself. And the Lian Yu is up in flames.
And that is the cliffhanger to close out the season, because of course it is.
I don’t know what to make of this yet. I’m just going to wait until season six. But this finale was just amazing. Adrian Chase both lost and won. Oliver did not kill him, but apparently, that’s at the price of almost everyone he loves.
Arrow season five is not perfect. Felicity’s arc is questionable and the flashbacks are boring at some instances. But this is also my new best season, even better than the almighty season two. After two years of being the show I hoped would do something good for a change, it became something incredible. Adrian Chase is a motivated, correct villain who drives the plot along magnificently. Oliver Queen’s arc through the season is great to see. The entire show appeared to be coming to a head in the finale. Unlike last year at this time, I find myself so excited for the next season of Arrow that I wish it debuted tomorrow.
Thank you, DC, for reminding all of us why we ever loved this show.
On a scale where M is the lowest, and R is the highest possible rating, with the highlighted letter being the rating:
Arrow season 5: MIHIR
I didn’t mention anything about the weird mega-crossover event with Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl in my reviews of The Flash and Arrow, mostly because I didn’t know how to include them. However, I will say that the Arrow episode of that crossover, which happened to be the 100th episode of the show, was quite simply perfect.