Arrow Season 5 Review

  • Series: Arrow
  • Season: 5
  • Episodes: 23
  • Discs: 5
  • Cast: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, Echo Kellum, John Barrowman, David Nykl, Paul Blackthorne, Josh Segarra
  • Network:  CW (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen

When I watched Season 5 of Arrow last year, for much of the season I really didn’t like what I saw. The flashbacks, guest-starring David Nykl (Stargate: Atlantis) were much more interesting than anything going on in the present-day for Oliver and company. In the present-day, the series opens with Oliver now mayor of Star City, Thea as his chief-of-staff, Felicity still working as “Overwatch” to help Oliver as the Green Arrow, and after a bit of wrangling, Quentin Lance as deputy mayor. Felicity pressures Oliver to form a new team of recruits, especially after a number of new vigilantes start showing up in Star City. Curtis, now “Mr. Terrific”, helps Felicity as tech support for the Green Arrow and has a comics-accurate, but looks somewhat silly on camera, costume that he wears in the field. Oliver initially resists Felicity’s plan to form  a new team, but eventually he agrees. Wild Dog, Evelyn (using the name, “Artemis”), and Ragman join the team.

This new team is part of the problem for Season 5 of Arrow. It does not work – at all. Wild Dog (Rene Rameriez) is a character I didn’t like from the beginning. He’s rude, arrogant, refuses to follow orders, isn’t a cool team-mate, and he’s too violent. Towards the end of the season they try to make him more sympathetic by adding a sub-plot involving his daughter, but it plays like a sympathy-ploy rather than anything organic. And in the comics, at least in Rebirth, Wild Dog is a villain – a mercenary who’s against the Green Arrow and Black Canary.

Evelyn Sharp, very quickly becomes a double agent working for the season’s Big Bad, Prometheus. However, her betrayal of the team is very unrealistic, because her reasons make no sense. Evelyn, and the rest of the team, discover that during his first year as the Hood – Oliver was killing the people named as enemies of Star City in his father’s book. Disgusted that Oliver would kill people, Evelyn throws in with Prometheus – who’s killing people. And not only is Prometheus a serial killer (initially known as the “throwing star killer”) but he kills innocent people simply because their names can spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Does this make sense? No. Although in the last few episodes of the season, Evelyn proves to be just as much of a psychopath as Prometheus.

Ragman is the only new character that, as a superhero and new member of Oliver’s team, I actually liked – and he disappears in episode 12, “Bratva”, and we never see him again. Ragman’s purpose, when all is said and done, seems to be simply to help Felicity work through her guilt for dropping a nuke on Havenrock (to spare Monument Point). But Rory was a far more interesting character than Rene, whom they kept.

The season also opens with Felicity in an intimate relationship with Billy Malone, a SCPD detective and member of the Anti-Crime Unit elite force. He’s fridged. Many commentators on comics have complained that the girlfriends/wives of superheroes only exist to be kidnapped, tortured, and even killed – and condemn the idea as making women victims. Yet, this is precisely what happens to Billy – he’s staged to look like Prometheus, by Prometheus, including a speaker that the actual Prometheus uses to taunt Oliver. So Oliver, who had vowed four years ago (at the end of season 1) to never kill, kills him – when a arrow the the leg would have been more effective. Felicity accepts this almost immediately.

At the end of the previous season, John Diggle had left the team to re-join the army. This doesn’t go well. He’s in Afghanistan (or wherever) and his general steals a WMD, kills Diggle’s squad, and blames Diggle. Diggle, still overcome with guilt at killing his brother, Andy, last season, decides to just roll with it. He’ll accept the punishment for a crime he didn’t do as retribution for a crime he did. Lyla gets Oliver and his team to break him out. It works, but John is mad. Later in the season, John is baited and captured again. This time, Oliver gets Star City’s DA, Adrian Chase, to clear John. This works, and with information that Felicity gets from the Hacker group, Helix, they have evidence to put the general away. John re-joins team Arrow.

Meanwhile, as mayor, Oliver keeps having to weather political crisises – often made worse by Susan Williams, a reporter. Oliver starts dating the reporter, convincing her to give him a chance. Thea proves to be more effective at running the mayor’s office than Oliver, though she’s willing to play dirty pool to get what her brother needs and to protect him. Oliver complains about her ruthless tactics, especially when she makes it look like Susan plagiarized her stories, which discredits the reporter, gets her fired, and means she can’t get a new job as a reporter. This, however, is rather quickly reversed.

Meanwhile, the flashbacks tell, in chronological order, the story of Oliver’s time in Russia – and how he became a captain in the Bratva (the Russian mafia). He and Anatoly Knyazev (David Nykl) become good friends. I liked the flashback story more than the present-day one for much of the season. Oliver, as a result of his promise to Katiana from last season, is determined to kill Konstantin Kovar. Since Kovar is corrupt, and would leave a power vacuum, Anatoly agrees with this – but he’s also a lot more realistic about how things work in Russia and in the Bratva. When Oliver undercovers Kovar’s plot to stage a new Russian coup, killing government officials, generals, and Bratva captains alike, Anatoly, Oliver, and Anatoly’s faction in the Bratva have to stop him. They succeed, barely, and not without losses. And Kovar proves to be, like Prometheus, a villain who is very hard to kill.

Prometheus proves to be Adrian Chase, Star City’s DA, who manages to capture Oliver and torture him. Adrian, also, by now, is a proven to be quite the psychopath. And he’s creepy, manipulative, and smart. He’s also a chess master who is not only always ten steps ahead of Oliver, but manipulates him to do exactly what he wants. Oliver and company even realize that Chase is manipulating Oliver – but that doesn’t help him to not get manipulated. Chase finally kidnaps Oliver, and tortures him, getting Oliver to admit “he likes killing people”. There’s a major, major, flaw in this. First, Oliver doesn’t like killing, even in the first season, where he does a lot of it. Second, in Season 2, Oliver vows, on Tommy’s grave to never kill again. When he does – it’s a big deal. Third, Adrian’s insistence that Oliver likes to kill seems to be a pure case of projection and no one picks up on it. Adrian, after all had killed a single mother because her name would help him spell out a message to the Green Arrow. Once he’s in protective custody of the Federal marshals, and they get the message that he’s the serial killer not an innocent victim and witness – he kills both men, violently, and grins. Adrian clearly likes killing. Yet, Adrian convinces Oliver, by use of torture, that it’s Oliver who enjoys killing. After this admission, Oliver is broken. Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?

Oliver attempts to disband his team and calls in Anatoly and the Bratva to do his dirty work and get rid of Chase. Oliver will pay Anatoly in diabetes drugs. However, Rene (Wild Dog) and Dinah (the new Black Canary) overhear a conversation between Anatoly and other Bratva members that leads them to believe that Anatoly is taking the drugs to make and sell an extremely addictive street drug. Again, this doesn’t seem to make sense, given what we’ve seen about Anatoly in the season’s worth of flashbacks. Oliver continues to tell his team to stand down and let the Bratva do their thing. Oliver’s team doesn’t listen. In the end, this breaks the deal between Oliver and Anatoly and Chase escapes.

This was disappointing to say the least, and a horrible way to end the arc of nothing but friendship between Oliver and Anatoly. For once, I wanted to see Oliver actually thinking and telling off his team, not simply for disobeying orders, which they did, but for messing up. It would have been cool if Ollie had pointed out they have diabetics in Russia too. Or, at least, that Anatoly was playing a game with other Bratva captains, and he was going to use the drugs to help his people, but he couldn’t let the captains who merely wanted money know that. Or that simply, as usual, Rene totally misunderstood what he overheard in the first place. But no, Rene even claims the drug manufacturer is “barely holding on” and “can’t afford to lose stock”. Yeah, sure. In what universe?

So with the deal with the Bratva now completely broken, Chase is in the wind. Oliver does manage to send him to prison. Thea and Felicity throw Oliver a surprise birthday party, but Rene and Dinah are missing. Oliver quickly learns that Chase has had them kidnapped. Oliver swears he won’t free Chase – then Chase shows him a picture of his son, William, also kidnapped. At that point, Oliver, as Green Arrow, helps Chase escape during the prisoner transfer. This gets Oliver absolutely nothing.

In the two-part finale, pretty much everyone is kidnapped by Chase.  Oliver realizes Chase has taken his team to Lian Yu. Malcolm Merlyn arrives because he cares deeply for his daughter, Thea, and convinces Oliver he’s there to help.  Oliver also calls in Nyssa al’Ghul because he suspects Talia is helping Chase. They arrive in Lian Yu and Oliver breaks into the Argus prison. He frees Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) and Digger Harkness (Captain Boomerang). Deathstroke proves to be an actual ally, though at one point he pretends to betray Oliver. Digger Harkness, not so much, first chance he gets he falls in with Chase.

Oliver quickly finds and frees Felicity, Curtis, Thea, Captain Lance, John, and Samantha, but is still looking for William. He has Malcolm stay with the first group to get them to a plane to escape the island. Deathstroke’s fake betrayal gets Oliver to Dinah and Rene where he gives her the sonic scream focus device (that also cancels the sonic dampeners in her cell) and she gets them free. Oliver asks her to find the others and escape.

It turns into Oliver and his team verses Chase and his girl groupies (Talia, Evelyn, Black Siren (aka Evil Laurel)) as Oliver tries to find Samantha and William. Meanwhile, Malcolm is in charge of getting everyone off the island. The plane they get to is sabotaged – so they must find another way off the island. Since the plane is gone, Malcolm leads the group to the other side of the island to escape. As they are tramping through the forest, Thea steps on a landmine. Malcolm sacrifices himself to save her. Though his death is off stage and very suspiciously so – he may have survived. Felicity and Curtis also discover another problem – the entire island has been wired with bombs – it will blow. They actually tell Oliver this – so they know the danger before he does.

Oliver follows Chase to a boat and uses a very convenient dock, that Chase pilots the boat conveniently close to, to run and jump on the boat. Also, extremely conveniently, William – the only one that Oliver hasn’t found so far, is being held on the boat. Chase holds a gun to William’s head, threatening Oliver that “it’s your son or everyone else you care about”. Oliver, finally, shows some sense – and shoots Chase in the leg with an arrow, freeing William without killing Chase. Unfortunately, Chase cares more about winning than living. He kills himself setting off the deadman switch and blowing up Lian Yu. Oliver is safe with William, on a boat, but doesn’t know if all his friends and relations have survived or died on the island.

The finale also is intercut with flashbacks to Anatoly taking Oliver to the island. He provides Ollie with a costume, including a wig of long, ash blond hair. Unfortunately, Kovar, an unkillable villain, shows up and fights Oliver before he can get into the costume and light the signal fire. Kovar shoots up Oliver with a torture drug, then locks him in a cell with a gun with one bullet. Oliver, of course, uses the gun to shoot out the lock and escape. He gets in his costume, lights the fire, is rescued by a Chinese fishing boat, and calls his mother. The intercutting between the present and the flashbacks, as the flashbacks themselves intercut between Oliver facing off against Kovar one last time and winning, and what we saw in the pilot way back in season 1 as Oliver gets rescued are brilliant! And destroying Lian Yu, now that it has been Five Years, symbolically “kills off” the flashbacks. It marks an end and a beginning. We now know, exactly, what Oliver did for his “five years in hell”.

Overall, all the way through Season 5, I just wasn’t impressed. I didn’t like the new team, other than Curtis, who was introduced last season. And characters who could have been cool – Evelyn and Rory (Ragman) left. Evelyn joined Adrian Chase – and Rory simply left. Evelyn’s betrayal makes no sense at all. She, along with the rest of the new team, discovers Oliver killed during his first year as a vigilante – so she betrays him to a serial killer? Uh huh – and how does this make sense? I mean, they could have at least given lip service to a reason – like someone she cared for was collateral damage in Oliver’s Green Arrow campaign – something. But no. Evelyn betrays Oliver to a serial killer because Oliver’s a killer. OK, then.

Second, this season includes, “Spectre of the Gun”, an episode that has the same title as one of the worst original classic Star Trek episodes (not in the top three but definitely top five worst). It’s not a good omen. The episode is about gun control/”gun rights” with Rene very vocally pro-gun. Curtis is more logically and intelligently pro gun control – not that he EVER gets to say anything. The minute Curtis ever tries to point out the facts, or quote statistics, he’s interrupted by Rene or even Felicity. And Felicity, a woman who lost the use of her legs when she was hit by a stray bullet, keeps insisting she has no opinion and doesn’t want to hear the arguments. Meanwhile, Rene comes up with right-wing sayings like “guns make you safe” – and no one challenges him. Oliver attempts to pass a sensible gun registry law in Star City, part of his campaign as mayor, and a female city official also goes on with right-wing propaganda which is presented as fact rather than incorrect and not backed by facts – such as a registry “limits gun owners rights” – no it doesn’t, or that the registry is “government interference” – no, it isn’t. In the end – instead of the gun registry, Oliver pushes through the “gun owners freedom act” (yep, that’s what they call it), which Oliver and Thea both insist is about “sensible gun control”. No doubt, yet another law that allows anyone, even criminals, even the insane, even people who have restraining orders against them or who have made credible threats the right to buy as many guns, assault rifles, and military weapons as they want. Oh, and Rene’s “reasons’ for being so pro-gun? He walked in on a confrontation between his wife and her drug dealer. Rene insists if he had his gun he could have saved his wife. If you watch what happens – that’s just not something he could have done. From the second he gets in the apartment – he tries to get to his gun in a safe, rather than try anything else (like, say, calling the cops). He even sends his daughter, Zoe, to her room, which he hasn’t even bothered to check when it’s obvious someone broke into the apartment, rather than to a neighbor’s or anywhere safe. Rene gets the gun – shoots the dealer, but when he falls he fires his gun – which kills Rene’s wife. If Rene wasn’t so dumb he’d realize his wife’s death was his own fault and that if he hadn’t shot the dealer in the first place she’d still be alive. But Rene can’t face that.  The episode is also a place holder episode – it has no flashbacks, and other than introducing Zoe who is in foster care, doesn’t add anything to the season.

Chase/Prometheus is a psychopath – he enjoys killing, he’s obsessed with destroying Oliver, who he blames for his father’s death, and even tries to destroy the reputation of Oliver and Thea’s father, Robert Queen. But for most of the season, the flashbacks are much more interesting and  much better story than the present-day story. Oliver takes on the actions of his team as being his own fault, especially when they make mistakes or disobey orders. He’s still, though trying to lead, and at times, taking responsibility as a leader, like he should, but also refusing to back people. Felicity ends up joining Helix, a hacker group, and when re-watching the season, it’s clear they will betray her. Yet, when Felicity does take a risk, Oliver doesn’t back her – and even uses the team to help Argus against Helix (it doesn’t go well). Oliver trusts Anatoly in Russia, invites him to Star City, only to not stop his team and have Anatoly believe he betrayed him. Chase manipulates Oliver throughout the entire season, and Oliver lets him. It’s a mess. Oliver also is back to not really trusting his team or working with them to meet his goals.

But, having said that – the two-part finale was really good. I’d missed it when it originally aired, due to poor weather conditions blocking Dish Network, but when I saw it – I liked it. Malcolm actually did a better job of leading Oliver’s team than Oliver does at times – though all they had to do was get off the island. Malcolm sacrificing himself to save Thea showed how much he really loves her. Even Thea was strongly affected by this. Talia and Nyssa get to fight each other – and it’s not the stereotypical cat fight. Chase, in the end, proves to be the killer that doesn’t want to be simply caught, but to die – though Oliver basically “wins” because Chase kills himself. Also, Oliver does rescue William. And I loved the symbolism of blowing-up Lian Yu.

For more on Arrow, please read:

My Arrow Season 4 Review

My Arrow Season 3 Review

Advertisements