Arrow S05E01 “Legacy” REVIEW
Essential plot points:
- Oliver shows up late for a police fundraiser after stopping Lonnie Machin from blowing up the city with a bomb. He manages to also upset the cops by claiming there’s widespread corruption in the Star City PD.
- Thea, who’s working as his chief of staff, wants him to focus on being mayor but he sees it as a way of getting intelligence for his other role as the Green Arrow – and tries unsuccessfully to get her to return to the team.
- Felicity has been pulling together details on the vigilantes which are unsuccessfully trying to help Oliver – but he insists the old team will come back.
- Meanwhile a new villain has arrived – Tobias Church, who kills a corrupt cop during a raid and declares himself in charge of the city.
- Oliver visits Quentin Lance, who’s back in town after breaking up with Felicity’s mum — and back off the wagon in a spectacular way. He tries to persuade Lance to attend the unveiling of a statue paying tribute to Laurel.
- At the unveiling, Church’s gang interrupt proceedings and abduct city officials — including Oliver, as bait to take out the Green Arrow. He escapes and kills one of his captors, just as Thea arrives in Speedy costume to rescue him.
- She tells him she can’t suit up again if he’s going back to killing people. Quentin provides Oliver with the names of a few police who aren’t corrupt that he can trust to help rescue the prisoners, who are being held in a power station rigged to blow up.
- They manage to get the dignitaries clear, but Church escapes in a helicopter.
- As Mayor, Oliver commends the cops who helped the Arrow and creates a new task force reporting directly to him. But one of them is immediately killed by a hooded figure outside the police station — a demonic version of the Arrow.
- Church assembles all the crime bosses in Star City to tell them he’s now in charge, having infiltrated and taken over their organisations, and killing anyone who gets in his way.
- Oliver admits he might need help from the new vigilantes — including Curtis who, after being mugged, wants to become a hero too.
- Oh, and Felicity has a new boyfriend. And he’s a Star City cop…
- In flashback, Oliver travels to Russia, where he meets up with old contact and now Bratva boss Anatoly, who promises to help him track down crime boss X as part of Oliver’s vow to Taiana.
The last couple of years have been somewhat difficult for Arrow. Something of a fan backlash has emerged against the show, which started out as a fun CW restaging of Batman Begins starring a prettier version of Hawkeye, and has grown in scale to become the figurehead of a sprawling franchise of shows encompassing pretty much every corner of the DC Universe except Batman.
Be it Oliver’s reluctance to kill, or a sense of the show taking a back seat to the new kids on the block, or even just opposition to Olicity, the twittering, up-voting classes have been expressing their concern in droves.
Meanwhile the TV superhero stakes, a field it once stood largely alone in, is now flooded with competition — not just from stablemates the Flash, Supergirl, Atom, Firestorm, et al, but Marvel’s take-no-prisoners approach to low level vigilantism on Netflix.
In some ways, “Legacy” – kicking off the show’s fifth season – feels like a response to all this. A decidedly more brutal, punishing episode than before, we’re back to Oliver being quick to kill his foes and villains reliant on firepower and brass knuckles rather than spirits and ancient artefacts to wipe out the good guys.
We’re down to a stripped-back version of the team. Thea reluctantly suits up for what looks set to be the last time, while Diggle is away in Eastern Europe serving his country in uniform once again, meaning we’re back to Green Arrow and Overwatch as the last defenders of the city.
However, as with the show’s previous nods to Nolan’s Batman films, so here we have Oliver finding himself inspiring — and resenting — a new army of vigilantes who want to help save Star City too.
James Bamford delivers the hyper-kinetic, physically challenging style of direction that he brought to the show last year, making much of the action stunt work stand out — most notably the pre-credits fight with Lonnie Machin, which blends some wonderful cinematography with clever cuts between real fights and CG stunt work. The stunts have always been Arrow’s high water mark and by and large (with one exception, see below) they land, with each fight sequence feeling and looking far more brutal than usual.
That brutality extends to new villain Tobias Church, played with slick menace by Chad L Coleman. This is no Mirakuru-powered mercenary, or mystically-fuelled immortal. No, Church is just a bad dude — basically this show’s version of Fisk, a crime boss with a taste for dishing out brutal violence in person. How long before the more metahuman aspects of the Arrowverse start intruding remains to be seen but the set-up for Church is so far more gangster than supervillain.
And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After Damien Darhk, Deathstroke and Barrowman, perhaps the series could do with going back to its roots. That’s not to say we agree with the moaning millennials on Reddit upset with the show turning into a soap — for our money, series four was a strong one, and a significant improvement on three. But with so much going on elsewhere in the Arrowverse, having a couple of feet planted firmly on the ground for a while wouldn’t necessarily be to the show’s detriment.
“Legacy” feels like it’s trying to balance a lot — not least Oliver’s position as the mayor, which after being a major thing last season is almost laughably tossed-off this time round — and doesn’t quite manage it. There’s some great things to enjoy – not least the ever reliable Paul Blackthorne as the now back on the booze Lance – but there are also some missteps, including a confused resolution to the hostage crisis, a blown special effects sequence and a sense of the show reaching further than perhaps budget or time will allow.
So not the blowaway start that Arrow needs this year. We suspect the upped level of violence might win favour with previously disgruntled fans, but it feels very much like someone’s taken their eye off the ball with this one.
- As mentioned above, Paul Blackthorne’s performance as Quentin Lance continues to be one of the best things about Arrow, bringing so much nuance and depth to what could be a pretty one-note character.
- Kudos too to Willa Holland, who gives a real sense of sadness and outrage in the same scene when she confronts Oliver about his killing again.
- As random a character to pick out as Wild Dog is (a limited run of his own book and some Superman appearances in the late ’80s) they’ve got the look of the character pretty much nailed – although they’re going with a different background to him than the comics’ Jack Wheeler, by the looks of it.
- The idea of Oliver as mayor seemed daft — this version of the character doesn’t quite come across as politically savvy, after all. Thankfully they acknowledge that with Oliver it’s a means to an end — even if the electorate thinks he got his political knowledge by binge-watching The West Wing. Which, incidentally, if you haven’t done yet, we thoroughly recommend it.
- Oliver attacking, then falling from, the helicopter is one of those instances where an idea probably sounded far better in the script than it turns out on the screen — some truly ropey green screen and CGI mars both the power station exploding and the helicopter sequence. It’s rare Arrow missteps in a big action moment like that, and more so that it does on the opening episode of the season.
- That statue of Laurel. Man alive, it’s terrible. Seriously terrible.
- All these trick arrows. Okay, Oliver’s had a few surprises in his quiver over the last few years, but nothing quite as OTT as a computer hacking arrow and one with a parachute inside it. Arrow’s production team — and Amell – keep banging on about how they’re the grounded series compared to The Flash or Legends, but an arrow with a full-sized parachute concealed within it is frankly taking the mickey.
And the Random:
- So now we know what Laurel made Oliver promise her on her death bed last year — that she will not be the last Black Canary
- Oliver escaping the chair and breaking the neck of the corrupt cop working for Church, echoes his escape from his captor right back in the pilot episode.
- James Bamford, the show’s former stunt coordinator, takes charge of the first episode of the new season having impressed with his first two stints behind the camera last year.
- You’d have thought the Green Arrow wouldn’t mind a hockey-gear clad vigilante as support — given Stephen Amell is the new Casey Jones, wearing a similarly masked outfit in the Ninja Turtles sequel that came out earlier in the year…
Review by Iain Hepburn