Arrow, throughout its run, has had its ups and downs. The show starts becoming inconsistent after the first couple seasons, and nothing captures the uneven quality better than the shift between season 4 and season 5. The show goes from its absolute worst season to arguably its best, bringing the show back to its season 1-2 roots, proving that Arrow’s still got a few tricks up its sleeve.
Season 5 mixes things up with some new cast members in the new team Arrow. The series mainstays return, with Stephen Amell, David Ramsay, Emily Bett Rickards, Willa Holland, and Paul Blackthorne reprising their roles. However, the season also introduces newcomers Rick Gonzalez as Rene Ramirez/Wild Dog, Juliana Harkavy as Dinah Drake/Black Canary, and Joe Dinicol as Rory Reagan/Ragman. Echo Kellum’s Curtis Holt is also upgraded to season regular and Madison McLaughlin has a more prominent role as Evelyn Sharpe/Artemis.
This season does well at really establishing the new vigilantes that Oliver takes under his wing. There’s a lot of learning moments that all the new characters have throughout the season, and growth of the new team Arrow is apparent throughout the 23 episode run. The characters are all well-realized, and are a fresh departure from the main cast heroes we’ve been following since the first season. However, the real gems of the cast come from the villains, particularly the main antagonist of the season.
The overall story is about Oliver’s sins of the past, and no villain could have better captured this than season villain Adrian Chase/Prometheus. Chase, brilliantly portrayed by Josh Segarra, poses a grounded, menacing threat to Oliver on the show, as he holds a personal vendetta against out hero for killing his father. Rather than being just a physical threat, Prometheus is also a psychological one, torturing Oliver into accepting he’s a murderer and that everything he touches dies.
In what is arguably the best scene of the season, and one of my favorite scenes of the show as a whole, Chase cements his place as one of the greatest villains in the Arrowverse. I am, of course, talking about that scene in episode 17, when Chase makes Oliver admit he killed because he wanted to and he liked it. Segarra pulls off the cool, collected sociopath so menacingly in this scene, while Amell essentially has a mental breakdown on camera. It’s a well-acted scene from both actors, offering up a hard-hitting moment for those watching.
As well as Chase’s quest for vengeance, we get a deeper look at other villains who are demons of Oliver’s past. Lexa Doig joins the show as Talia al Ghul, who trains Oliver in Russia in flashbacks, and later returns in the season as an ally to Adrian Chase. Dolph Lundgren also appears as flashback villain and tyrant Constantin Kovar, who Oliver intends to kill as he moves up in the ranks of the Bratva. Earth-2 Laurel Lance, or Black Siren, also appears as an antagonist and a cruel reminder of Oliver’s failure to save his own Laurel. All the villains this season highlight Oliver’s bloodstained past, and the need for him to be “someone else—something else.”
As the season progresses, we can feel the stakes escalating, as Adrian Chase continues his personal onslaught on Oliver. This all culminates with the season finale “Lian Yu,” in which Chase takes all the show’s major players to the island that started it all. With his friends captured, Oliver employs the help of former enemies Slade Wilson and Malcolm Merlyn, as well as Nyssa al Ghul, to confront Chase once and for all. The season then ends of Chase shooting himself, activating a dead man trigger and causing the island to erupt in explosions, leaving the characters’ fates uncertain.
Arrow season 5, despite introducing new characters, really focuses on Oliver and his growth as a character. Adrian Chase, like Malcolm Merlyn and Slade Wilson, is a more grounded and personal foe for Oliver than Ra’s al Ghul or Damien Darkh. The forced comedy and gag-inducing romance that weighed down season 4 is gone here, making for a much better, tonally fitting season of Arrow.
The show writers said their plan with season 5 was to bring things full circle, and indeed they have, not just with the completion of the flashbacks, but also a return to the simpler, well-written, and grittier storytelling that was present in the show’s first two seasons. Arrow season 5 is a great season of television, and definitely worth revisiting.