Better duck, because the arrows are flying and so are the spoilers!
Regular Cast: Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen/Green Arrow), David Ramsey (John Diggle/Spartan), Willa Holland (Thea Queen/Speedy), Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity Smoak/Overwatch), Echo Kellum (Curtis Holt), Paul Blackthorne (Quentin Lance), Josh Segarra (Adrian Chase/Vigilante); Guest Starring: Katie Cassidy (Laurel Lance), Alexander Calvert (Lonnie Machin), Rick Gonzalez (Wild Dog), Chad L. Coleman (Tobias Church), Tyler Ritter (Billy Malone), Mike Dopud (Viktor), Adrian Holmes (Frank Pike), David Nykl (Anatoly Knyazev); Written by Marc Guggenheim & Wendy Mericle from a story by Greg Berlanti; Directed by James Bamford
Oliver Queen is having a difficult time getting past the events of season four, but, thankfully, Arrow as a series isn’t having the same problem, given the fifth season premiere.
From the moment Barry Allen and The Flash were introduced on the show, Arrow found it increasingly difficult to hew to the series’ own roots of being the grounded, more gritty primetime superhero. Indeed, season four was filled with a plethora of larger than life elements, among them Neal McDonough’s Damien Darhk and Matt Ryan’s guest starring turn as John Constantine. Magic and underground cities became the norm, and it wasn’t until the very last moments, when Oliver, recognizing the limitations his code of non-killing had placed on him, ended the threat of Darhk permanently. It was that moment that seems to have set the stage for year five.
Team Arrow has dissolved. Thea is trying to live a normal life (working in the mayor’s office), Diggle has returned to the military to escape the guilt of having killed his own brother; Laurel is gone, murdered at the hands of Darhk in year four; Quentin, mourning the death of Laurel and the break-up with Felicity’s mother, has crawled back into a bottle and found comfort there; and Felicity, while still serving as “Overwatch,” is finding new romance with police officer Billy Malone. Only Oliver remains vigilant as Star City’s protector, serving the city by day as mayor and by night as Green Arrow, and steadfast in his belief — despite evidence to the contrary — that the team will indeed come back together.
Five months have passed since the season four finale, and the streets are becoming more crowded with gangsters, who have returned to power, most notably in the form of the Russian mob as well as Chad L. Coleman’s Tobias L. Church. Coleman, a veteran of The Walking Dead, deserves credit for making the character, despite appearances to the contrary, a physical force and mind to be reckoned with. He exudes a determination to prove his worth and consolidate power by taking down Green Arrow. He also partakes in violence that in some ways seems to have been inspired by what Marvel has been able to do over at Netflix. Concurrently with the rise in crime has come the arrival of vigilantes inspired by Green Arrow, but lacking his discipline and experience, leading Oliver to try and shut them down. This despite the fact it’s becoming increasingly obvious that he desperately needs help on the streets.
“Legacy” works on a number of levels. In terms of action, a hand-held and more urgent editing approach makes the fight sequences visceral, serving as an effective contrast to obviously choreographed fights of the past couple of years. Additionally, across the board the performances are strong, showing characters painfully grappling with their pasts while trying to chart new paths as they go forward. Inevitably, though, they find themselves drawn back in to the world that they know best. What works particularly well is a tribute to Laurel Lance/Black Canary with the unveiling of a statue constructed in her memory. Her legacy, and what she sacrificed her life for, is extremely impactful on the characters, reminding them why they fight and what they aspire towards.
Stephen Amell effortlessly slips back into the old Oliver mindset, proven when, kidnapped by Church and his people and after having been discovered to be more than he appears to be, he breaks one of the guard’s necks, echoing a line from the series premiere, “Nobody can know my secret.”
The flashbacks in this episode, which bring Oliver to Russia to kill warlord Kovar in a promise made to Taiana last season, are extremely effective and brutal as he literally fights his way in to gain access to his target. There are enough intriguing seeds planted here to keep anticipation for future flashbacks high, which is quite the departure from the last couple of seasons.
At episode’s end, there’s foreboding in Church gathering various crime lords of Star City and declaring himself their leader (a point he’s willing to use murder to reinforce), and hope in that Oliver is finally open to the notion of recruiting these vigilantes for what could be considered Team Arrow 2.0.