The CW's Arrow has definitely fluctuated in quality over the course of the last four years. It's a series that has never been afraid to experiment with its story or tone, and some of those creative decisions (particularly during Season 4) have not worked as well as others. Still, the show has made a concerted effort to retool this year, and Season 5 is off to a very solid start.
With this in mind, we have compiled a list of ways Arrow is actually working so far this season. Some of these reasons are a result of the show continuing to try new and fresh ideas, while others are a result of the series returning to certain tried and true elements. Check out our arguments, and let us know whether or not you think Oliver Queen's solo series is back on the right track. Without further ado, let's kick off this list with the new and improved Team Arrow...
Team Arrow's New Dynamic
The decision to bring in an entire squad of new recruits could've proven disastrous for Arrow's fifth season. That said, Team Arrow 2.0 has generally worked out quite well from a storytelling point of view -- regardless of the fact that they constantly blunder. Sure, Wild Dog is still a bit rough around the edges, but watching Curtis, Evelyn, Rory and him specifically develop as characters has been a genuine treat, and it really harkens back to Oliver making Roy slap a bowl of water during Season 2. With well-defined roles and enough friction to keep things narratively interesting, the new version of Team Arrow has actually become one of the highlights of Arrow's fifth season. The slow but sure reintegration of John Diggle back into the equation has helped add a new layer of leadership, as well.
Without question, Season 5 of Arrow has upped the ante in regards to the action and has delivered some insanely satisfying sequences so far. The fight scenes are top-notch this season, and everyone involved in the stunt department has delivered time and time again. Arguably the most notable improvement is the way in which Season 5 has blended old and new. There's a visceral sense of brutality to the fight choreography that really feels reminiscent of the show's first two seasons, but the action scenes are often shot in long takes using handheld cameras, which is a technique that became more common last season. The result of this blend is some of the most vicious fight scenes on television, and it's really helping elevate Arrow to its former glory.
Oliver's Sense of Morality
One of the biggest changes that Arrow's fifth season has brought to the table in its opening salvo of episodes is a return to Oliver's willingness to kill his enemies. Despite some brief protests from Thea about whether or not it's the right thing to do, Arrow has put lethal tactics back on the table without really thinking twice about it, and that's a really, really solid decision. I've written at length about why I believe Arrow's version of Green Arrow works better as a killer in the past, and Season 5 has thus far proven me right. The brutality of Oliver's tactics has helped set Arrow apart from the lighter Arrow-verse series like The Flash and Supergirl, and that distinction gone a long way towards returning the series to a more familiar tone that longtime fans appreciate.
Oliver And Felicity's Relationship
There's no denying that the Olicity romance was cute during the first two seasons of Arrow. The chemistry between Oliver and Felicity worked, and we rooted for them to get together. However, the show took the ball with Olicty and ran with it. And ran with it... and ran with it... Now it seems that Arrow has seriously dialed back the romantic subplots, and while there's still certainly some romantic tension lingering between Oliver and Felicity, their dynamic has more or less returned to the charm of Season 2. There's definitely some brewing drama now that Oliver knows out about Felicity's new man (Tyler Ritter's Detective Malone) but for the moment Arrow is making the right call by sticking to superhero action.
The Return To Street-level Action
Arrow began its life as a street-level crime drama, and it has generally worked best when it has stuck within that overall framework. While Season 4 charged headfirst into some grandiose and apocalyptic territory, the current season of Arrow has really stripped things down and gone back to basics. No character epitomizes this more than the late, great, Tobias Church, who felt like The Wire's Stringer Bell with just the right amount of comic book charisma thrown in for good measure. Arrow's fifth season is gritty, intimate, and grounded right now, that show's quality has undeniably improved as a result.
Ragman Proves That Magic Can Still Work
I'm going to be perfectly blunt with you, dear reader. I absolutely adore Rory Regan a.k.a Ragman. He's a strong, levelheaded character with good motivations and an interesting backstory. It's also worth noting that he's exactly the type of magic-based character that Arrow needs in a post Damien Darhk world. His powers make him an effective big gun for Team Arrow to use, but he isn't a cure-all for any given scenario that our ensemble of vigilantes will find themselves up against. The Pandora's box of mysticism has been opened in the Arrow-verse, and Ragman is the quintessential example of how to keep magic within Arrow's story while still keeping the events of the series relatively grounded.
The Slow Reveal Of Prometheus
Producing a full season of 23 episodes is no easy feat, and it's made all the more difficult when a show puts all of its cards on the table in the first episode of a new season. We all loved Neal McDonough and his take on Damien Darhk, but Arrow's fourth season had an undeniably hard time sustaining narrative momentum once it established Darhk as the central antagonist of the season. Legends of Tomorrow's abbreviated first season shared this issue, and it's nice to see that The CW has learned from its mistakes. It's clear that there's more to this Prometheus character than meets the eye, and Season 5 of Arrow is taking its sweet time giving us the details regarding his motivations, allegiance, and identity.
What do you think of Arrow's fifth season so far? Be sure to check out The Emerald Archer's solo series every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. For now you can check out our comprehensive fall TV premiere guide for more information concerning all of the most highly anticipated fall TV debuts!