Arrow got off its fifth season off to a brutal start with Legacy: an episode that introduces a slew of new faces in the life of Oliver Queen (Stephn Amell) along with a host of ongoing problems.
Five months prior, the citizens of Star City joined together in a heroic stand that ended Damien Darhk’s reign of terror once and for all, and even saw Oliver return to his lethal ways as the Green Arrow by planting the final arrow in Darhk’s heart. Now living a double life both as the mayor of Star City and as the vigilante Green Arrow, Oliver has been unable to capitalize on the gains he made in uniting the city on that fateful day. As a result, the city has slid back into its endless cycle of crime and corruption. A new wave of vigilantes have hit the street in emulation of the Green Arrow, but the man himself angrily shuns their help, preferring to go it alone.
A big part of the problem is Oliver’s unwillingness to accept that Team Arrow as he knew it is gone. Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) remains on board, but now in a strictly platonic sense and she’s got the new man in her life to prove it. John Diggle (David Ramsey) has returned to his life as a soldier. Thea Queen (Willa Holland) serves as her brother’s political right hand but has sworn off vigilante violence. Then there is Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), the Black Canary, who died at the hands of Darhk and whose legacy of heroism gives the episode its title. Oliver has erected a statue in her honor and wants to use the heroic figure of the Black Canary to unite the splintering city, but a new villain has other plans.
Enter Chad Coleman (The Wire, The Walking Dead) as Tobias “Charon” Church: a brutal mobster of vicious ingenuity and terrifying physical force. Many have argued that the show needed a shot in the arm following the maudlin, meandering storylines of seasons 3 and 4 and the charismatic Coleman is the man to deliver it. He’s not a telekinetic devil worshiper like Damien Darkh, nor an immortal with an army of ninjas at his disposal like Ra’s al-Ghul. He’s just a bad S.O.B. out to beat down anyone in his path. Legacy’s only venture into super hero cliche territory is when the otherwise-brilliant Church kidnaps Mayor Queen, then doesn’t figure out why the Green Arrow isn’t showing up to rescue him. Oliver subsequently kung-fu’s his way out of captivity, only for the Arrow to show up and finish defeating the baddies a short time later and Church still doesn’t seem to get it. Coleman manages to make it work, however, and his final scene in the episode fully regains any tough-guy cred the villain may have lost during his tussle with the Arrow.
Another big complaint about Season 4 was its flashbacks: a hocus pocus-filled return to Lian Yu that largely went nowhere. Season 5 promises none of that as Oliver’s connections to the sinister Bratva criminal syndicate are finally explained. The flashbacks are suspenseful and bloody and promise to show how Oliver’s attempts to keep a promise will lead him into the dark heart of Russian organized crime and into becoming the remorseless killer of season 1.
Legacy seems like it’s about to end with everything going forward the right way. Sure, Church is still out there but Oliver reinvigorates his police force to fight crime, his old friend and Laurel’s father, Detective Quintin Lance, (Paul Blackthorn) is back to help shape things up, and Oliver even gets some long-distance reassurance from Diggle that he is doing the right thing. Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum) has not been idle either and will apparently be a key player in bringing the new vigilantes into the Arrow’s fold. But just then, someone new and far worse enters the scene. Oliver has battled evil archers before, but the masked figure who dominates the last few seconds of the episode might be the most frightening one yet.
Legacy is big on continuity while also building something new. Shout-outs to season 1 are numerous and the flashbacks to Oliver’s final year in exile seem to be circling back to that time in his life. Meanwhile the new characters are setting up to integrate smoothly, quickly becoming familiar but also remaining wild cards both to the main character and the audience. If Arrow can keep this up for the rest of the season it could quickly become a most-see superhero show again.