TV review: ‘Arrow’ shines again with thrilling season finale

The CW’s flagship superhero show, “Arrow,” wasn’t in the best shape this time last year. The fourth season was widely regarded as the weakest in the series’ run, following a third season that received some mixed reviews as well. However, fans who persevered were rewarded for their patience with a thrilling, much-improved fifth season that ended with a high-stakes finale earlier this week.

I’ve been a fan of “Arrow” since the first season, when I stared watching it after reading a preview article in Entertainment Weekly. The show stars Stephen Amell as a Batman-esque vigilante archer named Oliver Queen who wears a green hood and tries to right his city’s wrongs after he’s rescued from the island where he was stranded for five years. I felt the show really hit its stride midway through the first season, and the second season — which had Oliver facing off against one-time ally Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) — ranks among my top favorite TV shows.

But the third and fourth seasons couldn’t rise to quite those same heights, and fans have been especially critical of the fourth season. The show’s flashback segments — which were genuinely intriguing in the first two seasons — started wearing a little thin. While Neal McDonough turned in a strong performance as Damien Darhk, looking back I think the show pushed the supernatural element too far (it just doesn’t work as well in the more grounded “Arrow” than in some of the CW’s other superhero shows). And Oliver and Felicity’s on-again-off-again relationship grew frustrating and weighed the show down with unnecessary relationship drama.

Yet all was not lost! “Arrow” showrunners fixed some of the issues with past seasons, and there were definite improvements in terms of acting, fight choreography, character story arcs, and more. Overall I was extremely pleased with the fifth season and I can’t wait for season 6.

***Warning: Spoilers ahead!***

Amell is a great fit for the lead role in “Arrow,” and I felt he stepped up his acting game even further in the fifth season. The writers explored some really dark and emotional moments for his character, and Amell was definitely up to the challenge. One of the season’s strongest episodes involved the main villain, Prometheus (more on him later), torturing Oliver to get him to reveal his darkest secret. Amell gave a really powerful, angry, and ultimately broken performance in this episode.

And speaking of Prometheus…he made for a fascinating villain this season and a worthy foil for Oliver. The twist revealing that Prometheus was actually Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra), the Star City district attorney, definitely caught me off guard. Adrian Chase had become one of my favorite new characters this season, and I was really looking forward to him working with Oliver and maybe joining the Arrow team, only to find he was the villain all along. Although Prometheus didn’t have actual superpowers, his psychological manipulation made him a terrifying adversary for Oliver and Team Arrow. Sometimes villains end up getting “nerfed” after a big build-up, so the hero can defeat them in the finale, but Prometheus rigged his final plan so that he’d win and achieve a psychological victory over Oliver, no matter what Oliver decided to do.

Although there were a few “filler” episodes and some side plots I wasn’t as much a fan of (and I still miss you, Ragman!), overall the story arc was strong and satisfying this season. I also thought they breathed new life into the flashback sequences by sending Oliver to Russia and having him team up with Anatoly and join the Bratva. They did a great job bringing the flashbacks full circle and wrapping up Oliver’s time on the island.

It will be interesting to see what happens in the sixth season. As much as I enjoyed the flashbacks in Russia this season, I think it’s time to reduce the flashbacks going forward and focus more on the present. I’m glad Wild Dog and the new Black Canary have been upped to series regulars. Wild Dog has really grown on me as a character (I love his interactions with Quentin Lance), and the new Black Canary has some cool powers. I know the show’s former Black Canary is a polarizing topic (should she have been killed off in season four?), but I actually like that the show is bringing actress Katie Cassidy back as the alternate universe, dark side version of the character, the Black Siren.

I’m not sure where the show will head going forward, but after a great fifth season, I’m looking forward to finding out!

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