‘Arrow’ (Season 5): Everything Old is New

While Legends of Tomorrow has a fair claim to the title as well, I think it’s clear that Arrow takes home the Most Improved CW/DC show award for this season. Though I was a fan of a lot of what season four had to offer – and Damien Darhk is clearly a big part of why Legends has improved so much – there’s no denying that Arrow is at the top of its game this season, bringing the show back to what it’s always been best at: street-level vigilante action and an intimate exploration of who its characters are and what makes them tick.

In a lot of ways, what’s gone into making this such a strong season for the show is how the creators have revisited the sort of stories that made the early years work. That’s not to say the show is repeating itself, but the journeys of the new characters are familiar. Watching Wild Dog, Ragman, and Mr. Terrific learn the tough lessons of the vigilante lifestyle that Ollie once did provides narrative that Arrow does best.

What makes everything feel fresh, though, is that we get to see how Oliver can impart his own knowledge to help the rookies avoid the same mistakes and assumptions he did. He’s got four years of experience as Star City’s protector under his belt, so he knows how to do the job right. Having a new team has let Oliver step into the mentor role in a way he was never fully ready for when training Roy or Laurel.

As the Green Arrow, Oliver has seen the worst things he’s likely to, and somehow, he’s managed to come out the other side still ready to be a hero. If there’s one other great boon for this season, it’s that Oliver is no longer willing to sink into long brooding depressions. He can’t, not with a team under him that looks to him as a leader and guiding force. Moreover, though, he knows that however bad things get, it helps no one if he does throw himself a pity part. Instead, he has to suit back up and take the fight to threats like Vigilante and Prometheus.

And really, just that sense of purpose and focus has made Arrow a delight again. Whenever a character starts slip into a funk, someone else is there to give them the kick in the rear they need, whether its Rory forgiving Felicity for her role in the death of his family or Thea helping Lance get back on the wagon. Characters new and old feel vibrant and full of fight again, which makes the team run better than it ever has before. In turn, Arrow is a fun show to watch again, and it shows no signs of slowing as it moves into the final stretch of the season.