‘Arrow’ (Season 5): Personal Stakes

As has been noted time and again throughout this season, Arrow is on a hot streak, having crafted a narrative arc that comes as close to its second-season high point as possible. In fact, if it keeps up the quality leading into next month’s finale, it may actually surpass the Deathstroke year in quality; Arrow loves its multi-part mega-finales, and the varying forces of Prometheus, Artemis, Talia, and even Helix make for plenty of threats for the team to face off against.

Ultimately, the success of this season is that, while the show has done a marvelous job of expanding the cast, it’s also brought the focus back in on Oliver and his personal character growth and progression. Going back to the second season, the strength of the arc came from just how personal the conflict between Slade and Ollie was, and that’s an element that the show failed to recreate in seasons three and four. Ra’s al Ghul’s involvement in the plot came about through the convoluted machinations of Malcolm Merlyn, while Damien Darhk didn’t hate Oliver so much as he just happened to choose Star City as his base of operation.

This year, though? Prometheus’ entire life’s goal is to expose Oliver as an unrepentant killer because he murdered his father in his alleged quest for vengeance. The same is true for Talia, who helped Oliver become the man that would one day kill her own father. Even Artemis judges Ollie for the sins of his past, meaning that the Green Arrow is being attacked on all sides by threats that seek to punish him specifically for what he’s done.

And because we’re attached to Oliver as a character, there’s that extra bit of emotional investment to the story and impact from each plot beat. We watched Ollie go through torture under Ra’s back in season three, but it matters more to see him struggle at Prometheus’ hands because the stakes are more personal. Ra’s was trying to break the Arrow, but Prometheus is trying to break the man beneath the mask.

It also helps that Prometheus has just been a fantastic addition to the show’s cast. He’s as excellent a Big Bad as Damien Darhk was last year, but he fits the theme and tone of the show so much better. Josh Segarra did a great job showing the barely contained rage within Adrian Chase during the first half of the season, but he’s clearly having a ball as the more manic, fully unhinged version of the character now that his identity has been revealed.

It all comes together to make a conflict that works on every level that the Deathstroke plot did, and it’s another element that has led to the show’s creative rejuvenation this season. With even more madness planned in the weeks ahead, I’m excited to see the show return from this final hiatus to hopefully end the season on a high note.