Arrow: 5.09 What We Leave Behind
Arrow began season five with the episode Legacy and that certainly has been a theme this season as the flashbacks pursue Oliver's path back towards becoming the arrow in the pilot episode while present day Oliver has sought to build a new team of heroes while saving the city as mayor. It's not always been perfect, but there is a sense that season five has found a renewed sense of purpose and it's back to basics gritty approach is paying off after two years of magic, secret societies of assassins and global power plays.
Legacy was a major theme in the mid season finale as we began to learn more about new villain Prometheus. I like how subtle his introduction this season has been; great characters like Damien Darhk suffered because their stories were drawn out after too early introductions. This was only the second episode to deal with Arrow versus Prometheus as a central narrative and the mystery behind the villain was an intriguing one. The more we learned, the more interesting he became and the ties back to season one Ollie were fascinating to watch. I'm not sure I remember him being this ruthless - slaughtering henchmen left, right and centre - but it certainly demonstrated how far he had come.
And it is that ruthless that has informed Prometheus as a character; striking down Curtis in the shocking pre-title sequence, which tantalizing suggested one of the best characters in Arrow might have been taken out barely five minutes into the episode. Fortunately Curtis survived, even if led to the awkward conversation with his husband over his late night activities. I have to admit, I was on Paul's side. It's one thing to decide to become a vigilante, but it's another not to hide it all from the one you're spending your life with. The whole 'I wanted to protect you' has become a bit of a cliche in the superhero genre and it didn't seem like a strong enough reason to keep such a big secret.
At least he survived, unlike Felicity's bland, forgettable detective boyfriend Billy Malone. Tyler Ritter had tried to make the best of the role all season, but every time he appeared on screen I had to remind myself who he was. Fortunately he went out in a much more memorable fashion, murdered at Oliver's hands after Prometheus framed him as a decoy. It was a cruel, brutal move and despite Felicity's assertions that it was not Oliver's fault, it was sure to cut deep into her relationship with him.
The cutting between timeframes as Oliver hunted Prometheus down in the present and his 'father' Justin Claybourne in the past was a great sequence, as Prometheus laid out dead bodies in the manner Oliver had slain them five years ago. The moments with earlier Diggle and a flirting Felicity were nice touches too. It all helped to demonstrate the progression of these characters and the length of time it has taken Prometheus to hone his ruthless fighting skills. There was an interesting reference to Russia too, suggesting that the Prometheus storyline was going to tie into season five's ongoing flashbacks.
The only big issue I had with the episode was the reveal that Evelyn Sharp / Artemis had betrayed them, turning to Prometheus after learning about Oliver's murderous past. It wasn't a storyline I wanted dragged out all season but it felt as if the show wasted the opportunity to have her cause some real havoc to the team in favour of a quick reveal at the first opportunity.
And in true mid-season fashion, we were treated to multiple cliffhangers, leaving audience ready for the rest of the season next year. Diggle was led into a trap and captured by the military (something I don't see Oliver being able to get him out of so easily this time). But it was Oliver encountering a very much alive Laurel that offered the biggest surprise. The writers have claimed she is very much dead and while the Arrowverse has found a way to bring Katie Cassidy back occasionally through flashback, Earth 2 doppleganger Black Siren and an alternate alien-induced reality, her loss has been keenly felt. I am intrigued and apprehensive as to where this will go next. Her death at the hands of Damien Darhk last season riled fans and was a frustrating move after Laurel finally became a great character. No one wanted her to go but to undermine her death could be a cheap move too. I want Laurel Lance / Black Canary back on the show, but only if it is done right.
What We Leave Behind was a strong mid-season finale; it will never beat season three's shocking The Climb, but it demonstrated the show's ability to deliver a strong villain, an engaging mystery, a twist on the flashback narrative and still give us plenty of surprises. And there's a lot to ponder on too before Arrow returns. What will happen to Diggle? How is Laurel back? And just who is Prometheus? I haven't been this engaged with a villain since Slade Wilson and that's a good thing. Arrow isn't reaching the heights of season two yet, but it still has a lot of potential. I suspect the second half of season five will make or break the show...