Warning: This contains spoilers. For how to watch Arrow, click here.
Season 5 of Arrow – arguably the best since Season 2 – ended in truly spectacular fashion, with Adrian Chase / Prometheus killing himself in front of Oliver and blowing up the island of Lian Yu at the same time. With every single supporting character still on the island, there was a real opportunity to shake up the show by killing off a favourite or two, thereby giving Adrian’s actions a real weight, akin to Slade Wilson back in the show’s second season.
The Season 6 premiere attempts a few teases as to who made it and who didn’t, but – spoiler alert – it turns out that basically everyone is still alive and well, except Thea, who’s initially presented as dead, but is then revealed to be in a coma. In a surprise to absolutely no-one, the only confirmed casualty is Samantha (the mother of Oliver’s son, William) and even she manages to stay alive long enough to tell Oliver to “look after our son”, before she croaks. To be fair, there are still a few people unaccounted for, including Malcolm Merlyn (last seen sacrificing himself, by getting blown up by a landmine, but since we didn’t see his body and the explosion happened offscreen, it’s safe to assume he’s not dead, because that’s how TV works), Evelyn Sharpe (expendable) and the al-Ghul sisters, although, let’s be honest, nobody in their right mind would bet on either of them being dead.
With such a disappointing body count, it’s tempting to believe that the showrunners only pulled off the expoding island trick so they could stop the supporting cast asking for more money in contract negotiations, a trick they used to regularly pull on Dynasty in the 1980s. It’s also fair to say that the gradual reveals as to who’s still alive are handled really poorly – you’d think they’d at least have a bit of fun with it, but no, we see Rene, Curtis, Diggle and Dinah almost immediately and then there’s a bit of a tease about Felicity before it turns out she’s just popped out to the shops or something.
The most interesting thing about the episode is the fact that the regular flashback sequences, liberated from having to tell the five-year story of Oliver’s absence from Star City, can now be used for whatever the showrunners see fit. For the moment, it looks like they will be flashing back to the events on Lian Yu for at least another couple of weeks, since there are a handful of unanswered questions. For one thing, it’s not at all clear just how everyone survives the FIERY INFERNO, and it’s also clear that something bad happened to Diggle, since he’s sustained a nasty-looking chest injury and has the equivalent of PTSD, freezing up in a combat situation, his hand shaking and unable to pull the trigger.
Diggle’s secret trauma is just one of a number of soapy subplots that the Season 6 premiere sets in motion. Dinah spots his wobbly hand moment and asks if he wants to talk about it, but he shuts her down, suggesting they will be sharing similar heart-to-heart scenes in the near future. There’s actually some pretty strong chemistry between Dinah and Diggle (and, indeed, Juliana Harkavy and David Ramsey), but Diggle’s love for Lyla is well established, so it would be a pretty bold move to develop an affair storyline between them. Still, stranger things have happened.
The other main subplot involves poor old Quentin, who’s veering dangerously close to falling off the wagon again, thanks to Black Siren (the evil Earth 2 version of Laurel) reminding him of his dead daughter. It turns out things are a bit more complicated than that and Quentin actually killed Black Siren on Lian Yu in order to save Dinah’s life, something the two of them have been hiding from the rest of Team Arrow. Except Black Siren isn’t dead after all, which messes with Quentin’s head even more, forcing him to confess to Team Arrow that he killed his not-daughter and now she’s alive again.
All of which brings us to the main plot of the episode, which has Team Arrow capturing Alex Faust (Dominic Bogart), only for him to break out of the police station by using the old tooth-bomb-in-a-can-of-soda trick. It turns out Faust is in cahoots with Black Siren and allowed himself to get caught, so he could bomb the police station, allowing her to stride in and kill a load of cops, something that only adds to Quentin’s guilt, because he rightly or wrongly believes that he was her target. Because he killed her.
After their attack on the police station, Black Siren and Faust mount an attack on the Arrow Cave (during which Diggle freezes again) and steal one of Curtis’ prototype T-spheres. How did they know about them? Let’s not worry about that right now. The end of the episode also introduces an element of mystery in that Black Siren and Faust are working for an unseen benefactor, the same person we see rescuing Black Siren from Lian Yu, after Quentin has apparently shot her. It’s entirely possible there’s something mystical going on here and that we don’t yet know everything about the events on Lian Yu, but this is all we get for the moment.
There are three more emotional subplots of note, because Arrow is nothing if not a CW show at heart. In the first, Oliver attempts to bond with his son, who keeps dreaming about “the bad man”. Oliver assumes that’s Adrian, but no, it turns out to be Oliver himself. It’s hardly surprising – in the space of 10 minutes, poor little William saw a man kill himself, lost his mother and found out a total stranger was his father. No wonder he’s traumatised.
In the second subplot, Oliver uses his clout as Mayor to get Rene another shot at a custody hearing for his daughter, and, in the third, Slade Wilson pops by Thea’s hospital bed to tell Oliver that he’s going to Canada to look for his son, but not to worry, he’ll be back in time for a special Slade two-parter later in the season. Either way, it’s great to have Manu Bennett back on the show, even if it’s only for guest appearances.
Other than that, it’s pretty much business as usual, with a number of exciting action sequences (Oliver diving off a freeway to save Rene is a particular highight) and plenty of snappy banter between Felicity, Curtis and Rene. The cliffhanger for the episode has a photo appearing on the news that shows Oliver in the Green Arrow costume without his mask on, so it looks like we’ll be doing that whole thing again next episode. It’s worth remembering that Oliver previously convinced the citizens of Star City that Green Arrow and The Arrow were two completely different people and that he wasn’t either of them, so no doubt he’ll get out of this just as easily.
All in all, this is a solidly entertaining premiere episode that delivers the tried-and-tested combination of humour, action and emotion and sets a number of decent sub-plots in motion, even if it doesn’t quite have the courage to follow through on the exploding island cliff-hanger. Tune in next week for secret identity shenanigans galore!
Slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
– Why did it have to be Thea in a coma? Willa Holland is the best actor on the show and Thea’s a lot of fun to have around, especially when she’s paired with Quentin. Get better soon, Thea!
– The Black Canary vs Black Siren fights are a lot of fun. More of those, please.
– The promo clip for next week’s episode includes one hell of a name-drop…
Arrow Season 6 is available on Sky 1 every Thursday, within a week of its US broadcast. Don’t have Sky? You can stream it live or catch up on-demand through NOW TV, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription, no contract. A 7-day free trial is available for new subscribers.
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