Bettina Strauss/The CW
Sara Netzley
October 06, 2016 AT 01:15 AM EDT

Moving forward with your life, even if it’s not the life you once had.

That’s the theme of tonight’s Arrow premiere, and it’s not a bad note to hit after season 4 left many fans disappointed in the lackluster plotting, characterization, and momentum. Thankfully, this episode delivers a jolt of energy that hints at good things to come.

It’s been five months since Damien Darhk killed Laurel Lance, and most of our favorite characters have moved on. John Diggle’s back in the Army. Thea Queen’s working as Oliver’s beleaguered press secretary. Quentin Lance has crawled into a bottle of booze and stayed there. Felicity… well, Felicity’s moved on, too.

But not Oliver. He’s floating down that river in Egypt, clinging to what used to be and what he desperately wishes could still be.

The season opens with the new SCPD captain hassling Thea over why the mayor’s late for the police gala. “Blond or red-headed?” he asks, and I don’t hate the show going back to the “millionaire playboy Oliver Queen” cover story.

Thea says it’s a brunet, actually, and we cut to Green Arrow tussling with last season’s baddie Lonnie Machin. Ollie pins him to the wall with an arrow through the hand and leaves him for SCPD to deal with, despite Machin’s taunts that Oliver won’t kill him despite his attempt to blow up half the city.

As Oliver’s dealing with Machin, a vigilante in a hockey mask starts to fiddle with the bomb Machin set. Oliver, who’s obviously been watching Scandal, tells hockey mask, “It’s handled,” and arrows him in the leg to get him to stay off the streets and leave the heroing to the experts.

Thankfully, Felicity does have it handled and shuts the bomb down in time for Oliver to make it to the gala, where he gives a statement to the press denouncing the city’s Anti-Crime Initiative because of its unchecked police corruption. In full PR mode, Thea tries to smooth things over, then chides Oliver for not saving his remarks for the upcoming Black Canary memorial ceremony.

See, Oliver’s mayoral term isn’t going well. As the lone remaining mask on his crime-fighting team, he’s stretched too thin to both defend the city and be its mayor, leaving the public with the impression that he’s a do-nothing who got all his political knowledge by binge watching The West Wing. Hey, you could do worse than Sorkin, Ollie!

He reminds Thea that if she’d hit the streets again, he’d have more time to mayor, but she insists she’s out of the game and staying there.

Aaaaaaand flashback. Lemme tell ya, the first 30 seconds of this are better than all of the season 4 flashbacks combined because a shirtless, bewigged Stephen Amell is bare-knuckle brawling with an enormous Russian, subduing him with a Dread Pirate Roberts-versus-Andre the Giant piggyback move before snapping his neck.

Yep, it’s old-school Oliver. He’s in Russia to follow through on his season 4 promise to Taiana that he’d kill Kovar, the brutal warlord of her Russian village. Instead of an introduction to Kovar, though, he gets tased for killing the Bratva’s best fighter. Oopsie.

Back in Star City, Felicity’s put together a dossier on hockey mask, whom they’re calling Wild Dog. She tells Oliver to stop shooting him and instead bring him (along with Evelyn Sharp and Mr. Ski Goggles, whose code name still needs work) into the fold because lord knows Star City’s ineffectual-slash-corrupt police department isn’t doing the job. Oliver’s all, nah, my team’ll reassemble aaaaany minute now.

Elsewhere in Star City, a pack of crooked SCPD cops are confronted by an even badder cat: gangster Tobias Church (Chad L. Coleman of Walking Dead fame), exuding cool menace, wielding a pair of wicked brass knuckles, and rocking an amazing leather jacket. Church beats the head cop to death and gets the rest of the group to fall in line with his new regime.

In good guy news, Oliver knocks on Quentin Lance’s door, causing the former chief to drag his hungover, beardy self off the couch. Lance tosses Oliver a paper with the best-ever headline: “Mayor Handsome misses city council meeting.” Thank you, anonymous Star City Star copy editor; your snark is appreciated. (Also, did we know that the town newspaper was called The Star City Star? That is amazing.)

Ollie tries to recruit Lance for his team, which is seriously getting back together any day now, you guys. But Lance just scoffs, “And cover up this beautiful face with a mask?” He pours a drink instead, then declines Oliver’s invitation to attend Laurel’s memorial ceremony. “It’s probably best I don’t turn up and embarrass her memory.” God, that’s depressing.

NEXT: There’s trouble at the docks

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