Season 5 of Arrow has been solidly working to reestablish the series as a street-crime-first superhero show, striking a balance between Oliver Queen's battle with local crime lords and his ongoing efforts to serve Star City as its mayor. After two less-than-stellar seasons, the effort can easily be summed up as a rebuilding of sorts – not just of the core storyline but also the audience's faith that the series isn't going to tread the same path as The Flash, Supergirl, or Legends of Tomorrow. The effort to rebuild has been reflected in the way Oliver continues to fashion a new Team Arrow, one that doesn't carry all of the baggage of seasons past – or at least brings in new characters and a introduces a new dynamic to help lighten the load.
While the show was quick to introduce Wild Dog – establishing him as a potentially interesting hothead in the season premiere – and even quicker to transform Curtis Holt into Mister Terrific, Arrow has held the reveal of another crime fighter back for several weeks. Before the season got underway, it was known that the show would introduce both D.A. Adrian Chase and the costumed vigilante known as… uh, Vigilante. And what he lacks in a clever codename, the character more than makes up for it in his pursuit to rid the city of crime. But what Arrow aims to do with the character is more than just another guest spot for a DC Comics character who might otherwise never see the light of a live-action day. Instead, Vigilante will further act as a mirror for Oliver Queen and his Green Arrow persona, as well as for the show itself. After all, what better way to take stock of where the series is headed than with a little self-analysis baked right into an episode's narrative?
As his name would imply, Vigilante is everything Oliver and the Green Arrow have been at one point or another, but taken to an inevitable extreme. And as the episode unfolds there is an element of Oliver being asked to question whether or not this shoot-first crime fighter is an unfortunate byproduct of his extracurricular activities or a reflection of his past as a man who began his career as a vigilante checking names off a hit list. If nothing else, Vigilante's appearance in the episode works as a bit of character therapy, a chance for Oliver to evaluate where his crusade has been and where it's headed. As such that makes the question of whether or not the quest to save Star City is on the right path a much larger part of an episode that could otherwise have been dedicated to fan service for a lower-tier character who lacks imagination in the naming department.
As his name would imply, Vigilante is everything Oliver and the Green Arrow have been at one point or another, but taken to an inevitable extreme. And as the episode unfolds there is an element of Oliver being asked to question whether or not this shoot-first crime fighter is an unfortunate byproduct of his extracurricular activities or a reflection of his past as a man who began his own vigilante career checking names off a hit list. If nothing else, Vigilante's appearance in the episode works as a bit of character therapy, a chance for Oliver to evaluate where his crusade has been and where it's headed. That makes the question of whether or not the quest to save Star City is on the right path a much larger part of an episode that could otherwise have been dedicated to fan service for a lower-tier character who lacks imagination in the naming department.
With that in mind, it's nice to see Arrow plans to have Vigilante stick around for at least another episode. Although he was the primary focus of the hour, his introduction was swift. And given his willingness to chat with Oliver and Team Arrow while doing his work, it's clear the man behind the mask has a few things to work out. Furthermore, with the attention paid to his presumed civilian identity and explosive interaction with a bank robber, it seems as though it's time to start learning more about Adrian Chase and what makes him tick. It's hard to fault Arrow for not doing that before now, as the series was caught up in Tobias Church, Prometheus (and the hint that Quentin Lance may somehow be involved, or is just a patsy), and, of course, the introduction of Team Arrow 2.0. With that largely taken care of or at least set up for future intrigue, the door is wide open for Adrian and/or Vigilante to step through.
It will be interesting to find out what motivates the character beyond the loss he mentioned before he and Oliver duked it out in a bank lobby. And the same goes for why he chose Star City as his stomping grounds. While his appearance certainly carries some weight from a storytelling point of view, a greater understanding of why he decided to shoot bad people in a city already teeming with masked characters doing pretty much the same thing will be imperative if Vigilante is going to have an impact beyond forcing Oliver to take a look in the mirror.
That being said, Oliver taking a long, hard look at himself isn't new; Arrow has had its protagonist dive into some shallow self-analysis before, but this time he doesn't come up looking all wet. There's a moment where it seems as though the show wants Oliver to reveal a pang of jealousy or resentment toward Vigilante for doing what the Green Arrow does but without the complications the Emerald Archer seems to be juggling time and again. Vigilante also casts a shadow of doubt over whether or not Green Arrow's mission is moving along fast enough. Oliver mentions he's been doing the hero thing for four years and the city's only gotten worse. Aside from the big picture question of just how effective Team Arrow has been for Star City overall, there's an interesting workplace dynamic lurking underneath it all. Someone who thinks he knows how to do his job better than the hero is actively threatening Oliver's status. That's not usually the sort of approach Arrow takes to its storytelling, so it's kind of fun to see it being used here.
It is also interesting that Oliver would find the answer to his question not from someone on Team Arrow, but through a conversation with Carly Pope's Susan Williams. While it's clear that the chummy, flirty Oliver-Susan dynamic is going to be tested soon enough with what she knows about his time in Russia, moving Oliver's soul searching outside the confines of his closest allies is like a breath of fresh air. Things had gotten too stuffy with Speedy, Diggle, and Felicity constantly trading interactions with Oliver, and watching as he and Susan do something as simple as get a drink is a welcome change. Perhaps it's just nice to see Oliver engage with someone who doesn't know his identity and who has an agenda outside of all the various superhero issues. As the reveal that Evelyn is working with Prometheus will change the new Team Arrow dynamic, Susan's involvement with Oliver will undoubtedly take a sharp turn eventually. So it's best to enjoy the positive aspect while it lasts.
Arrow continues on November 30 with its 100th episode, which is also part of the 'Invasion!' Arrowverse crossover event.