After the explosive cliffhanger that ended Arrow season 5, a guessing game emerged around who survived Lian Yu and what effect the deaths will have on Oliver Queen. Of course, costume reveals, casting upgrades, and crossover announcements all spoiled at least a few of the survivors. Still, the minds behind Arrow have maintained there could be more at play than viewers realize. With that in mind, the season 6 premiere of the show not only had to establish the new status quo for Team Arrow, but make a case that all the drama and hints of death weren’t just visual clickbait.
Heading back from the break, Arrow pulled out all the stops to keep an episode that was essentially playing narrative catch-up from dragging too much. Long-time stunt coordinator James Bamford handled directing duties, with executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle tackling the script. As a result, the episode was kinetic and packed with fight scenes while establishing what exactly happened on Lian Yu and how it’s affected the team.
Unsurprisingly, most of the main cast is back. It's been known for months now from various bits of news and interviews that Felicity, Diggle, Dinah, Earth-2 Laurel, and Rene would all return. Sure enough, each returned and jumped straight back into the action. For Dinah and Rene, things are better now than they were before. They’ve both been doing exceedingly well at their jobs and landed brand-new costumes befitting their upgrade to series regulars. In that regard, they’re also joined by Black Siren, as Katie Cassidy is once again part of the core cast. Life is looking up for her too, as she’s gained a mysterious new benefactor and spends the entire episode with a leg up on Team Arrow.
Of course, not everyone is better off after Lian Yu. Diggle is suffering from PTSD, unable to hold his own in battle or properly use his gun. It’s never been clear how Rene or Diggle’s choice of weaponry fit into Oliver’s no-kill rule, so this development could lead to something interesting. For now, it looks as if Diggle will be getting a meatier story this season.
Felicity is also back, and aside from still navigating her relationship with Oliver, she seems to be doing fine. We know that Helix will be back this season, so it will be interesting to see how Felicity navigates that aspect of her life. Hopefully, her return will feature a story that puts her at the center as she’s spent too much of her time on the show behind a desk.
Curtis, Slade, and Lance also made it back alive, and the former doesn’t appear to have suffered any damages. Slade is on the hunt for his son Joe, who we first heard about in the early days of the show. We know an upcoming two-part episode will focus on Slade and his son while featuring flashbacks, so we’ll be getting a lot more Deathstroke soon. Lance, meanwhile, has once again returned to being racked by guilt over the death/rebirth of one of his daughters. Paul Blackthorne has long been an asset to this series, but the writers can’t seem to help place him in the same familiar plotline years after year. With any luck, he’ll play some role in the redemption of Black Siren that’s been teased since her arrival last season.
Finally, Thea survived the explosions but the writers have found yet another way to keep Willa Holland out of the narrative. It’s a shame, as Holland has grown into one of the best performers on the show and Thea brings out something special in Oliver and Lance.
The only confirmed death is Samantha Clayton, the mother of William. Given her lack of development in the series, it’s clear that she was used merely to bring Oliver’s son into his life and have her death drive a wedge between them. As the least fleshed out of all the characters on Lian Yu, it’s a bit of a letdown that such a dramatic cliffhanger was followed up with no meaningful follow through.
There are still a few loose ends, though. Merlyn and Boomerang both appeared to perish before the chaos broke out, but the Arrowverse has long since proven that Malcolm can return from the dead. That just leaves Evelyn Sharp and Nyssa and Talia al Ghul unaccounted for. Though it’s strange that the fate of the three women is unaddressed in the opening, they won’t be swept aside so easily. If they died, we likely would have seen a quick nod to it. Instead, they’re sure to pop back up in the future to cause more trouble. Talia and Evelyn for Team Arrow, and Nyssa for Black Siren, given the connection the Demon’s Daughter shared with the original Laurel and Sara.
And after not appearing since the pilot of the series, Oliver’s old housekeeper/nanny Raisa is back and helping to care for William. With so much catching up to do, it won’t be until next episode that we get into the meat of this season. But between the tease of Black Siren’s new boss and the scheme to out the Green Arrow, Oliver might not be able to keep up his newfound optimism for much longer.
Arrow continues next Thursday with 'Tribute' @9pm on The CW.