When we left Oliver Queen at the end of Arrow’s fifth season, he was standing over the smoking ruins of pretty much everything the show had built up over its first five years. Last night’s premiere mostly dealt with the fallout of said explosiveness, but, because this is Arrow, it also threw a familiar giant wrench into Ollie’s life.
The beating heart of Arrow for all these years has been the push and pull of how much Ollie gives himself over to his duties as the Green Arrow. Can a man that does what he does when he dons the emerald hood still have the opportunity for a life outside of the mask? It’s been a question Arrow has struggled to answer multiple times over the past 5 seasons, and it’s one that comes to the fore once more in the aptly titled “Fallout.”
But before the episode could allow itself time to tackle that age-old question again, we had to check in with who survived the great Lian Yiu explosapalooza of summer 2017—and it turns out almost everyone did, save for seemingly Talia al Ghul (I’m sure she’ll be back because duh, that’s what al Ghuls do) and definitely Arrow’s favorite walking plot device of late, Samantha, the mother to Ollie’s son William. Although the episode also did spend its sweet time trying to make us think Thea bit the bullet too, but it turns out she’s just in a coma, so please be excited for a lot of bedside monologues from Stephen Amell until she recovers.
So if Lian Yiu’s destruction was less immediately deadly than we expected, its lingering effects will be more personal than a hasty application of red marker through Arrow’s cast list. Almost everyone who got out is damaged in some way, especially Diggle, who’s PTSD begins to flare up again, and Quentin Lance, who now has to try and deal with the fact that not only did he have to attempt to kill his alternate-Earth daughter to save Dinah, said alternate-Earth daughter is now wreaking violent havoc across Star City.
The real bulk of that impact however is saved for Oliver and William, as, turns out, kids get pretty depressed when the parent that actually raised them dies in a horrifying gigantic explosion. For once, Ollie doesn’t use his struggle to connect with William as an excuse to feel sorry for himself—he actually talks to people about his feelings in this episode, holy shit!—and he’s rewarded for making an attempt with his son (okay so he gives William junk food and promises to let him watch a football game, but it’s a start) with a level of emotional stability that is downright rare for both Oliver Queen and Arrow in general.
It’s a great sign that the show really wants to build on Ollie’s journey across season 5 to accepting himself instead of wallowing in self-pity... which then brings us to the giant spanner the show gleefully throws in the works. Because Ollie turns on the news to find the media has gotten hold of a picture of him in his Green Arrow costume, hood down and mask off.
Oh boy. Poor Ollie just can’t catch a break, can he?
This “twist”—which was telegraphed from a mile away when Slade bumped into Ollie in the hospital to promptly inform him it won’t be long before he has to choose between vigilantism and being there for William—would be a lot more intriguing if... well, if Arrow hadn’t already exposed Ollie’s identity back in season 3, and made the collective population of Star City so dumb in the process that they managed to not just forget that but also elect him Mayor.
Given the promise of the rest of this episode for actually forging some newer ground with Ollie’s disposition and character, it’s almost a shame for Arrow to return to a familiar well of drama—one it didn’t exactly handle well the last time—in a bid to once again tackle its most important question. But we’ll have to wait and see how this plays out to really see where Arrow is going this season. Hopefully it’ll be a new twist on what’s become familiar ground for the show.
Hey, at least in a few weeks he’ll have an evil Nazi version of himself from another Earth to maybe pin the blame on?