NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Arrow” are still present in this review
Arrow has had its share of struggles since it began to stumble around the final portions of its fourth season, but lately, the fifth season has been noticeably picking up. Season Five reached a superb new high note this week with, “Vigilante” as well, which brings its titular anti-hero into the DC Television Universe with aplomb, once again exceptionally bringing into focus Oliver’s journey from Season One into the show’s current era.
Vigilante basically represents a better-armed and even angrier rendition of the kind of brutal vigilante that Oliver was when Arrow first began. The appearance of Vigilante in Star City, as he targets, injures and even executes a persistent band of bank robbers, forces Oliver to continue questioning whether his progress has had any merit, or if he’s just not getting anything done with his more careful, less lethal approach to saving the city. This is further spotlighted when Oliver’s recruits also feel that Vigilante might be best left to operate in Star City unchecked, despite him being a more murderous, less compromising hunter of criminals.
It also helps that Vigilante’s introduction and character is so far outstanding. There’s a lot of parallels between him and Marvel’s more well-known Punisher in this first apperance, as Vigilante tells Oliver that he doesn’t take the job seriously enough, and that Star City needs a vigilante that will make sure bad guys don’t get back up. Immediately, this is a very compelling character with a riveting psychology and an effective mystery… If you’re not an avid DC fan that knows the comics’ canon really well. That’s the only slight knock against Vigilante in his first appearance on Arrow, the fact that the character’s civilian identity from DC lore has already been introduced on the show beforehand. That means that devout DC fans will already know who is under that mask, barring any surprise changes by the showrunners.
Vigilante wasn’t the only impressive villain this week however, as Kovar once again proved to be an exceptional new baddie in the flashbacks. Seating Oliver at a table, Kovar recounts to Oliver how truth is a matter of perspective, before claiming that the Bratva are merely using Oliver for their own ends, and that there’s no way that they’d ever respectfully allow an American within their ranks. This suspicion seems to be confirmed when Oliver’s Bratva partner from the casino is revealed to have been won over by Kovar, meaning that the casino will be built as promised, and the partner will get a cut of the profits. This is after a pretty great melee between Oliver and Kovar as well, with Dolph Lundgren proving that his flashback villain has as much punch as he does personality. I really can’t believe that it’s taken this long for Arrow to find another worthy flashback villain, since the days of Deathstroke in fact, but finally, Kovar seems to be the antidote to so many flashback sequences that have felt more obligatory than truly compelling in recent years.
The Lance subplot is also continuing along pretty well, as is Oliver’s ongoing implied romance with Susan Williams. Both of these storylines kept Arrow’s heart in a good place this week, as Lance confides in Thea about waking up with the Prometheus throwing star in his apartment, and Oliver confides in Susan that he doesn’t feel that he knows how to do his job well enough. Thea managing to win over Lance and give him renewed hope in rehab was pretty uplifting (especially since the show smartly acknowledged that being black-out drunk can’t turn Lance into Prometheus by itself), but the real emotional surprise came from Susan, who proved to have surprisingly good advice for Oliver, despite being one of his biggest professional detractors. After Oliver pretends to talk about mayoral duties when actually addressing the difference between Green Arrow and Vigilante, Susan says that Oliver has to stick to his principles and do the job right, and then he will know, the city will know, and good will come of it in time. One still can’t totally trust Susan, but I have to admit that this seems like solid wisdom.
Another subplot that became apparent as Team Arrow tries to chase down leads related to the robbers they’re trying to catch before Vigilante, is Diggle seemingly becoming angrier and more unhinged. Turns out, Diggle is upset about missing his son’s second birthday party, and is struggling with never being able to see his family, on account of being a fugitive. This resulted in another sweet moment towards the end of the episode, where Wild Dog helps Lyla take John Jr. to see Diggle in his hideout, having their own party in secret. This is probably the first time that Wild Dog has shown a serious emotional side, and his growing friendship with Diggle is proving to be a pretty pleasant surprise in the storytelling. Plus, it’s just plain heartwarming to see the Diggle family back together again, after all that Diggle’s been through this season so far.
Not all is well with Team Arrow however, as the episode ends with Artemis meeting Prometheus in secret, saying that her teammates don’t suspect a thing. Does this mean that Team Arrow has a traitor?! Could this be how information on Oliver and his companions seems to keep getting to Prometheus? Whatever the case, I’m glad to see that Arrow is once again starting to hit new high notes, and that Season Five is starting to take its more grounded storytelling to some pretty great places. “Vigilante” ended up creating a superb antagonist with its title character, as well as a standout new challenge for Oliver, while also offering universally great subplots from every other angle as well. Prometheus is going to have to step it up, because Vigilante might just steal his thunder as the next big threat to Star City!
- Excellent introduction of Vigilante
- Emotionally gratifying character subplots all around
- Kovar continues to impress in the flashbacks
- Avid DC fans will already know Vigilante's secret identity