I didn't expect great things once I heard Shannen Doherty was leaving the show, and definitely when I heard she wasn't coming back. Once the original cast starts to be altered and people start leaving, it definitely isn't amazing like it used to be. But Season 5 90210 is still on form.
New girl Valerie, played by Saved by the Bell's Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, is refreshing. As a main cast member she really does work well in the show, and the character is a complete 180 of the girl she played who married Zack Morris. It's strange to see her in Brenda's old room I have to admit, but Brenda not coming back is something viewers have to adjust to for the remainder of the show.
Cast members do look a little different this season. Jason Priestley has a goatee, which (thankfully!) has gone by the following episode. Jennie Garth actually suits short hair, it makes her look more mature and also makes the character Kelly seem more mature. She, Tiffani and Tori Spelling all have short hair this season and it just seems fitting for the season.
The chemistry is still evident between the core cast. Brandon and Kelly are finally dating and have been throughout the summer; Kelly even visited Minnesota with his family. Donna and David are still estranged from each other after his cheating in the S4 finale. Steve returns to find out Brandon is dating Kelly and feels awkward about it, but soon develops feelings for Valerie. Dylan, on the other hand, is completely isolated from the group. He's broke and Brenda has not come back to him.
All in all, this was a strong season opener. It was more about introducing Valerie into the show and there are exciting scenes such as when the group take her to a club. For once, the episode is more or less drama-free, with the exception of Donna missing David and Dylan's isolation.