The longer a show stays on the air, the more chance there is that it will have to reinvent itself sometimes multiple times. That’s the case for The CW’s Arrow which tried to up the game most of the last seasons but had trouble for most seasons staying afloat other than the fifth season which received lots of acclaim from most viewers. With its seventh season the show has at last truly turned everything on its head, following up on season six’s ending with the villain Ricardo Diaz still on the run and Oliver Queen not only exposed as the Green Arrow but also behind bars. It ain’t easy behind bars in any case, but it becomes a whole hell of a lot harder when you’re a hero in prison full of people you put there.
After five months behind bars, one can’t help but sympathize with Oliver’s lost sense of heroics as he’s just worried about making it through every day till hopefully being released some day. Gone is that hero so much so that even when someone comes to beg for his help and protection, he not only turns them down but later when the assembled villains try to use this person against him he leaves them to be beaten because he refuses to get involved. One thing that has remained awesome about this show, even in the down seasons, is the amazing fight choreography and that hasn’t changed this time around as the prison fights are not only well put together but just as brutal as you would expect. Oliver pulls no punches in his nude shower fight and later in the episode when he finally somewhat finds himself and demolishes the villains that threatened him/beat him down earlier in the episode.
All the rest of the cast has left behind their vigilante lives not only because it’s now illegal to be a vigilant but also because their FBI immunity deals actually depend on them not suiting up. While there is always the part that wants to see the masked heroes arrive to save the day, I have to side with Dinah in this case as she points out that her work as Police Captain and the work of the police and others is far more important to fix this city. For too long the city became dependant on vigilantes, seen here in the episode by the rising crime rate, and if the vigilantes return her and others will never be able to get the public to trust their officers and others ever again. Honestly at the same time, while I know it won’t last, all of the characters outside of Oliver and his family (as Felicity and William are in witness protection) actually seem far better in their away from the vigilante world lives. They have jobs, they are taking care of people, building relationships and doing things they couldn’t when so focused on being a hero all night and day.
There is no real information given regarding the brand new mystery Green Arrow that is running around Star City taking down villains, and seemingly reviving Oliver’s old crossing out names in a book thing. No doubt this will be a mystery dragged out for quite some time, as it appears to be someone outside of the usual crew. No John Diggle running around in the costume this time around. Good money is on Roy Harper but that seems way too obvious, but he is back and in an interesting way I’ll get to momentarily. I’m betting it’s either someone new or someone we haven’t seen in a while, just to mix things up. Beth Schwartz took over as showrunner this season and her and the writers room seem to have brought some new life into the show by leaving behind the formula that the last like four seasons fell into of life is okay, new villain arrives, team struggles as villain keeps getting upper hand, villain unleashes plan, team barely survives at the end. We’ll see if the formula is truly gone, but so far this bodes well.
Since the beginning, Arrow has relied on the use of flashbacks to further the story. For the first five years, those flashbacks were about Oliver’s time spent on and off the island in the five years he was missing, ending at the end of season five where the show began five years earlier. Then in season six, there were some flashbacks but they were spread out and used sporadically for different characters rather than just Oliver and rather than every episode.
This season though, they are seemingly gone and something else is in their place. Arrow has gone all Lost on us by introducing flashforwards. A mystery man that later is revealed to be a grown-up William goes back to the island of Lian Yu where Oliver was lost years ago, and encounters and an old man Roy Harper. This William seemingly was told that Roy could be found there by Oliver. This seemingly bodes well for the longterm health of William (and potentially Oliver depending on when he tells William) and Roy. Perhaps Roy goes to the island after his masquerade as Green Arrow if that is him? The writers/producers definitely added something interesting here.
Honestly, I tapped out of season six just a little ways past the half-way mark (I think it was the episode where Roy originally returned in Diaz’s hands) because Cayden James was feeling like Prometheus lite and the bait and switch where Diaz was revealed as the true big bad felt hollow and the show just lost me. The grim fate of Oliver and the extreme focus on character and the ups and downs in just this episode has me hooked again. I’m still going to be cautious as I’ve been burned before (after the stellar season five), but this is the way that you breathe life back into a show after some down years. Do something different, turn it all on its head. Can’t wait for episode two.
Score: 8 out of 10