“I’ve always done what I’ve had to do; right now, this is what I have to do.”
Let’s face it: the last few seasons of Arrow have been what many would call uneven. Yes, there have been glimpses of the good, the writers being able—albeit briefly—to capture the magic of the first two or three years of the show. But all too often, Arrow has wavered into the waters of uncertainty, a fate many shows have found themselves navigating into that often signals the beginning of the end. Only Supernatural, whose middle years were comparatively wretched when taken against the remaining seasons, was able to find its ways back to the calming seas (so to speak) and recapture the magic.
This week marks the start of year seven for the Vigilante/Hood/Arrow and it finds our protagonist, the fair Oliver Queen, in a place that may prove more difficult to survive than Lian Yu.
For the past five months, Oliver has been doing his best to stay off the radar and not fight back. That’s a difficult prospect when the likes of Brick, Bronze Tiger, and Sampson are constantly in his face, doing their best to intimidate and cause a reaction. It’s not until the premiere that they make their move. It may be due to some shadowy plan but it’s most likely due to Ricardo Diaz finally tracking down Felicity and William. The two have been in Hope Springs in witsec when Diaz tracks them down, wanting to make Oliver suffer the worst of fates; a life of prison knowing that Diaz killed the woman he loved. Such a deed would hollow out the already frayed Oliver, relegating him to a man without hope or anything to live for.
Speaking of hope, with the hardline stance Star City has taken on vigilantes—thanks to Earth-2’s Laurel Lance taking the role of her Earth-One counterpart—so many people, especially those in rough and crime-ridden Glades, hope is falling fast. So when another mysterious archer, decked in green, makes his presence known, it spurs hope for the Glades youth while also putting Rene (Wild Dog) and Dinah (Black Canary) at odds. That comes to a head when Rene helps this new Green Arrow escape capture. It earns him a final warning: keep the Wild Dog mask in the closet or Dinah’s putting him away.
Though Diaz comes close to realizing his wish, Felicity is able to fight back long enough for A.R.G.U.S. to save the day (off-screen). Diaz gets away and Felicity, battered and bruised, visits Oliver in probably the most emotionally charged scene in the last few years. She’s done hiding, opting to return to Star City to do whatever she can to take Diaz down. If that means putting herself in danger, then so be it. She refuses Oliver’s pleas to return to witsec and her defiance in the face of near-death sparks something in Oliver. After doing his best to stay out of the way, only fighting to defend himself, he reminds the inmates that he is Oliver Queen, the Green Arrow.
“Inmate 4587” is an excellent start to Season Seven. It has our former team of vigilantes split, finding their own ways of contributing to society without the masks and mayhem of fighting criminals. It offers up the return of the vile Ricardo Diaz, still on the loose despite the FBI doing everything in their power to track him down, as the villain (though we still don’t know if he will be the season’s Big Bad) and Oliver in the worst place a man can be: away from his family and helpless to protect them. Yes, Season Six’s premiere gave us much of that same hope after an abysmal Season Five but, as things wore on and the writers attempted to create their own version of Civil War, it all fell apart. Though players like Curtis, Rene, and Dinah bring their own positives to the show, in order for Arrow to recapture the magic it once had, it has to be more about Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle and that trio’s fantastic chemistry. Sprinkling the others in here and there is great, but forget about making them a focal point of the show.
And then there was that ending…
As Oliver re-established himself as the prison’s alpha dog, a stranger’s journey to Lian Yu offered this week’s most WTF moment. He tracks down Roy Harper, aka Arsenal and reveals himself to be none other than William, Oliver’s son. It’s a most unexpected moment, one that creates oh so many questions and no answers. For so long we’ve been taken back to the past, from Oliver’s time in Star City before the shipwreck as well as his time on Lian Yu, in Hong Kong, etc. But those periods are just that, in the past. Flash forwards into the future creates another branch of storytelling that, if done right, can be the extra foundation that can turn Arrow from its currently uneven iterations to the strong and greatly anticipated television hour many of us have been longing for since season two.
4 Arrowheads (out of 5)