What was broken can never be fixed.
Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
It’s clear already that the new season of Arrow is unfolding along three parallel trajectories. On one hand, Oliver Queen is dealing with his new reality as Inmate #4587 and the challenges of trying to protect his family from behind bars. On another, Felicity and the rest of the former Team Arrow are doing their best to bring Ricardo Diaz to justice before he strikes again. And then there’s the big twist introduced last week – a new flash-forward storyline that sees an older William Queen join forces with Roy Harper.
In general, Season7 is shaping up nicely, with little of the sluggish pacing and wasted potential that bogged down the early portion of Season 6 last year. Unfortunately, after two weeks it’s clear that one of these three story threads doesn’t quite measure up to the others.
As with the premiere, the Team Arrow portion is the one area where the series still seems to be figuring itself out right now. And a big part of that seems to hinge on the overabundance of supporting characters. I’m fully invested in Felicity and Diggle’s shared struggle right now, especially as it becomes clear these two former partners are growing apart as Felicity’s needs begin to conflict with Diggle’s newfound responsibilities in ARGUS middle-management. There was some strong drama on display this week as the two butted heads and came to terms with the fact that their respective paths have diverged. That speaks to one of the larger themes driving the series now – that what was lost can never really be recovered.
The issue is the rest of Team Arrow. Maybe this will change as the season moves forward, but right now there just isn’t enough interesting material for characters like Rene, Curtis and Dinah. The former two are basically just there to crack wise and pitch in on the hunt for Diaz. And while Dinah had a much more meaty role this week, it’s not one that bodes well for her future this season. This forced reconciliation between Dinah and laurel just isn’t sitting well. I don’t really buy the notion that either character is suddenly ready to embrace the other and let the past be forgotten. The constant back-and-forth with Laurel betraying Team Arrow last season continues to have a lingering impact on the character.
The good news is that the debut of the Longbow Hunters definitely gave the Team Arrow segment a boost. Between Cicada on The Flash and now The Longbow Hunters here, I appreciate this newfound trend of dicing into the main villains quickly. And the Longbow Hunters don’t disappoint so far. This episode introduces Kodiak (Michael Jonsson), Red Dart (Holly Elissa) and Silencer (Miranda Edwards), each of whom immediately stands out as a credible threat to Team Arrow. Hell, Silencer alone immediately ranks as one of the most imposing villains we’ve seen in quite some time. Her inclusion is especially welcome because it’s the first example of a character created for the New Age of DC Heroes comic book line making the jump to other media. This new team already lives up to its reputation, and hopefully we won’t have to wait long for a rematch.
The prison storyline is rapidly escalating in tension. Ollie’s struggle has already grown beyond the mere need to keep his head down and wait for parole. Now he’s forced to get his hands dirty in order to protect Felicity and William from afar. Now his struggle centers around how far he’s willing to go to protect them, and whether it’s possible to remain true to his inner hero in the process. He found a clever solution this week, but will he be so lucky next time? It’s a great status quo for Ollie, and one that Stephen Amell is taking full advantage of through his intense, tortured performance.
As bleak as this storyline is, it’s nice to have a small bit of comic relief in the form of Stanley (Brendan Fletcher). Stanley is basically becoming Ollie’s bootleg Overwatch for the duration of his prison stint, and he’s becoming an entertaining foil to our hero. It’ll also be interesting to see if Ollie forms deeper relationships with characters like Ben Turner or Danny Brickwell. Turner in particular has a lot of untapped potential on this show, given that he’s a far more morally ambiguous character in the comics.
If anything, the flash-forwards may be the series’ strongest element right now. When was the last time the same could be said about the flashbacks? Maybe some point in Season 2 when Slade Wilson was still around? The decision to jump ahead and showcase the future of the Arrowverse is already paying off. I’m already enjoying the dynamic between Ben Lewis’ William and Colton Haynes’ Roy. And it helps that this storyline continues to defy expectations. Where it seemed like we might have been in for a rehash of Season 1’s flashbacks, with Roy playing Yao Fei to William’s Ollie, instead we see them already gearing up to leave Lian Yu and return to the outside world. It seems William takes after Felicity more than he does Ollie in terms of his role as a hero, and that works.
I do have the same concerns still about the interplay between future and present. It seems as though there’s only so much the writers can really do to forge a clear link between the two. But this episode does show some of the storytelling potential at work here. The William/Roy scenes reveal that William never reunites with Ollie and Felicity, further casting a grim shadow over the series and reinforcing the idea that Team Arrow can never be truly whole again.