Since every tease of Arrow’s season 7 premiere used the same two words, I’d like to start my review the same way:
That is how you do a season premiere. There was action, emotion, suspense, intrigue, good writing, great acting, and a genuine sense of respect. Much like Arrow’s season 6 finale felt like the close of one chapter, this season 7 premiere felt like a new beginning. A new beginning with shades of the past, but there’s definitely a new spark that I haven’t felt in quite some time watching this show. It’s weird. But I’m so freaking here for it.
“Inmate 4587” picks up five months after Oliver told the world he was the Green Arrow and went to prison to protect his family and team. And things are going as well as you’d think for Oliver inside Slabside Maximum Security, which is not great. He spends his nights having nightmares that Diaz murders Felicity while everyone else deals with the repercussions. Vigilantes are outlawed. Diggle is still at ARGUS. Dinah got a job promotion (how, I do not know). Black Siren is the freaking DA (how, I have no freaking idea). Rene is trying to fuck up what Oliver gave them all, which is immunity. Some things never change.
As far as season premieres go, “Inmate 4587” did a fantastic job of setting the tone for the start of the season. Arrow continues to be the model for dark DCTV while setting up some interesting character dynamics — even with characters I do not like — and brought the emotion to a new level with Oliver and Felicity. Not that I’m surprised. Oliver and Felicity have been the heart of this show and have provided some of the strongest and some of the more emotional moments of this series. It was good to see this show hasn’t forgotten what got it here.
If there was a relationship status between me and Arrow, it would read: It’s complicated. I’ve loved this show for six years — mostly Oliver, Felicity, and Diggle — and I know that because I’ve stuck by this show through seasons where things were just Godawful. Not unlike my relationship status with the Chicago Bears. I’ve reveled in the good times, survived the bad times, and impatiently waited for the moment for a new staff to come in and bring me back to the good ol’ days.
Now, I’m not going to judge an entire season based on one episode. I’ve seen that movie too many times. Great start to a season, terrible end. Bad start to a season, good end. What I’m looking for out of Arrow is what I’m looking from the Bears: Consistency. Show me you can do it week in and week out.
(Sorry for the sports comparison, but it’s honestly just too easy and too relevant at this current moment not to.)
But just like I revel in the joy of a winning streak or a glimmering sense of optimism, I’m going to enjoy this victory in the now. I have no idea what’s coming next, if Arrow can maintain this momentum. But I do have hope in new showrunner Beth Schwartz that this can be sustained. Everything I’ve seen from her — prioritizing character dynamics over action, letting these characters exist as themselves, not falling into a trap of stupidity — tells me my hope is warranted.
So while the Bears didn’t give me a Victory Monday this week, I guess Arrow did.
Let’s break down this thrilling season premiere, which still has my mind racing as I type this.
Welcome to Oliver’s Personal Hell
How fitting that the beginning of a new chapter in Oliver’s life begins pretty similarly to his last one…in hell. While it’s unlike the hell he experienced the first go around, he’s a different person than he once was, as well. That other Oliver wasn’t fighting for something. This Oliver is fighting to get back to his family.
Every day is the same. Hellish nightmare where he watches Diaz murder Felicity. Wake up early to Mr. Sunshine himself. Tally his newest day in prison. Go through the motions. Possess an insane amount of self control to not beat the bastards he locked up that are provoking him against every fiber of his being. Eat. Sleep. Lather, rinse, repeat. And throw in a fight every once and awhile. You can see how that can get old real fast.
All the while, Oliver has no idea where Felicity and William are, if they’re okay, and how long before he’ll be able to get back to them. You see, Oliver’s being a good boy in hopes his sentence is shortened. But we all know that it is a fact that his sentence will be shortened given this is television, and the lead is currently imprisoned. The CW don’t play that way. Over/under on how long Oliver is in prison? Five episodes? Six? Ahhh, crossover.
Prison is nothing for someone like Oliver Queen. When you’ve been to hell and back, prison is like a vacation. But with that said, I have to give Arrow credit for accurately depicting what being in a maximum security facility is like. Unlike The Flash, where it looked like summer vacation. There was a darkness to it that it reminiscent of what Arrow and Oliver Queen have been.
What’s happening in prison isn’t what makes being in prison hell. It’s the fact that Oliver is helpless. He’s stuck in a 4 x 4 hole while Felicity and William are in witness protection with Diaz still on the loose. It’s knowing that Diaz is actively searching for Felicity and William. It’s not knowing if one day, his nightmare actually becomes a reality.
And we see that come to fruition. How Oliver is attacked in the shower (hellooooo) and forced to fight because at some point he can only hold off for so long. While he wants to return to his family, it won’t help if he doesn’t make it back to them alive. But it’s the moment when one of these goons stops to give an annoying monologue — saying that Diaz has found Felicity and that she’s dead — that you just see Oliver’s entire will to live just leave his body.
Obviously Felicity is not dead. This show would never kill her, and none of these goons (especially a villain as terrifying as a Pomeranian) can ever kill her. But it’s seeing and feeling the helplessness — how he can’t get to a phone to call and see if she’s okay — that brings that emotion back to this show in a very real way.
Felicity Fights Back
While Arrow had to make time to include every damn character they now employ (I’m looking at you, newbs), there was no denying that Oliver and Felicity were the focus in this premiere. As it should be.
While Oliver is forced to live in hell, yet again, in Slabside, let us not forget that Felicity is currently living her own hell. She’s without her husband, taking care of their son, away from her friends and family, and all the while waiting for the time when Diaz finds them. Because you have to suspect that the thought has always been in the back of her mind: It’s a matter of when not if. And what a terrifying thought that must’ve been.
But it takes Diaz finding them, fighting him, and realizing that she couldn’t protect William that she can’t keep running. She needs to face Diaz. She needs to take back her life. And while stopping Diaz won’t bring Oliver back (just yet), it will bring William back. We forget that it isn’t just Felicity. She’s a mom now. She’s been watching out and protecting William for five months all the while she’s suffering from the decision that Oliver made without consulting her. You can clearly see that Felicity misses Oliver dearly, but she’s also still pissed that he put her in a position like this.
Also, yes honey, you’ve still got it. You never lost it. Sorry to that guy at the coffee shop, but her husband would squash you if he even saw you talking to her.
Perhaps the highlight of Felicity continuing to be a badass (because she’s always been one) was when Diaz broke into their house armed with the only thing he can do something with: A gun. Real villains don’t need a gun to do damage. And we know Diaz isn’t a real villain. He’s not scary in the slightest.
But there was Felicity — staring down the barrel of a gun — looking at William behind Diaz and thinking of a way to save them both. And she did. She screamed for William to run and took down Diaz with a pot of coffee and a fireplace poker long enough for ARGUS to get there. Once a badass, always a badass. Bow down to Felicity Smoak-Queen.
Speaking of that badass fight scene — the way Arrow paralleled Oliver and Felicity’s fight scenes was a sheer thing of beauty. Both were incredibly satisfying and thrilling and had me fist pumping (especially when Felicity was beating up that stupid lizard.) There were so many callbacks to Oliver and Felicity. Reminders that Oliver and Felicity are one. That your comic book canon means nothing to them. That this is what true love looks like.
While Oliver and Felicity are separated right now, this premiere showed you that their journey back to each other is currently in progress. We just don’t have a fast forward button (though we do have flash forwards! More on that later.)
That Olicity Scene aka THE MOMENT MY HEART STOPPED MOMENTARILY
If there’s one constant in the Arrow world, it’s that Oliver and Felicity are pure magic and Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards will find a way to make you feel everything these characters are feeling when together. We’ve surpassed just chemistry. This is more than chemistry. It’s a connection.
Every time these two are on screen, you sit up a little straighter because you know something magical is about to happen. Here we had a scene — THE SCENE — where Oliver and Felicity are seeing each other for the first time since Oliver was taken away to prison. Here we had a scene — THE SCENE — where Oliver was agonizing over whether Felicity was still alive. Here we had a scene — THE SCENE — where even glass wasn’t enough to shield our eyes from the fire that was their chemistry. All it took was a look. And another look. And a touch to the glass. And the tears. Their tears. My tears. Your tears. Angels’ tears. All without words.
Then Felicity spoke, and Oliver’s visceral reaction to hearing her voice for the first time in five months damn near ended me. For a moment, Felicity was Oliver’s salvation from this hell. This hell where he’s powerless to do anything. But then again, Felicity has always been that light in the darkness for him. Another beautiful reminder.
But something that I hope doesn’t get lost in what was a truly beautiful and emotional and gut wrenching semi-reunion was that they took this time to get on the same page. Let us not forget — and I certainly don’t, and I know Felicity doesn’t — that Oliver made the decision to turn himself in without consulting his wife. She never got a say. We never got to see a reaction. This was the scene where Felicity got to air her grievances and make it damn clear that this time, this decision is hers. Her decision to fight.
Felicity is done running. She’s done hiding. She’s going to fight back. And while she does, she’s going to send William somewhere he’s safe from Diaz. Somewhere where he can be protected. Until they find Diaz and end him.
Diaz has taken everything from her (which is hard to believe considering he’s the worst villain that has ever graced my television, but if this show is trying to sell this I guess we have to buy), and she’s going to take her life back. I’m hoping this fight was the first of a couple where Felicity gets to beat the shit out of this lifeless lizard.
Anyway, back to Olicity. It’s pure magic when they’re together. Even when they’re separated by glass. And that scene was everything it was hyped to be and more. And knowing that this might be the last time we get an interaction between them for six weeks is excruciatingly torturous. But it’s again a reminder that we’re getting something we’ve wanted for so long: Married Olicity facing the world. This is no doubt the hardest challenge they’ve faced, but they’ve already proven their love can survive anything. Even a prison storyline.
Life After Team Arrow
Oh, that’s right. Some other things happened in this episode other than Oliver’s prison regiment, Felicity being a badass, and Oliver and Diggle feels. I just don’t care about the others. But I guess I’ll recap…
- Diggle is still working for ARGUS and wasn’t that big a factor in this episode (Arrow, how did you let this happen?)
- Dinah is now the police captain (how the hell did that happen?)
- Black Siren is now the District Attorney (how the hell did that happen?)
- Curtis is working with ARGUS (how did Diggle let that happen?)
- Rene is trying to break the vigilante rules and throw away Oliver’s sacrifice (of course this happened.)
Yep, that about covers it.
The New Green Arrow
They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So Oliver can take kindly to that while he sits in prison there’s someone else posing as the Green Arrow in Star City. Now, the immediate thought that comes to mind is….ROY HARPER IS BACK, BITCHES.
And I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but come on…ROY HARPER IS BACK, BITCHES.
This Green Arrow resembles old school Arrow back in the whole “you have failed this city” days. The dude even says as much as he’s taking out baddies in his own list. HE HAS A LIST Y’ALL. That part is a tad confusing — why would Roy have a list? Unless he’s trying to help out before he gets back to his girl, Thea — but who else could this new Arrow be? This is in the present, so it’s not William. How else does Roy become a big part of this season?
I’m impatient here. Just give me Roy Harper, y’all.
THAT FLASH FORWARD !!
One of the signature marks of Arrow for the first five seasons were flashbacks that told the story of Oliver’s journey to becoming the Green Arrow. Even when some of the flashback years didn’t stick, it was still a staple. Something we came to expect. We knew the beginning and the final present destination, but we never knew what happened in the middle. The flashbacks filled the gaps.
Since Arrow was planned as a five-year story, Oliver’s story had been told and the flashbacks were done. But as Beth Schwartz takes over as showrunner, she seems to be adding her own twist to this new chapter of Arrow: Flashforwards.
Early on in the episode, we saw a mystery man taking a boat — in a storm eerily like the one that wrecked the Queen’s Gambit many years earlier — to Lian Yu. But who was this man? Could it be William? Could this be a flash forward? Or was this another flashback?
Turns out, it was a flash forward, which has me giddy excited for the potential that flash forwards are being brought into the mix. Imagine the possibilities!
But, wait, wait…I’ve got questions. Mostly one very important one:
Didn’t Prometheus blow up Lian Yu? Are we just going to pretend that didn’t happen? And if we’re going to start pretending like things didn’t happen, I have a laundry list about this long of things I’d like to pretend didn’t happen. Starting with season 5.
Anyway. How is Lian Yu still in tact? And how is Robert Queen’s makeshift wooden headstone not burnt to a crisp? I mean if we’re pretending Lian Yu wasn’t blown up, just tell me now.
“You knew my father.”
ROY HARPER. WILLIAM. WHAT IS HAPPENING?!
Wait, is Oliver dead? No, no. I refuse to believe that. Perhaps it’s a play on words or a play on the situation at hand. Since this is Roy, then perhaps he and Oliver haven’t seen each other in awhile. Perhaps William is speaking in a way that’s like “you knew my father” as in “knew once before.” Hell, I’ll keep stretching. Because Oliver is not dead.
Also, an important question: ARE WE GOING TO GET MORE FLASH FORWARDS?! Perhaps involving other characters — characters we haven’t met?!
This is Arrow’s best flash forward since that season 4 grave scene where we were all flipping our shit.
Arrow airs Mondays at 8/7c on The CW.