The superhero shows that make up the Arrowverse now account for basically half of The CW's entire programming schedule, but it all started back in 2012 with the premiere of the namesake Arrow, and the series that started it all is still going strong.
Over six seasons, Arrow has changed a lot. It began as a street-level superhero show, drawing more than a few comparisons to Batman Begins in the early days. In the years since, several additional superheroes have joined a seemingly ever-expanding Team Arrow, and together they've faced baddies that have ranged from magical monsters to near-immortal assassins. Oh yeah, and he's also fought alt-universe Nazi doppelgängers and aliens. Put simply, there's an insane amount of canon that's developed over the half-decade the show has been on the air.
All that material can be intimidating if you're looking to jump into — or back into — the series this far into its run. Despite all that material, this show also borrows one key trait from its comic book counterpart — its fairly easy to jump into with minimal background and still have some fun along the way. With Season 7 premiering this week, its the perfect time to catch back up with The CW's OG superhero tale. Especially if you're already a fan of its spinoffs, such as Flash or Legends of Tomorrow.
OLIVER QUEEN IS THE GREEN ARROW
Though the name of the show dropped the "Green," Oliver Queen is indeed the Green Arrow, having developing the skill set after spending a few years shipwrecked on an island and traveling around during an assortment of adventures before eventually coming back to his home of Star City. Oliver was first inspired to become a hero to redeem his late father's legacy, using a notebook of his dad's old shady contacts as a hit list of folks who have "failed this city." Over the years, he developed an exceptional set of skills in archery and hand-to-hand combat he uses to dispense all that justice. He wears a dark green outfit, accented by a hoodie (sorry, no Bat-ears here), to hit the streets.
Getting back to those Batman comparisons, Oliver Queen has also lost pretty much all of his family along the way. His father died in the boat crash that marooned him; his mother was killed by an enemy; his best friend was killed in an accident caused by an enemy; his first love and eventual crime-fighting partner, Black Canary, was killed by an enemy; and so on. All he has left is his sister, Thea, though she's expected to be MIA most of the season and might only show up for a guest spot or two.
HE'S IN JAIL (AT LEAST FOR NOW)
The big plot twist at the end of Season 6 found Oliver forced to confess publicly that he's the Green Arrow, which landed him under arrest and headed to prison to start Season 7. Yeah, that's right — the main hero is actually in jail at the moment. Oliver obviously won't stay in prison forever, but the plot point certainly looks to carry into the first several episodes, as Oliver grapples with his time behind bars, as well as the fact that his secret identity is no longer a secret.
Even when he gets out, there's still the fact that the whole world knows Oliver Queen is the Green Arrow. What that means for Season 7, at this point, is anyone's guess.
HE'S MARRIED AND HAS A SON
Most of Oliver's family might be dead, but that doesn't mean there's not a supporting cast. Far from it. This one is a bit of a curveball for comic fans, but the small screen version of Oliver Queen is married to the character Felicity Smoak. In the comics, Dinah "Laurel" Lance is typically the love of Oliver's life. It started out that way in the show, too, but the writers couldn't stop the chemistry between Oliver and Felicity so they eventually tied the knot last season in a crossover event. This relationship has made for plenty of angst over the past six years, but heading into Season 7, they look to be on solid footing. So, expect a semi-healthy relationship.
But, that's not all — Oliver also has a son. He learned in recent years that a fling before he was shipwrecked actually led to the birth of a son, William, who is now bordering on around 13 years old. William lived with his mother, but he was eventually kidnapped by a villain and used as leverage against Oliver last season. The encounter ended with William's mother being killed, so he moved in with Papa Green Arrow last season. It's been a tricky transition, but for a show getting long in the tooth, seeing Oliver tackle fatherhood actually made for some great narrative material. William is obviously still around, so look for more fatherhood drama to come.
HE HAS HIS OWN SUPERHERO TEAM (OR AT LEAST HE DID)
It might not have the expansive cast of something like Legends of Tomorrow, but don't let the singular title fool you — Arrow still features plenty of superheroes. A major plot point in recent years found Oliver recruiting new heroes to take up the cause and training them into a super-team. That all imploded last season, with the two teams turning against one another over trust issues, but the key point here is that Star City is not hurting for masked heroes. There's John Diggle, aka Spartan; Curtis Holt, aka Mr. Terrific; Rene Ramirez, aka Wild Dog; Dinah Drake, aka Canary; and a few more that have come and gone over the years. One big addition this year will be the return of Roy Harper, aka Arsenal, who left the show a few seasons ago but will be back as a series regular for Year 7. No word on exactly how he'll fit in, but expect him to suit up sooner rather than later.
With Oliver starting the season off in jail, expect for some of those other heroes to pick up the slack. Both Roy and Diggle have suited up as the Green Arrow in Oliver's absence, so it stands to reason one of them could fill the void while he's behind bars.
THE LONGBOW HUNTERS ARE COMING
Like most superhero and genre adventure shows dating back to the days of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Arrow also follows the "Big Bad" formula from season-to-season. This year, the Green Arrow will be dealing with a whole team of baddies called the Longbow Hunters. One member of the group, Ricardo Diaz, was the main villain in Season 6. The story ended with Diaz still on the loose, and he's calling in some bad guy back-up in Season 7. Enter the Longbow Hunters. The line-up includes the precision killer Red Dart (Holly Elissa), the massively strong Kodiak (Michael Jonsson), and the stealthy Silencer (Miranda Edwards).
Though Diaz was certainly menacing in Season 6, he was a hard sell as a solo baddie to carry the entire season. The writers seem to have realized that, as well, hence the introduction of the Longbow Hunters. For comic fans, they're also a fan favorite group of villains, so Team Arrow will hopefully have more than enough evil to keep them busy this fall.
IT'S CONNECTED TO A BUNCH OF OTHER SHOWS
It might be getting a bit long in the tooth now, but make no mistake — Arrow helped kickstart a superhero TV renaissance. The show was a fairly risky proposition when it launched, aiming for a more street-level vibe just a few years after the bright and campy Smallville left the airwaves. But Arrow turned out to be a hit — and before long it spawned the spin-off series The Flash, then Legends of Tomorrow, then the (adjacent, at least for now) Black Lightning and CBS transplant Supergirl (which has crossed over with Arrow, Flash and Legends thanks to the introduction of a small-screen multiverse).
Do you need to understand all that to jump into this season of Arrow? No, not at all. But it's important to at least have a cursory understanding of what's happening out there for when characters and plot lines start to cross over. To put it simply: The Flash features super-powered baddies; Legends of Tomorrow is a team of heroic misfits traveling through time on a spaceship; Supergirl is similar in tone and style to The Flash, just in its own universe except for the occasional crossover; and Black Lightning is a street-level show not dissimilar to the first season of Arrow.
As far as big crossovers are concerned, this year's event will link Arrow, Flash, and Supergirl in a story that will introduce Batwoman to the mix (serving as a backdoor pilot for her own spinoff series). The episode is also expected to deal directly with the multiverse, so just a heads up when you reach that episode in December — it could be a doozie.