One things’s for sure — Arrow is certainly not looking to rest on its laurels. There’s a lot to unpack in this episode, but we should probably start with the monster twist and work backward from there.
Spoilers ahead for “Inmate 4587,” the Season 7 premiere of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Monday, Oct. 15, 2018.
Well, we really didn’t see that coming. In a throwback to the first five seasons, the “flashback” scenes return this week to reveal a mysterious young man making a perilous trip to what appears to be Lian Yu. We track his journey to the island, then his trip inland as he stumbles upon a trap and winds up dangling upside down. Turns out, these weren’t flashbacks at all — they were flash-forwards. That mystery man was a grown-up William (Oliver’s teenage son). He also wasn’t seeking out Oliver Queen on that island — it was a bearded Old Man Roy Harper.
This is, obviously, a lot to process. The show has never dabbled in time travel or flash-forwards before, so the move is one heck of a shock. It also explains why they’ve kept Roy’s Season 7 story arc under wraps, since it would’ve given away the big twist. Arrow showrunner Beth Schwartz says they plan to keep these flash-forwards in place for the entire season, so Future Roy’s arc will be a key part of the show moving forward. What that means is anyone’s guess.
It also brings about some much bigger questions — like might we see some time travel this season? Is that mysterious new archer Future William? Or Future Roy? Is that subplot connected to these flash-forwards? Right now it's all conjecture, and a time-travel story would certainly be a major leap for what has traditionally been a very grounded series (though it's worth noting both Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have made time travel a bread-and-butter staple at this point, so it’s not crazy to at least consider). But best guess? The future arc (much like the flashbacks of years past) will tell a story that connects back to the present in surprising ways. In this case, likely informing how William winds up searching out Old Man Roy in the first place (as well as why in the world he’s on Lian Yu).
Back to the present
Oliver’s tenure in prison is going about as poorly as expected, as he’s being targeted by several rogues he helped put behind bars back when he was still wearing the hood. It made for an interesting progression to see Oliver at least try to keep his head down only to realize he’ll always be a hero — regardless of whether he’s in prison, free, or anywhere else. It’s clear the months he’s spent in prison have taken a toll emotionally and physically (it’s also inspired a beard that should make any comic fans proud). Not to mention the fact that, after bringing the pain to his assailants in the yard, Oliver’s probably earned himself no sympathy when it comes to getting his sentence reduced.
As for the rest of disparate Team Arrow, we got a glimpse at the new status quo in Star City. Dinah has been promoted to police captain, and has seemingly become more comfortable with the city’s anti-vigilante laws. She wants to save the city from her role in the Star City PD. She’s a stark contrast to Rene, whose bird's-eye view of low-income life in the Glades working at a local community center has made it clear just how much the city needs a few heroes to fill in the gaps left by the police. Curtis has also done well for himself, spending the off season landing a gig as head of R&D at Argus, working alongside Diggle.
Felicity has spent the summer in witness protection (working as a pink-haired barista) with William, though that is blown up when lingering big bad Diaz tracks them down and nearly kills them. The encounter inspires Felicity to finally fight back, so she seemingly will be moving back to Star City to resume her life, while William is being sent to a boarding school in England to keep him as far away from the action as possible (and likely off the show’s radar for a while, if we had to guess).
There’s also the question of the mystery archer, who has shown up seemingly sporting some Green Arrow gear and working from a list not unlike the one that Oliver had with him when he first returned to Star City seven years ago. The guy certainly has the Green Arrow skill set, and it’ll be interesting to see who exactly has stepped into this void. Is it someone we know? A new character? Could this be modern-day Roy (with a story that might eventually set up his Lian Yu exile?) At this point, we just have more questions than answers.
With Oliver still clearly behind bars, it’ll be interesting to see just how long they keep this prison storyline going. It’s something both Arrow and Flash have done before, so it’s obviously not treading any truly fresh territory. That said, it is giving the rest of the cast a chance to stake out some of the A-story focus, so hopefully they can continue to find a good balance between those elements moving forward.
Next week: The episode title says it all: “The Longbow Hunters.” We have Felicity determined to find Diaz, Oliver teaming with an old enemy, and almost certainly a few more layers peeled off that Old Man Roy onion.