ARROW comes back with an episode full of mysteries. The show heralds in a new season with Oliver behind bars, Team Arrow split up, and the return of dreaded flashbacks. “Inmate 4587” is a good entry point into the season, but if it wants to keep fans invested, it had better provide a couple answers real soon.
Oliver being in prison is a relatively interesting development. However, to the hardcore DC on CW fans, the plot line of a hero behind bars is nothing new. This is a storyline we’ve seen before – with Barry Allen last year, and John Diggle a few years back. The series is at a bit of a disadvantage, trying to pull new stories for its seventh year. What will make this storyline succeed or fail is if it can resolve in a new way. In the meantime, Oliver’s general prison problems aren’t the most interesting, but make a solid entry point for the season.
The sidekick storylines aren’t quite as interesting. Felicity has a semi-interesting storyline protecting William, but her coffee shop suitor isn’t interesting. ARROW staples like Diggle, Laurel, and even Curtis are barely in the episode. Thankfully, the conflict between Rene and Dinah provides a much-needed storyline. Their debate about whether a new Green Arrow is good works for both the episode, and the season at large. The general vigilante debate isn’t new, but how it might affect Oliver makes it important. If only all Oliver’s side characters could shine in Oliver’s absence.
What’s annoying is the role Diaz plays in this episode. The semi big-bad of last season has returned to torment the Queens for another season. How he magically appears at Felicity’s safe house, and whether Oliver’s dreams are actually premonitions, is nearly impossible to say. Diaz never flourished as an ARROW villain because he was essentially Cayden James’ replacement. If this season doesn’t center around him in some way, his return will be little more than a poorly-planned move.
Things are further complicated with the latest Green Arrow… and the fact he may be William? The flashbacks (or flash-forwards?) make it seem like the latest Arrow is an older William. In “Inmate 4587,” the older William ventures to Lian Yu, where he finds Old Man Roy Harper. This twist is confusing, to be sure, but also makes it unclear what to expect. ARROW has usually differentiated itself from other CW shows by being the most grounded, staying away from all the time-travel hootenanny (unlike FLASH). This new Lost Season Four approach makes it unclear what we can expect from the new season.
The question of how much ARROW does or doesn’t revolve around time-travel will be important. That, along with Oliver’s prison time and Diaz’s role could make or break the season. These unknown elements are what bring the score of “Inmate 4587” down. There are just a few too many unknown elements to make this exciting. Especially considering the weak sixth season, one would hope s7 could flip the script more. But is time travel the answer, or going too far? We’ll have to keep watching to know for sure. ARROW keeps us invested… for now.