This season opens with Oliver in prison (the result of getting the FBI to help with the manhunt for Diaz) attempting to find ways to survive his stay there despite being beset on all sides by former foes. His attempts at passivity are challenged as he attempts to distance himself from the other inmates, including a kind young fan who is drawn into the animosity against Oliver.
The rest of Team Arrow have scattered onto their own, mask-less paths, attempting to make a difference in Star City in a variety of ways. Renee works at a youth center, Dinah has been promoted to Captain, and Curtis and Diggle are both working for Argus. Felicity and William find themselves in witness protection while the hunt for Diaz continues. Even not-Laurel is serving as the District Attorney. All seems to be going mostly well for them in their new lives until a new vigilante arrives wearing a familiar green leather suit and bearing a familiar set of weapons and skills.
Dinah attempts to hunt the vigilante down despite Renee's belief that his appearance in Star City is just what the city needs, and eventually Renee helps this new Green Arrow escape police custody, straining his relationship with Dinah.
Felicity and William struggle to adapt to their new lives and routines until Diaz finally locates and attacks them. Felicity manages to hold off Diaz long enough for William to escape and for Argus to arrive, but while she is being attacked, Oliver is also sent a message in prison stating that Diaz had killed her in the form of an epic naked shower fight. Finally Felicity arrives to tell Oliver that she is alive and that she is sending William to boarding school while she returns to Star City, rejecting witness protection. Oliver responds by abandoning his peaceful prison ways and asserts himself in the yard, savagely beating the man who delivered the message for Diaz.
Before sending William away, Felicity gives him a stone that she claims will keep him connected to his family, which plays into the series of "Flash-Forwards" built into this season as a narrative mechanism. In said sequences, we follow an adult William on his journey to LianYu where he seeks out an older Roy Harper who is living there and wearing the Green Arrow costume.
Under new showrunner, Beth Schwartz, the season is off to a much stronger start than we’ve seen on Arrow in quite some time. Felicity’s fight sequence with Diaz was particularly redeeming, as one of my biggest complaints from last season was the invincibility of Diaz as he fought off all our heroes effortlessly despite his underwhelming background. Felicity delivers probably the most successful beating we’ve seen to date on the villain, showing that the new writers understand how unsatisfying many of his fights were last season.
The flash-forward sequences see the return of the unhinged-in-time narrative parallels that were so famous in the show over the first few seasons. Last season was the only season without flashbacks, although to be fair, they had already fulfilled their purpose and had actually begun to become a hindrance to the story-telling. In the beginning, they served to unsettle the viewers understanding of Oliver and his motivations, but over time became watered down and purposeless. There is a concern that in using flash forwards that the writers could eventually paint themselves into a corner in terms of character development and capacity for shocking moments (we now know that neither Roy nor William are killable), but done carefully, this convention could greatly add to the overall mythos of Arrow.
It would certainly appear that the interloping Green Arrow figure is likely present-day Roy Harper, although it seems to be written as a mystery. In that sense, much of this episode and the groundwork for the season appears to be predictable, but not necessarily in a debilitating way. It is clear that at some point, we’ll see our heroes suit back up, Oliver will get out of prison, and Diaz will be taken down, but none of that is particularly the fault of the current writers, as they are simply playing the hand they’ve been dealt.
If you've moved away from Arrow over the years, it may be time to return, as this season holds a fair amount of promise. With Beth Schwartz at the helm, expectations are high, and she seems poised to deliver.
Arrow: Doin’ Time
- Writing - 8/108/10
- Storyline - 7/107/10
- Acting - 7/107/10
- Music - 8/108/10
- Production - 8/108/10
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