Review: Arrow 7×01 – “Inmate 4587”

[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]

Director: James Bamford

Writers: Beth Schwartz and Oscar Balderrama

Starring: Stephen Amell, Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, Katie Cassidy, Rick Gonzalez, Juliana Harkavy, Colton Haynes, Kirk Acevedo, Michael Jai White, Vinnie Jones, Cody Runnels, Ben Lewis, Echo Kellum, Jack Moore

Summary

While Oliver Queen tries to survive prison life, Team Arrow’s efforts to stay under the radar are upset by the appearance of a new Green Arrow, while Diaz finally catches up to Felicity and William.

Positives

So here we are, Arrow fans, for what promises to be an exciting seventh season. What makes this season so unique is the changing landscape and the status quo. Rather than having them in the bunker trying to figure out how to spring Oliver from jail for the past five months, Team Arrow has been effectively dismantled and gone their own way: Diggle and Curtis are in ARGUS, Dinah is SCPD Captain, Rene is teaching kids in the Glades boxing, Laurel is DA (uhm, what?), and Felicity and William are in witness protection. The passage of time works in that it establishes all the main players in new environments and situations so that when the viewer is let in, it keeps the audience on their feet. It keeps them engaged through speculation and guessing.

When Oliver Queen was exposed and incarcerated last season, it gave the viewers the impression that when cameras were turned back on for season seven, it would be a whole different ball game, and they were right. Amell portrays a man trying to keep the monster within at bay with precision. Oliver’s routine – wake up, work out, stretch his legs, lunch, shower, work out some more, reading, cross off another day, lights out, and repeat – is designed to keep him in check. It’s only when anomalies both behind bars and outside is his hand forced.

Retaining Ricardo Diaz as the main villain was a brilliant strategy on the part of the writers because keeping him as a guest would’ve been a waste of the storyline. His fleshed out backstory last year was complimented by Acevedo’s performance and made for a worthy adversary that – like this year – came out of nowhere. Rickards’ post-Diaz performance with Stephen in the prison scene conveyed as it should: a woman who has lost everything and is tired of being the victim. Felicity is a character who has proven her mettle in spite of some traditionalists chastising her presence. Having Emily dye her hair and put in fake piercings was a nod to her Goth roots and was a WTF (as in what the frak given this is a PG website) factor besides her talents being wasted as a barista. Her anger gives Oliver the fire that erupts later on toward Diaz’s goons. Her sequences with Jack show good chemistry as they are both miserable yet trying to make due with their new circumstances.

The arrowhead scene proves to be very relevant in the huge WTF final scene. The appearance of a new Green Arrow and the big reveal of the new flashbacks being time jumps to an adult William and the returned-but-aged-up Colton Haynes as Roy Harper are worthy of the shock factor these curve balls are known for in this series. And that was a hell of a way of reintroducing Arsenal to the show as William’s teacher, and to find him on the now-ruined Lian Yu.

The nods to season one are there in the assembly of William’s weaponry, right down to the lighting and the bare-bones resources. The fact that this links both Barry’s situation in The Flash and Oliver’s future situation (no pun intended) with William is a good parallel that should be explored in mini-crossover events. I look forward to the follow-up to the consequences of Ollie’s actions in jail and Felicity’s decision to get involved.

Negatives

What made the fourth season weak in comparison to its stronger years was the gradual transition from a firm foothold in reality to the inclusion of the mystical. Understandably with the birth of The Flash, metahumans would find their way into Oliver’s world, which would then include DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and the adopted CBS series Supergirl. But seasons five and six were stronger because of their back-to-basics approach of real human antagonists while still balancing out the presence of metahumans like Black Siren and Black Canary.

With the appearance of William as the future Green Arrow, this goes into time travel territory. It’s unclear as to whether this was a good move or not; there is some speculation that there needed to be a time jump if this was to be the final season. However, having Oliver’s future son in the present day continuing his father’s crusade yanks the show back into the science fiction territory. If the writers are going to succeed with this year, they have to tone down the time travel implications and focus more on the father-son dynamic. It’s the normal stories of relationships behind the superheroics that provided the foundations of this show.

Then there is the repetition of behaviors such as in the case of Rene, aka Wild Dog. Out of all of Team Arrow members last year, he had the most to lose and that is what Watson used as leverage to rat Oliver Queen out to the feds. Now we have him billed again as the weak link in the immunity agreement a hair away from again ruining the feeling of stability. The very fact he reaped the rewards of aiding Green Arrow II’s escape shows the writers are once again using Rene as the red herring if things don’t go their way.

Crucial questions from the season premiere also lead to some unlikely situations that need explanations. For example, how did Laurel Lance of Earth-2, a career criminal with no law degree, wind up the District Attorney? Or Dinah the captain of the SCPD? These are huge promotions where only one has the credentials. Minor gripes include the epic fight at the end and why there was no blood spilt from the guy when Ollie was busted open twice this episode. And as to the “Count of Monte Cristo” hardcover, prop guys, I have a copy that is as thick as a bible; unless Oliver has the graphic novel version, put a few extra pages in for thickness.

Verdict

The action was solid and the grounding was there as well, and the shock factor was back in the plot twists. It’s just the time travel aspect that has to be downplayed, otherwise it’s in competition with the rest of the Arrowverse. Amell and Rickards were on their A-game this week. It’s the placement of Dinah and Laurel on high ranking positions set up for a collision that is too predictable and not plausible without some explanation. Other than that, this is a strong start to the season and I look forward to episode 2.

 

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Jay

I'm an Ontario-based news writer, as well as graphic illustrator with his own commission business. I've been a comic collector since I was ten and have enjoyed the lore of these larger than life figures ever since. I graduated with an HBA from the University of Toronto in Humanities and have worked for both local and online news outlets.