Arrow’s seventh season has brought with it an intriguing twist on a familiar trope for the long-running show. Instead of flashing back in increasingly outlandish ways to everything Ollie did being “stuck” on Lian Yu or hanging out in Russia, it’s flashing forward to show his son William all grown up. And I’m almost more intrigued by that than I am the storyline taking place in present time.
That’s not to say the actual storyline Arrow is dealing with is bad so far. In fact, “The Longbow Hunters” managed to handle the unenviable task of having to balance its disparate plot threads and separated cast pretty well while introducing us to the titular Longbow Hunters—a group from DC Comics first teased last season and now operating under Diaz’s purview for some sinister superbattery-based shenanigans. There’s a lot going on in this episode—Oliver’s story while he’s in prison, Felicity and Diggle butting heads about taking down Diaz, and even some great moments of the closest thing Dinah and Laurel 2: The Laurelening are probably going to have to reconciliation over the whole “whoops, murdered your partner” thing.
But, we also now get flash-forward time with Adult William and Old Man Arsenal (well, as much as you can make Colton Haynes look “old” by having him grow some facial hair). And with the initial shock of the reveal that we’re getting a glimpse 20-odd years into the future out of the way, we’re starting to learn enough intriguing things about where William, Roy, and Star City are at. Mainly, we learn that Roy has cut himself off from his past entirely (who could’ve guessed that, from the mopey dude secluded on a mysterious island?), bristling at even the mere mention of Thea by William.
He’s not the only one sore over the past, though—William reveals that Oliver and Felicity seemingly vanished at some point in his life, leaving him riddled with the emotional turmoil most wannabe comic book superheroes almost have to have (“And my ex-boyfriend wonders why I have commitment issues,” William jokes, a small but pleasant revelation for everyone that isn’t William or William’s ex-boyfriend). Which is good, because it turns out Felicity not-so-subtly guided William to Lian Yu to seemingly follow in his father’s footsteps after a begrudging Roy leads William—who has never shot a bow in his life, for probably understandably traumatic reasons when your dad is Oliver Queen—to Oliver’s old gear, and a message that prompts Roy to make a sudden about-face and demand William take him back to Star City.
Are we going to get some training montages soon enough? What could have been in that message that made Roy suddenly so keen to scoop William back up and leave his seclusion? Why did Oliver and Felicity abandon William? What could a young man who’s apparently a billionaire tech genius (he notes he’s been trying to spend his fortune on affordable maglev transit back home to Roy, at one point) have to go through to potentially become the next Green Arrow? Is that even something he’s going to accept? It’s all so unknown and exciting, that I am as eager to learn as much about the future of Arrow as I am to learn it’s going to get out of the troubles of its present.
After Arrow’s flipped and flopped over the last few seasons, feeling like it’s not entirely sure what it wants to be, it’s exciting to have the show feel so re-invigorated and focused out of the gate like this season has been. It’s deftly handling its main story while presenting a potential future for its legacy to move on to, the next generation of attractive young actors wearing oodles of layers of comic-book-themed pleather on the CW.
It’s so far promising enough that I almost wish it had gone a step bolder, presenting Future William and Roy’s story as its present, while having flashbacks to the “past” of Oliver and Felicity’s current Diaz dilemma. That might have blown a few fans’ heads clean off. For now, I’m content to see what glimpses Arrow has in store for this promising look to the future.