Under new showrunner Beth Schwartz, Arrow is having a bit of a resurgence on the CW. Typically as a series ages, the viewership numbers trend downward, which has been true for Arrow… until this seventh season. On average, Arrow season seven is up between 3% and 4% in both total viewership and in the coveted 18-49 year old demos over season six.
Maybe you missed the boat (to Lian Yu) on the first-half of this season and want to get caught up now that next fall's crossover has already been announced. Perhaps you're just looking for a quick refresher before the series returns next month. No matter the case, we've got what you need in order to jump right in when Arrow returns from the mid-season break on Monday, January 21 on the CW.
Season seven opens with Oliver behind bars. Remember, he turned himself over to the FBI without consulting anyone else on the team in order to assure them immunity from prosecution. Initially, Oliver tries to keep his head down and profile low, but he just can't suppress the urge to help others.
As is pointed out a number of times throughout the season, prison has changed Oliver, giving him some much needed perspective. Before, he always saw the world in absolute terms. Someone was either evil or good, wrong or right, black or white. Prison has shown him that the world exists in shades of gray. People can be both right and wrong. There is both good and evil inside everyone, and they shouldn't be judged on outward appearance and impressions alone.
The idea of Oliver's legacy and the continuing cycle of violence crop up again this season with more intensity and urgency than in seasons past (think season five's Prometheus storyline). Questions of how Oliver's choices do and will affect his son William in particular and Star City in general become a focus for the season's B-side story.
The mid-season finale has Oliver not only out of prison but working as a contract consultant with the SCPD. Some feel that seeing Oliver in this role will give hope to the citizens. Others feel that the decision further deteriorates the police department and city government in the public's eyes.
No More Half-Measures
The two people most impacted by Oliver's decision are Felicity and William, who begin the season in witness protection. That doesn't stop Diaz from finding and attacking the two in their safe house. Like Oliver, Felicity is no longer content to keep a low profile. She sends William away to boarding school and goes on the offensive in an effort to take down Diaz, who has the "haven't we seen this before" plan to blow up Star City, and to free Oliver.
While we've seen Felicity make moral compromises in order to get the job done, her past teaming with hacktivist group Helix has taken Felicity to darker places this season. She willingly lets those she's partnered with on missions – such as FBI Agent Watson and Russian mob boss Anatoly Knyazev – take a beating or blame for failure while Felicity chased her own goals.
Felicity is told by Laurel and Anatoly that she has to be willing to go all the way and do whatever it takes to stop Diaz. Felicity is ready to kill a captured Diaz, only putting the gun down when she's told that a living Diaz is needed to secure Oliver's release.
The change in Felicity has created tension in her marriage to Oliver. Felicity refuses to let him dictate morals to her when she has only done what he has from the start of the series — survive.
Keeping Secrets Always Works Out for the Best
With Oliver locked away and the anti-vigilante laws being taken seriously (sort of), Diggle joins Lyla at ARGUS. In her anger and frustration, Felicity accuses Diggle of giving up on the Green Arrow's mission to save the city. Diggle says after six seasons of this, he's seen the toll being the Green Arrow has taken on every relationship Oliver has had since returning to Star City – and he doesn't want that for himself, Lyla, or their son.
However, even Diggle's moral compass is a little skewed this season. When Lyla uncovers a suspicious amount of illegal money changing hands, Diggle joins his wife in investigating the issue off the books – which forces he and Lyla to go to Diaz for help. The two keep their investigation a secret from the rest of the team. While Diggle has learned the cost of being a vigilante in the past six-plus years, he hasn't yet learned the price of keeping secrets from those you care about.
While our protagonists are making compromises, one of our former antagonists is trying to make amends for her past transgressions. So far this season, Earth-2 Laurel — now just Laurel — has apologized to Dinah for killing Vigilante last season, has become Felicity's BFF while Oliver was behind bars, stopped Felicity from killing Diaz, and worked to free Oliver from prison. She is trying hard to be the person that her not-father Quentin told her she could be before he died to protect Laurel last season.
The Junior Varsity Squad
After Oliver decided to take one for the team, Dinah went to work restoring the police department's reputation. She strictly enforces the anti-vigilante law – which puts her in conflict with Rene. Rene works at a youth gym in the Glades and sees first-hand the toll the city's crime has on its youngest and most innocent. When a new Green Arrow starts fighting crime in the city, Rene sees it as a sign of hope for the city while Dinah wants to catch the imposter.
Like Diggle, Curtis has experienced enough trauma and seen even more in the lives of others to continue the vigilante gig – so like Diggle, he joins ARGUS. What he thinks is just a desk job turns into more when Diggle and Lyla need Curtis's skills and expertise in the field. There seems no way the former Olympian can walk away from a life in the crosshairs.
Since the series's premiere, Arrow has drawn comparison — fairly or not — to another show about people shipwrecked on a mystical and mysterious island that employed character-centric flashbacks as a narrative device. Like ABC's LOST, there came a point in the series when flashbacks were neither a useful nor viable storytelling device. For Arrow, that was at the end of season five when Oliver's "five years in hell" flashbacks caught up to his five years back in Star City.
Following in LOST's footsteps, Arrow has decided to embrace flash-forwards as a way to attempt to build tension in the current storyline. The B-side of season seven deals with William going to Lian Yu and meeting Old Man Roy twenty years in the future. The pair dig up Oliver's old bow and return to Star City, even though both have stated that they'd never return to the city because… reasons.
Back in Star City, the two partner with Dinah – who has turned vigilante again – and Rene's daughter Zoey to figure out why they have been summoned back. The two decades between the current story and the future story have seen the Glades walled off and the border patrolled by the Star City police. The group of future fighters follow the trail of breadcrumbs, with apparently the now-dead Felicity (or is she?) has left them to uncover a plot to blow up the Glades.
People on this show really don't like the Glades.
What have you thought of the first half of Arrow season 1? Let us know in the comments below!