This season of Arrow has introduced some pretty amazing story elements and devices thus far. Black Siren’s redemption arc, the new Green Arrow mystery, and Oliver now working publicly with the SCPD as the Green Arrow have all helped keep this show fresh while still giving off the Season 1 and 2 vibe. Though despite these highlights, there have been a few major drawbacks; and whereas I could go on and on about how we’re STILL dealing with Ricardo Diaz almost a Season and a half later…. that’s not the problem I want to address.
This season’s biggest change has been the reversal of the series’ iconic Flashback formula. With all of Oliver’s ‘5 Years in Hell’ already told, the only real place to go with time hops – aside from the random flashbacks of other characters – is forward. Time skips can be a lot of fun and really enticing as the season becomes less about ‘where they’re going’ and more about ‘how they get there’. That being said, they can also cause underlying problems, which is precisely the situation Arrow Season 7 is finding itself in.
So What’s The Problem? – Time Skips & Meaningless Sacrifices:
Some of you might already see where I’m going with this, but in case you don’t, I’ll explain. The moments the flash-forwards brought us back to Star City, something soured in this story. Whereas it’s great seeing how William and Zoey grew up, it comes at a huge price. The Star City of the future is an absolute mess. The Vigilante law is still in effect, crime is worse than ever as lawlessness just seems to be the new norm and we keep hearing of an “it” that went down in the past. Yes, it’s intriguing to figure out where everything went wrong and what is about to cause the dystopian future the remnants of Team Arrow finds itself in; but at what cost?
If Star City is truly that bad in the future, then every single sacrifice Oliver and the team ever made – or are about to make – is all for nothing. Every battle, every loss, every decision was for nothing and ultimately proven wrong. This is also partly why I don’t care for Ricardo Diaz as a major villain. His only power seems to be the ability to point out that EVERYONE is corruptible. And these flash-forwards keep that same theme by showing human nature is ultimately doomed to fail. Goodness is fleeting, but chaos and lawlessness is eternal. Why should we care about the lengths Team Arrow will go to in order to ‘save their city’ if we already know it’s doomed to failure. No matter what happens, our characters won’t get a ‘happy ending’ – not even Roy and Thea apparently, who were the closest we had gotten up until now.
Complications – The Nature of Arrow:
So how can the show fix this? Well, it’s surprisingly complicated for a series that is known to exist with changeable timelines. We’ve seen The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow avert disastrous timelines, but this isn’t them. This is Arrow. Team Arrow doesn’t know the future that is coming so they don’t know how to change it. This was all confirmed in an interview with Collider where Executive Producer Beth Schwartz spoke about the nature of these flash-forwards. To be fair though, she didn’t explicitly say the future WOULDN’T change in the interview, but would the alternative be much better?
Let’s say they could somehow change the future in the past without knowing their futures. That would mean that all of these flash-forward sequences would be a waste a time – basically a dream sequence. Though at that point, what’s more important: flash-forwards that were all for nothing or an entire series that was all for nothing? If this was the path the show was going to take, it’d have to shift focus on what the flash-forwards are meant to achieve while still making the time spent meaningful.
Solution – The Watershed Moment / The Importance of Choice:
What if the flash-forwards are less about telling us where they’re heading and more about filling in the blanks of the present? Remember how the old flashbacks told us how Oliver learned certain skills/ got to where he is (aka how his past affected the present)? Well what if the flash-forwards are simply to show us what choices are going to arise and the effects they’ll have. It’s a subtle difference and is probably best explained with an example.
Say the flash-forwards reveal that Character A made a certain decision in the past and that’s partly why things are so messed up in the future. Character A hasn’t made this choice in the present yet, but we know it’s coming. This paints the season in terms of seeing how/ why Character A would make that choice; but then in the final moments of the season they choose a different option – thus changing the future. If the writers paired this build up with an equally big build up in the flash-forwards, the result could actually be quite powerful!
Imagine this: It’s the season finale and the flash-forwards are getting more dire with each passing glimpse. Meanwhile in the present, Character A is about to come upon that major choice already hinted at in prior flash-forwards. This time however, Character A decides something different and we see the flash-forward cast fade out because destiny has been changed. Considering how many times we heard this season – and in the crossover – that Oliver becoming kinder and seeing the ‘gray areas’ makes him a better hero, this would be the perfect way to LITERALLY show this in show. The future created by same old Oliver (current flash-forwards) vs the new more open-minded Oliver (future yet to be seen). Yes the current flash-forwards would still end up being similar to a dream sequence, but they’d have a massive purpose in showing the power of one decision! Problem solved!
Now there is a slightly different path this theory could take – or rather a slower one. This other theory would also involve the future being changed by a choice/ sacrifice, but it would take two seasons to tell. I’d go into it now, but it involves me explaining an entirely different theory first – and I’ve rambled on enough as it is. So perhaps I’ll save that for another article.
But what do you think? Have you also pondered these things or did I just give you something to think about as we head into the second half of Arrow Season 7? Whatever happens, I’m curious to see what the writers will do! Arrow returns to the CW on Monday, January 10th.
Joe primarily covers video games news (i.e.: Pokemon, Spyro & Destiny) as well as the occasional ‘Theory Thursday’ pieces. Before writing for FanFest, Joe was the Creator & Editor of TheInsightfulPanda.com. He is also an illustrator and is currently working on Season 3 of his not-for-profit, fan-art crossover series PokéRangers on Instagram.