'Arrow' Season 7 Episode 1: The Whole Flashforward Thing, Explained

An old plot device brings new life

This analysis contains spoilers for Arrow Season 7 episode 1, "Inmate 4587."

Arrow Season 7 almost feels like a new show. The premiere starts off with Oliver Queen, formerly the Green Arrow, in prison. He's not doing so hot; he gets the crap beat out of him multiple times, at one point, he's naked and humiliated. He shows some strength in the final moments when he learns Felicity sends William to boarding school. He decides it's a good idea to attack a prison bully with a gym weight. Great decision, Ollie. I'm sure that'll pay off (best scene of the premiere, though. Stephen Amell's WWE training shines through here.)

The episode introduces three new stories in Dinah Drake, Wild Dog and Felicity while Oliver's away in jail. (He's been there five months, by the way.) Wild Dog is teaching boxing to kids in the Glades. Quite an admirable task, but he's fed up with the rising Star City crime rate and believes the lives of the neighborhood's kids' are at stake. This proves to be a point of tension between he and Dinah Drake, who is killing it as police detective. She's particularly motivated to do good as a cop now that Team Arrow's broken up.

arrow season 7 flashforwards future william
"Arrow" was known for its flashbacks, but now it's doing flashforwards. CW

The episode doesn't show much of Dig, who now appears to be working at ARGUS along with Curtis. Felicity, on the other hand, is now a barista with pink hair. She gets the pleasure of having the first run-in with Ricardo Diaz this season, who breaks into she and William's bunker and tries to murder them both. ARGUS arrives just in time. How Diaz escapes isn't shown on screen, but he probably linked up with his villainous team, Longbow Hunters, set to debut some point this season (hopefully sooner than later, because Diaz's agenda is quite dry right now).

But none of this was really why Arrow felt fresher than in the previous three seasons. Showrunner Beth Schwartz did God's work by re-introducing a plot device that made Arrow one of the best shows of its time: flashbacks, or in Season 7's case, flash-forwards. The iconic "island" flashbacks concluded in Season 5 when Oliver's escape from Lian Yu was finally shown on-screen.

future william on lian yu arrow season 7 ben lewis flashforwards
Ben Lewis as future William on "Arrow" Season 7. CW

Halfway through the episode, a young man boards a fishing boat. "You paid me a lot of money to do very stupid things," a guide says, who directs the boat to Lian Yu. That's where Oliver Queen was stranded after his father's yacht sank in the pilot episode. It's where Oliver honed all is skills to become the Green Arrow. It's where Oliver found his father's list of bad names, and why he vowed to protect Star City from those very people, crossing them off his list one by one.

The young man, who we learn is William 20 years in the future, seeks out someone on this island. It's none other than Roy Harper, Oliver's first archer mentee, hiding out on Lian Yu for some reason, clad in his red Arsenal costume and everything. The first thing Roy asks is, Who sent you?" implying he's not on Lian Yu for vacation. William holds up a family heirloom, and Roy realizes it's Oliver's son.

william future lian yu flashforwards arrow season 7
Oliver has passed this heirloom down through generations. CW

Why William is seeking out Roy remains unclear, but it does seems like the first time they've met, at least as adults. William says, "You knew my father," implying is dead, missing or in prison 20 years from now. Quite the way to end a premiere. All in all, an old plot device breathes new life to a series that's struggled to find stable footing since the death of Black Canary.

Side notes:

-Felicity not dying versus Richard Dragon is hard to believe (especially knowing who he's based on in the comic books), but she's clearly learned a few things over the years.

-Who's Stanley? Oliver's super mean for letting him get beat up.

-William saw Robert Queen's grave on Lian Yu from the pilot episode. Awesome callback.

-Who is the guy in the boat who dropped William on the island?

-What's up with the guy Felicity helps at the coffee shop?