Arrow: 7.01 Inmate 4587
Like many TV shows, Arrow has taken its fair share of blows over the last six seasons. Season six especially was a mess; granted it finished strong, thanks to the superb talents of Kirk Acevedo as Ricardo Diaz, but that hardly made up for an entire season of poor storytelling and inconsistent character arc’s. Inmate 4587 is the best apology the show could’ve provided, once again showing that the writing team are not afraid to reinvent the game to make it work, and that they did.
The story starts by showing Oliver Queen who is now in jail, his family in witness protection and the City under continuing attack from a barrage of low level criminality. The events from the previous season didn’t just put Oliver away, but forced the remaining team into retirement. This dynamic, while having an air of familiarity around it, felt very different. Immediately, any annoyances you may have had with characters in the past had gone, wiping the slate clean; honestly, I don’t know how it was achieved but it elevated my viewing experience that’s for sure.
Inmate 4587 really shines whenever it took place within the prison; the atmosphere was amazing and the fight sequences were very well choreographed, getting to see a rugged Oliver, without his gadgets and armour, made for some hard-hitting sequences. While it followed a clichéd path, with Oliver coming into contact with past foes and once again giving him the arc of “I will not fight”, it was executed well, not dragged out and concluded to perfection. Stephen Amell can do no wrong at this stage, even in a bad episode he shines as either Oliver, or his alter ego, the conflict of wanting to reduce his sentence with good behaviour vs wanting to help the helpless was excellent, the performance captured that beautifully.
While the story is exciting and engaging when involving Oliver, anything outside the prison fails in comparison. The relationship between Felicity and William is fine, though the character progressions are very sudden; they’ve gone from having everything to nothing which at times felt a little forced. The return of Diaz was both welcome and unnecessary, again everything happened suddenly, and his character came from nowhere when he was thought to be dead. I suppose the shock factor worked well but his appearance to kill Felicity was confusing, as it was only a few scenes earlier that a dream sequence depicted the same thing; silly nit-pick but still irritating.
The remaining characters, Diggle, Rene, Dinah and Curtis served little purpose in this episode. It was a shame to see them take a smaller role in the background but, at the same time, it makes you wonder why they don’t just get rid of them. Their purpose has been served; if the season decides to go back down the root of Team Arrow, bringing them out of retirement, it would just be a re-tread and become mundane, as the last season did. Thankfully, it seems as though the Oliver-in-jail story arc will continue for a few episodes at the very least, which means there’s plenty of time to change the old dynamics for something more unique and invigorating.
Easily the most compelling, teasing and mystifying aspect of this episode was the return of, not only the island (which I assume is Lian Yu in flashback form) but of Roy Harper AKA Arsenal. His brief cameo last season injected some much needed excitement, and the thought of him coming back for a large part of this season fills me with anticipation. The problem with this side-plot is its confusing nature. Throughout the episode we see a masked vigilante helping the needy, which many assume to be the Arrow. I guessed that this would be Roy, but seeing him on the island with an older William makes me believe that these are flash-forwards as opposed to the flash-backs that we’ve become accustomed too. As confusing as this may be, it’s a decent way to shake things up and once again incorporate some originality into the series. I look forward to seeing the explanation for this most of all.
Overall, Inmate 4587 kicks season seven off with a bang. It set the story up nicely, had plenty of teases to keep you interested, brought back well-choreographed fight sequences and has dramatically changed aspects to set a faster pace. It may not be without its problems, with respect to the supporting cast and potentially confusing timeline issue, but hey, it’s the first episode and almost made up for the poor previous season. If it either gives lesser characters more to do or simply remove them from the main roster, and concentrate heavily on Oliver’s story in jail, this could shape up to be the best season yet.