Arrow: 7.16 Star City 2040
Flashbacks were a core part of Arrow's storytelling, with season two's narrative on Lian Yu being the most successful yet. But they also became a noose around the show's neck as the years went on, becoming more tired and disconnected from current events before season six abandoned them altogether. Perhaps taking a leaf out of Lost's playbook, the show tried something a little different this year with an exciting flashfoward narrative telling the story of a dystopian Star City in 2040 long after days of team Arrow. These flashforwards have teased thrilling events to come and added greater mystery into the death of Felicity, the roles of the next generation of heroes and the fates of my characters, adding a real momentum to season seven. Previous seasons devoted an entire episode to the flashback timeline and this year we get the same with an episode focused (and titled) entirely around Star City 2040.
There was certainly a lot packed in, starting with a sequence showing Mia growing up with Felicity. Despite being there for the birth, Oliver was absent from the rest of the episode, hinting perhaps that his fate may be tied to the events of next season's final 10-episode run. With some nifty training under assassin godmother Nyssa Al'Ghul, she quickly grew into the fierce young woman we have come to know over the last few weeks. It wasn't made clear why Felicity and Mia were living in virtual isolation, but Mia being made to hate vigilantes was obviously a [failed] attempt to protect her from her parent's world.
Discovering that her mother was still working as Overwatch from a secret room, we saw Mia travel to Star City, taking her up to the current narrative as she and William made it across the wall into the Glades. The first act of the episode was more concerned with raising questions than answering them, but things got really interesting once they teamed up with John Diggle's adopted son Connor Hawke to go up against new villain, evil billionaire Kevin Dale (Raj Paul). There was some great spy drama with a hint of who William really was, the CEO of another successful company, using his name to get a meeting with Dale while Mia used her skills to steal Dale's DNA and break into the lower levels of the facility.
Arrow has always delivered some impressive fight sequences and this episode offered plenty. The discovery of Felicity, still alive and Dale's prisoner and the timely arrival of adult Zoe / Black Canary Zoe, Roy and Dinah offered some big reunions and conflict, particularly between Mia and estranged mother Felicity. There was also some further patental conflict between Zoe and father Rene, who came across as a fool in believing that Dale's plan to bomb Star City ansd rebuild would be done without casualties. Now that Rene knows the truth and is still in the inside, there is hope for a redemptive arc as then narrative progresses.
There was a lot to digest even after the exciting final attempt to stop Dale and the masked ball and stop the bombs from being activated. Felicity, Dinah and Roy are now on the run, though Mia and Felicity have reconnected and Rene is getting dangerously close to being discovered by Dale. The jump back to the present and Felicity's creation of the Archer program is another big step towards the dystopian future.
The future narrative continues to give the season the energy it needs, but there is also a sense that we have seen some of these themes before; the bombing of Star City is strikingly similar to Malcolm Merlyn's destruction of the Glades in season one. It also makes it abundantly clear that the present day settings haven't perhaps had quite the same energy or direction, not since Oliver's release from prison. But I'm hoping the stakes in the future will now be reflected in the rest of the season. With just six episodes left, there's a lot to get through and it certainly doesn't look to be a happy ending...