It’s a great time to be a fan of superheroes, with all the movies and tv shows going. And one of the things that kicked that wave off was the CW’s Arrow, which has spawned several spin-off shows now. Arrow itself returns for a seventh season, starting with Inmate 4587, which is both the episode title and the latest in a long line of aliases for Oliver Queen.
Last season ended with the shocker of Oliver surrendering to the FBI and going to prison (apparently without a trial, since he was found not guilty at the one he had), and that’s where we pick up. Oliver isn’t doing wonderfully well, having nightmares, being very isolated, and dealing with the tired stereotype of cruel, possibly corrupt, prison guard. Oliver is approached by a new, fearful inmate called Stanley, who he brushes off. Oliver also meets some old friends, Bronze Tiger, Brick, and Stardust (apparently now de-powered). It’s not a good time for Oliver, who really should be in some kind of protective custody, but I guess either the writers don’t know that, it wouldn’t make for as good a story, or there’s more behind the scenes corruption/shady dealings going on. Oliver comes up with a clever way of getting at least one of the villains off his back.
A really unpleasant man named Stent has an interesting encounter out on the streets of Star City. A few cops, including Nick Anastas, Curtis Holt’s boyfriend, are leaving the station when they find an unexpected package by one of the cruisers. Back in prison, Oliver is in his cell when the guard comes by to threaten him and then bring him to visitation. Weirdly, while he walks the prison without restraints, Oliver is put in cuffs to go meet with Diggle, which makes no sense at all. Diggle and Oliver catch up, and Diggle is clearly worried about his friend, and how he’s adapting to being behind bars.
Felicity and William are in Witness Protection in Hope Springs, a place that has popped up in the Green Arrow comics before. She’s working at Radu’s Coffee, a place Green Lantern Kyle Rayner favored in the 90’s comics. Felicity, with her pink hair, is now known as Erin, and helps a customer with a computer issue. Stent, the annoying man from an earlier scene, deals with Captain Dinah Drake and Officer Nick Anastas. Aside from seeing Drake got a promotion, we also learn that there have been no vigilantes in Star City for five months, although Stent disagrees.
Rene has given up his hockey mask for sweats as he teaches students, including his daughter Zoe, in a ratty boxing gym. One of his students, Tony, laments the lack of heroes in Star City now, and says Rene should take up his mask again. Tony’s family got robbed last week, and the cops, according to Tony, don’t care about the people in the Glades. Oliver returns to his cell to get threatened by Brick and Derek Samson.
Tony decides to do something dumb, and finds a gun dealer with a really impressive selection in the trunk of his car. He reminds me a bit of Netflix/Marvel’s Turk. Rene steps in to try and stop Tony from getting involved in things he shouldn’t. Things look bad when the dealer recognizes Rene, but very unexpected help arrives in the form of… Green Arrow? Clearly, it’s not Oliver, but whoever it is fights, moves, and shoots as well as Oliver does. The new mystery archer leaves on a line, like Oliver has so many times, with a confused Rene trying to figure out what just happened.
Felicity is back at work, and gets a surprise from the customer she helped. The somewhat awkward scene gets interrupted when Felicity/Erin sees the ever-popular Channel 52 News covering the Green Arrow being back on the streets of Star City. District Attorney “Laurel Lance,” Black Siren’s most successful identity theft, slams the new archer, saying Star City has zero tolerance for vigilantes. Dinah and Rene argue the merits of trying to hunt down the masked man.
Curtis has taken a new job as head of R&D at ARGUS. I guess you can’t keep a small company going with half the workforce in hiding. Diggle is helping Dinah dig into Stent’s affairs to see if they can get a clue about the new Green Arrow, and having Curtis do the computer work. Lyla is conveniently offscreen “helping smooth things over for Diggle.” Rene asks about Oliver, and Diggle answers that Oliver is surviving. Rene helped cause most of this mess and I personally still haven’t forgiven him. They finally get a line on what Stent is up to, and Dinah sets up an operation to deal with him and try to trap the mystery man. Rene isn’t a fan of the second part of this plan.
Stanley once again tries to pester Oliver into helping him, and Oliver again rebuffs him. Brick and Samson try to persuade Oliver into joining them by beating on Stanley. Oliver, surprising everyone, gets up and walks away. Once again, the guards look on as the brutal beating occurs. These guards are either all corrupt or seriously sadistic sons of bitches who shouldn’t have passed the psychological screening to get the job. Once again, the writers demonstrate a serious lack of knowledge about how courts, trials, law enforcement, and the criminal justice system work.
Rene drops in on Dinah at work as she and a huge squad get ready to stake out the weapons deal and see if they can catch the newest Green Arrow. They argue more about whether the new hero is a good thing or not. Rene gives the man a lot of benefit of the doubt, but Dinah points out a potential flaw in his reasoning. Dinah foolishly shared detailed intel with Rene, who says arresting the new guy is a mistake. Dinah counters it’s doing her job. William and Felicity get a brief scene at home where they both miss Star City and Oliver.
Oliver marks off another day in his cell as Stanley limps by and is put in the next cell by a guard. Stanley is a lot less of a Green Arrow fan than he was before, and isn’t interested in Oliver’s explanations. He shares what he was arrested for and makes some really cutting remarks that clearly bother Oliver.
Stent is selling his remaining wares at a greatly discounted rate. His buyer is suspicious, but interested. They just have time to reflect on the differences between crypto-currency and old-fashioned suitcase of money when the Green Arrow shows up and attacks. He’s a very vicious fighter with some nasty toys. The cops close in, and the masked archer runs, getting some help with his escape. Dinah looks up to see a familiar figure on the roof.
Oliver and Felicity wake up in their respective beds and start their days. Felicity gets a very unwelcome visitor and shows she’s picked up a few things from spending several years with heroes. It’s a nasty fight. Oliver gets jumped in the showers and has his own brutal beating. The last of them gives Oliver a terrifying message. Back in his cell, Oliver begs the randomly sadistic guard to let him use the phone. The guard refuses, but brings him to visitation. Oliver’s visitor comes bearing mixed news, making him both relieved and worried about a decision someone made.
Rene surprises his class at the gym with the announcement that they are getting new equipment for the place. Zoe and the others are thrilled to hear about the anonymous donation. Dinah comes in with a different take on things, asking Rene if knows anything about a series of anonymous donations to struggling small businesses in the Glades, the amount of which total up to about what went missing from botched weapons deal the night before. Rene plays dumb, and Dinah warns him that if he does what he did the night before again, she’ll arrest him. Rene is surprised, but Dinah seems quite serious.
William, waiting at ARGUS, gets some news he didn’t want to hear. He gets a token that we saw long ago in the series. Oliver erases the marks on his cell wall and stalks out to the yard. Brick starts his usual taunting greeting to Oliver. Oliver has had enough, and takes very definitive action. It’s a short, brutal scene that, once again, the guards watch and do nothing about. Later, there’s a scene of someone working on some kind of project, and then the still unknown archer showing some similarities to Oliver’s early operating methods.
Flashback Theater makes an unwelcome return, but with a big twist that we don’t find out about until the end. The bits we do see have an unfamiliar person making their way to Lian Yu, a place I was really hoping we were done with. They banter with the boat captain that brought them there, have a few minor adventures, and then find someone I wasn’t expecting to be there at all.
What I liked: It’s a very different direction for the show. It’s hard to judge just one episode in, but it feels better than most of the slump they went through last season. Radu’s was a nice touch, and Felicity’s new look was distracting enough that people might not realize who she is. They did a decent job of checking in on everyone. Curtis’ new job makes sense, and I’m glad he and Nick are still together. It was an interesting collection of past foes of Oliver in the prison. I’ll give them credit for several major surprises in Flashback Theater.
What I didn’t: The writers really don’t get how prisons work. Oliver should have been in protective custody, not general population. Having him cuffed only to go to visitation made no sense at all. The stereotype of the corrupt/brutal guard really needs to go away. I realize they don’t need to be a big piece of the show going forward, but not even a mention of Quentin, or just the weird, offhand passing note about Thea?
I’ll give this a solid 3.5 out of 5. It’s a good start and sets up an interesting new dynamic for the season.
Trivia fact: A long talked-about movie that never happened was supposed to feature Green Arrow escaping from prison. Some versions of the script allegedly even featured Slabside Prison, which is where much of this episode took place, and is a super-prison in DC Comics.