Arrow Season 7 Episode 1 Review: Inmate #4587

The Arrow Season 7 premier manages to both wipe the slate clean and nod in the direction of the show's early glory

Arrow Season 7 Episode 1 Review Inmate 4587 Stephen Amell Oliver Queen

This Arrow review contains spoilers. 

Arrow Season 7 Episode 1

Arrow crackles with the promise of its early seasons in the first episode of its seventh season. The metaphorical slate is wiped clean, yet in many ways, it’s back to basics: a man in a hood with a list. “You have failed this city.” Violence against bad guys is no problem. Time-based structure. The Glades are a mess and no one cares. But there are also important improvements here: Oliver can’t make decisions for others or completely close himself off. And vigilantism is no simple way out. 

It’s odd to say it, but aside from Felicity and William being attacked, the artists formerly known as Team Arrow are doing pretty great. They’re all generally finding other ways to be heroes, as Dinah says. She seems to be doing great as police captain, and poor Curtis is finally getting a proper paycheck again. Diggle’s conflicts with Argus are likely fodder for a future episode, and I can’t imagine it’s been great for his marriage that Lyla has to smooth things over with their superiors. Evilish Laurel is still the DA, a turn of events so soap opera-ish and mind boggling that I’m going to need an entire episode where we just process that information, but she seems successful.

Felicity is underemployed but she and William are getting along well, all things considered. I hope she keeps her new look with the piercings, pink tips, bold dark lip and smokey eye makeup. Over the years with Oliver her style was toned down and it’s a real shame.

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Rene seems to be doing best of all, living out his values and spending time with his daughter by teaching boxing to kids in the Glades. Money is tight, but he teaches them to be focused and disciplined so they can defend themselves, now that there are no vigilantes. Rene’s arc this episode is spot on, and a reminder that in many ways, Rene’s story of vigilantism resonates far more than Oliver’s. It’s good to see Rene kick a little ass solo, and also get back to his roots, the reason he put on the mask in the first place. The Glades is his home, and as evidenced by his Robin Hood act with the crypto, he has always been about improving his neighborhood in immediate, tangible ways.

On the flip side, this episode has a bit more of a political view than we’re used to for the least-political show in this ‘verse, in the form of the villain finance bro named Stent. He has no record because he paid to get rid of it, and it’s clear that he’s benefiting from his relative status as a white man of means. It’s unfortunate that all elements of racism and classism have been completely whitewashed from Oliver’s experience in prison (his black best friend/co-vigilante also went to prison – what a wasted opportunity for the pair to talk shop and compare experiences!) so at least we’re getting a wisp of commentary somewhere.

This episode featured some epic fights, and Rene solo before the new vigilante jumped in was one of my favorites. He tends to get lost in the shuffle of fight choreography, especially since he’s not all that big of a dude, nor is he powered, but he had great material here. It’s always great to see Felicity scrapping, and I hope her declaration to Oliver means she’ll be continuing her training so she can do her best to physically protect herself, too. Of course, nothing quite holds the appeal of Oliver’s naked shower showdown. Just in case it wasn’t already clear that Stephen Amell got beyond his usual level of jacked for this season. This is, after all, the CW. But who am I kidding, all Oliver fights should be naked fights. 

While I generally enjoy playing with time, I’m cautious about the flash forward gambit. When Arrow began, the flashbacks were baked into the premise and were frequently a way of complicating our perception of Oliver or his family and friends. But what was once additive soon became an albatross around the show’s neck, slowing down episodes and entire arcs out of obligation to the device rather than any real need for the content or a particular ongoing belief in its ability to strengthen the show. That said, this past season was without that flashback structure and while I don’t think its struggles were based in that choice, it’s not hard to see how a twist on something that first made the show great would be appealing to new showrunner Beth Schwartz, who wrote this episode with Oscar Balderrama.

This was a solid episode and did the work it needed to as a premier, but several aspects – including Roy’s inclusion – will likely be branded as “surprises” or “twists” even though we’ve known they were coming since the tail end of season 6. Roy back in the hood was the least surprising move here, as was the identity of the young man looking for him. I can’t help but feel a twinge of regret that Thea and Roy’s moving sendoff episode was a bit of a cheat, since his return was announced around the same time. Twists are a bit overrated in my book anyway – I’d rather that a premier level set what it will keep or jettison from the previous season, and indicate a general direction. By that metric, this episode succeeds; I’m excited about the material these choices will bring, and eager to see where this season goes.

Rating:

3 out of 5