In the first two seasons of The CW’s Arrow, Stephen Amell offered up audiences a glimpse at how his spoiled billionaire brat Oliver Queen became the hooded vigilante known as Green Arrow. This slow-burn story with dynamic action elements and plots that tied into each season’s major arc was told through a series of flashbacks set on the hellish island of Lian Yu. However clever this technique was in the early going, the flashbacks have fallen out of favor with audiences thanks to Season 3’s out-of-step Hong Kong sequence and the current season’s ill-advised return to Lian Yu. One group that has not lost their love for the flashbacks might be the most influential one: the show’s executive producers.
During this past weekend’s Writers Guild Festival and in a chat with TV Line, EPs Marc Guggenheim and Wendy Mericle addressed the issue of Arrow’s flashbacks. It seems that they’re quite aware that fans aren’t pleased with this storytelling structure, but also have no plans to alter course. Additionally, they offered up a pretty strong hint as to where the flashbacks will be taking Oliver Queen next season.
Here’s Guggenheim’s take on how flashbacks fit in to Arrow’s storytelling:
“Part of the appeal of the flashbacks – certainly in the first two years, but I think the first three years – is seeing what a big difference it is between Oliver Queen in the present day and Oliver Queen five years ago. The problem is that we are telling a five-year story in the flashbacks of Oliver becoming the guy you met in the pilot. So the deeper you get into the flashbacks, the closer he becomes to being that guy, and, thus, you lose that element of the flashbacks that was so interesting, which is how different he was…. That’s something we have struggled with this year.”
At least Guggenheim admits that they haven’t quite nailed the sequences this year, ones which only serve to show that Queen had a prior run-in with the mystical idol that currently powers the season’s Big Bad, Damien Darhk. (The sequences also allow the showrunners to sneak some extra Easter eggs into the show, which are a nice nod for fans of DC comics.)
Mericle also commented on Amell’s work in the earlier flashbacks, which she loved because she “thought he really inhabited that character. It was less the very stoic superhero and much more dimensional, because he was so flawed. The way we write the story is still very much married to that backstory, and trying to change it up at this point would feel weird.” She also addressed that the added bonus of the flashbacks is that they’re “emotionally or thematically connected” to the major storyline, though apparently the writers have also “experimented with having them not speak to what’s going on currently,” which seems counterintuitive.
“We know what we’re working up to. The season will be easier to break because we have an endpoint, and we work backwards from there.”
And, as I mentioned in a recent recap of Arrow, Season 5’s flashbacks might just be headed for Russia in an attempt to mine Queen’s backstory with the Bratva. Mericle more or less confirmed this:
I don’t want to tip too much, but it’s a very good possibility that we’ll finally find out how Oliver got that Bratva tattoo and how he learned to speak Russian.
Are you a fan of Arrow’s flashbacks and want to see them continue? Or is it time to bury these in the past where they belong? Let us know in the comments below!
Arrow returns to finish out Season 4 on Wednesday, April 27th on The CW.