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From the very beginning, Arrow has been formatted to tell the story of Oliver Queen's upswing as a hero in the present as well as his downfall in the past via flashbacks from his five years of hell. Now that the show is heading into its fifth season, one big question is whether or not Arrow will be ending Oliver's flashback story this season or dragging it out into any future seasons. While speaking at San Diego Comic-Con to CinemaBlend and other press outlets, showrunner Wendy Mericle had this to say about what will happen after the first five years are up:
The flashbacks will be done at the end of the season, yeah. We will always have it, I think, as a potential device. We've established this visual language for the show, so we can always do some from a different character's point of view. But Oliver's flashbacks, in terms of telling that particular story, this will be it.
Wendy Mericle's Comic-Con reveal that the flashbacks are nearly done could mean exciting things for however long Arrow lasts beyond Season 5. The flashbacks of Seasons 1 - 4 have ranged from incredibly compelling to disappointingly dull; a show that doesn't require thirty-something Stephen Amell to run around in a bad wig as twenty-something Oliver Queen could be very refreshing after five seasons of split narratives. Besides, Oliver is well on his way to finishing the final leg of his journey in the past now that he's en route to the Bratva. Even if Arrow decided to fudge the numbers by continuing the five years of hell in Season 6, there aren't too many steps left for Oliver to complete before coming home to then-Starling City. He just needs to earn his Bratva ink and glue a fake beard to his face in time for the rescue boat to pick him up.
It should be interesting to see if Arrow toys with showing scenes of the other characters' days gone by as Season 5 progresses, or if that would be saved for later. One of the biggest problems with the flashbacks of Season 4 was that they tended to not really serve a purpose in a lot of the episodes. In fact, they sometimes felt like they were included for the sake of the format rather than the story. Arrow exploring other points-of-view, instead of just Oliver's every week, could add a greater sense of balance to the overall narrative and contribute to higher stakes for the Bratva story and others.
Star Stephen Amell seems optimistic that the final year of flashbacks will be some of the best to date as Oliver finally completes the journey that transformed him from poorly-coiffed playboy Ollie into the weapon that was the Season 1 Hood. Here's what he had to say at Comic-Con about Oliver's final stories set in the past:
If this is the last year of the flashbacks, there's a real sense of urgency right now with them. And we're like, 'Okay, we have to get from point A to point B and Oliver has to accomplish all of these things,' so I feel like the flashbacks will be a big bonus for the show this year.
There certainly is a sense of urgency to the flashbacks for Season 5. Oliver may not have too many steps left, but they're very necessary steps. His Bratva story really could have lasted longer than one season, if only so he could believably learn enough Russian to do more than order vodka. He has to finish his descent into darkness by the end of Season 5. As long as Arrow paces the flashbacks well and keeps the action going, the tale of Oliver's five years in hell could end on a hell of a high note.
Unfortunately, we won't get to see any of the full Season 5 flashbacks any time soon, which is particularly tough after we got to see our buff and bloody first look at Season 5 Bratva Oliver. Arrow won't return to The CW's airwaves until Tuesday, October 5, so be sure to check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 5 for a peek ahead.