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The CW's Arrow has always told the dual stories of Oliver Queen becoming a hero in the present and Ollie growing out his hair and transforming into a human weapon during his five years of hell. The show is now heading into its fifth season, and Oliver is set to finish the last leg of his flashback transformation. The big question now is whether or not the flashbacks will continue after Season 5 into Season 6 and beyond. Producer Marc Guggenheim has the answer. Guggenheim had this to say about the future of the past on Arrow:
Next year, in Season 6, what we'll end up doing is we'll do some episodes without any sort of flashbacks. We've [also] established over the first four seasons of proof of concept that we can do flashback stories that don't involve what I call the island narrative, even when he's not on the island.
Marc Guggenheim revealed what's going on with the flashbacks after Season 5 at the TCA press tour (via IGN), and I can't say I'm disappointed. Arrow has produced some remarkable stories and fantastic characters in the flashbacks over the years, but the flashbacks have also dragged on the overall plot at points. We got the badass Slade Wilson and the awesome Shado, but we also got the bizarre Baron Reiter and the ambiguously-accented Taiana. The flashback format meant that Arrow was stuck with the Hawks' ancient Egypt flashbacks that were filled with English-speaking non-Egyptians in the Flarrow crossover that launched Legends of Tomorrow. The flashbacks have worked in some great ways so far, but we really don't need Arrow to stretch out Oliver's weekly journeys to the past into Season 6. Mixing up the format could be the best thing for Arrow moving forward.
Of course, Arrow won't be completely without flashbacks after Season 5. Marc Guggenheim explained what the show will do with scenes set in the past like this:
We still want to make that part of our storytelling, because we do like them. We like when those non-island flashbacks sort of illuminate what's going on in the present day. That'll always be a part of the show and a part of the show's storytelling structure. It just won't be telling a serialized story.
Arrow has dabbled more into standalone flashbacks for other characters in recent years, and those have actually worked well for plots du jour. Felicity and Diggle have both had scenes set in days gone by that elevated their stories and gave a nice break from Oliver's shenanigans in his personal hell. If Arrow can continue to incorporate flashbacks as needed rather than include them in every single episode, the show will still feel like Arrow without exhausting its own format. Hopefully Stephen Amell will get a break from playing his much younger self as regularly. He's a handsome guy and in great shape, but he's in his mid 30s and not fooling anybody when he tries to play early/mid 20s Oliver anymore. Even Arrow can't give him a wig outlandish enough to take ten years off of him.
We still have a whole season of island narrative left before we get to see the new flashback structure of Season 6. This year will finally take Oliver to Russia to join the Russian mob and evidently speed-learn the Russian language, so we do have some new ground to tread in the past this year. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Arrow Season 5, and take a look at our fall TV premiere schedule to see what else you can watch in the near future.