The eighth and final season of Arrow is only about a month away from premiering on The CW, but not a whole lot is known about what's in store for the last ten episodes before the credits roll for the last time. Some photos of the Season 8 premiere finally released, and they raise more questions than they answer. In addition to some showing a couple of long-gone characters somehow back in the flesh, others show Oliver Queen as the Green Arrow wearing a mask yet again. But why?
First, take a look at Oliver back beneath the hood and mask:
That right there is a superhero who seems to be going to a fair amount of effort to conceal his identity, as the hood has never been especially practical when it comes to an archer's peripheral vision. Under normal circumstances, a hero trying to hide his secret identity would be expected, but after the events of Season 7, Oliver going back to concealing his face doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Hey, at least his arms are covered this time!
Oliver was outed and then imprisoned for his actions as the Green Arrow, only to be released and then eventually officially deputized by the Star City Police Department. It was public knowledge that he was the Green Arrow, and it was a gesture that he was moving in a sanctioned direction when he started fighting crime without a mask or hood. Pretty much everybody knows that Oliver is the Green Arrow, and if they don't already, it can't be hard to figure out. So what gives?
Well, the whole look for Season 8 is arguably the closest to Oliver's original superhero outfit from the earliest seasons, so it's possible Arrow is simply trying to bring the character visually full circle in his last hurrah on The CW. His bow looks an awful lot like the one he favored early on as well. Maybe Oliver is just coping with the loss of his wife and infant daughter by giving himself a vigilante makeover. He's handled loss in worse ways!
Alternately, Oliver wearing a mask could be a sign that Arrow is already entering "Crisis on Infinite Earths" territory with Oliver's mission for The Monitor. We do know that The Monitor will be in more Arrow-verse episodes of the 2019-2020 TV season than just the crossover. If Oliver is venturing onto other Earths, he might want to protect his identity from the people there. Then again, this could be an Oliver from another Earth, but I doubt it at this point. I also doubt that Arrow could undo the major plot point of Oliver's identity being outed.
Another photo from the Season 8 premiere may at least rule out some things. Take a look:
In this photo -- which is admittedly pretty dimly lit -- we see a masked and hooded Oliver Queen in the field with the latest Black Canary/Siren and Spartan. Both Laurel and Diggle are wearing their updated Season 8 crime-fighting suits, so it seems that either Oliver is working with them on the mission for The Monitor on another Earth, or Oliver is back to concealing his identity in his regular day-to-day efforts.
At this point, it's hard to rule out any theory as too outlandish. All bets are off with "Crisis on Infinite Earths" coming in what will be Arrow's final season, so it's possible Arrow has the freedom to go pretty far in its last batch of episodes.
We have to take into account that the Season 8 premiere is titled "Starling City," which is curious in itself. Oliver's home city has been known as Star City ever since it was rebranded ahead of Season 4 in tribute to Ray Palmer, who pretty much everybody in-universe believed was dead following the explosion in the Season 3 finale.
Whatever the reason for Oliver going back to the mask and hood, I'm glad for it. Oliver's sleeker look from the early seasons was always my favorite over his later more armored looks, and especially over that season when he somewhat inexplicably decided to go sleeveless. Yes, it was close to the Green Arrow suit of the comics, but the Green Arrow of the comics doesn't film a TV show in Vancouver and have to deal regular flesh wounds.
Oliver's costume change is arguably the least drastic for Season 8, even if it is potentially the most meaningful. Laurel's new look incorporates yellow and the iconic fishnets of the comics Black Canary, although more practically than the comics character. She does still get to actually wear pants. Her hair is also noticeably brighter and shorter.
Diggle's new look is less ostentatious, and possibly disappointing to fans who hoped that he'd be suiting up as the Arrow-verse's first on-screen Green Lantern by this point in the series. His outfit is still darkly colored and involves a helmet, but it's also green this time around.
Is this a hint that Diggle will take over as Star(ling) City's top hero in green after Oliver's death, perhaps as the star of a John Diggle-centric spinoff? Or does he just want Team Arrow to have more of a consistent color palette for their suits, and Laurel didn't get the message before getting her yellow and black suit ready?
Okay, probably not on that last count, but I get the feeling that Arrow viewers will need to take the laughs where they can get them in Season 8. Even if Oliver isn't going to be constantly miserable without his family in the final season, fans will be watching with the knowledge that Oliver is going to "die" and leave behind the people he knows and loves.
In fact, if the Season 7 finale played his fate straight, Oliver will be without all the people from his former life for a couple of decades, until Felicity is able to leave Mia and William to join Oliver wherever The Monitor has taken him. That said, the Arrow leg of the "Crisis on Infinite Earths" crossover isn't the Arrow series finale, so Oliver's story likely won't be done when "Crisis" ends. That's good news for Arrow fans who wouldn't have wanted to see the Arrow-verse's first and most experienced superhero go out in an episode of another show.