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Arrow has gone through plenty of changes over its four seasons so far, but one element of the show that has not changed is the use of flashbacks to tell the story of how Oliver changed from a poorly-coiffed playboy to a fighting machine. The early years of the flashbacks were pretty great, largely thanks to a compelling cast of characters and star Stephen Amell showing Oliver’s transition. Season 4 has seen the flashbacks begin to really drag on the present timeline, however. According to executive producer Marc Guggenheim, there’s a very good reason why the flashbacks are getting less interesting.
In a chat with TVLine, Marc Guggenheim had this to say about the current state of the flashbacks:
Part of the appeal of the flashbacks – certainly in the first two years, but I think the first three years is seeing what a 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 comes 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.
Guggenheim certainly has a point that the contrast between flashback Oliver and present Oliver is less stark in Season 4 than in Seasons 1 and 2. Pre-island Ollie--who absconded on a sex cruise with his girlfriend’s sister--is dead and gone in the flashbacks as well as the present. In many ways, pre-island Ollie being gone has made Arrow a much better show. Still, the flashbacks now have less novelty than they did in years past.
Although Marc Guggenheim has his own ideas about the flashbacks, I personally feel one of the biggest problems with the Season 4 flashbacks hasn’t been that flashback Oliver is getting too close to Season 1 Oliver. The problem has been that the distinction between present Oliver and past Oliver hasn’t been very clear, especially since the big haircut that removed the aesthetic difference between them. Flashback Oliver isn’t as ruthless as he should be by this point in his journey, so there’s no contrast between him falling into darkness in his path toward becoming the murderous Hood and fighting toward the light of the Green Arrow.
Hopefully, Season 5 won’t waste any time in advancing flashback Oliver toward the next stage of his development. The show has been teasing his Bratva connections since the very beginning, and he’s running out of time in those five years to learn Russian and earn his rank as captain. Assuming that Oliver’s Bratva arc doesn’t take place on the island, we can expect some more interesting adventures in a fresh venue in the past during Season 5.
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. For a look at what shows will be back on the airwaves soon, check out our summer TV premiere schedule.