Like a certain other drama series that had an island setting part of the time, Arrow was set-up divided between present day happenings and events on an island in the Pacific Ocean where our hero learned valuable lessons about life and death. While those flashbacks were sometimes annoying by breaking up the main thrust of action in the present day story, they did have their own life, and they were necessary to the story revealing how Oliver Queen went from rich playboy to superhero vengeance-seeker. But in it’s fourth season now, Arrow seems to be really struggling with the flashback format, and the producers seem to know it.
“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,” said executive producer Marc Guggenheim at a Writers Guild Festival panel. “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.”
“Struggled with” is something of an understatement. As the resident Arrow recapper for Nerd Bastards, I can say that I don’t think I’ve mentioned the events in a flashback since the Constantine episode, which had actually bearing on the events in the present day because, well, Constantine. Perhaps that’s the main problem, according to Guggenheim’s fellow EP Wendy Mericle, the flashbacks have to be “emotionally or thematically connected” to the present day to work. So any chance that’s going to change in the near future?
In an interview with TVLine, Mericle said that next year’s flashbacks will have the advantage of bringing us all the way to the point when we see Oliver as he was in the present in the pilot, a man who was supposedly left alone on Lien Yu in a terrible fight for survival for five years. “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,” Mericle said, and that endpoint will likely mean exploring a key piece of the mythology not yet revealed. “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,” she added.
Arrow returns next Wednesday at 8 pm with it’s last batch of episodes for season four.