Arrow -- "Starling City" -- Image Number: AR801a_0254b.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow and Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn -- Photo: Dean Buscher/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Who could’ve guessed back in 2012 that the CW’s weird take on the Green Arrow would spawn an entire multiverse of characters, culminating in the massive Crisis on Infinite Earths event later this fall? Arrow hasn’t always been great, and it’s even been downright bad at times. There’s no doubt, though, in how influential it has been. Now, the show that founded the Arrowverse is on its farewell tour and the show seems to be using that to its advantage to get properly weird. Spoilers for season 8, episode 1 follow.

Season 8, Episode 1: “Starling City”

arrow season 8 episode 1

A man clad in green rags dashes through the forest. A boat trolls by outside. He sparks an arrow across a rockface and fires, lighting a bonfire, signaling the boat. Oliver Queen escapes from Lian Yu. The camera pauses after the bonfire on the mask of Batman.

Wait. What?

At the end of season 7, destiny came calling. The Monitor appeared in Oliver and Felicity’s house to make good on Oliver’s promise to help save the multiverse. Oliver said goodbye to Felicity and left with the Monitor. Now, Oliver is taking orders from the omniscient entity.

It’s not immediately clear that the Oliver we meet is supposed to be the Oliver we’ve known for the last seven years, but that Batman mask let us know right away that something about this world is off. This is our Oliver, but it isn’t his Earth. 12 years have passed since Oliver’s disappearance. Malcolm Merlyn runs Queen Consolidated and has married Oliver’s mother. Thea died of a drug overdose some years back.

Everything is just a little bit off.

In the course of this one episode, the show manages to basically cover Arrow season 1 by playing on our expectations and knowledge of the show. This earth is the home to Black Canary, formerly known as the Black Siren. She is here working with the Hood – Adrian Chase.

arrow season 8 episode 1

Yeah. This world is weird.

The episode moves quickly. Moira Queen introduces Oliver to his bodyguard, John Diggle, and we’re expecting again for this to be a new Diggle. Only, he knows what Oliver is up to before Oliver does because this is the Diggle of Earth-1, who followed Oliver to hold up the pair’s ride-or-die oath. Meanwhile, here in Starling City (not Star City!), the Dark Archer is working against the Hood and Black Canary.

Oliver unmasks the Dark Archer quickly. Instead of Malcolm Merlyn the scary real estate man, the Dark Archer is now Tommy Merlyn. He’s grieving the death of his sister Thea and is plotting revenge by undertaking a plan to destroy the Glades.

It’s not about the Dwarf Star particles

And so Oliver has to work with Diggle, Black Canary, and Chase to stop Tommy from initiating his plan. The dwarf star particles that Oliver is in this version of Earth to retrieve are simply a Macguffin; they’re an excuse to revisit Starling City, the Arrow of 2012. Arrow is a relatively grounded show compared to its Arrowverse brethren if we put aside the season where an evil magician was going to nuke the world. But it exists in the multiverse, and now Arrow is using the multiverse to its advantage. The show pulls Oliver out of his native setting like he was cut out with scissors, and now the writers can paste him into any variety of weird situations without us even having to raise an eyebrow.

It has me curious about what this season will offer. The sky is truly the limit, and it could be bonkers if the writers let their hair all the way down. A whole season of Elseworlds that allows us to see old characters in a new context sounds like a lot of fun. It’s Arrow using the multiverse to explore aspects of Oliver and his world that would be impossible to prod at otherwise, and that’s really cool. It feels like they’re taking the show that started the whole Arrowverse and using the weirdest parts of the Arrowverse to reflect back on that show.

There’s a lot of really fun, weird stuff happening in the Arrowverse this year, and I’m glad Arrow is along for the ride.


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