In every season opener, Arrow visually calls back to the opening sequence of the pilot: Oliver Queen running through dense flora. In the Arrow season 8 premiere, the scene is recreated with one major difference. Instead of seeing Deathstroke’s mask impaled on a pike on the shores of Lian Yu, it’s Batman’s mask. Amazingly, this detail tells you everything you need to know about the setting. We will delve into spoilers a bit in our review of Arrow’s final season opener, ever. If you’ve not seen the episode yet, just stop at the picture of the Bat-mask and come back when you’ve finished. There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the shape of this final season. Instead of a singular “big bad” villain like Ras Al Ghul or Prometheus, this season seems to be about solving a larger problem.
The Crisis On Infinite Earths crossover event is the largest in television history, perhaps. Yet, while Marvel’s road to Avengers: Endgame only had the films to work with, the storytellers in the Arrowverse can stretch out the narrative. (Sometimes to a fault, looking at you The Flash season 6 finale!) Yet, as we know from the Arrow season 7 finale, the Monitor has shown up to take Oliver Queen on a journey to stop the destruction of everything. Whereas Thanos only wanted to kill half the universe, the Anti-Monitor (we assume) wants to destroy the entire multiverse. And in this superhero squad, the guy with the bow and arrow is their only hope.
The Arrow Season 8 Premiere Is a Way to Say Goodbye to the Show’s Past
Image via CW
From the first moments of the Arrow season 8 premiere, fans recognize that it’s a retread of the pilot. How this is possible is a mystery that’s slowly revealed over the first act, but the “why” is not important right now. We get to revisit many of the favorite characters we’ve lost along the way. John Barrowman, Colin Donnell, and Susanna Thompson are back as Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy Merlyn, and Moira Queen. We revisit locations, like the Queen Mansion, that we’ve not seen for years. It’s a keen way for Stephen Amell’s Oliver to get some facetime with these characters after how he’s changed. It also shows how some things the character does stays the same. When David Ramsey’s John Diggle shows up, Oliver makes a lot of the same mistakes he did the first time.
Some absences, however, were glaring. The largest of which is Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak. While no one believes that she won’t return for a Crisis crossover cameo at least, she will not be a big part of this season. Still, her spectre looms large over the storylines in the show. Oliver misses his wife, and in the 2040 storyline featuring adult versions of their kids, they could definitely use her expertise. While still interesting, the flash-forward C-stories in these final episodes seem strange and out of place. Yet, we know at least one will serve as the backdoor pilot for the new Arrow spinoff series starring Katherine McNamara. Yet, how this storyline fits into the Crisis narrative remains to be seen.
Let’s Talk Spoilers for the Arrow Season 8 Premiere
Image via screengrab
As mentioned above, the image of Batman’s mask in place of Deathstroke’s tells us everything we need to know about where we are. This is, apparently, the Lian Yu in a world where Oliver Queen actually did die when his father’s yacht went down. Deathstroke still ended up on the island, faced off against the Bat, and won.
As we go through the episode, revisiting key moments from the Arrow pilot, we slowly start to understand that Oliver is not on his Earth. He’s been gone 12 years instead of five, first of all. The undertaking apparently didn’t happen the way it did before. This is because instead of Malcolm Merlyn becoming the Dark Archer over his grief at the loss of his wife, his son takes up the mantle. Also, it was interesting seeing Josh Segarra’s Adrian Chase as a kind of comics-accurate Green Arrow, complete with calling Laurel Lance’s Black Canary “Pretty Bird.”
We know that this season will see Oliver and the Monitor having adventures across the multiverse. Yet, the ultimate plan Oliver works towards is a mystery, both to fans and the character. He doesn’t understand what the Monitor wants of him, but by the end of the episode he understands the stakes. In the final moments of the Arrow season 8 premiere, Kate Cassidy’s Laurel Lance (of another Earth) says the city is under attack. Then we see everyone around them consumed by “anti-matter” (though it looks suspiciously like the dusting of the Avengers at the end of Infinity War. Yet, Oliver is barreling headlong into what he believes will be his death. In fact, they are leaning so heavily into that outcome that it seems unlikely. (Though, I do like the idea that Oliver will become the cosmic DC character The Spectre.)
Striking the Balance Between Nostalgia, Crossover Set-Up, and Telling a Good Story
Image via CW
This eighth season of Arrow has to do quite a lot of narrative work, and the season 8 premiere shows they are on the right track. First and most importantly, Arrow will serve as the set-up series for the giant crossover. There are big cosmic, comic book concepts, and all the crossover shows will need to address them before the actual crossover happens. Yet, Arrow also is in its final season, meaning that it has to adequately wrap up the stories of Oliver and all the characters in his orbit. (Though, it’s likely some if not most of them will move to the new spinoff should it be picked up.) Along with tying up those loose ends, the storytellers likely also want to honor the legacy of the series that birthed an entire universe. Luckily, with multiverse-hopping and time-travel, we’ve got a chance to see long-lost characters again.
Finally, Arrow’s final season needs to tell a satisfying story in its own right. Focusing too much on the victory lap aspect of the season or setting up the crossover will leave fans disappointed. However, it seems that the Arrow actors and storytellers found the right balance.
What did you think of the Arrow season 8 premiere? Was it cool seeing the remix of the pilot in the beginning or would you prefer a story that looks forward more than it looks back? Sound off on whether or not the show failed this city in the comments below or on social media!
Featured image via CW
Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. The first books he read on his own were comics, and he's loved the medium ever since. He is the greatest star-pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. His book "What I Learned: Stories, Essays, and More" is available in print from Amazon and from all electronic booksellers.