Is it time for Arrow to drop the Oliver Queen/Lian Yu backstory?
When Arrow started in 2012, the lost time that Oliver spent stranded on the island of Lian Yu made for a compelling storytelling device. While most of each episode focused on Ollie in present day Starling City, the episodes also featured ongoing flashbacks showing what exactly happened to him during those five mysterious years.
Fast-forward to 2016 and Season 4, and the flashbacks are still taking place. Unfortunately, somewhere along the line they ceased to be intriguing and became muddled and oftentimes boring. TVLine caught up with the Arrow showrunners at the Writers Guild Festival this past weekend and got their take on the issue.
Here’s EP Marc Guggenheim:
“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.”
It’s a fair point, but the departure and return to Lian Yu over the years and the ever-changing villains/storylines have damaged the flashbacks as well. Fellow Arrow EP Wendy Mericle says the flashbacks are intended to be “emotionally or thematically connected” to the current events in Ollie’s lives, though they have “experimented with having them not speak to what’s going on currently.” Much like on ABC’s Lost, which also featured a group of castaways on an island, the trope of having the flashbacks connect to the present has just gotten stale.
Fortunately, next season should see the conclusion of the flashback story, as it will be the show’s fifth year, and Oliver was only missing for five years. According to Mericle, “The season will be easier to break because we have an endpoint, and we work backwards from there.”
As to where that final year of exile will take Ollie, it seems a trip to Mother Russia may be in order. Mericle teased, “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.”