When the CW's Arrow debuted in 2012, the show set up its narrative structure of main plot and flashbacks pretty quickly. The flashbacks allowed the show to jump back to pertinent points in Oliver Queen's time on the Lian Yu island without having to develop full island story arcs. They also advanced in roughly chronological order, showing Oliver's development into the man he would become over his five years on the island.
Because the flashbacks occur chronologically, each season has covered around one year of time on the island. As a result, the end of season 5 should feature flashbacks that line up more or less with the time that Oliver was rescued. It turns out that this was the plan all along, though at the time that plan involved the show's series finale.
Speaking with TVLine, Arrow's production staff discussed the show's flashbacks and how they originally planned to work them into the series finale. According to producer Andrew Kreisberg:
"Ideally by the last episode of the series, the very last flashback will be Oliver seeing the boat that rescued him in the pilot.”
With the show obviously not ending at the end of season 5, however, this is no longer planned for the series finale. Instead, co-showrunner Marc Guggenheim revealed that fans will still get to see some version of this flashback very soon:
"Spoiler alert. That’s going to end up being the Season 5 finale.”
Guggenheim went on to explain the reason that they wanted to include that flashback, and why things have changed since the show's first episode aired. As he put it:
“It was really just a hope at that point [in 2012] that the show would run five years, and we always thought that we would intercut the final moment of the series with the first moment of the series, that it would form one big Moebius strip.
“There’s still a part of me that wishes we could do that. But I wouldn’t want to artificially extend the flashbacks [beyond five seasons], and I also wouldn’t want to artificially cut the show short. It would’ve been a beautifully elegant thing, and Five Years Ago Me would’ve loved it. But things change, and I do think it’ll make the Season 5 finale pretty awesome.”
Fans will likely be relieved to hear that the flashbacks aren't being extended just for the sake of having them, even if some of them have told some pretty interesting stories from Oliver's time on the island. Some of the flashbacks seemed to serve little purpose besides padding the episode, and ending the flashbacks with a callback to the beginning of the series seems like a fitting way to wrap them up. If the season finale ties in to the beginning of the series, it may even help to bring the story full circle and leave it in a good position for season 6 to branch out into something fresh.
Of course, some fans who have grown tired of the flashbacks may worry that they won't actually be gone for good once season 5 ends. Only time will tell whether the flashbacks return, but with any luck the show will find ways to avoid heading down that road again. After all, there have to be other ways to fill everyone in when new information from Oliver's past needs to be brought to light.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with What We Leave Behind' @8pm on The CW.