Arrow dropped an unexpected tribute to a character who first appeared in Batman Beyond in the latest episode,"Living Proof." While the show has offered up a number of references to the many potential dark futures of DC Comics over the past year, this Easter egg in season 7, episode 21 may have been the most obscure.
Part of Arrow's season 7 storyline has focused on the future world of 2040, telling of a fascist local government that rules a dystopian Star City and how the children of Oliver Queen are brought into the fight against it. Working with their father's former associates on Team Arrow, they rescued a captive Felicity Smoak and thwarted a bombing plot meant to pave the way for a gentrification project. Galaxy One, the company that rules Star City in all but name, responded by unleashing a new breed of robot soldier that quickly began killing-off the vigilante Canary Network.
After managing to defeat one of the soldiers and getting inside his head to examine his programming, Felicity determined that it was tapped into the Archer Network - an artificial intelligence she had originally developed as a home security system, which was later transformed into the ultimate surveillance tool, capable of tracking a person's DNA signature across an entire city. This robotic assassin was given a name in "Living Proof" through a commercial assuring the citizens of Star City that the vigilante menace was about to be destroyed forever, thanks to the power of Zeta.
Zeta originally comes from Batman Beyond. In season 2 episode "Zeta," the new Batman, Terry McGinnis, stepped in after hearing reports of a military android known as Zeta going rogue in Gotham City and being a danger to the public. Terry soon discovered that the android assassin had indeed broken his programming, but that Zeta had developed a conscience and no longer wanted to kill people. Convinced of the robot's noble intentions, Terry helped him to escape from the NSA agents that were tailing him, enabling Zeta to leave Gotham City and try to start a new life for himself elsewhere.
This led into The Zeta Project - the only spin-off that Batman Beyond ever inspired. The show followed Zeta's adventures as he continued to try to evade the government agents trying to bring him back under their control, assisted by a teen runaway named Rosalie "Ro" Rowan. Despite the popularity of Batman Beyond, The Zeta Project didn't attract as much of an audience; the show was canceled after only 18 months on the air and its second season didn't merit a DVD release until 2017, as part of the Warner Archive manufacture-on-demand program.
While the reference is certainly the most obscure, it's not the only nod the Arrowverse has made to Batman Beyond this season. The Flash season 5 included future slang such as "schway", which allowed some to predict the big twist regard Nora West-Allen's true allegiances.
Unfortunately for the Canary Network and the new Team Arrow, none of these new Zeta robots seem to have the same capacity for free-thought as the one first seen on Batman Beyond. They also seem far more powerful than the animated Zeta, despite lacking his holographic shape-shifting powers. It will be interesting to see if the heroes of Star City can overcome this new challenge in the Arrow season 7 finale.