If you thought Arrow wouldn't deliver on the game-changing potential of season six's cataclysmic finale, think again.
Having disclosed his secret identity and handed himself over to the authorities in exchange for immunity for his team, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) begins the new season five months into a long prison stretch, surrounded by some of his greatest foes who he'd previously put behind bars.
It's all change behind the scenes too, with long-serving Arrow writer and co-executive producer Beth Schwartz stepping up as showrunner this year and promising even long-time fans a season packed full of surprises.
"I've been on the show since season one and it's been an incredible ride," Schwartz says. "I love these characters so much.... this season is about finding out new things that we have not known about them, even in six years of a series."
Here's everything Digital Spy was able to get out of the tight-lipped Arrow cast and crew when we put them under interrogation. Ain't no trick arrow gonna get Ollie out of this one...
1. Oliver is not faring well in prison
"Oliver has his head down – he's trying to avoid conflict and he's just pressing on," Amell tells us. "But he's in a horrible place when we start the year. It's bad in there for him. It's really, really bad."
His stint inside will show our hero "in a completely different light than we've ever seen him," promises Arrow producer, stunt coordinator and director of the season seven premiere James Bamford.
"You'll find him a different person, and how he handles himself within the confines of the structure of the prison... you'll see some new character development as a result of that.
"You get to see how prison life would affect a human being – even someone as strong, both mentally and physically, as the Green Arrow. We'll get to see how prison life affects even the strongest of people, and how it can break you down."
2. This ain't no 'comic book' jail
"Our goal is to try and portray the prison as realistically as humanly possible, while keeping our established mythology intact," says Bamford (who is, among many other things, a former corrections officer).
"We're trying very hard to be as technically correct as possible, with the policies and procedures. I mean, it's not Oz – we're not HBO so we can't go there – but it's about as close to real as we can get."
3. Oliver's identity reveal impacts the entire team
"It doesn't only affect him, it affects everyone else," says Bamford. "All the other vigilantes effectively have been outed as well, so how the hell do you go on with the rest of your life?"
"It definitely affects the rest of the team," echoes new showrunner Schwartz. "They have to find their own way to be a hero for the city [while Oliver's in prison] and so, when we find them in the premiere, they're all doing something a little different. Maybe not what you would expect!"
In particular, Schwartz says, Oliver's decision will damage Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) – though she's not been unmasked as Overwatch, "her husband is the Green Arrow and the whole public knows, so she'll have to deal with those challenges".
4. Team Arrow remains "fragmented"
Last season saw OTA (Original Team Arrow – Oliver, Felicity and Diggle) at loggerheads with NTA (New Team Arrow: Dinah, Rene and Curtis) – and while much of that conflict was resolved, don't expect dynamics between the vigilantes to be entirely harmonious going forward.
"We did a lot of healing at the end of last year – we came together as a team, and I think the team definitely grew... so that won't disappear," promises Wild Dog's alter-ego Rick Gonzalez.
But according to Diggle actor David Ramsey, the two teams will remain "very fragmented", with Gonzalez adding, "Because Oliver's in prison, he's given us a directive to keep on fighting [and] we're all gonna interpret that in our own way."
5. We'll meet the power behind ARGUS
"Because we no longer have a lair, the team's taking advantage of Diggle's resources with ARGUS, a lot," Ramsey reveals.
But where exactly do these resources originate? Who funds ARGUS, and who exactly gives Diggle's wife, ARGUS chief Lyla Michaels (Audrey Marie Anderson), her orders?
"ARGUS have bosses," Ramsey teases. "And they used a lot of resources last season to find Diaz, and we're going to be answering for that. It'll be interesting to see who we'll be answering to!"
6. "This season's about redemption."
That's according to Gonzalez, while showrunner Schwartz elaborates that Oliver's stint behind bars is "part of his redemption story, because everyone in the city is going to have a different opinion on 'Was the Green Arrow a hero?' – he's now in prison, so he's got a lot to prove."
7. Roy will be back – but he'll be different
The news that Colton Haynes would be returning to Arrow as a series regular was met with a mixture of joy and confusion – after all, hadn't we last seen Roy heading off to parts unknown, reunited with his beloved Thea (Willa Holland)?
"He's going to come back in a different way than you would expect," hints Schwartz, who – in her pre-showrunner days – wrote the character's debut episode, 2013's 'Dodger'.
"It's so mind-blowing..." enthuses Haynes. "...because it's not the same Roy. I don't know how I'm gonna do it, I don't know how I'm gonna rise to this occasion, but it's gonna be fun.
"The fans are gonna f**king freak out! It's going back to kind of the beginning of how the show used to be, so it's super exciting."
Has Roy been brain-washed? Will we meet Roy's double from a parallel world? Here's one last hint from Haynes... "A lot of my scenes is condensed in a certain place, so I don't get to work as much as everybody else."
8. Wild Dog's origins will be explored
We've already delved a little into Wild Dog's past, with one flashback depicting the tragic death of his wife, but Arrow's new episodes will teach us more about the beginnings of Rene Ramirez's time as a vigilante.
"Rene's journey is going to be about trying to understand the choices he made becoming Wild Dog, and why he made those choices," Gonzalez hints.
9. Diaz poses a larger threat than ever before
Breaking with tradition, Arrow's sixth season saw that year's Big Bad – powerful crime boss Ricardo 'The Dragon' Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) – escape justice, and he still poses a major threat to Star City when the series returns.
"Diaz is still out there," Gonzalez confirms. "We've never done that on the show before, we've never had a villain survive, so there's a lot of pieces in place that we left unresolved in [season] six that still need to be resolved."
"We're all trying in our own way to find Diaz," Ramsay adds. "And that trail's gone cold."
That's bad news for all concerned, especially now that Diaz will be teamed with a syndicate of criminal archers, the Longbow Hunters.
10. Look out for callbacks to season one
Yes, with series veteran Schwartz in charge, Arrow will be going back to its roots, throwing back to its very first season in particular.
"We're definitely challenging season one a lot," says Schwartz. "There's going to be lots of callbacks to season one this season that I'm really excited about."
Perhaps we'll see another cameo for Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell)? Or the resurgence of his supposedly deceased father Malcom (John Barrowman)? The long-awaited return of the Huntress (Jessica De Gouw)? Or maybe Ollie will ditch the mask and go back to greasepaint?
Yeah, maybe not that last one...
Arrow season 7 begins Monday, October 15 at 8pm on The CW. The series airs on Sky1 in the UK.
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