The CW’s Arrow, flagship series and namesake of the Greg Berlanti-produced Arrowverse that includes The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, and the newly-launched Batwoman, begins its eighth and final season next week. The series has had its highs and lows, and before it begins its ten-episode countdown to Crisis on Infinite Earths, here’s a quick primer on the show’s heroes, the journey they’ve been on, and what we know about what’s coming next.

Who’s Who on Arrow

Arrow revolves around Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and his crusade to clean up his home of Star City. Oliver was stranded on the island of Lian Yu following a boating accident that apparently took the life of his lover, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz), and which ended with Oliver’s father, Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan), confessing his criminal activity and handing over a list of names to Oliver before taking his own life. Over the course of five years both on and off the island, Oliver was believed dead by the world at large. During that time he secretly trained with, among others, former League of Assassins member Lao Fei (Byron Mann) and mercenary Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), who taught him both archery and hand-to-hand combat. Eventually Oliver coordinated his own rescue from Lian Yu, returning him to Starling City (now Star City) to take down everyone on the list of names his father had given him. Over time his mission became general protection of the city from the various threats facing it.

(L to R) David Ramsey, Colton Haynes, Emily Bett Rickards, Rick Gonzalez, Stephen Amell, and Juliana Harkavy

Oliver Queen has been primarily aided in his crusade by John Diggle (David Ramsey), a former soldier in the U.S. Army and, eventually, high-ranking member of the intelligence agency ARGUS, and by Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), a former hacker, current CEO of Smoak Technologies, and Oliver’s wife. Over time Team Arrow added members like Speedy, aka Oliver’s sister, Thea (Willa Holland); Arsenal, aka Roy Harper (Colton Haynes); Wild Dog, aka Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez); Mr. Terrific, aka Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum); and multiple Black Canaries — first a resurrected Sara Lance, then Sara’s younger sister, the now-deceased Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), and now Star City Police Department captain Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy). The team has also been first opposed and later aided by an alternate version of Laurel Lance from Earth-2, a world where good and evil are reversed.

Previously on Arrow

Team Arrow faced off against many threats during the most recent season of Arrow. Oliver Queen began the season in prison, having turned himself over to authorities at the end of the previous season. After being released from prison following a deal made by District Attorney Laurel Lance (the Earth-2 version, posing as the Earth-1 version come back from the dead), Oliver (and, ultimately, the rest of the team) forged an uneasy alliance with the Star City Police Department to work openly alongside them rather than as illegal vigilantes.

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The alliance was tested when a new Green Arrow appeared—Emiko Adachi (Sea Shimooka), who initially teamed with Rene before meeting the rest of the team. Oliver then learned Emiko was his half-sister from an affair Robert Queen had with another woman, and that Emiko was in Star City to kill those who had played a part in her mother’s death. Oliver attempted to make a relationship between he and Emiko and to help temper her darkness, and at first it seemed to be working. Ultimately, though, it was revealed that Emiko was in Star City as a double-agent for a terrorist organization called The Ninth Circle, and that she was determined to destroy the legacy of the Queen name. It was also revealed that Emiko and The Circle were directly responsible for the sinking of The Queen’s Gambit and, inadvertently, Robert Queen’s death and Oliver’s stranding on Lian Yu.

Sea Shimooka as Emiko Adachi

Despite all of this, Oliver continued to believe Emiko could be redeemed even as she and The Circle plotted a chemical attack on Star City. In the course of neutralizing the attack, Oliver was able to convince Emiko of the truth: it was The Circle who had murdered her mother in order to free her of attachments. Emiko briefly turned on The Circle before being killed protecting Oliver. He and Team Arrow were able to save the city, and were recognized as heroes by both the public and the Star City Police Department. Stopping the attack had revealed The Circle to the world, though, which put a large target on Oliver’s back. As a result, he and Felicity left Star City and went into hiding in a suburban neighborhood where most of the residents were former government agents. There they welcomed the birth of a daughter, with whom Felicity had become pregnant a few months prior.

The most recent season also featured flash-forward sequences that focused on the children of Team Arrow in the year 2040. Star City had become overrun with crime and poverty, while the neighborhood known as The Glades, formerly crime-riddled, had been rebuilt and become its own separate city, with a wall erected between the two. At the center of the flash-forward storyline were William Clayton (Ben Lewis), the son of Oliver and a girlfriend from prior to the sinking of The Queen’s Gambit, and Mia Smoak (Katherine McNamara), the daughter of Oliver and Felicity. The pair encountered each other while trying to find Felicity, who has been missing for years. The story of William and Mia getting to know and trust each other at times mirrored the present-day action between Oliver and Emiko.

William and Mia were joined in the search for Felicity by Connor Hawke (Joseph David-Jones), the adopted son of John Diggle and Lyla Michaels, and Zoe Ramirez (Andrea Sixtos), the daughter of Rene Ramirez. Also joining them were Roy Harper, who had been stranded on Lian Yu before being rescured by William, and Dinah Drake, now helping lead a vigilante group called The Canaries to protect Star City. In searching for, and ultimately finding, Felicity, the team uncovers and, in the end, foils a plot by a terrorist organization called Eden Corp, who had been responsible for the resurgence of The Glades, to destroy what’s left of Star City and take it over.

LaMonica Garrett as The Monitor

Perhaps the events from last season with the most long-term significance for Oliver Queen  took place during the three-part Elseworlds crossover with The Flash and Supergirl. At the climax of the story, The Flash (Grant Gustin) and Supergirl (Melissa Benoist) were placed in a position in which they knew they would both die in order to save the world. Oliver, believing that Barry and Kara are better heroes than he is, made a deal with The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett) to spare their lives, with an unknown price to be paid later. That time came at the end of the season, as The Monitor arrived in Oliver and Felicity’s home to take Oliver to his ultimate destiny in the coming Crisis. Meanwhile, in 2040, The Monitor again appeared, this time to take Felicity to what sounded like a reunion with Oliver.

What to Expect from Arrow Season 8

The CW released a sizzle reel for Arrow‘s final season at San Diego Comic Con, but it was made up largely of footage from previous years. What at the time seemed like just a tribute to how far the show has come may have been more telling than anticipated, though, as a more recent trailer provides a better glimpse of what might be in store for Oliver during the coming season:

It sure looks from that trailer like season 8 will be something of a ‘greatest hits’ for Oliver as he travels through time and his own history. To what end, and how that fits into The Monitor’s preparations for what’s to come, remains to be seen. The trailer also features the return of characters like Thea Queen, who has been absent from the series since the middle of season 6, as well as appearances by Tatsu Yamashiro, aka Katana (Rila Fukushima) and Grant Wilson, aka Ravager (Jamie Andrew Cutler), who was last seen way back in a season 1 episode of Legends of Tomorrow in an alternate future version of Star City.

Also teased is the return of Susanna Thompson as Oliver’s mother, Moira Queen, as well as Colin Daniel as Tommy Merlyn. If the season is indeed a trip down memory lane, look for a lot of old faces to put in appearances before they turn the lights off on this series.

It’s also known that one episode in the upcoming season will serve as a backdoor pilot for a potential spin-off series focused on Mia Smoak and The Canaries in the future Star City. Mia, William, and Connor Hawke are all expected to return in the new season, and they’ll be joined by actor Charlie Barnett as an adult version of John Diggle, Jr.

Beyond all of that, there’s the impending Crisis on Infinite Earths crossover, of which episode 8 of the season will be a part. The episode will be co-written by original Crisis series writer Marv Wolfman. It was revealed at the Arrow SDCC panel that Brandon Routh would be appearing as the Kingdom Come Superman for the crossover; whether he will appear as the Man of Steel on Arrow prior to the crossover is unclear. It was also revealed toward the end of the previous season that John Diggle’s step-father’s last name is Stewart; an appearance by The Flash of Earth-90 (John Wesley Shipp) during Elseworlds also hinted at an alternate Earth version of John being a Green Lantern. Could David Ramsey sling a ring this year?

We also know there’s likely some sort of Monitor-arranged reunion in store for Oliver and Felicity before the series is over. So does Oliver Queen really die during Crisis, or do he and Felicity get to live out the rest of their days in a Monitor-created paradise, similar to the way the Superman and Lois Lane of Earth-2 did at the end of Wolfman and George Pérez’s original series?

The only thing I personally want to see from this final season: the classic Oliver Queen goatee. Do it for the fans, show.

Whatever’s going to happen, goatee or no goatee, we won’t have long to wait to find out, as Arrow begins its final ten-episode run next Tuesday, October 15th, at 9 PM Eastern on The CW.

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