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October 15, 2018 at 09:00 PM EDT

Warning: This post contains spoilers from the season 7 premiere of Arrow. Read at your own risk. 

Arrow just pulled a Lost!

The CW superhero drama’s season 7 premiere — which found Oliver (Stephen Amell) behind bars after the events of the season 6 finale — ended with a major twist. Throughout the episode, we saw flashes to a young man traveling to Lian Yu, but little to no context was given until he got trapped in one of the island’s many nets and came face to face with none other than an old Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), who appeared to have been living on the island. Clad in his Arsenal costume, Roy demands to know why he’s there, and the young man reveals that he’s William, Oliver Queen’s grown-up son — which means that these Lian Yu-set scenes were actually flash-forwards to 20 years in the future! Now we know why everyone on Arrow has been so quiet about what Roy’s storyline would be this year. (Read our full recap of the premiere here.)

The flash-forward twist felt like a page taken right out of the Lost playbook, as the ABC drama pulled off a similar trick in its season 3 finale (Kate, we have to go back!). At a screening of the Arrow premiere Thursday, showrunner Beth Schwartz revealed that these future glimpses would become part of the show and serve the same function as the show’s flashbacks, which were abandoned after season 5.

“We’re going to keep it all season and series,” Schwartz told reporters at the screening. She went on to explain that this idea has been cooking in the writers’ room for many years. “We didn’t know how long the show was going to go on for, so we always knew that after season 5, there wouldn’t be flashbacks. So, we had talked about flash-forwards years ago. Like, ‘Is this what we’re going to do when there aren’t flashbacks?’”

For Schwartz, introducing these flash-forwards is a way to shake up the long-running series’ stories in its seventh season.

“I think it opens up our world immensely,” Schwartz told EW at the CW’s fall launch party Sunday. “For a seven-season show, coming up with new stories that we haven’t done before is definitely a challenge. I think this is a really great way to tell some of these stories and also add a lot of mystery, because we can introduce something in the future and then you’re like, ‘How the hell did that happen?’ So in the present-day story, you’re going to really want to tune in to see all those details.”

However, the nature of Arrow’s flash-forwards raises a couple of questions. First, what does this mean for the glimpse of Star City 2046 we saw in Legends of Tomorrow season 1? The short answer: nothing. Schwartz said that doesn’t affect the story they’re telling this season.

“This is not connected to Legends. This is our own future,” Schwartz told reporters at the premiere screening. However, she wouldn’t confirm or deny whether or not we’d see Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) and Diggle’s (David Ramsey) son, John Jr. (Joseph David-Jones) — who was Star City’s Green Arrow in the aforementioned Legends episode — in the flashbacks.

The second question is, will we see Roy in both the present and future storylines? Unfortunately, Schwartz wouldn’t answer that question. But fans can look forward to seeing some of the other characters pop up in the flash-forwards.

Jack Rowand/The CW

Elsewhere in the premiere, Diaz (Kirk Acevedo) attacked Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), who was in protective custody with young William, and ordered his men to beat up Oliver, who was trying to keep his head down in prison. The attack ends up galvanizing both Oliver and Felicity to fight back.

“She’s going to figure out, how do I fight back without my husband, who happens to be the Green Arrow? So that will be her challenge in the first half of the season,” said Schwartz. Meanwhile, Oliver will continue to “struggle with what does that look like, being the Green Arrow while you’re behind bars. It’s not easy.”

Speaking of Green Arrow: There’s a mysterious new archer-vigilante in Star City, whose arrival creates some tension between the former Team Arrow. Even though his motives and identity remain hidden — we did see him cross names out of a book à la Oliver in season 1 — Rene (Rick Gonzalez) wants to help him, whereas Dinah (Juliana Harkavy), the SCPD’s new captain, believes he should be arrested because vigilanteism is illegal in Star City.

“I can’t really tell you which way the new Green Arrow [lands], but Dinah and Rene will be arguing that point for a little bit. They’ll be on different sides for a little bit,” said Schwartz, adding this isn’t a Vigilante situation and it won’t take a full season and change for him to be unmasked. “We’ll definitely unveil and explore before the end of the season, for sure.”

Arrow airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on the CW.

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Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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