Billionaire Playboy Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), missing and presumed dead for five years after his family's yacht, The Queen's Gambit sinks in a violent storm in the Pacific, is discovered alive on a remote island in the South China Sea. When he returns home to Starling City, his mother Moira (Susanna Thompson), younger sister Thea (Willa Holland), and best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) welcome him home, but they sense Oliver has been changed by his ordeal on the island and the losses sustained in the sinking of his family's yacht, in which six other people, including Queen's father, Robert Queen and his girlfriend's sister, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz note ). Oliver keeps quiet about the man he’s become, as he desperately wants to make amends for the actions he took as an arrogant, unfaithful playboy. Most particularly, he seeks reconciliation with his former girlfriend, Sara's sister Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who at the time of the sinking he'd been cheating on her with.
As Oliver at first tries to play the role of the wealthy, carefree and careless philanderer he used to be, he secretly creates the crime-fighting persona of the Hood – a vigilante – to right the wrongs of his family, fight the ills of society, and restore Starling City to its former glory. In the beginning, his reasons for seeking justice for Starling City stems from a confession apparently made by his late father, who before his death informed Oliver that their family's immense wealth had been forged on the suffering of others. In his mission, Oliver gradually seeks aid from others who join him in his endeavor, the first being his bodyguard, John Diggle (David Ramsey), not long afterwards followed by Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), a Queen Consolidated I.T. specialist, and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), a street kid and Thea's boyfriend who needs guidance – while carefully concealing the secret identity he turns to under cover of darkness. However, Laurel’s father, Detective Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne), is determined to arrest the vigilante operating in his city.
Flashbacks to the island reveal that Oliver was far from alone those five years, dealing with paramilitary forces, Mad Scientists and being trained by Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) to be the vigilante he is today. In the present day, Oliver finds himself taking on an organization far more dangerous than he anticipated, headed by Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). Meanwhile, Oliver’s own mother, Moira, knows much more about the deadly shipwreck than she has let on – and is more ruthless than he could ever imagine.
As the show progresses, Oliver and his comrades frequently face off against both personal enemies and those who pose a threat to the city Oliver swore to protect, making amends with some and burning bridges with others along the way. His desire to honor his father's memory is further compounded by the death of his best friend Tommy, who is killed in an earthquake at the end of the first season, whose memory he also wishes to honor.
The show follows the comics in Broad Strokes, playing the line between staying faithful to the source and keeping the audience surprised. Those unfamiliar with the comics will miss some Mythology Gags and references to important characters in the DCU, but the series enjoys employing Red Herrings to keep even the comics fans on their toes. The show's goal was to depict an evolving group of characters who may be closer or further from their comics origins, but through Character Development may eventually grow into the classical characters. Oliver starts his mission as a ruthless vigilante killing enemies without hesitation, but has a change of heart when he sees the negative effect it has on the city, his allies, friends and family.
Despite some hesitation regarding the seriesnote , the show ended up highly acclaimed for the cinematic presentation and having a strong cast. It brought in high ratings for The CW and was such a success it lead to the creation of a televised Shared Universe known as the "Arrowverse." Barry Allen, played by Grant Gustin, was introduced in a two-part episode in the second season and showed the event that would turn him into The Flash at the very end of the episode. His spinoff show The Flash (2014) premiered alongside Arrow's third season. Its success would expand the universe again with an animated web series on CW Seed focusing on Vixen, set in the same continuity. Soon after a third spinoff was created, Legends of Tomorrow, following other DC characters introduced between the two shows in a team-up to combat unique threats, starring Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer / the A.T.O.M. and Caity Lotz as Sarah Lance / the Canary alongside others. Following the cancellation of Constantine, in the fourth season Matt Ryan showed up reprising the title character, retroactively incorporating that show into the shared universe.