Missing and presumed dead following the shipwreck of his luxury yacht, billionaire playboy and spoiled brat Oliver Queen is discovered alive after five years on a remote Pacific island. When he’s welcomed home by the masses in Starling City, his loved ones (mother and sister Moira and Thea Queen, along with his friend Tommy Merlyn) sense a change in Oliver. He wasn’t alone on the yacht when it went under; the Queen family lost their patriarch in the wreck, as well as Sara Lance – Laurel Lance’s sister. Despite being in a relationship with Laurel before embarking on the yacht trip, Oliver was cheating on her with Sara.
Besides hoping to reconnect with those who were once so close to him, Oliver’s also on another mission. He’s secretly heading out as a hooded vigilante archer with a noble purpose inspired by his father: ‘to right the wrongs of his family, fight the ills of society, and restore Starling City to its former glory’. The first man who instantly becomes at odds with the Emerald Archer is police detective Quentin Lance – Laurel and Sara’s father, who makes it his mission to arrest the hooded do-gooder.
Oliver teams us with his bodyguard, Diggle, and fights the criminals that pose as a threat to the city, while also hunting down people from a list passed down from his father. Diggle isn’t without his demons – he finds out that a contract killer called Deadshot murdered his brother and makes it his life’s mission to find and destroy him. Oliver occasionally asks Felicity Smoak for help, a young employee of Queen Consolidated. When he’s badly wounded, he’s forced to tell her about his secret identity and she becomes part of the team as well. Felicity’s intelligence and computer expertise instantly prove she is a worthy asset to the group.
Parallel to the events in Starling City, viewers are also treated to flashbacks from the five years Oliver spent on the apparently not so deserted island. We learn that he was trained to fight by former Asian commander Yao Fei, his daughter Shado, and a former ASIS soldier, Slade Wilson. They were all fighting for survival against the soldiers of Edward Fyers, who was planning to use the island in order to destroy China’s aircraft and ruin its economy, while simultaneously blaming Yao Fei for the hit. Yao Fei is killed, but Oliver, Shado, and Slade stop Fyers from accomplishing his vicious goals. Oliver kills him.
Season one also deals with some of the characters’ internal struggles. Tommy is now dating Laurel, which is complicated since Laurel is Oliver’s ex. Thea develops a drug addiction that eventually lands her a few hours of community service. She falls in love with Roy, a troubled boy from the Glades, whom she tries to keep out of harm’s way. Oliver also has his fair share of love interests. Besides the obvious attraction between him and Felicity, he becomes involved with Helena, a pretty girl who turns out to be a dangerous criminal.
When Tommy’s father Malcolm is almost killed by Deadshot, Oliver is forced to reveal his identity to Tommy, in order to save his father’s life. This puts a strain on their relationship, especially after Tommy breaks up with Laurel.
During the course of the season, we also find out that Moira, Oliver’s mom, has a hidden agenda. She’s involved in a criminal conspiracy with Malcolm, the Dark Archer. Turns out, Malcolm is planning to use a device that can cause an earthquake to destroy the Glades and rebuild the city. Moira was unwillingly helping him in order to keep her family safe. Team Arrow learns about the devious plan and decides to put an end to it. They kill Malcolm and the device is stopped. Surprise though – Malcolm planted a second one, and The Glades is facing massive destruction. Tommy manages to save Laurel from the debris, but gets trapped under it. Despite Oliver’s best efforts to save him, he dies, not before reconciling with his best friend. The tragic events leave Oliver shaken to his core.
We also find out that Malcolm planted a bomb on the Queens’ yacht before it went down.
After the tragic events at the end of season one, Oliver abandons the hood and flees to the island. However, he’s forced to return after he discovers that the city has fallen further into ruin following the earthquake that destroyed the Glades.
Via flashbacks, we learn that Oliver’s time on the island was even more eventful than we originally thought. He is kidnapped by Dr. Ivo and taken on a ship, where he discovers that Sara is very much alive and also kept prisoner by the doctor. Ivo is looking for Mirakuru, a serum that can give people incredible strength, created by the Japanese in World War II. He makes Oliver choose between Sara’s life and Shado’s; and murders the latter is cold blood after Oliver tries to protect his former flame. Meanwhile, Slade is injected with Mirakuru and blames Oliver for Shado’s death, making it his life’s mission to get revenge. Oliver manages to escape and stabs Slade in the eye, presuming him dead. At the end of the season, we find out that Oliver somehow ended up in Hong Kong, where he met Amanda Waller.
Back in present day Starling City, the gang continues to hunt down dangerous criminals. However, Oliver is on a path to redeem himself and honor Tommy’s memory, so he doesn’t murder people anymore. Sara resurfaces in Starling City as well and works close with Oliver, as the vigilante known as Canary. The two become involved. Oliver befriends Sebastian Blood, a shady individual, and he’s also forced to fight for Queen Consolidates, who was taken over by a woman, Isabel Rochev.
Moira undergoes trial for her involvement in the earthquake, but eventually gets acquitted. Malcolm reveals that he’s not as dead as everyone hoped and tells Moira that he knows Thea is his biological daughter. Thea is still dating Roy, who is trying to find out who the hooded vigilante is.
Events unfold as we find out that Blood is injecting people with Mirakuru; under Slade’s command, who’s very much alive and back to bring chaos to Oliver’s life. Isabel, who’s also been working for Slade, takes complete control of Queen Consolidated and leaves Oliver broke. Meanwhile, Slade kidnaps Thea and tells her who her real father is, causing her to distance herself from the Queen family. Slade’s diabolical plan doesn’t stop there though. Later, he brutally kills Moira in front of her children.
Towards the end of the season, Slade unleashes an army of Mirakuru soldiers on Starling City. Roy was also injected with the serum and is struggling with the side-effects, so Oliver puts him in a coma until a cure is manufactured. Luckily, the S.T.A.R. Labs in Central City deliver the cure in time, so the gang has a weapon to fight Slade’s army.
Team Arrow partners with the police, the League of Assassins, and A.R.G.U.S. to stop the Mirakuru soldiers from destroying the city before a drone strike, ordered by Amanda Waller, kills them all. They are successful: the drone is called off, the soldiers are cured, and Slade ends up in a holding facility on the dreaded island he tried so hard to escape from.
At the end of the season, Malcolm convinces Thea to leave the city with him. Sara rejoins the League of Assassins, while Diggle finds out he’s going to be a father.