After five years on an isolated island in the North China Sea, Oliver Queen spots a fishing ship passing by. He runs to his campsite, takes out his hunting bow and arrows, and fires a flaming arrow into a signal fire on the shore. It ignites, alerting the fishermen that someone is on the island, and they take Oliver onboard.
In Starling City, Oliver's hometown, the news is still abuzz with the discovery of billionaire Robert Queen's son Oliver, after they disappeared when the Queen's Gambit sunk five years ago. The reporters talk about how Oliver Queen was a legendary bad boy, partying and getting arrested on assault charges. Meanwhile, Oliver is taken to Dr. Lamb, who examines him and is surprised to discover he is covered in scar and burn tissue. When Oliver's mother Moira arrives, Lamb warns her that Oliver may not be the same person that she knew five years ago. Despite that, Oliver embraces his mother as the two are united.
The next day, Moira and Oliver come home and he brings his only possession from the island: a wooden suitcase. They're greeted by Robert's former business partner, Walter Steele. Oliver barely remembers him and brushes past him to greet the Queen family housekeeper, Raisa, who greets him. Thea, Oliver's younger sister, runs down the stairs to hug him, saying that she knew he wasn't dead.
Dinah Laurel Lance is working at her legal aid office with her friend and co-worker, Joanna. They are putting together a case against financier Adam Hunt. As Laurel goes over her case, her co-workers turn on the TV and listen to the news report on Oliver's rescue. Among those missing when the ship went down was Laurel's sister Sarah. She goes over and turns off the TV.
Oliver goes to his bedroom and looks around briefly, and then examines his scar-covered body in the mirror.
The Queen's Gambit is at sea with a hurricane approaching. Robert orders the captain to turn away just as Oliver comes into his father's cabin. Sarah Lance is trailing him, wearing a robe and little else, and Oliver sends her back to his room. Robert warns his son that it won't end well.
Oliver's old friend Tommy Merlyn arrives to bring his friend up to speed on what has been happening in the five years that he's been missing. Oliver wants to go to Queen Consolidated the next day and Walter assures him that there's nothing to see there. Raisa spills a drink and Oliver reassures her in Russian, and the others are surprised to discover that Oliver now speaks Russian. Oliver casually asks Walter how long he's been sleeping with Moira. Thea assures everyone that she didn't tell and Oliver says that he just knew. Moira finally tells her son that she remarried and that Walter is her new husband.
That night, Oliver sleep in front of an open window as a storm pours down outside.
Back in his cabin, Oliver tells Sarah that the storm is getting closer. They kiss and Sarah warns that Laurel will kill her if they find out they're together, but Oliver tells her that Sarah's sister will never know. The ship suddenly flips over as something gashes a hole in the hull. Sarah is sucked out through the whole and Oliver can only stare in horror before he falls through as well. Outside, Robert and a grizzled ship's officer pull Oliver aboard the ship and they realize that there's no sign of Sarah.
When Moira goes in to check on her son, Oliver reflexively grabs her by the throat and tries to choke her. He finally wakes up enough to realize what he's doing as Walter pulls Moira away, and Oliver apologizes. Moira assures him that it doesn't make a difference and that he's home.
The next day, Oliver removes the suitcase from beneath his bed and takes out a journal. He then goes to see Thea, who is in her room doing drugs with her friend Margo. They quickly hide the drugs as Oliver comes in. Once Margo leaves, Oliver gives Thea a hozen, a Buddhist symbol of reconnection, and explains that he kept it knowing that one day the two of them would reconnect. Tommy arrives and takes Oliver out, and tells him that he's planning a welcome-home bash for his friend. Oliver has him drive to the old neighborhood where Queen Industries used to stand. Tommy wonders why Oliver wants to go there since Robert sold the property years ago. He asks Oliver what he missed the most while he was gone and is surprised to discover that he misses Laurel.
Joanna informs Laurel that Hunt has requested a change of venue to a judge that he's bribed. Oliver comes in and they talk outside. He makes small talk about her law career and Laurel asks why he's really there. He apologizes for Sarah's death, saying that it's his fault, and asks Laurel not to blame her sister for being there. Laurel assures him that she doesn't because she knows from personal experience how charismatic Oliver can be. She wishes that he had died rather than her sister, tells him to rot in hell, and walks off.
As Tommy and Oliver go back to Tommy's car, masked men ambush them and shoot them with tranq darts. Oliver plucks the dart out and, woozy, sees the masked men gun down a shopkeeper when he comes out and sees what's going on.
In the lifeboat, Robert gives Oliver something to drink. When the grizzled crewman objects, Robert insists that his son has the best chance of surviving among the three of them. He tells Oliver that he's not the man his son thought he was, and that he wasn't the one who built Starling City.
One of the masked men wakes Oliver and demands to know if Robert died in the shipwreck. He tortures Oliver using a taser and demands to know what Robert told him before he died, and if he died. Oliver notices Tommy nearby on the floor, still unconscious, and then tells the masked men that his father told him to kill them. They laugh and point out that he's zip-cuffed to the chair, and Oliver reveals that he's freed himself. He takes out two of them and the third one runs for it. After making sure that Tommy is alive and stable, Oliver chases after the man, bonding across the rooftops and into a building after him while dodging gunshots. He finally grabs the man and prepares to break his neck. Oliver tells him that he knows his secret and no one else can know, and then kills him.
Oliver and Tommy go back to the Queen manor and call the police. Detectives Hilton and Quentin Lance arrive to take their statement, and Oliver claims that a hooded man rescued the two of them. Tommy backs up Oliver's story but admits that he didn't get a good look at their rescuers. Quentin is skeptical both of their story and that there's a man dressed as Robin Hood running around Starling City. He comments on the Queens' wealth, offending Moira, but Walter smooths things over. As Quentin leaves, he comments that Oliver's luck never seems to run out.
Later, Oliver reviews his information on Hunt and then checks his name against those he has in the journal. Raisa brings him some food and Oliver admits that he missed her. She says that he's a good boy and Oliver says that they both know he wasn't always that way, but Raisa says that he has always had a good heart. As Oliver leaves for the day, Moira intercepts him at the door and tells him that she's hired a bodyguard, John Diggle, to serve as Oliver's protector. Walter tries to talk Moira out of the decision but she insists. Diggle drives Oliver to his destination and tells him that he's ex-military and that he's going to do his job no matter how uncomfortable it makes Oliver. The bodyguard discovers that he's talking to empty air when he realizes that Oliver has slipped out of the car while it's still moving.
Oliver goes to the old queen manufacturing plant and ships in his equipment. He breaks through the floor and converts the lower floor into a secret lair, filled with computers and exercise equipment. He makes his own arrows and bladed weapons and then practices with the bow that he used on the island. Once he's done, Oliver heads out after Hunt.
Hunt is on his way to his car and tells his lawyer to fix the situation with Laurel. As he and his two bodyguards go to his car, a hooded vigilante, Arrow, fires on them from the darkness. He takes out one guard and then the other as Hunt runs to his car. Arrow tells Hunt to transfer $50 million to a specific bank account by ten o'clock the next night or he'll come back for the money himself. As Arrow leaves, Hunt yells after him not to show his face and the vigilante shoots an arrow through the car window next to the financier.
When he gets back to his office, Hunt calls the police and demands protection. They're not particularly concerned with helping a suspect criminal but Hunt tells them to coordinate with his new head of security, Drakon. As they go, Hilton figures that Oliver was telling the truth after all, while Quentin figures that if the vigilante wants trouble, they'll give it to him.
Oliver goes out to his car that night and finds Diggle waiting for him and ready for more tricks. The bodyguard drives Oliver to a rented conference center where Tommy has set up a party of hundreds to welcome Oliver back. They all cheer as Oliver comes in and he offers a toast to the crowd.
In his office, Hunt hears the noise from the party across the street.
As he talks to Tommy, Oliver sees Thea collect drugs from a dealer. He goes over to confront her but she tells her brother that when he disappeared, she had no one in her life to turn to and she's doing the best that she can. She walks away from Oliver and joins her friends, but discovers that the drugs are missing from her purse. Oliver dumps the drugs in the garbage and bumps into Laurel. They talk privately and she apologizes for what she said earlier. Oliver says that he'd trade places with Sarah if he could and lies, assuring Laurel that her sister didn't suffer. Laurel offers to be there if Oliver wants to talk about his experiences. Distracted, Oliver checks his PDA and discovers that it's ten o'clock and Hunt hasn't transferred the money. Realizing that Laurel wants to get closer, Oliver tells her that he hasn't changed in five years and that she's better off staying away from him. A disgusted Laurel says that at least now he's honest and walks away.
Oliver tries to slip out of the hotel but Diggle is waiting for him and doesn't plan to let him leave. Oliver starts to go back to the party but puts Diggle in a choke hold and knocks him out.
Drakon places his men in the hallway outside of Hunt's office and tells them to guard the elevators. Meanwhile, Arrow fires a grapple line into the side of the building.
Quentin and Hilton have a squad of men down on the street and keep an eye out for the mystery vigilante.
Arrow takes out the building lights and comes in via the elevator. He takes out the guards and bursts into the office, and Drakon attacks him while Hunt runs and calls in the police. Drakon finally grabs a gun and fires on Arrow, hitting him in the chest just as the vigilante throws a knife, taking Drakon in the chest. As the police arrive outside, Arrow pries a bullet out of his bulletproof jacket and leaps out the window. By the time Quentin and Hilton get to the window, all they see is the hooded figure sliding away down a line.
As the detectives shut down the party at the conference center, Oliver comes in and tells them that it's a private authority and they have no authority there. When Quentin says that the same vigilante that saved Oliver struck across the street, Oliver offers a $2 million reward to anyone with information on Arrow. As the crowd cheers, Quentin and Hilton leave and Tommy comments that it's quite a coincidence that Arrow struck near the party. He asks Oliver what happened to him on the island and Oliver simply tells him, "A lot."
The next day, Hunt is cleaning up his office when he receives word that someone is transferring $40 million from his accounts. He's unaware that Oliver fired an arrow with a wireless transmitter the other night and is hacking Hunt's computers.
Robert tells a dozing Oliver that there isn't enough food to keep all three of them alive. He tells Oliver to make it home and make up for his wrongs. Oliver tells him to get some sleep but is too late to stop his father when he first shoots the other crewman and then shoots himself in the head.
Laurel and Joanna receive word that their clients have received anonymous donations totaling $40 million. They figure that the city has a new guardian angel. Tommy comes by to see Oliver and they go outside to discuss what happened with Oliver. Laurel assures him that there's nothing between her and Oliver. Tommy comments about their own on-and-off relationship over the last five years. He hints that he wouldn't mind making it permanent but Laurel doesn't believe that he's a one-women kind of guy. Overhead, Arrow watches them.
After his father kills himself, Oliver sees the island up ahead.
Moira meets with a man who tells her that the police can't trace Oliver's abductors back to her. The man wonders if they should try again and Moira tells him that there are other ways to find out what Oliver knows about Robert's death.