SPOILER WARNING: This article contains potential spoilers from recent episodes of “Arrow.”
It’s been a long road back to Starling City for Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), who was stabbed by Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) in last December’s “Arrow” midseason finale, before subsequently falling of a cliff and being left for dead. Of course, Oliver wasn’t actually dead — he’s the main character of the show, after all — and after making an assisted recovery, he made his way back home at the end of last week’s episode.
But the happy reunion was ultimately short-lived: Upon learning of his intent to work with the dastardly (and murderous) Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) to learn how to defeat Ra’s, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) — Team “Arrow’s” tech genius, conscious and one-half to the fan-favorite #Olicity pairing — was left shocked and disappointed, making things appear even more unlikely for the star-crossed couple.
There’s a lot going on — oh yeah, Brandon Routh is making an in-costume debut as The Atom at the end of the month — and CBR News spoke with show executive producer and frequent comic book writer Marc Guggenheim about all the latest in advance of this Wednesday’s episode, “Canaries.”
CBR News: Marc, there’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get to it. I spoke with you at the screening of “The Flash”/”Arrow” crossover this past November, about how those episodes were the shows’ version of a classic comic book team-up. This recent storyline on “Arrow,” with Ra’s al Ghul and Oliver’s apparent death and subsequent recovery — do you view that as the “Arrow” version of a superhero death and resurrection story?
Marc Guggenheim: I would have to say, yes. Certainly, that’s a trope that a lot of comic book stories do — in comic books, it’s usually the actual death of the character, and they’re brought back in some manner. We try, with “Arrow,” to tell those big, operatic kinds of stories that comic books do so well. We’re not shy about showing our roots.
The past few episodes have seen a lot of characters step up in Oliver’s absence — certainly Laurel as Black Canary, but also Roy and Diggle. How important is for the show that these characters become their own heroes, not just supporting players?
That’s something that is really the subject of Wednesday’s episode. It’s our team having to recognize, in the face of Oliver, how they’ve developed; how they’ve changed as people and as heroes. There are a lot of different ways of being a hero, and that’s something we try to always acknowledge on the show. Putting on a costume doesn’t automatically make you a hero, and not having a costume doesn’t necessarily not make you a hero.
As the show has been evolving this season, more and more characters have become active participants in the crimefighting. Laurel has taken on a costumed identity, and Thea has been more in the mix — to the extent that, based on promo photos released, it looks like she’s talking to Roy while he’s in costume and not wearing a mask. Basically, there are not a lot of characters left that are purely civilians. Almost everyone has a stake in the costumed, crimefighting world — or it’s at least getting to that point. How deliberate is that, and what do you think it shows about the changing dynamic of the series?
It’s funny — I oftentimes feel like Oliver. When Oliver set out on this crusade of his, he never expected to inspire other people. That wasn’t part of his mission statement. It wasn’t our intention to bring this many costumed characters onto the show as quickly as we have, so I often feel like Oliver, going, “Hey, what’s up with that?”
That said, I have a lot of confidence in the choices that we’ve made. Judging by the Internet and the ratings, the audience has a similar amount of confidence in us. We’ll always manage our superhero quotient. For example, Lance is not going to become a superhero. [Laughs] Diggle is not going to suddenly get superpowers. Felicity is not going to put on a mask. There’s still a good number of characters who are not “superheroes” — they may be heroes; I feel like Diggle and Felicity are definitely heroes, just without that comic book modifier.
Speaking of Felicity — how much blowback did you get online from fans upset by that scene at the end of the last week’s episode, with Felicity confronting Oliver about working with Malcolm Merlyn?
You know, the greatest little surprise about last week is — I had been kind of bracing myself, and I sort of said publicly, jokingly, that I would stay off the Internet (as if I could). I have to say, the vast, vast majority of responses, reviews and comments and everything else I’ve gleaned from the Internet, were overwhelming positive. For me, it’s for the proposition that as long as a scene is well-written and well-acted, and feels like it’s motivated by characters and emotions that the audience believes in, even people who are “shipping” a certain relationship, they just want to see a good scene. They just want to see a good story told. And then the ship does not drag the cart.
It was very gratifying, and I even took to Twitter to thank people, because I was very, very pleased with the reaction that scene got. When I saw it in rough form, it really choked me up, and that’s all credit to Emily and to Stephen, who really just nailed that scene in a perfect way.
On the subject of dynamics in the team going forward — what can you tease about this week’s episode and how things have changed for Oliver? Other characters have stepped up, and some aren’t necessarily happy with him, despite his return.
That’s certainly the biggest change for him — the reaction that he’s getting from not just Felicity, but his team. He’s discovered that Laurel has become the Black Canary — no one consulted him on that, he doesn’t approve — his team seems to be backing her pursuit of that identity, which completely mystifies him. And to make matters even worse, people are giving him lip. It used to be, he said jump, and people said, “How high?” Now they’re saying, “Why are we jumping?” That does not sit well with someone like Oliver, who’s not really used to having those sort of conversations. He didn’t really set up Team Arrow to be a democracy.
Last week also brought the first look at Brandon Routh in the Atom costume — as a longtime comics fan, what excites you most about seeing Routh in that suit? And what can you tease about what he might get up to while wearing it?
For me, the most satisfying thing about the costume is, it looks like Brandon walked off of a movie set. I’ve never seen a TV show do a costume of this level of ambition before. He’s got a lot of cool tricks up his sleeve. People who are immediately expecting him to shrink are going to be disappointed. I will say that upfront.
We always say, we’re doing the “Arrow” version of The Atom. That said, there will be some flying involved, which looks remarkably amazing. He has a lot of little gadgets and tricks and abilities built into that suit. I don’t want to spoil exactly what they are, because I think part of the fun of watching is seeing what that suit’s going to do next.
“Canaries,” the latest new episode of “Arrow,” airs 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 11 on The CW.