Arrow Showrunner Talks Season 8, Guest Stars and That Backdoor Pilot

Arrow final season costume header

Arrow is entering its eighth and final season and the stakes are higher than ever. A recent press screening of the intense season premiere indicated that the series won’t be wasting any time getting into the heart of its story.

During a Q&A session following the premiere, showrunner Beth Schwartz confirmed, since there are only 10 episodes left before Arrow ends, each one is “just huge.” Season 8’s first episode is “a love letter to the pilot,” while the season as a whole is “our series' greatest hits as well as a build-up to [Arrowverse crossover] 'Crisis [on Infinite Earths].'”

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Yet, the show won’t spend a lot of time in Star City. According to Schwartz, throughout the season “we visit places that we’ve gone to in our previous seasons, so they’ll take place in different locations. I think we only have maybe one or two episodes in Star City.”

That also means many of the new episodes will bring back characters that haven’t been seen on Arrow in quite a while. It’s already been announced that characters like Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) and Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) will be back for the premiere. Not only does Schwartz say it may not be the last time in the season that we see those characters, we’ll also be seeing many more blasts from the past. Schwartz noted that the show is “trying to squeeze all the characters we can that we want to see for the last time” before the series takes its final bow. As a result, Schwartz said, “almost every episode, if not every episode, there’s a fun surprise guest from previous seasons.”

Arrow Moira Queen

One of those characters is Thea Queen, who was played by Willa Holland until she left towards the end of Season 6. Outside of a brief appearance in a seventh season episode, Thea hasn’t been seen since, so fans were excited to learn she would be returning for the final season. It’s a sentiment Schwartz shares. “Obviously we love Willa and she is the show,” Schwartz said. “There’s no way we could have had a final season without her… She comes back in a very cool way.”

Part of the goal in having characters from the past return is to give Oliver Queen closure as the show reaches its end. That’s one of the reasons Oliver’s deceased mother is back in the premiere. “What we liked the most about having [Moira Queen] in the premiere is [Oliver] now has his own children, so to have his mother give him advice about motherhood… was just such a perfect moment,” Schwartz explained. She also added, “It was to give him some closure as well, to say he’s sorry for what happened to her.”

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One character who may not be showing up, however, is Oliver’s wife Felicity Smoak. Actor Emily Bett Rickards left the show at the end of last season, but Schwartz emphasized that in its final season, Arrow is doing what it can to keep her character's memory alive.

Schwartz said it wasn’t easy to write around Felicity. “It was very weird, especially writing the first script without her. it was sad. I love writing her character and always miss writing for her.” She continued, “We just had to come up with a way of creatively keeping her still there without seeing her and that’s sort of what we’ve done all season.”

Is there any possibility that Felicity could return before the final season ends? “We welcome her back and we’ll see what happens,” Schwartz teased.

Arrow Mia Smoak

Schwartz also discussed the fun and challenge of wrapping up Arrow while also launching the backdoor pilot for a new show that will revolve around Mia Smoak/Green Arrow (Katherine McNamara), Black Canary (Juliana Harkavy) and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy). Schwartz commented, “It was crazy but really fun. We are super-excited about the potential of a new series and all of our kick-ass women.”

The backdoor pilot will also tell a story separate from Arrow’s flash-forwards into Star City 2040. Schwartz said, “We always knew what [the 2040 storyline] was going to be and our backdoor pilot is its own different beast.”

For fans, the best part is that the backdoor pilot could lead to a new series, which means we won't have to leave all of Arrow's characters behind. In the meantime, if the premiere's any indication,  Arrow's final season will be an amazing ride.

Returning Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Arrow stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, David Ramsey as John Diggle, Rick Gonzalez as Wild Dog, Juliana Harkavy as Black Canary, Katie Cassidy as Black Siren, Katherine McNamara as Mia Smoak, Joseph David-Jones as Connor Hawke and Ben Lewis as William Clayton-Queen.

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