SPOILER WARNING: This story contains major spoilers for tonight’s episode of Arrow, “Reversal,” which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast.
Cayden James emerged as Arrow's very own cyber bogeyman. As the leader of Helix, an organization of talented hacktivists, his name had been mentioned, but his face never seen. Captured by A.R.G.U.S. and imprisoned in one of their black site facilities, Cayden escaped with the help of Helix and Felicity last season. He’s been scheming and patiently waiting to strike -- until now. Tonight’s episode, "Reversal," featured Cayden and Black Siren teaming up to wreak havoc in Star City and execute phase one of his master plan.
In a postmortem, Executive Producer Wendy Mericle spoke with CBR about Cayden’s introduction, what makes him tick, whether he’s met his match in Felicity and pairing up with Black Siren.
CBR: What was the thought process behind how Cayden James was introduced?
Wendy Mericle: We definitely wanted it to be a surprise. We wanted it to be a misdirection. We’ve gone along thinking it’s this character we’ve been calling Boots, who has been played by Tobias Jelinek from Stranger Things. He is the one who went back and rescued Black Siren off the island in 601. We wanted to have some fun with the audiences’ expectations, as we often do on the show. We knew we had gotten Michael Emerson, which we were really excited about. But, we wanted to see what we could do in terms of keeping it surprising and interesting. When you hear that Michael Emerson is on the show, everyone immediately goes, “When am I going to see him? He’s going to be the bad guy.” To counter those expectations, we wanted to make it as interesting as possible.
Lyla Michaels previously stated, “He’s 20 times more dangerous than Snowden.” What makes Cayden so deadly?
He was that way when we first heard his name in Season 5. He’s an extraordinarily gifted hacker. Snowden has a moral angle he was taking. Cayden James has that, as well as the skills. He is a super-genius. At that point, that’s how we were thinking of him. Now, when we meet him in Season 6, there have been some changes. He has gone through a trauma, which I won’t spoil here, but we will find out about later in the year, that will make us understand why he has taken his skills to a different level and why he is so angry at Oliver and the team.
Felicity understandably became personally invested in Cayden since she helped spring him from A.R.G.U.S. What does he bring out in her?
It’s not a father figure, so to speak, but she meets her match with him. That is rare with Felicity. She is so good at her job and so intelligent. She’s used to always being the smartest person in any given room. I think when she comes up against somebody like him, it drives her crazy. He meets her where she is, and one-ups her. For anyone who is competitive and intelligent, that drives you nuts. It’s crazy-making.
Does Cayden view Felicity as a threat?
Yeah, he definitely views her as an equal, so that’s a threat for him. In many ways, she also feels responsible for what she did in episode 519. The fact that she unleashes this terror on the world, she feels responsible for trying to find a way to put that genie back in the bottle.
How did you want this case to spotlight Oliver and Felicity’s professional relationship?
The fun of this episode, which we knew from the earliest stages from breaking it, is Oliver has taken a step back from the team. He’s not the Green Arrow right now. This is Felicity’s first solo mission. We have this fun flip with Oliver on the comms and Felicity on the mission. We decided it would be a really cool thing for them to switch roles.