As "Arrow" hurtles towards its Season 5 finale, Oliver Queen and his team are in more trouble than ever. They may have dealt Prometheus a major blow, but he's still at large. Meanwhile, Felicity is knee-deep with the mysterious hacker group Helix, which has some dubious intentions. Even as Team Arrow deals with these threats on two fronts, the return of Katie Cassidy's Black Siren looms in the distance, threatening to kick off with an emotional gut punch.
Nevertheless, executive producer Wendy Mericle is looking forward to "Arrow's" future with a lot of hope. Speaking with CBR, Mericle addressed all of the threats facing Team Arrow. She also explained how Season 1 characters like Deathstroke and Yao Fei will return, delved into Felicity's relationship with Oliver, teased Malcolm Merlyn and Artemis' important roles in the Season 5 finale, discussed how the show will fill the gap left by the flashbacks in Season 6 and more.
CBR: First, let's get the topic that everyone's talking about out of the way: how did Deathstroke's big return come about?
Wendy Mericle: Well, he's a big character on the show! I mean, obviously, Oliver's had a long history. We always said we were going to be closing out the first five years and ending it with a bang, and ending it with Oliver looking back at his past, and there's no real way to tell that story without Deathstroke being a part of it.
Deathstroke isn't the only big Season 1 character to return. How does Yao Fei factor into Season 5?
Yao Fei, on the show, has always operated as Oliver's conscience. It's not going to be any different this time. He's going to be there at a crucial moment for Oliver, where he's going to make a very big decision about his future. Yao Fei knows him and understands him in the way he knew who he was when he was on the island when he was first moored there and couldn't get off and was a lost castaway. I would definitely be thinking about, "Who was Oliver when he met Yao Fei?" and Yao Fei is going to be reminding him of that and reminding him of who he's become at a very crucial point in the flashback story.
What can you tease about the sibling rivalry between the al Ghul sisters?
It's rooted, as always with siblings, in the parents. The parents always mess it up for the kids! [laughs] And in this case, it definitely goes back to Ra's al Ghul and how he treated them. We know a lot about his fight with Nyssa and what that was about, but what we don't know is that he simply had a very similar attitude towards his older daughter as well. When Talia left and Nyssa was stuck basically in a giant castle with Ra's, it did not sit well with her.
How well is Prometheus going to adapt to his new status quo?
I think he's going to adapt as well as he's adapted to everything. Chase is ten steps ahead, as always. I think he anticipated this move. He knew it was going to happen, and he doesn't have any problem. He's always one step ahead. He's playing a game of chess and I think, for the first few episodes of the season, our team was -- to some extent -- playing checkers. I think the team is smarter than that now. They're definitely up to speed. They know how to kind of get under his skin, and that outing won't have no consequences for him, but it'll be nothing that Chase can't get past and manipulate to his own advantage.
In the Season 5 sizzle reel released last week, Felicity is right smack dab in the middle of the action. Is that something we can expect to see a lot of in these next few episodes?
Felicity in action is something we all love. The writers love it. We all love to see Emily [Bett Rickards] picking up a weapon and doing something badass. [laughs] I think she wears it really well, and I know the fans love to see it. She's going to be in the action. We're heading into the finale. Felicity is always at the center of everything, right along with Oliver. She's definitely going to be in the middle of the fight, for sure.
Is that indicative of a new direction for this character?
She's definitely heading towards new directions, especially with what we're talking about very loosely in the writers' room with Season 6. She's going to be taking on some new roles. Whether or not those new roles lend themselves to guns and that sort of fighting, I can't tell you, but she's a badass in everything that she does, whether that involves a weapon or not… That's how we see her, and that's what we like to see her doing.
We've also got an Olicity episode coming up. Will we learn anything new about this relationship that perhaps we didn't get to see in Season 4?
We're very excited about this story. We wanted to tell it all year, and we finally found the perfect episode to do it in. We're going to be telling the story of really what happened between the two of them. We left in them in such an ambiguous place at the end of Season 4 and, when we picked them up in Season 5, they were happen to be working together and not be together. We're going to tell the story of how that came about, which is fun… We're going to find out some information about that, and we're also going to really see their relationship deepen a lot, and not in the romantic way. I mean it in the sense that Felicity is going to be going through something in [episode] 19 with Helix that is going to really allow her to see Oliver's point of view with some clarity and with personal experience for the first time.
Will Team Arrow as we know it make it through the season finale in one piece?
That is a great question that will not be answered until Season 6.
Word on the street is that the show is moving away from flashbacks. Has there been any talk about how the series will fill this gap?
Here's the thing. There's so much story on the show, and it's really exciting for the writers and for everyone on the creative side to be thinking, "Wow, we really have a lot more real estate to play with." We always have so much story and we're always pushing story. It'll be great to have this extra space to play around in. That said, the flashbacks have worked so well on the show, they're not going to be gone forever. We're obviously not going to be going back to Lian Yu and we're not going to be telling the story of the five years that Oliver was gone, but we might get some glimpses into the backstories of other characters, which would be really fun.
It has been quite some time since we've seen Malcolm Merlyn in "Arrow's" present day, but we got a quick glimpse of him in that sizzle reel. Just how important will he be in the next few episodes?
He's going to be a huge factor leading up to the finale. This season is all about legacy, and when Malcolm comes into the story, it's really rooted as much by necessity from Oliver's point of view as it is about what Malcolm means to him and what Malcolm means to Thea. It's a great story, because it's going to have a lot of action but it's also going to have this kind of emotional undercurrent that is going to lead to a really big, huge series moment for him. I think it's a great story to tell, and it's great stuff for John [Barrowman] to play.
Speaking of legacy, can you tease your favorite thing about Black Siren's return?
What I love the most about Black Siren is seeing Katie Cassidy play a badass. [laughs] I mean, she was a badass before as Black Canary, but playing this other role with this darkness to it… it's just a very interesting color for her to play, as she did Laurel, which she did an amazing job. She brings so much to this role, and it's really seeing Katie really nail the ins and outs of this character. I think the other interesting thing about it and my favorite part is the impact that it has emotionally on the people who knew Laurel before she was unfortunately killed in Season 4. What does it mean to see this person who looks exactly like this person you loved and have them come back and be evil? It raises all kinds of questions for the people who knew her best, and that part is just absolutely rich character territory that we can play with and we're really excited about doing that going forward.
Would you say that, by the end of this season, Oliver will complete his emotional journey of finding himself and be at one with himself?
You know, I don't know that anyone who has two identities is ever going to be fully a cohesive person, as this season explored. What I do think he is going to end with is this sense of peace about the last five years and what he put himself through. He's going to go into Season 6 with this degree of experience and this level of wisdom that we've never seen him own before. I think he's always had it, but he's now at this place where he's done enough good both as the mayor and as Green Arrow that he can speak from this place of confidence. He's a little bit older, a little more mileage and a lot more experience. That's a new role for him to play. That's something we're very excited to see him grow into.
Is there any redemption for Artemis in the eyes of Team Arrow?
I think it's still a question mark. Honestly, I think the jury's still out on her. Even in the finale, where she does play a pretty significant role, I think that the team is reluctant to give up on her. No matter how dark she goes, she was that innocent person that Oliver met in [Season] 4 [episode] 19 that has been through so much. I think it's partly what Madison [McLaughlin] brings to the role that makes it hard to give up on her.
Starring Stephen Amell as the Emerald Archer, "Arrow" airs Wednesdays at 8 pm ET/PT on The CW. The series also stars Emily Bett Rickards, David Ramsey, John Barrowman, Willa Holland and more.