SDCC: "Arrow" Cast On the Five Month Gap, New Identities & Malcolm Merlyn

When "Arrow" returns the The CW for Season Four, five months will have passed since Oliver Queen's climatic battle with Ra's al Ghul and the League of Assassins. In that time, Oliver and Felicity have fled Starling City for something approximating domestic bliss, while Diggle, Black Canary and Thea Queen, in her new identity of Speedy, have been defending the city in the Arrow's absence.

According to Stephen Amell, Oliver has learned "a bunch" of new skills during his time away. "When we come back from hiatus, there's typically something new, like a new suit --and as we've learned, a new suit is indeed part of this season's equation -- or Oliver's learned a new skill; like he decided he wanted to learn jujitsu," he explained to CBR News at Comic-Con International. "But this time, almost all of the skills pertain to domestic life. Which is fun." In the months away, Oliver and Felicity have been traveling. "They believe that they've settled. And it's interesting to learn who has enjoyed this process more," he said. Asked about Oliver's marriage to Nyssa al Ghul becoming a complication for the couple, Amell doubted that marriages "at knife-point in Nanda Parbat presided over by a sorceress" are considered legal in the rest of the world.

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The actor also believes the last minute reveal of Oliver's son on "The Flash" last year during the shows' crossover arc "deserves greater attention." He noted that one of the rules executive producer Greg Berlanti set for the show includes not teasing a plot unless they intend to follow through with it. "I think it's a safe bet that Oliver will find out about his child [in Season Four]."

For Diggle, this new level of responsibility comes with finally getting a costume of his own, though actor David Ramsey was tight-lipped about the identity the new look comes with. "Diggle is going to get some sort of concealment," he said, indicating that his costume includes a mask and admitting his new identity was something of a surprise. "I didn't expect to be as well-conceived as it was -- I don't think you'll be disappointed."

In his new identity, Diggle starts the season in as the de facto leader of Team Arrow with the newly christened Speedy and Black Canary as his comrades. "They're a well-oiled machine," he says of the group. "But H.I.V.E. takes it to another level." H.I.V.E., and its leader, Damien Darkh, are the season's antagonists, according to Ramsey. "He has a personal interest in taking down that organization," he said, recalling that Deadshot was hired by H.I.V.E. to kill Diggle's brother. He also referred to Season Four as "Diggle's season."

The situation will eventually lead to Oliver and Dig to "kiss and make up." While everyone wants to do justice to the rift between the old friends, it is only a matter of time before they come to a reconciliation. "It's going to take some work." Ramsey said, teasing that what brings them together will be "a baring of the soul."

Emily Bett Rickards promises that audiences will see Oliver and Felicity as "the best they've been as a couple," though there will be some tension in the relationship. Specifically, in finding a purpose where they are "no longer dodging bullets every five minutes."

That search for purpose will be a particular facet of Felicity's individual story as the season begins. "She no longer has this night job running an Arrow team. Becoming part of the team was a big life change for her, and it opened her up to people," she explained. Now, the lack of that purpose will weigh on Felicity, asking "Will she be able to continue on being happy?" At the same time, Rickards said the five months away has "regenerated" her character.

Though the couple are happy on their travels, Amell joked that the usual "impending doom" will bring Oliver and Felicity back to the city and the aforementioned life of dodging bullets. "When we come back, conveniently, I get activated," he said. At the same time, Amell is excited to play an Oliver Queen that can joke and be happy, even though, "when push comes to shove, when people that he cares about are in danger, that primal instinct that he's always had will bare its relatively handsome head."

Noting last year's theme of identity, the star said elements of "magic and mysticism" will work their way into the new season. "Oliver alludes very early on in the season that this is something he's seen before," he says of the threat that brings the hero back home. Magic will play a part in the season's flashbacks as he makes his journey back to Lian Yu. "It's an interesting wrinkle."

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Both Ramsey and Amell note their characters' apprehension about Malcolm Merlyn's ascension to the Demon's Head, but John Barrowman says his character has a genuine "soft spot" for the team, though "I haven't figured out why. Maybe it's because of Tommy knowing most of them, or because Malcolm Merlyn looks at Oliver as his son, or because he trained his daughter to be one of them." Whatever the reaosning, Barrowman believes his character will protect Team Arrow,, though Merlyn's psychology could allow him to turn on them at a moments notice.

He explained why some characters pronounce "Ra's" "Raz" while others say "Rayche." "If you are part of the League of Assassins, you say 'Rayche.' It's a sign of respect and the proper way to pronounce it. If you are outside the League and you're rogue, as a sign of disrespect, you say 'Raz.'" That understanding came about because the actual pronunciation was not clarified on the set until episodes with the "Raz" pronunciation had aired, so, "we had to create a mythology."

However it's pronounced, Barrowman suggested Malcolm's reign as the Demon's Head could be troubled not only by Nyssa, but also, perhaps, the previous Ra's al Ghul. "I want to see that relationship explore,d because his father is dead," he said. "Though, his body is gone, so we don't know." It is unclear if Nyssa will look up to him or hate Malcolm, but "she has to respect him because he wears the ring."

Amplifying his thoughts on the previous Ra's, Barrowman suggested that character could be alive and now act a rogue element against Malcolm's League. "I'm intrigued by that," he said. "Would I no longer be fearful of him because he's no longer the Demon's Head?" And though he emphasized that he is unsure if the character will reappear, Barrowman expressed his hope for a scene where the previous Ra's would have to kneel before Malcolm. "That would be fanboy all over the place."

Meanwhile, Katie Cassidy said she hopes the bond between Nyssa and Laurel continues. Though presumably stuck in Nanda Parbat, Cassidy is certain the writers can find a way for Nyssa to escape so the two can share some scenes together. "It's television, and anything can happen," she said. "I think there's more to that story."

As for Laurel, she will begin the year as a more polished crime fighter. "I wasn't the Black Canary overnight," Cassidy said. The process to that persona came at a slower pace, one she found "more believable." When Laurel finally put on the mask last season, the actress thought Laurel fought with "a lot of heart," and when Season Four begins, Laurel will have the training and experience to back her up as she attempts to take up some of the slack left by Oliver.

Though Laurel's relationship with her father will still be strained when the season opens, Paul Blackthorne said Captain Lance and his daughter will be "on the road to reconciliation." The toughest part of last year for Lance, according to Blackthorne, was not getting the chance to bury Sarah, but he will likely be able to forgive Laurel.

Forgiveness is not something Lance will easily offer to Team Arrow, however. Though the actor hopes to get back to the "cozy conversations" of Season Two, he says Lance will take a pragmatic approach Oliver and his team. "It's one of those things that's best for the city," he explained. "If these guys are going around doing the best they can, Lance will give them some slack."

In the midst of these attempts at reconciliation, Lance will find himself in a dark place. "It's interesting to me that people will do bad things for seemingly the right reasons," he teased. "It's all subjective, isn't it?" He said audience will be surprised by a choice Lance makes early in the season. "He'll do anything for the city, even if he ends up being a dick for doing it," he added.

For Willa Holland, Thea's transformation into Speedy is the fulfillment of a storyline planned from the pilot episode. "Before signing on, they told me that the character would move on to being a superhero eventually," she said. "They weren't a hundred percent sure it was going to be Speedy or not," though the mention of "Speedy" as a nickname in the pilot was a deliberate hint. But while her superhero identity was a long time coming, she appreciated her character's slow, but deliberate, origin story. "One of my favorite things about this show is, no one wakes up one morning and goes, 'I'm gonna go save the world,' and puts on a costume. Everybody goes through something that leads them to this point."

Even with the five month gap, Holland said Thea is still "new to all this stuff... There's definitely something for her to learn about curbing the aggression." As for Thea's Lazarus Pit experience, "I don't think people would be resurrected and be normal after that."

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