'Arrow' Bosses on Oliver's Familiar Foe and Aftermath of the Midseason Finale

Executive producers Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns discuss the back half of the season, balancing two big bads and what's next.
Diyah Pera/The CW

[Warning: Spoilers ahead.]

Someone from Oliver Queen's past is about to wreak havoc on Starling City.

Arrow wrapped up the first nine episodes of its sophomore season with Oliver's (Stephen Amell) former island mentor, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), back in play in the modern world after getting injected with the Mirakuru serum. This time, though, Slade is out for blood -- revealing himself at the end of the hour as the mastermind behind Brother Blood's (Kevin Alejandro) villainous maneuvering and vocalizing his desire to destroy Oliver's world after Shado's (Celina Jade) emotional death.

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"That's very much the drive of the second half of the season," executive producer Greg Berlanti said of Slade's declaration. "This year we've got a two-pronged approach to the bad guy. We probably shouldn't say anything more than that, but that is the driving force for the back half of the year."

He added: "Oliver knows about the presence of one of the bad guys; it helps us change the rhythm of the back half of the year from what we may have done last year. So that we don't feel like we're breaking the same story or the same show."

Berlanti, along with executive producers Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns, discuss the aftermath of Wednesday's midseason finale.

On Slade's entry to the dark side

Kreisberg: This year, we tried to use the flashbacks much more integrally tied to the present-day storylines, with using the first half of the year and showing Oliver and Shado having a relationship and seeing that Slade loved her from afar. You see what happened to her. That really is his motivation. He blames Oliver for what happened and I think interestingly for our hero, Oliver blames himself too.

Berlanti: Things don't get better between [Oliver and Slade] on the island.

On what's next for Roy following his injection

Kreisberg: The back half of the year is interesting because you would have seen Slade injected. We obviously got a glimpse that he's taken a very dark path. What's fun for us as writers is we see what Roy's (Colton Haynes) potential is to go down that dark path too. One of the things you'll find out as you go along is it's a deep-seated anger that's inside of you that lets you survive the Mirakuru transformation, which is something Slade had which is why he lived and which is why Roy lived too. One of the fun things that will be happening in the back half of the year is [Roy's] relationship with the Arrow and how that changes and how the Arrow makes it his mission to not go down the Slade path, and that's going to take some interesting twists and turns that will hopefully surprise people and they'll enjoy.

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On whether Thea finds out about her father, Malcolm Merlyn

Kreisberg: It was one of the things we were talking about last season, and the story works on so many levels. Moira (Susanna Thompson) always works best when she has a deep, dark secret. This one's even better because it's personal. Again, she's tied to Malcolm (John Barrowman) and Thea (Willa Holland), ironically, is one of the few people who turned out well after last season so you can probably assume that she'll be hit with a whammy as the season progresses.

On Shadow's message to Oliver to "give up"

Kreisberg: I think [that's something] Oliver always feels -- just put down the bow and stop fighting. That's something part of him wants. It's interesting for the audience to see that. It's something we've never seen from him, to see him give up and quit. Obviously, the Slade part of it is the guilt he's been carrying around that blames him for Shado's death.

On Tommy's return

Kreisberg: There's always a chance, given the flashback structure of the show. [Greg and I] were actually breaking the story at the same time. We both felt each other gasp because we were talking about ghosts and then three ghosts and who else could he see. We were talking about [Oliver's] dad. We both said it at the same time, "It should be Tommy." Colin [Donnell] is such a friend of the show and was so important to the success of season one and so much of this season is based around that character and Oliver's loss and what a hole he left in the show. It really fit with the season's arc of Oliver's journey of going from vigilante to hero. The person that he feels he failed -- it's in the opening titles, we see Tommy's grave. For Tommy to forgive him and tell him to get up and fight, just talking about it I get chills. I talked to Colin the other day and said the response has been so great. He's like, "Anytime, dude."

On the introduction of the al Ghul family

Kreisberg: We can't have enough story in our show, and watching how storylines that may seem very disparate at one point and then when they intersect, is really exciting for people. There's obviously these two big strands but some of these things will be tied up this season, hopefully, and if we get another season, they'll be tied up in future seasons, hopefully.

On possibly meeting the oft-mentioned Ra's al Ghul

Johns: Maybe. Never say never. It'd be cool.

On whether more people will find out Oliver's secret identity

Kreisberg: Everyone won't find out. Over the course of the season, a couple more people will find out. For us, him keeping his secret identity is the least interesting part of the character. People knowing and letting him talk to people and sharing that experience, we found to be much more interesting. The last episodes of last season, once Tommy found out, their relationship became so much more interesting because they could talk about what was going on with them that week. While at the same time, there's the superhero trope and we try to preserve that, we don't feel like our series is based on "Oh my god, we've gotta push off on people finding out for six or seven years."

On the introduction of Arrow's mask

Berlanti: A lot of conversation went into that eight inches of material. I always like to think of the episodes as "The One Where ..." The one where he gets his mask -- it's such an iconic moment.

Kreisberg: We saw 50 or 60 different designs, and some of the earlier ones were crazy. It's funny because it worked out really well in success. When we had the pilot, we debated having a mask. We decided to punt for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, if you put a mask on him right away, it sort of says, this is cartoony or superhero-y. It also fit in with his character that he wasn't someone who ever thought he'd be interacting with people. He thought he'd be a dark sniper firing from the shadows. As the series has progressed and he's stepped more and more into the light, which is his overall arc, he's really needed that. It just seemed so perfect this season that he needed it and that Barry (Grant Gustin) ultimately is the one to make it for him -- to make that bond between those two characters.

On potential Arrow/Flash crossovers

Berlanti: Definitely there's a chance [Arrow characters may appear in Flash]. That's our hope.

Arrow returns Jan. 15 on The CW.

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