'Arrow' Bosses Reveal Season 3 Secrets: New Romances, Dark Arcs and Big Surprises

Arrow Stephen Amell Still - H 2014
Jack Rowand/ABC

Arrow is focusing on identity in season three, and Oliver Queen won't be the only one dealing with issues of internal strife.

"If season one was about Oliver going from vengeance to vigilante and season two was vigilante to hero, season three is about identity," executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells The Hollywood Reporter. "It's the first season where this theme of identity is not only about Oliver but is also about all the other characters."

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It's a natural progression for The CW comic book drama, which has broadened its focus beyond the titular superhero over the past two seasons as it continues to expand its universe. "It has become an ensemble where it's not just about the Arrow," Guggenheim says. "It feels appropriate that we'll have a theme that will resonate with the whole group."

Guggenheim, along with executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, previews season three — which picks up six months after the season-two finale — with THR.

"Strongest arcs of the season"

The end of season two saw Laurel and Thea in very different places from the start of the year. Laurel, for one, was one step closer to becoming her comic book alter ego while Oliver's younger sister Thea teamed with her biological father, the pot-stirrer Malcolm Merlyn (new series regular John Barrowman), in her bid to go dark. "Laurel and Thea are the two characters we haven't done as much with in the past, and they have the strongest storylines that we've ever given them," Guggenheim says.

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About that Oliver and Felicity date

"Olicity" fans had something to celebrate when it was revealed Oliver and Felicity would be going on a date in the season-three premiere — or at least attempting to. "Oliver might be catching up to how some of the audience feels in that maybe there's a life with her," Kreisberg says with a laugh. It's in line with the new arc the former Starling City billionaire faces this season. "This season, particularly the premiere episode, is Oliver questioning whether there's a life beyond the hood," he explains. "Can he be Oliver Queen and the Arrow at the same time? One of the things about being Oliver would be what kind of romantic life he could have."

For once, Oliver won't be a smooth operator when he and Felicity do go on that date. "Let's just say Oliver is the one who has trouble completing sentences," Kreisberg hints. As he tells it, the timing was right to further evolve the Oliver-Felicity dynamic. "The way the show has shaken out and the experiences the two have had, it feels like it's time to explore that," he says.

Thea's dark path with Malcolm

What exactly transpired between father and daughter in the limo? Guggenheim hints that viewers will find out the answer in season three, though they'll have to be patient. "We are going to do a flashback at some point in the season that takes you back to that car and continues the conversation, so you'll get to see what Thea said to Malcolm and what Malcolm said to Thea," he says. Adds Kreisberg: "At some point, if all the characters are going to become their comic book selves, they have to go through their island. ... This year is going to be Thea's island. How that plays out and which side she lands on will be the fun of the season."

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Roy's guilt

Thea's whereabouts at the start of the season "is sort of the mystery at the beginning," Kreisberg says, hinting that Roy doesn't take her disappearance well at all. "Roy knows why she left and Oliver doesn't, so that'll play an interesting part in the Oliver-Roy-Thea dynamic."

Diggle's impending fatherhood

Diggle discovered some key news in the finale: He was about to become a father. Though he decided to keep that to himself — Kreisberg insists it was to let the scene on the beach be about other things — everyone is in the know by the premiere, by virtue of it picking up roughly six months later. Kreisberg hints that they won't shy away from Diggle's impending fatherhood. What can viewers expect to that end? "There's a trip to the OB-GYN [in the premiere]," Kreisberg teases.

Oliver Queen, comedian?

Stephen Amell crosses over to The Flash in the very first episode and takes on a lighter mien, smiling and even cracking a joke — a rare sight on Arrow. "We felt like what Stephen did in The Flash pilot was tell the audience that 'you can like this guy, too, because I like him,' " Kreisberg says. Even so, expect the mothership to embrace the happier moments in a more significant way. "One of the things we are doing this season on Arrow is injecting a little more humor," he says. "It's part of the reason why we brought Brandon Routh in" as Ray Palmer, aka the Atom.

Felicity's new love interest

Everyone's favorite techie will have her hands full this season with Routh's arrival as a new partner in Queen Consolidated who will come between Oliver and Felicity in unexpected ways. "The verbal banter between him and Felicity this season is a new thing we're bringing to the show that I think audiences will really like," Kreisberg hints. "He'll be invading Oliver's life in every aspect, whether it's his business, his personal life and possibly down the road in his nighttime activities."

Sara Lance's new "mission"

Caity Lotz returns for at least three more episodes as Laurel's sister Sara, starting with the premiere. Last seen giving Laurel her black leather jacket in the finale as a passing of the baton to the next presumed Black Canary, Kreisberg was mum about the context of her appearance: "She's come back to Starling City with a very specific mission." Laurel, he maintains, has a long road ahead to becoming her comic book alter ego. "She's an attorney with a nice, sweet jacket," Kreisberg says with a laugh. "We're going to see Laurel take a few big steps toward  her comic book self this season. Let's just say that Katie Cassidy is pumping iron."

Welcome to Hong Kong

This season's Hong Kong flashbacks are drastically different from the two seasons spent on the island, especially in their vibe. (Kreisberg compared season one's time warps to a Steven Spielberg film and season two's to Apocalyse Now.) "It has a whole new feel to [the flashbacks]," Kreisberg says of the new season. "It was something we always intended on doing. One of our big ideas when we were doing the pilot was to have Oliver wake up at the end of season two not on the island." Hong Kong will serve to answer several looming questions introduced in the past two seasons, notably Oliver's backstory with Amanda Waller, what he knows and what he's able to do — like fly a plane, mentioned offhand in the finale. Kreisberg says with a laugh: "We will learn how Oliver knows how to fly a plane."  

Suicide Squad's eventual return

The Suicide Squad episode in season two may have seemed like an unofficial backdoor pilot, but Guggenheim insists that was unintentional, that the episode was born strictly out of a desire to progress the Diggle and Lyla storyline. "We haven't quite found the right story yet but we love the Suicide Squad and and we love Deadshot — Michael Rowe was just in the DC offices. For sure we'll be doing something with the Suicide Squad this year. We have to find the right time and the right moment."

Arrow returns Oct. 8 on The CW.

Email: Philiana.Ng@THR.com
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