'Arrow' Bosses Tease Game-Changing Season 4 Villain, Challenges for Olicity

Arrow Still - H 2015
Courtesy of CW

Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has come a long way from his first days back in Starling City after his time on the island on Arrow.

When season four of The CW DC Comics take picks up after a five-month time jump, the former vigilante has hung up his leather hoodie for good, and is committed to living a life of domestic bliss with his longtime love Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) out in the suburbs of Ivy Town. Instead of arrows, bullets and fists, his new weapons of choice are scrambled eggs, soufflés and brunch. Of course, he still spends a good chunk of his free time running around in a green hood ... but now it's a green sweatshirt, and the running is just for exercise. Get ready to see a totally new Oliver.

But when a new threat becomes too much for Diggle (David Ramsey), Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Thea (Willa Holland) to handle on their own in the newly renamed Star City, they're forced to pull Oliver out of early retirement.

"When Oliver left Starling City it was left to Dig and Laurel to be Team Arrow without the Arrow," executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. "You'll see Dig take on a leadership role on Team Arrow in Oliver's absence but Damien Darhk [Neil McDonough] is going to prove to be much more than he can handle on his own, and that's when Oliver is brought back into it. Before, Dig worked for Oliver, and now they are much more equals and they're going to struggle to find their place in this new environment. One of the early episodes, Dig has lost his faith in Oliver so they don't quite have each other's backs and that leads to a mishap. They have to learn to work together again, much more as equals."

And that's going to be necessary, to hear the Arrow showrunners tell it, because Damien Dahrk is a villain much worse than anything Team Arrow has ever seen before.

"We've always referred to Ra's al Ghul [Matt Nable] as the worst thing that can happen to Oliver and his team, but when you see the first two episodes of season four, you'll quickly realize that Ra's was in the nursery compared to what Damien's got in store for everybody," Kreisberg says with a laugh. "And a lot of times we won't even get a glimpse of who the big bad of the season is until we're deeper in, and so we thought it would be interesting to see Damien come out swinging and say this season is about the Green Arrow vs. Damien Dahrk right away. The first episode is the first battle between them."

That's right: Oliver is now calling himself the Green Arrow, instead of just the Arrow, and that new moniker will be adopted right away in the season four premiere.

"It felt right for the natural evolution of Oliver's character to become what we know in the comics," executive producer Wendy Mericle tells THR. "We're doing a slight change in the show this year in terms of what kind of superhero he's going to be and close the chapter on the whole soldier coming back from war, PTSD, darkness story we were telling. We'll still have darkness but it's going to be explored in different ways. Oliver himself is going to be in a happier place so it seemed like the perfect time."

Of course, his happiness is going to be tested almost right away when he's told of what Damien Dahrk has been doing to the people of Star City. 

"He's a different villain for us than what we've done before," Kreisberg says. "Damien really enjoys being a bad guy. His ultimate motivations, we're going to keep a mystery. He's a bit more colorful, a bit more fun and is very dangerous and commanding and leads an army of followers who would die at his command. But he's funnier, more charming and fits in with our whole shading this year where we've made things lighter. We made Oliver a little more approachable and let him have some more fun. In a way, the villain mirrors that."

So what does that mean for Oliver and Felicity's relationship, now that they've finally gotten together after years of will-they-won't-they? Kreisberg, Mericle and executive producer Marc Guggenheim all promise that this season will be full of happy "Olicity" moments.

"After the end of season three, which I'd describe as an orgy of plot twists, this is a much more back-to-the-basics approach," Guggenheim tells THR. "We're coming in and the show will feel both new and familiar. People are expecting something like [season three's premiere], where it's Oliver and Felicity in a restaurant and things literally blow up, but it's not going to be that. It feels like a new show in many respects. We're starting a new trilogy, essentially."

Mericle adds that they didn't bring Olicity together only to break them up again.

"They're going to be together this season but it's no secret that he's going to become the Green Arrow," Mericle says. "He's taking up the mission in a different way and that's going to create challenges for them as a couple and as individuals. Watching them navigate those waters and seeing if they make it or not is going to be exciting. They're going to be thrown some big curve balls."

"It wouldn't be Arrow if we didn't toss a few curve balls," Kreisberg adds with a laugh. "But yes, they're happy. They're now very openly a couple and living together. It has a very different feel to see whatever struggles they face; at the end of the day, they're two people who love each other. There will be lighter, nice, heartwarming end-of-episode, curled-up-on-the-couch moments for our two lovers who are no longer star-crossed."

But not every relationship on the newly reunited Team Arrow will be in a good place when Oliver and Felicity return to Star City. Diggle is still holding a very big grudge against Oliver for what he did when he was undercover in the League of Assassins. 

"Diggle's been charged with keeping the team alive and keeping the city safe in Oliver's absence," Mericle says. "He's not happy to see Oliver when they're reunited. He's still angry at what Oliver did to Lyla [Audrey Marie Anderson] and the threat he posed to baby Sara. He's also going to dealing with HIVE and what that means to him, and the family history with his brother that we set up in season two. He's got a lot on his plate. He's in a darker head space where Oliver is in a lighter one. It's going to be a different dynamic, and that's going to deepen their relationship over time."

And while Diggle's issues are going to be front and center for Team Arrow right away, it's actually Thea who will be struggling the most this season when the latent effects from being brought back to life via the Lazarus Pit start to surface for the new hero.

"In the intervening months, she's really stepped up as part of the team. She doesn't need to find her feet as a superhero, so she's advanced and we see her as a badass at the start of season four," Mericle says. "We'll explore her needs to deal with the after effects of the pit as well as having some sense of normalcy with having a love interest and pursuing a normal life. It's her version of season one Oliver, trying to discover how to be a superhero and a normal person at the same time."

Expect Arrow to dive deep into how the Lazarus Pit affected Thea in the first half of season four.

"We'll face it head on and it's going to become an important story," Guggenheim says. "And the explanation of why we didn't see anything from her resurrection until season four will also be explained."

One aspect of this season that excites all the showrunners is the flashback storyline, although the reason why is being kept top secret until the premiere airs.

"One of the things we're trying to do with the flashbacks this year is we want them to tie in to the present day in a different way than they typically have in the past," Guggenheim says. "In the past, it's always been someone from the flashbacks showing up in present day, so we're going to create a different connection between flashback and present day stories this season."

And just because Oliver was seen getting on a Coast City ship at the end of season three does not automatically mean Arrow is heading to the hometown of Hal Jordan, aka the Green Lantern.

"Hal Jordan is such a cool character and you might see some nods to him," Mericle teases. "But we won't be seeing him on the show. And though it was teased that Oliver might be heading to Coast City, I can't confirm that. There's a little bit of mystery around that."

Arrow season four premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on The CW.