'Arrow' EP Talks Oliver's Evolution to Hero and the 'Big Bombs' Ahead

Arrow Burned Episodic Stephen Amell Andrew Dunbar - H 2013
Jack Rowand/The CW

Arrow Burned Episodic Stephen Amell Andrew Dunbar - H 2013

The CW's Arrow returns with its winter premiere Wednesday to find Stephen Amell's central hero struggling with having endured a beat-down of epic proportions at the hands of Malcolm Merlyn's Dark Archer.

As was revealed in December's midseason finale, John Barrowman's Malcolm is working with none other than Oliver's (Amell) mother, Moira, and plotting a deadly Undertaking that would drastically transform Starling City. Meanwhile, Oliver begins to question whether the list he's been working off of actually originated with his father.

The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim to preview the second-half of the CW's freshman hit and answer some of the burning questions ahead -- including how Teen Wolf's Colton Haynes will factor into the series' mythology.

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THR: After failing against Malcolm, how will we see Oliver struggle?
Marc Guggenheim: That's the question posed by our first episode back. We get under how Oliver is dealing with a crisis of confidence in the wake of a pretty severe beat down he got from the Dark Archer. It's an exploration about the nature of fear for Oliver. Oliver has never had to deal with the fear of death before. One of the things we're using this episode to explore is the way Oliver has changed, from the guy who came back in the pilot to the guy we've seen 10 episodes in. We use this as an opportunity to check in with him emotionally and dig into the fact that when he was on the island, he was making this grand plan to save the city. He never anticipated or expected to deal with his family and friends and all the relationships he's reignited since returning from the island. He wasn't focused on being Oliver Queen, he was on being the Arrow. It's a real challenge for him to deal with possibility of death now that he has all these people in his life. That's what Diggle is there for, to help him manage his fear and be the guy who as Diggle says, "jumps off of rooftops" while still being the Oliver Queen he's come to be since the pilot -- someone who is more engaged with his family and friends and less aloof. At same time, we're telling a season-long arc with Oliver. When we first met him, he was this guy who was damaged and aloof and this angry vigilante. Over course of the first season, we're slowly evolving him into someone who's a better Oliver Queen but also a better hero. It's the transition from vigilante to being a hero; from being the Arrow to being the Green Arrow, which is our shorthand way of saying he starts off being about this vigilante who is all about crossing names from his father's list to being a true hero, someone who's actually trying to be a force for positive change in the city.

THR: What lengths will Oliver go to in order to successfully take down Malcolm? After a beat down like that, he's got to make some fundamental changes to his approach and training.
Guggenheim: The first big change is an emotional one; it's recognizing that he has to change his mindset when he goes into the field -- this is even before he has the rematch with Malcolm. That's something we'll be teasing a little bit; we're going to make you wait a little bit for that epic rematch. Oliver's next major interaction with Malcolm is the last thing in the world you'd expect. Oliver doesn't know that he's the Dark Archer, nor does Malcolm know that Oliver is Arrow. There are two bombs underneath the table in the latter half of the season: When is Oliver going to discover that Malcolm is the Dark Archer and when is Malcolm going to discover that Oliver is the Arrow, and which one is going to come first? We will be revealing the Arrow's identity to another character in short order.  

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THR: Any chance that'd be Thea, especially since you've got Roy Harper's potential Speedy character coming soon?
Guggenheim: I don't like to handicap these things!

THR: The other big "bomb" waiting to go off is Oliver learning that his mother is behind his kidnapping and torture. How will you be addressing that?
Guggenheim: That's been something we've been keeping on a low simmer since the pilot. As we started to construct latter half of the season, we discussed how much longer can Oliver go without knowing his mother is up to no good without him seeming stupid or avoiding the thing that's right under his nose. Starting in episode 11 and going through episode 14, is a multiepisode arc that will deal with this question.

THR: Malcolm and Moira are working together. What's their end game? Might they have penned Oliver's hit list?
Guggenheim: That's the big question for remainder of year. In episode nine, we learned of this event that they're planning, the Undertaking, and we're starting to lay the foundation for Oliver making the discovery of what the Undertaking is. It's our big end game for the season. The question of what Moira and Malcolm are up to will be explored as we go through episode 10 and on. It may not be quite what you expect but it sets up our big finale. The twists and turns of getting there is part of the fun of the second half of the season.

THR: Colton Haynes will play Roy Harper. What's the nature of his relationship like with Oliver? Might he be Speedy? 
Guggenheim: We're going to start off with Roy being a love interest for Thea. The first iteration of his relationship with Oliver will be as the new boyfriend to his younger sister. We saw in episode 9 the way Oliver tends to react to guys who date his sister. We plan on having a bit of fun with that. We also plan on having fun with the fact that Roy is from The Glades, this area that's the worst of the worst in Starling City. That's a very far cry from the way the Queens live their lives and we'll have some fun with the worlds colliding, both in terms of Thea and Roy and Oliver and Roy.

THR: In other news, the CW is casting Diana for its Wonder Woman prequel, Amazon. Considering your background in the genre, whom do you like for the role?
Guggenheim: Angelina Jolie, but I don't think she'll be doing television anytime soon. She would be the entirety of the CW's budget. I'd like them to go with an unknown. I think much the same way we cast Stephen Amell, who had been on some shows but wasn't a household name, I'd like them to take the same approach with Diana.  

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. Hit the comments with what you're looking forward to seeing.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit