[Warning: Spoilers ahead for season two of Arrow.]
Is Oliver Queen fit to be a hero?
That is the main question that drives the new season of The CW’s comic book hit Arrow, returning for a batch of new episodes beginning Oct. 9. The producing team has made it no secret that season two charts Oliver’s ascension from “the Arrow in season one to being Green Arrow,” as executive producer Andrew Kreisberg put it at Comic-Con.
Following the explosive finale, which featured the emotional death of Oliver’s best friend, Tommy Merlyn, that journey won’t be easy. Starling City is in ruins, with copycats terrorizing the corrupt, Roy Harper unsuccessfully following in the vigilante’s footsteps and a rival corporation nearing a hostile takeover of Queen Consolidated. When Oliver returns, the magnitude of Tommy’s death still lingers — effectively changing the way he goes about his business.
In a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, executive producer Marc Guggenheim previews the sophomore season, from repercussions of Tommy’s death and the aftermath of the Undertaking to Oliver’s heroic journey and the many new faces coming into town.
This season has been firmly established as Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) journey to becoming a hero. Were there any challenges in going down that road?
One of the biggest challenge is answering the question of what does it mean to be a hero versus a vigilante. Oliver in last year’s mission crossed names off the list. The hero is a lot more difficult to do. What does it mean to save the city? It’s a potentially more amorphous goal. That challenge followed and translated into a challenge for us as writers because we like the idea of continuing Oliver’s evolution to eventually becoming the Green Arrow. What is the Arrow trying to do week to week? What problems is he facing?
What is the biggest distinction between hero Oliver versus vigilante Oliver?
One of the differences between the hero and the vigilante is that heroes don’t kill. So we are basically taking that arrow out of his quiver. In addition, the police are still not approving of him taking the law into his own hands. There are different types of challenges and at the end of the day, the challenges for the Arrow are the challenges for us writers.
In the premiere, Oliver is having a hard time accepting Tommy’s death, which seems to serve as the catalyst for his new approach to fighting crime in Starling City. How significant is that?
The desire to honor Tommy’s memory by not killing is going to be something that’s a lot easier said than done. One of the things we wanted to do when we made the decision to kill Tommy was to make sure that it wasn’t going to be just a stunt we did to end the season, but rather that it would impact Oliver, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and all of our characters going forward — not just through the season premiere but through at least the beginning of season two. And that’s definitely true. You see the repercussions; Tommy will be haunting Oliver at least through episode nine, and he remains a very big part of our series — in spirit at least.
Laurel has a much more negative take on the vigilante, which obviously jeopardizes Oliver in a huge way. How does that wrinkle affect their relationship moving forward?
It’s an added complication in an already complicated relationship because one thing we see in the season premiere is the fact that Tommy’s death has really cast a long shadow on Oliver and Laurel’s relationship — and it’s not even a relationship with a capital “R” because they slept together and then the earthquake happened and Tommy died. We are dealing with the repercussions of all those events on their relationship. And yes, Laurel announces to Oliver that she intends to take down the vigilante. When she makes this pronouncement, things get complicated and someone else will be entering the picture who will complicate that even further. That’s one of the things we do on the show. We like to always do the unexpected and even when we do “the expected,” we try to twist it in a way that still surprises you.
Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) is slowly being molded into Arrow’s sidekick, and the second episode is the first sign of that. How long of a journey will it take for him to become Arrow’s right-hand man?
We established that it took five years for Oliver to go from Oliver Queen to being a vigilante badass. I’m not saying it will take five years for Roy but what we’ll say is any of our characters who may have superhero destinies, they have to go through their own sort of crucible. It has to be as difficult as the island was for Oliver. And for Roy, he is having difficulty as it is to save the city. He is going to have all sorts of ups and downs over the course of season two. It’s going to be a process for him; he chose the reality that we established already. The other thing is if it’s too easy for someone to put on a uniform and fight crime, it starts to diminish who Oliver is and what he has gone through on the island and continues to go through. So we have to be really careful about that.
You’re introducing a slew of new characters, such as Black Canary, Flash and Bronze Tiger. But Oliver will have to contend with Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau) in the boardroom at Queen Consolidated. How difficult will that be for him?
One of the things we really wanted to do this year was, in addition to giving Arrow various foils and antagonists, was to give Oliver Queen an antagonist. We really didn’t get a chance to do much with his private life last year — so much of his time was spent dealing with his family or being Arrow. This year, he takes a leadership position at Queen Consolidated, which was a job he rejected in episode two last year. He’s a year older, a year wiser and the company is in much more dire straits. As a result, he’s basically forced into the position, where he doesn’t have the experience or expertise. His relationship with Isabel is going to cause complications for Oliver, not just at Queen Consolidated, but it will complicate one of the other relationships he has on the show.
Oliver has yet another nemesis in Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro). Are their encounters contentious?
Their relationship evolves. It starts off very contentious and then turns into — I don’t want to say friendship necessarily, but the two men do begin to develop a respect for each other. It’s actually a much more dimensionalized relationship than you would think just from their first meeting. It really does, over the course of the first two episodes, evolve and become more interesting than Sebastian Blood ripping on Oliver Queen’s shortcomings. It’s fun for us to develop a relationship that’s not romantic and not quite professional. It’s a different circumstance that Oliver finds himself in with Sebastian. It’s one of the most interesting threads in season two, watching how Oliver’s perspective changes on Sebastian Blood and how Sebastian Blood’s changes on Oliver as well.
We won’t see Flash/Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) until episode eight, but what can you say about his entrance?
When we first meet him, there is no Flash, there are no superpowers. He fits in really beautifully in the chemistry of the cast of characters. His interaction with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is particularly entertaining. He is very smart and a little awkward and Felicity is very awkward, so it’s fun to watch their dynamic. But Oliver is dealing with a guy who is a little different. He brings to bear a certain expertise and he has a certain fascination with the vigilante. It’s fun to get his perspective on what’s happening.
It’s interesting to see Oliver attempting to pick up the pieces post-Undertaking. He can’t catch a break …
The only thing I can promise you is that he will never catch a break.
Arrow premieres Oct. 9 at 8 p.m. on The CW.