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Who was Oliver Queen before the island?
The CW’s Arrow kicks off the final three episodes of its rookie season with an hour titled “The Undertaking,” an installment that doesn’t flash back to Oliver (Stephen Amell) on the island, but rather to days before he even stepped foot on the Queen’s Gambit.
“In a way, it’s a trilogy of episodes. They’re interlocked and it’s a three-part ending,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Once it starts, it’s really pedal to the metal.”
The Arrow executive producer talks to THR about the non-stop action that awaits as season one wraps up and how the finale, titled “Sacrifice,” sets up for the sophomore run.
The Hollywood Reporter: Can you give us an overview of what we might see in the final three episodes of the season?
Andrew Kreisberg: We’re going to find out exactly what The Undertaking is, what Malcolm’s (John Barrowman) plan for the city is, everyone’s secrets and lies come out, love triangles spring up, friendships are destroyed. Hopefully it’s everything you want to see in the season finale.
THR: When I spoke with Emily Bett Rickards (Felicity) recently, she joked that if the final two episodes were on the same night, “there’d be a lot of strokes.”
Kreisberg: We kept saying that episode 22 on any other show would be a legitimate season finale and then on top of that we got episode 23, which is just bonkers. [Laughs] We really pulled out all the stops knowing how big these episodes were going to be and everything we wanted to do. We actually saved up some money along the season so we could have a couple of extra shooting days and spend extra money on visual effects because it’s going to be epic. For us, episode 22 is the finale and episode 23 is almost like Arrow: The Movie.
THR: More stunts, fights and action sequences than usual?
Kreisberg: Yeah, it’s really amazing. We actually shot on the old Watchmen set. They basically built a city, and we got to shoot on them which just made the whole thing feel truly epic.
THR: This week’s episode, “The Undertaking,” covers a bit more ground than the usual Arrow installment in that it goes back further in time. What can you say about what we’ll be seeing?
Kreisberg: Usually we flash back to the island and see Oliver’s chronological adventures, and what’s fun about this episode is it’s the first time we’re flashing back to the week before the Queen’s Gambit left. Jamey Sheridan is back as Robert Queen, Oliver’s father, and Colin Salmon is back as Walter [Steele, Oliver’s stepfather] and Chin Han is back as Frank Chen. We’re going to see the origins of The Undertaking and what exactly it is. We’ll also get to see Oliver before he left for the boat. It’s been a long time since the pilot, since we’ve seen the Oliver Queen before any of this stuff happened, so that’s fun to see. We’ll see how a specific incident in Oliver and Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) past affects their future.
THR: How big of a contrast is the Oliver that’s been established to the Oliver from back then?
Kreisberg: By episode 14, “The Odyssey,” which was sort of our all-flashback episode, Stephen found a whole new gear for island Oliver, as we call him. He really is a succinctly different character from the one he’s playing in the present day. When you meet pre-boat Oliver, it’s such a far cry from the person that we know. He’s not exactly the best person. [The network] hasn’t been worried about us portraying that pre-boat/island Oliver as a liar and not an entirely good person. It really shows how far he’s come in the present day. We (Kreisberg, and executive producers Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim) sort of threw all these plates up in the air over the course of the season, and we’re really proud of ourselves that we haven’t let too many of them fall — we’re catching them all in the last few episodes.
THR: Is there always that chance that Oliver could revert back to his pre-boat days?
Kreisberg: I don’t know. I think the mistakes he’ll make moving forward aren’t the same kinds of mistakes. The mistakes that he made before the boat trip were adolescent and immature and selfish. The mistakes he makes after the island are very different. They’re the mistakes of an adult.
THR: Can you speak to Tommy and Oliver’s strained friendship? How much back and forth is left for the two and can they ever truly reconcile?
Kreisberg: As you’ve seen in the last few episodes, Tommy and Oliver’s friendship is changed forever. That was one of the decisions we made when we let Tommy in on the secret was because we shake things up and change their dynamic. The repercussions of Tommy discovering Oliver’s secret have been playing out and will continue to play out in surprising ways. I think that Colin Donnell‘s performance, especially episode 16 on, he’s totally raised his game and those moments between Oliver and Tommy have become some of our most powerful scenes.
THR: What hints can you offer for the season finale?
Kreisberg: Everyone in the story is faced with ‘what are you willing to give up to do what’s right?’ It’s not necessarily always life and death. It’s everything you want to see in this kind of show. We wanted a finale that was super exciting and filled with action, stunts and special effects that people have come to enjoy, but at the same time, they’ve really embraced our characters — Oliver and Felicity and Laurel and Diggle (David Ramsey). The finale is funny, scary, emotional, intense.
THR: Is it safe to assume that the season ends on a major cliffhanger?
Kreisberg: There are multiple cliffhangers.
Arrow airs at 8 p.m. Wednesdays on the CW.
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