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It was crucial for the producers of Arrow to dig into the DC Universe vault only when the timing seemed appropriate.
As co-creator/executive producer Marc Guggenheim told the PaleyFest crowd Saturday night, inserting those types of details and characters are “the very last thing we do.” The CW drama’s sixth episode, which featured bank robbers, was a perfect example. “It wasn’t until the story was broken that one of the writers said, ‘No, we can call the gang of bank robbers the Royal Flush Gang,” Guggenheim recalled. (The Royal Flush Gang is a group of supervillains in the DC universe.)
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Another example of DC-related nods that were thrown in include the Big Belly Burger (“the only restaurant in the DC universe,” Guggenheim joked).
Co-creator/executive producer Andrew Kreisberg echoed the sentiment, noting that too often television shows or movies stay too true to comic book canon. “Sometimes in comic book adaptations, there’s a little too much fidelity to the source material and not enough alchemy in translating it,” Kreisberg said. Guggenheim then coughed “Watchmen!” before Kreisberg exclaimed, “He said that!” (The 2009 film directed by Zack Snyder is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, and stayed relatively true to the original material.)
Kreisberg said that Arrow’s fluid storytelling was one of the perks of the show. “It was important that the show not be just for comic book fans, that it was for everybody,” he explained, adding later, “I think that’s why the show is so successful. You don’t have to know the comic books, but for the comic book fan, when they hear Big Belly Burger or hear somebody’s called Deadshot or we reference the city of Bludhaven … for the subset of fans … that stuff makes us smile in the scripts so hopefully it makes you smile when you hear it.”
Prior to the panel, a short clip of upcoming scenes was screened for the audience, with a curious moment between the Huntress (Jessica DeGouw) and Det. Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) in the March 20 return episode. Also, expect Arrow — renewed for a second season last month — to make a trip to WonderCon later this month and return to San Diego’s Comic-Con.
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Guggenheim and Kreisberg, who were joined by co-creator/executive producer Greg Berlanti, along with castmembers Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, David Ramsey and Susanna Thompson, also discussed the remainder of season one — including Tommy’s discovery of Oliver’s secret and the fate of Laurel’s sister.
Tommy and Oliver’s friendship on the rocks: Now that Tommy (Colin Donnell) is aware of Oliver’s (Amell) secret, things will get rocky between the two childhood friends. “It changes everything about their friendship,” Amell said. “Aside from him being the vigilante, Tommy’s big problem is that whether or not I’m doing something virtuous or not, I’ve killed people. He saw me in the pilot, and I confirmed it to him, kill three guys. Tommy’s a good guy, he doesn’t want to see that, he doesn’t want to have to reconcile that his friend would do that.”
From Oliver’s perspective, having yet another person in the know is “terrible.” “I told Diggle (Ramsey) by design, I told Felicity (Emily Betts Rickards) by design and I did not tell Tommy by design,” he said. “My buffer to my family and to Laurel (Cassidy) is now way too thin for my comfort level.” With Tommy and Laurel romantically involved, Amell brought up that at any given point could Oliver’s cover be blown: “[Tommy] could just roll over in bed and say, ‘Hey Oliver is the vigilante.’ “
Laurel’s struggles with her sister’s possible resurrection: There is a possibility that Laurel’s sister Sarah could still be alive, all thanks to Laurel’s mother (Alex Kingston). For the record, there was a big debate about whether or not that line should even be included in the episode, but Berlanti championed it from the get go. “A lot of this stuff is set up in the pilot,” Berlanti said, adding that Sarah’s relevance to the story was something the writers wanted to return to at some point. Berlanti shared that they viewed the season like “three acts of a film,” and the Feb. 27 episode “Dead to Rights” was the end of act two. For Cassidy, the return of Laurel’s mom will be touchy and the reveal was a “complete shock.” “Laurel being a lawyer, she starts to rationalize it and whether she’s telling the truth or if she doesn’t have the right information,” she said. “She gets sucked in by her mother a bit,” who has info that viewers don’t know of yet. Laurel’s mother will “challenge” Quentin coming up.
Keeping the family together: Though Moira Queen (Thompson) is stoic in her ways, “whatever Moira does is to keep her family safe,” Kreisberg said, and that includes kidnapping her own son “so someone else doesn’t,” Thompson added. For now, Moira is stuck between a “rock and a hard place” following the failed assassination attempt on Malcolm (John Barrowman) and being tasked to find out who is responsible.
Saving Malcolm a good thing? Oliver/Arrow saved Malcolm’s life, but will he regret it later on? Put simply: “Yeah, yeah,” Guggenheim said. “For us, in a way, Malcolm is evil Bruce Wayne,” Kreisberg said. “The villain has to have sympathy. Everyone’s the hero of their own story. What’s interesting about Malcolm and Oliver is they both want the same thing in an odd way. They both want what’s best for the city, they both want to clean up the city.” Producers teased that future episodes will explore more of Malcolm, what’s driving him and what the undertaking is.
A new city: Before the season ends, expect Oliver/Arrow to take a trip to Bludhaven. However, don’t expect Nightwing to make an appearance, producers said.
Secret guest star: Producers were cagey but they teased that there will be a special guest star coming up in the remaining episodes of the season. The only hint? “One of the stars of a popular genre show,” Kreisberg said. Let the wheels start turning.
More Roy Harper: As the season wraps up, he will continue to be fleshed out as a character. Viewers will see “glimmers” of what he becomes, Guggenheim promised.
No magical powers: Arrow is set in a relatively realistic world, so to keep in line with that DNA, producers said that there will not be any special powers on the show. At least not yet.
The island is a mainstay: There will be island flashbacks in every episode. “It provides so much the pulse of the show,” Berlanti said. Amell was coy but hinted that there very well could be a flashback to island Oliver: “We haven’t seen Oliver before the island … yet.”
Social media helped propel Felicity to forefront: One of the pleasant surprises on the show was IT girl Felicity, who was only supposed to be a day player. But the producers, who are often on Twitter following viewers’ reactions on Wednesday nights, saw there was an influx of reaction to Rickards’ character. So much so that Warner Bros. TV boss Peter Roth commented on how much he “loved the blonde computer girl.”
An NBC dig: When a fan asked if Amell, who does most of the stunts on the show, would try out for American Ninja Warrior, the charming star joked: “Ninja Warrior is on NBC and … [in dramatic voice] NBC is on the list!” referencing Oliver’s handy book of names.
Arrow returns March 20 on The CW.
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