The CW’s hit superhero show “Arrow” continues to glide through its second season, getting ever more deeply embedded in the greater DC Comics Universe; already this season it’s introduced memorable DC villains, with other fan favorites such as Suicide Squad still to come. In the run-up to Wednesday’s episode, “The Promise,” Hero Complex caught up with “Arrow” executive producer Marc Guggenheim to chat briefly about the out-of-the-ordinary nature of this week’s story line.
Fair warning, there are some spoilers ahead for anyone not fully caught up with the latest episodes.
Hero Complex: So “The Promise” is bigger in scope than usual?
Marc Guggenheim: This episode is a sequel to last year’s Episode 14, which was an episode where we flipped the paradigm and told more stories in the past than we were in the present. The mission last year was Oliver and Slade were trying to get off the island via plane. In this episode, Sara, Slade and Oliver are trying to take over the freighter that’s been off the shores of the island since Episode 1 of this year. One of the things we did for this episode was we built the entire upper deck of the ship. We originally wanted to film on an actual boat, but we couldn’t find one that was shootable on, so our incredibly talented art department created the entire set for us, just for this episode. It not only features the upper deck, it also features the entire hull. There’s no way for me to talk about Episode 15 without calling out Glen Winter, he’s one of our DPs on the show. He directed this episode. He broke out all the stops. It’s a tour de force directing job, but it’s in the service of an epic story. We basically wanted to do a “Mutiny on the Bounty” type of episode and it’s got all those pyrotechnics and big action and scope to it. It features some really seminal moments in terms of Oliver’s evolution to becoming the Arrow. It also features some seminal moments toward Slade Wilson becoming Deathstroke. It’s very much required viewing.
HC: Seems like you’re continually upping the ante in terms of scope. Are you spending more money or are you finding tricks to make it appear bigger?
MG: We’re actually doing it with less money than we had last year, believe it or not. I don’t think it’s a matter of tricks. It’s that everyone with the show has really upped their game. I think the performances have been better, I think the camera work’s been better, the writing’s been better. Everyone’s figured out how to do better. Just goes to show that practice makes perfect. One of the great things about the “Arrow” crew is that no one is settling for what they did yesterday. They’re always thinking about what they can do tomorrow. And they’re not thinking about how they can do something, they’re thinking about how they can do it bigger. That’s literally at every level and in every department. It has allowed us to tell bigger stories. I wish I could say we’ve found some sort of budgetary magic bullet or some accounting trick that allowed us to pull this off. But it has nothing to do with tricks and everything to do with talent.
HC: There have been references to other DC properties, such as mention of Kord Industries, the company owned by Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle in DC lore. Are those there just for fun or are they planting seeds for something down the road?
MG: It depends. Both. Sometimes we are planting a flag, other times we are just having fun. In last week’s episode, we had a billboard for a movie called “Blue Devil.” In DC Comics, Blue Devil is a superhero who came out of a movie. That was an example of a fun easter egg. At the same time, when we name-dropped Ra’s al Ghul at the beginning of Season 2, we were planting a flag. We like the idea of suggesting there’s a broader universe out there beyond Starling City. At the same time, we’re comic book fans and we love a good easter egg as much as the next geek or comic book fan. Sometimes we’re doing it just to show our roots, basically.
HC: Your supporting cast is much bigger in the second season. Has it been tricky to keep all those stories serviced properly from week to week?
MG: Yes. It’s been very tricky, actually. We threw a lot of balls up in the air this year. I think a lot of shows do in the second season. I leave it up to the audience to decide how adequately we’ve addressed every one. I think the book hasn’t been written on Season 2, but I’d say a strength of Season 2 has been the wide range of characters and perhaps the weakness of Season 2 has been the wide range of characters. My hope is that when the season is complete and we sit down and watch contiguously, as opposed to weeks between episodes and hiatuses, you’ll see that every one was serviced. Even if we don’t see Roy for a couple of episodes, we eventually get back to him. Hopefully, all 23 episodes of the season will come together for a satisfying viewing experience and we tell a complete story.
HC: It’s unique that even though Oliver is this wealthy and powerful superhero, he seems to still live at home with his mom and sister. Any chance he’ll be moving out soon?
MG: I think you’ll see in light of the events of Episode 13 of this year, Oliver has not been living at the Queen mansion. In Episode 13 he learned that Malcolm Merlyn is Thea’s biological father and had a big falling out with Moira, who’d been keeping that a secret. We’ve been writing Oliver as not living at the mansion since Episode 13. The episode where you actually get some indication of that is Episode 16 and you’ll see where he’s been hanging his hood.
— Patrick Kevin Day
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