“Arrow” is rapidly moving toward the conclusion of its first season and fans can rest easy knowing that, no matter what happens, the show will return in the fall. The CW series has already been picked up for a second season.
Though he’s still hard at work on the finale, which airs May 15, “Arrow” executive producer and co-show runner Marc Guggenheim took a few minutes to talk about what’s still to come for Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Starling City.
And for those wondering about what they can expect, check out the clip above from Wednesday night’s episode, titled “The Undertaking,” which flashes back to Oliver and his father before their ill-fated trip at sea.
Beware, some spoilers lurk below for anyone not up to date with the season so far.
HC: Were you able to accomplish everything you set out to do in this first season of “Arrow” or did some stuff get pushed to Season 2?
MG: I think there’s always stuff that gets pushed. I will say that we went into the season with a very specific game plan. When we first went in to pitch the season to the studio and the network, I described our philosophy the same as when I vacationed in Europe. I like to have an itinerary, I like to have lots of things planned out in advance, but at the same time I want to have time to try some new restaurant or explore some new inspiration. When I look back on Season 1, creatively for me it was the perfect blend of catching all the plates we threw up in the air at the beginning of the year and discovered some new ones along the way. We were on the mix stage yesterday for Episode 21 and it hit home for me just how much of that episode really finds its roots in the pilot. As a viewer, I’ve always had a great affection and appreciation for a well-crafted season, particularly of network television when it’s 22 episodes versus 13. You are really telling a long tale. I always like to leave it up to the critics and the audience to decide if we pull it off in a satisfying way, but I will say I’m very satisfied where everything ended up.
HC: What’s going to be in the last three episodes?
MG: So much. One thing that’s a strength of the show is the amount of story we’re telling in each episode. We take that fast pace and really ratchet it up to the nth degree in the last episodes. In 21 you learn everything about the mythology of the show. You learn exactly what The Undertaking is, you learn exactly what was behind the boat trip that was in the pilot. You have a major development in the Tommy-Laurel-Oliver love triangle. You have major events in the life of the series. Episode 22, on pretty much any other show, that’s the season finale. In 23, so many things come to a head and it ends on such a huge cliffhanger, we call it the season finale plus. We take the idea of the season finale and then deliver a mini movie. It’s the most ambitious episode to date. We took over one of the old “Watchmen” sets and we populated it with 200 extras. It was crazy. I was there for those shooting days. Even I, who is inured to the ambition of the show, was in shock with what our production team assembled. It really feels epic and massive in a way that makes all the previous episodes look small. The level of production value and the level of scope hit a new mark for us. That’s just two acts worth and then we have all this other action and then the flashbacks. Every scene is a huge moment in the life of the series.
HC: It was surprising how many people learned Oliver’s secret identity in the first season. Were you deliberately trying to avoid having his efforts to conceal his identity become a running thing?
MG: As a general rule, we resist or steer away from things that are running storylines. One of our raisons d’etre is what we call burning through story. The identity reveals is one facet of that general storytelling philosophy. Every time someone learns his identity it creates new fodder for stories. It’s a cool way to upset the character dynamics. Basically, three people have learned Oliver’s identity. The first one was Diggle [David Ramsey], which was always part of the plan. Felicity [Emily Bett Rickards] was something of a surprise to us. When that character was introduced, it was a one-off. Then we kept bringing her back. Eventually, we realized that the blessing and curse of having this character was we had a choice: either she learns Oliver’s identity, we write her out or she doesn’t learn Oliver’s identity and keep her in the dark and there’s only so long you can do that without her seeming completely stupid. Process of elimination, the only feasible option that was palatable to us was to have her learn Oliver’s identity because we didn’t want to write her out. With respect to Tommy, that was just a decision that was born out of, if Tommy learns Oliver’s identity, it generated a lot of story for us. It allowed us to show a different dynamic. When Diggle and Felicity learn Oliver’s identity, they’re on board. But Tommy’s reaction was much less approving and cooperative. That’s created a lot of conflict between Oliver and Tommy we’ve used to good effect.
HC: We’ve now learned that the symbol in Oliver’s father’s book matched the Starling City subway system. What was the thinking behind that symbol and the choice to reveal its meaning when you did?
MG: We always knew it was going to lead up to the subways and the reveal of the Glades. The art department designed the symbol, which we call “the Glyph.” We sent them maps of subways and traffic snarls. We wanted it to look like an abstract version of such a map, so that when we ultimately revealed what the Glyph was, you’d be able to go back and go, “Oh my God, that makes perfect sense.” As far as when to reveal it, I think there had been some discussion about revealing it two episodes earlier than when we did. We revealed it in Episode 18, and we might have flirted with having it revealed in 16. But there wasn’t discussion of doing it sooner than that. In large part, once Oliver realizes there’s something going on in the Glades, we didn’t want the remainder of the season to be hijacked by the investigation of that. We had to wait until Oliver was ready from a story perspective to make that discovery. Once we play out our endgame for the rest of the season, a lot of people will go back to Episode 18 and realize there’s a bunch of different seeds that are planted in that episode that pay off or were necessary to lay in to tell the story of the finale.
— Patrick Kevin Day
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