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'Arrow' postmortem: Who's to blame for the shocking death?

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ARROW PREMIERE
Cate Cameron/The CW

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season premiere of Arrow.

If Arrow fans were at all worried that The CW super series would get off to a slow start in its third season, they were sorely mistaken. Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Team Arrow are now about to face one of their biggest hurdles after the death of one of their own.

After leaving Starling in the season finale, Sara (Caity Lotz) returned and briefly reunited with her sister Laurel (Katie Cassidy), only to be shot down with three arrows to the gut by a mystery man—if the arrows weren’t enough, she fell several stories off a building. Suffice it to say, Sara is definitely, undeniably dead. Though Arrow has killed off several main characters before, including Oliver’s best friend, Tommy (Colin Donnell), and Queen matriarch Moira (Susanna Thompson), Sara’s death is especially shocking coming during the season opener.

“We had this notion of starting the year off in a way that we typically end the year,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim explains. “Every time we kill off a character on the show, it’s always incredibly hard. We’re not Game of Thrones, we’re not Sons of Anarchy. It’s really, really, really difficult. As with Tommy’s death and as with Moira’s death, the story implications for this development are so far-reaching for the show and affect all the characters.”

Among the rich storytelling that Sara’s death provides is the mystery of who killed her, which brings the show back to its roots after being much more upfront about the identity of its big bad in the second season. “We’re going to turn to a suspect in the killing,” Guggenheim says, playing extremely coy when EW offered up incoming season three villain Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) as a suspect—if she left the League of Assassins without his permission once again, her death could be retribution. But Ra’s won’t be the only character handy with a bow and arrow appearing on the show this year. Ahem. Ahem. Ahem.

Fortunately, Arrow fans haven’t actually seen the last of Lotz on the series. In fact, she’ll appear in the aptly-titled second outing, “Sara,” which Guggenheim calls their “most emotionally gut-wrenching episode.” Sara’s death “affects all of the characters on the show,” he says. “It’s kind of brutal. There’s the question of, what should be done with Sara’s body? There’s the question of, who do they tell? Do they tell Lance [Paul Blackthorne], for example, that his daughter died a second time? There’s the emotional repercussions for everybody, but there’s definitely repercussions for Oliver and Felicity [Emily Bett Rickards], and it has repercussions for Felicity and Ray Palmer [Brandon Routh].” It’s interesting to note that the producers chose the title “Sara” because it has a double meaning.

The producers also aren’t ruling out future appearances. “One of the beautiful parts on the show is we do flashbacks,” Guggenheim says. “We still want to tell the story of what happened when Sara washed up on the shores of Lian Yu after the… sinking of the Amazo, how she met Nyssa [Katrina Law] and how she joined the League of Assassins. There’s still a lot of story left to be told with Sara.”

Of course, Laurel will be among those who takes Sara’s death the hardest having learned the truth about her sister only to lose her all over again. “Laurel’s very much at the center of [episode two],” Guggenheim says. “Sara’s death probably pulls [Oliver and Laurel] closer together than further apart. That’s not to say that there aren’t significant moments of conflict between them also. There’s a scene in episode two where they’re going at it and can’t stand each other. There’s also a scene in episode two where they’re the closest they’ve ever been. It’s all in the same episode and it doesn’t feel schizophrenic. Each moment feels earned because of the emotional roller coaster that these people are on.”

There are two pieces of positive news that come out of Sara’s death. Though Diggle (David Ramsey) all but handed over his resignation from Team Arrow after the birth of his daughter, the “circumstances of Sara’s death change up a lot of things,” Guggenheim hints. Also, Nyssa will return to fill the void left by Sara. “Obviously the whole reason to bring Nyssa back is her finding out that Sara’s dead is going to be a big deal,” he says. “With Sara’s death, Nyssa actually becomes more important, because I feel like one thing that Sara did was provide us a cool, ass-kicking female character on the show. Nyssa definitely fits that bill quite well.”

Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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