Get ready to have all the feels when Arrow returns with its first episode post-Oliver’s death.
After Oliver (Stephen Amell) took the fall for the murder of Sara (Caity Lotz), the emerald archer faced off with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) and unfortunately lost, seemingly costing him his life. “Stephen Amell is really enjoying playing Toliver, who is Oliver Queen’s identical twin brother that you’ve never heard of before,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim deadpans. “That’s a spoiler. That’s exclusive for you.” He’s kidding. Don’t worry.
“I don’t think the audience is wondering whether or not he’s really dead,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg chimes in. “It’s wondering how he’s going to come back. The answer to that question is really revealed over these next three episodes, which were designed to be a trilogy of what happened to Oliver Queen and what happens to Starling City and its heroes when their leader and their inspiration isn’t there to guide them anymore.”
First, however, the team will actually have to find out the truth that their leader has fallen. “We’re shocked and pissed when we get that news from Malcolm Merlyn [John Barrowman],” David Ramsey says, noting that Diggle will suit up in the Arrow costume while Oliver is gone to keep up the guise that their vigilante hero is still protecting the city. But once they realize Oliver is dead, the decision to keep Team Arrow going will not be unanimous. “This has been Oliver’s crusade for three years and now it’s ours. We have to decide whether we want to stay or go and why. It’s a big emotional turn for all of us. Do we want to go look for Oliver? Do we dismantle the team? How do we fight crime in this city without him? We do, by the way, fight crime without him, and it ain’t pretty.”
“Obviously Felicity [Emily Bett Rickards] is heartbroken,” Colton Haynes adds. “Roy kind of plays it differently. He’s very conflicted. He feels a little let down, and I don’t want to say cheated, but in a way he really doesn’t think Oliver is gone. Roy is now on a path to try to figure out if the truth is being told and he’s going to get into a lot of trouble on that path.”
Of course, it’s not a spoiler to say that Team Arrow will live on, with Diggle taking the leadership role, while new members are brought in to fill the void, specifically Laurel (Katie Cassidy), who will finally suit up as the Black Canary. “Roy is a big part in bringing her into the fold because we do need as many people to make up for [Oliver’s absence],” Haynes says.
“This is her opportunity to really step up to the plate and she does,” Cassidy says. “You’ll see her in costume, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that she’s good. She still has a ways to go. She’s avenging her sister’s death. She’s a believer. She’s had a lot of loss in her life. If anybody can handle more loss, I feel like Laurel could because she’s an incredibly strong character.”
Adds Kreisberg: “What Laurel very clearly lacks in skill, she makes up for in grit and determination. In a lot of ways, she helps everyone else comes to terms with Oliver’s absence and helps them find within themselves what this crusade means to them and helps them get back on track.”
It won’t be long, however, before Laurel finds out the truth about her sister’s death—Malcolm Merlyn dosed Thea (Willa Holland) and tricked her into killing Sara—though viewers may be surprised by her reaction. “Everyone starts to find out who actually did kill Sara, but the reason behind why and how that actually happened wasn’t malicious and wasn’t on purpose,” Haynes says. “There’s a big level of forgiveness when that happens, whenever she does find out.”
That’s good news for Thea, who is still blissfully unaware she was the one to kill Sara. “When she does find out, she starts to question her relationship with Malcolm Merlyn and her relationship with everybody, because Thea is always the one being betrayed and everyone’s lying to her,” Haynes says.
The consensus is that Malcolm truly is to blame, but Team Arrow won’t be able to take vengeance on the Dark Archer just yet. Lest we forget, Malcolm Merlyn was under the protection of Oliver. With the Arrow seemingly dead, it sounds like Ra’s will return to Starling City to set his sights on finally taking out Malcolm. “It’s always the people that you want to take vengeance against that you need,” Haynes says, noting that Roy will attempt to stand up to Malcolm on several occasions. “When you need something from someone, especially when now we’re having to deal with Ra’s al Ghul, unfortunately you have to suck it up and wait for the right time.”
Though Team Arrow is in the clear when it comes to the League of Assassins—the blood debt has been paid, after all— they’ll have other villains to worry about. “There’s a new threat that arises in the form of Brick [Vinnie Jones],” Guggenheim says. “We’ve never done a multi-episode villain arc that wasn’t centered around the big bad of the year.”
With other villains on the rise in Starling City, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) will also be determined to step up. “You’ll see with Felicity, there’s a lot of back and forth,” Guggenheim says. “She and Ray Palmer probably have their most intense and intensely negative interaction in the wake of Oliver’s absence. It’s interesting because Oliver basically went off and, in her mind, did the equivalent of committing suicide, and here comes Ray Palmer and says he wants to be a super hero, too. ‘Now I have to watch another guy go on a death mission?’ Oliver’s absence and his willingness to place himself in harm’s way looms very large in Felicity’s interactions with Palmer because Palmer represents a chance for her hopefully to do things differently.”
Very differently, it seems. “Ray Palmer is on a little bit of a power trip in trying to develop his suit, so when that happens, that is when I think things will be in danger because you have a new superhero on a power trip,” Haynes cautions.
With that said, hopefully Oliver’s absence from Starling City will be contained to the upcoming three episodes. “The reason episodes 10, 11 and 12 are a trilogy is the events of episode 309 were so epic on so many different levels, it can’t just be resolved in one episode,” Guggenheim says. “There are repercussions that go for three episodes and really for the remainder for the season, if not the remainder of the series. The series will never be exactly the same post-episode 309.”
Arrow returns Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.