Jack Rowand/The CW
Natalie Abrams
May 17, 2018 at 10:00 PM EDT

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from the season 6 finale of Arrow. Read at your own risk.

The hero got arrested. The show’s moral center was killed. The bad guy got away. All in all, it was a pretty rough season finale for Arrow.

During the episode, Team Arrow launched an assault on Ricardo Diaz (Kirk Acevedo), who threatened to kill Laurel (Katie Cassidy) unless Mayor Lance (Paul Blackthorne) ordered the FBI to leave Star City. Following a meetup to strike a deal gone bad, an angry Diaz goes to shoot Laurel, but Lance steps in front of the gun instead, taking a bullet to the gut.

Team Arrow arrives just in time to thwart Diaz from taking a kill shot, with Oliver (Stephen Amell) finally getting the upper hand over Diaz in a rooftop showdown. But a distraught Laurel blasts Diaz off the roof with her canary cry, inadvertently letting Diaz get away. That’s right, the season’s big bad escapes to live another day. His forces are decimated by season’s end, but there was that mention that he’s been working with the Longbow Hunters, so he’s not totally on his own.

Back at the hospital, Oliver finally reveals how he got the FBI to help: He’s going to publicly admit he’s the Green Arrow and then turn himself in to police custody. As everyone argues against it, the doctor comes out to reveal that Lance has died — Blackthorne is exiting the series and will star on the NBC drama The InBetween.

Now that Oliver is in jail and Diaz is in the wind, what will happen to Star City? EW turned to executive producer Marc Guggenheim to find out:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What came with the decision to kill Quentin?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: Well, it was a really hard decision whenever we kill off the character on the show. But it’s funny, when I was pitching that particular beat to Greg [Berlanti], he said, “Wow I’ll really miss him,” but he made the point that the show has always had sort of a Game of Thrones-like element to it in the sense that no one is safe. That’s always been part and parcel of the show. We haven’t killed off a character in a season finale since season 1. But fundamentally, the reason we did it was sort of two-fold. We really felt that we had come to the end of Lance’s story, but primarily, whenever we kill off a character, it’s always out of, well what does this get us? What story consequences does this lead to that excite us? The idea that Diaz is responsible for Lance’s death has huge ramifications for Laurel’s character and her story line. That really intrigued us as we started talking about where Laurel was headed in season 7. As has been the case with every other death on the show, once we start getting excited about those consequences and start getting excited about the stories that the death leads to, it kind of takes on its own momentum. It was hard. Paul has been with us since the beginning, he’s an absolute joy to work with. He’s just a class act. I really, really enjoyed working with Paul so much over the last six years. It was the right time, and the right way, and the right story to tell at this moment.

Oliver has ended up in prison. These consequences seem pretty irreversible. What was your goal here? How dangerous will it be for him in prison?
From the very beginning of season 6, we talked a lot in the room about the show going into its sixth year, about a lot of shows that go in six seasons, and what’s necessary for the long-term vitality of the show. We were very determined to rock the show out of its comfort zone. I think you started to see that by design at the end of season 6. We started playing around with format, we had the all-Dragon episode, we had the episode where Oliver is [has] vertigo and hallucinates. We wanted to get out from our traditional ways of telling story. I mean, quite frankly, even the structure of the season finale is very unconventional for us. Usually the climactic fight with the “Big Bad” of the year happens with Act 5 and then Act 6 is all wrap-up. This year the climactic battle between Oliver and Diaz happened in Act 4. So we’re constantly looking for different ways to shake up the show and do things differently.

Between the development of Oliver going to prison and his secret identity becoming public, those were very much designed to shake the show up so that in season 7, the show has to be fundamentally different. There’s no way to go back to the status quo. That was very exciting for us, because there’s probably a very safe conventional way to do Arrow where every episode is the villain of the week and every episode is kind of the same. Probably that version might even be very successful, but that wasn’t something that I think the writers and the cast are particularly interested in doing. We always keep the show moving forward and evolving and trying to push new boundaries. We’re very cognizant of the fact it’s not only that we’re in our sixth, now gong into the seventh season, we’re also cognizant that we’re the first of the Arrowverse shows, so we feel like we’ve got to do stuff on Arrow that the other shows haven’t done yet. The identity reveal is a good example of that. None of the other shows have revealed their protagonist’s secret identity to the rest of the world, so we wanted to do it first.

Oliver and Felicity end the season on a rocky note. What’s next for their marriage? Can they survive this?
I will tell you this: I’ve been married now 14 years, and when I make unilateral decisions, my wife is not generally happy about it — and those include the unilateral decisions that don’t involve me going to prison. So I think it’s probably not spoiling anything to say that there’s going to be some challenges Felicity will have to overcome in light of Oliver making this big, momentous move without consulting Felicity.

Ricardo Diaz got away, something you don’t normally do when ending a season. Why him and what can you tease of what’s next now that his empire has been decimated?
Yeah, well that was another thing that we got excited about midway through season 6 was the idea that another thing that we’ve never done before, or that any of the other Arrowverse shows have done before, was the “Big Bad” not coming to justice. The idea that Diaz is out there as an antagonist, albeit he’s going to have to operate in a different way because he no longer has his empire, was very intriguing to us. Like I alluded to when talking about Lance’s death, we’re certainly setting up a pretty major collision between Laurel and Diaz, and that is something that’s very exciting. We talk about Laurel as a woman on fire and I think those fireworks will be a lot of fun to see.

There was a mention of Longbow Hunters. Will we see them next season?
I don’t feel like I can spoil that or not spoil that. I will say this: We would be dicks if we were to drop that big of a name and never follow through on it.

Do you see Oliver being done as the Green Arrow for good?
Well, let’s proceed from first assumptions, which is that I think it’s safe to say that all of season 7 will probably not take place with Oliver in prison, so I don’t think it’s spoiling anything to say that he will get out at some point. It never occurred to me, quite frankly, that once he comes out that he necessarily has to stop being the Green Arrow. I think it probably all depends on the circumstances under which he eventually gets out.

Do you expect a time jump going into next season?
It’ll be the traditional time jump. Every year we always do the same time jump, which is five to six months depending on when our season premiere is.

Arrow will return this fall on The CW.

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