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When Arrow fans first met Oliver Queen in season one, he was Laurel’s ex-boyfriend. You know, the one who had cheated on her when he took her sister, Sara, on a boat trip, only to have the boat sink and Sara die. Or, at least, that’s what viewers thought.

By the end of the first season, Ollie is a changed man, and he and Laurel rekindle their flame—for a time. But by that point, another girl had caught the audience’s eye. Enter Felicity Smoak, the witty IT girl who nearly drooled every time Oliver walked into a room. Their relationship seemed so impossible that fans started rooting for it.

But as time went on, romance didn’t seem so impossible anymore. To recap: By the penultimate episode of the second season, Oliver and Felicity have exchanged loving glances, had loaded conversations, and even hugged, but it wasn’t until the season-two finale that fans got something bigger. When Slade kidnapps Laurel in the season-two finale, Oliver hides Felicity at the Queen mansion, where he tells her that Slade is after the woman he loves and that Slade had taken the wrong woman when he took Laurel. He then tells the awestruck Felicity that he loves her.

It was an epic moment, until fans later figured out that it was all a scheme to trick Slade. Felicity is in on it the whole time. Although, as she later tells Oliver on the island, he gives a very convincing performance.

So, naturally, ever since news broke that Oliver and Felicity are going on a date in the premiere, fans have been speculating about whether it will be a romantic date, another scheme, or something platonic. When EW caught up with Arrow executive producer Andrew Kreisberg, we asked him the obvious question: Is this another fake-out?

“It’s not a fake-out,” Kreisberg said. “Felicity and Oliver actually have a pretty raw discussion about what they mean to each other, which we’re really excited about, and [it] is actually an extension of what happened at the end of last year.”

In fact, fans can expect a different type of identity crisis for Oliver this year—one that might change his outlook on Felicity.

“So much of this season is going to be devoted to Oliver,” Kreisberg said. “He never really stopped to let himself think about if there was a life for him beyond the hood. When we saw him in the pilot, he came back with a very specific agenda, and I don’t even think he necessarily thought he was going to survive it. And certainly last year with Slade’s return, there was again, I don’t think he ever thought he would live past last season.

“What’s interesting about the beginning of season three is it’s been about six or seven months since the finale, and crime is down, Lance has disbanded the anti-vigilante task force, police aren’t hunting him anymore, and Dig actually says to him in the premiere episode ‘It’s never going to get better than it is right now,'” Kreisberg said. “So much of that first episode is really Oliver saying, ‘Am I Oliver Queen or am I the Arrow? And can Oliver Queen have a life?’ That extends to running Queen Consolidated, and it also extends to romance, and as much as that’s the story of the premiere episode, it’s really the story for this season.”

But there’s reason to doubt the imminence of the Olicity happy ending: It’s been announced that Brandon Routh is joining Arrow‘s third season as Ray Palmer, a.k.a. the perfect stud to complete Olicity’s love triangle.

“When you have characters who a large portion of the audience are pulling for, the only way those things work is if you actually provide a plausible second option, and one of the things that Brandon brings to our interpretation of Ray Palmer, which is something that we actually don’t have on the show right now, is somebody who she can verbally spar with,” Kreisberg said. “Emily is such a naturally gifted comedian and I think people might not realize this about Brandon, but he is an incredibly gifted comedian. He is like a movie star from a different time—he’s like Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant. And what’s funny about Oliver and Felicity is that he’s the straight man to her humor and there’s a whole different energy to having Brandon on the show.

“We sort of say, if you take Grant [Gustin] and Stephen [Amell] and mix them together, you get Brandon. You get the guy who looks like a superhero, because Brandon obviously is. But you get that sort of charm and verbal dexterity that Oliver doesn’t necessarily have that Ray has in spades, so seeing [Ray and Felicity] together, it’s already fun.”

So it sounds like this year’s new big bad won’t be the only thing weighing on Oliver. As Kreisberg put it, “Now there’s a real legitimate threat, or at least a real legitimate choice for Felicity to make. Oliver’s reaction to it and the decisions it forces him to make are the emotional crux of the episodes.”

Arrow returns for season 3 on Wednesday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m.

Reporting by Marc Snetiker

Episode Recaps

Billionaire Oliver Queen — under the vigilante persona of Arrow — tries to right the wrongs of his family and fight the ills of society.
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