In last week’s “Arrow,” Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) returned to Starling City and walked into an all-out war between his team and a gang of thugs led by Danny Brickwell (Vinnie Jones). Now that the dust from Brick’s coup has settled and the residents of the Glades are safe, Oliver must acclimate to the new team dynamic that has formed in his absence.
“It’s rocky immediately,” Amell recently told Variety. “It’s like ‘okay, I’m back, let’s get back to it,’ and everyone’s like ‘no.’ Because all of them, [while] I’m gone, have to decide if they’re doing this because it was for me or if they’re doing this for them. They all independently make the decision that they are there because they want to be there. So me coming back and just being dictatorial and ‘my way or the highway’ is just not going to work. I can stomp my feet and yell and pout and cry and they’re just going to be like, ‘Listen, man, this is not just your thing anymore.’ So I’ll either have to accept it or I’ll have to just start working on my own.”
Executive producer Marc Guggenheim agreed that the transition will be rough for the Emerald Archer in this week’s episode. “The team really had to readjust to Oliver’s apparent death and step up to the plate, and now that they’ve stepped up to the plate, they’ve got a lot more ownership in Team Arrow, and Oliver comes back expecting things to work the way they always worked, which is Oliver says ‘jump,’ and everyone else says ‘how high,’ and that’s no longer the case. So Oliver has got some decisions to make in terms of how he wants to handle this new team dynamic that he’s been thrust into, and it’s going to be interesting. I think some of our best scenes come out of moments of conflict in the lair, and you’ll certainly see a chunk of that.”
A major source of conflict for Oliver will be Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) new role as Black Canary following her sister Sara’s (Caity Lotz) death, and given that the title of the Feb. 11 episode is “Canaries,” viewers can expect plenty of fireworks.
“Oliver doesn’t want Laurel to be the Black Canary at all. He doesn’t want her out there,” Amell reiterated. “As far as he’s concerned, she’s more useful and has been in the district attorney’s office. ‘You catch them, I cook them.’ We said that in the season premiere. I’ve been very thankful that the producers have allowed Oliver to not treat the Laurel character with kid gloves, and to very much be… almost rough with her, in the sense of, ‘get out. You’re not wanted here.’ The first time that Oliver as Arrow encounters Laurel as Canary, I grab her and shake her; I did that on purpose and I really hope that it stays in the episode because I feel like if I treat her with kid gloves, it’s not giving respect to that character.”
Guggenheim previewed, “Oliver is definitely the least supportive of everyone in terms of Laurel trying to fill her sister’s boots, and he is not shy about expressing that opinion. There’s a big arc for him in Wednesday’s episode, in terms of coming to accept — or not — Laurel’s efforts to become a hero, but things are not resolved between them by the end of episode 13 … he’s not being sensitive or pulling any punches about how he feels about Laurel, and that’s something that it going to continue throughout the season.”
Oliver will also be forced to redefine his relationship with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), after the tech whiz admitted that she doesn’t “want to be a woman that you love” at the end of last week’s episode, following Oliver’s admission that he plans to work with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) to defeat Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable).
“It’s going to be a very different dynamic,” Guggenheim teased. “I think Felicity and Oliver are going to struggle with [the question of] how do we remain coworkers and even friends if this romantic genie — which had been taken out of the bottle at the beginning of the season — is now off the table, to mix metaphors. Certainly Ray [Brandon Routh] is out there as a potential love interest for Felicity. So that’s complicating things and making things a bit messy. We certainly created a love triangle this year intentionally by introducing Ray. The challenge for us is not creating a love triangle, but how do you do that in a way that’s not cliché, and predictable, and something we’ve seen before?”
While many TV shows rely on sexual tension and a will they/won’t they dynamic between characters to drive story, showrunners often run the risk of alienating viewers by stretching out romantic conflicts too long. Guggenheim admitted he was cognizant of that difficulty, but that the writers and producers go to great lengths to listen to their audience.
“I try very hard to avoid evaluating our own show. I’m much more comfortable with letting the audience do that and sort of speak to us. We’re on the Internet. We’re on Twitter. I haven’t gotten a sense that people are feeling jerked around or tired of it,” he said of the Oliver and Felicity dynamic. “I think in part because Oliver and Felicity, they’re not comic book canon, as it were. They weren’t put together with the intention of becoming love interests. So perhaps, because of those reasons, there’s a little bit more patience on people’s part, or maybe we’re just striking the right balance. I don’t know. I’ll say before an episode airs whether or not I’m excited about an episode, but once an episode has aired, I really like to let the episode speak for itself.”
Some familiar faces will soon return to “Arrow” — last week’s episode featured a young Tommy Merlyn in flashbacks to Malcolm’s past, but not his adult iteration, played by Colin Donnell. That will change in episode 14, when Guggenheim promised that fans will see “the age-appropriate Colin Donnell” through a flashback, as well as Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson, who will be revisited when Malcolm puts Oliver and Thea (Willa Holland) in a dangerous situation that lands them on Lian Yu with Oliver’s former enemy.
And in episode 17, the Suicide Squad returns in what Guggenheim describes as a “monster episode”: “It’s actually crazy in terms of the amount of stuff that’s in it, because there’s two storylines in it, both of which are big enough to carry an episode on their own, and for reasons passing understanding, we actually combine the two,” he laughed. “So one half is the Suicide Squad, and the other half is a very cool Arrow/Atom story, and both halves are really sure to please. I actually was up on the set for some of it last week, and the director, Jesse Warn, is just doing an amazing job, and when I think about the episode and I talk about the episode, I just have to remind myself that it’s more than just Arrow and Atom, it’s the Suicide Squad, and it’s more than just the Suicide Squad, it’s Arrow and Atom. It’s pretty cool. I’m very, very excited about that one.”
“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.