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‘Arrow’ Without Oliver? Producers Preview the Rise of Black Canary, Atom and Brick

What is “Arrow” without its titular hero? Viewers will find out on Jan. 21, as the vigilante’s friends and loved ones must come to terms with the fallout from Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) seemingly fatal showdown with Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) in December’s midseason finale.

Oh the subject of his character’s fate, Amell remained coy when Variety sat down with him last week: “He’s fallen — he fell. I certainly hope he’s not dead. I enjoy playing him,” he offered wryly. “Although there are the regularly scheduled flashbacks in 310 and 311. 312 is someone else’s flashbacks.”

According to “Arrow” producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, the first three episodes of 2015 function as one extended story arc, featuring Vinnie Jones as DC Comics villain Danny “Brick” Brickwell, as Variety first reported. “Because it’s such a huge thing that happens in nine, we really needed three episodes to give it its due because those three episodes — 10, 11 and 12 — really are a trilogy dealing with the very real question of, ‘if there is no Arrow in Starling City, who is going to save the city?'” Guggenheim previewed.

In Oliver’s absence, many heroes will rise up to fill his shoes, from protege Roy (aka Arsenal, played by Colton Haynes) and partner Diggle (David Ramsey) to former flame Laurel (Katie Cassidy), who has been training to avenge her sister, Sara (Caity Lotz), after she was murdered in the season premiere.

The producers teased that the three episode run is very much a showcase for Laurel as she makes her debut on the mean streets of Starling as Black Canary. But determination and a few boxing lessons don’t make a hero: “She clearly doesn’t have Sara’s skill. Sara was essentially Oliver’s equal in a lot of ways. She literally went through the same exact experiences with him and then trained under Ra’s al Ghul,” Kreisberg pointed out. “Half of being a vigilante is, as Nyssa [Katrina Law] would say, being fearless. As Laurel says, it’s being crazy. Right now she has the crazy in spades. The thing about Laurel is — for people who are concerned that she’s going from zero to Black Canary — just because you put on a costume and a mask and run around doesn’t make you anyone else’s equal. She gets stabbed, she gets her ass handed to her, but the thing that’s amazing about Laurel is she just keeps coming and it doesn’t matter how many times she gets knocked down to the mat. And believe me, she gets knocked down to the mat, but she keeps coming back and she won’t be stopped.”

He added, “What’s interesting for her character is all of this started because she wanted to avenge Sara. Her arc of the season is really going from avenging Sara to honoring her… A lot of the back half of the season is Laurel and Nyssa finding common ground. When we met [Oliver] in the pilot he had already trained. We’re going to get to see that evolution with Laurel.”

Outside Team Arrow and Laurel, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) has been harboring aspirations of heroism for some time, as evidenced by the ATOM suit he revealed to Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) before the midseason break. According to Routh, The Arrow’s disappearance “lights more of a fire [under him] — I don’t know if it’s possible to that; he’s already pretty jazzed and working towards it — but his solution is to get more involved in city politics and lend a hand to the police in some way. That’s the biggest part apart from being a shoulder to lean on for Felicity, even though she’s not divulging what’s going on.”

“Ray’s the first technology-based hero that we’ve done. Our heroes, on ‘Arrow’ at least, tend to be very sort of fisticuff-oriented,” Guggenheim noted. “Ray is trying something brand new, also brand new for us too. He’s creating what we call the Super Suit, the ATOM suit that is really at the cutting edge of technology, both in the real world and on the show. He’s also going to have to discover that a super suit does not a hero make. Part of the thing that we’re always trying to be true to is putting on a costume is the easy part. It’s being the hero that’s the really difficult part and one does not mean you’ve accomplished the other.”

Added Kreisberg, “The other thing that’s really important about Ray is his relationship with Felicity. In a lot of ways, he’s the more evolved version of Oliver. He’s got the square jaw, all-American, superhero good looks but he’s actually a lot more emotionally accessible.”

Felicity will have her own journey in the latter half of this season, Guggenheim promised: “Felicity is a hero in her own right. There’s different forms of heroism on both shows. The beauty of Felicity is that she’s the moral center of ‘Arrow’ and that’s actually the role that she starts to ascend to post-episode 309 where she’s the conscience. In many ways, she starts off trying to be Oliver’s voice in his absence and then starts to develop her own way of thinking about things. She’s always been very confident but she really comes into her own after Oliver’s apparent death.”

“One day on the set I said to her, ‘The Flash, The Atom and Green Arrow are all in love with you,'” Kreisberg recalls. “She had the greatest answer; she goes, ‘I think the reason it works is because I don’t look like the girl that you’d think that about.’ Emily is really the superhero of both shows.”

Rickards and Routh will also bring their own brand of heroism to “The Flash” in episode 18 of “Arrow’s” sister show, which is fittingly titled “All-Star Team-Up,” teased Kreisberg: “In episode four of ‘Flash’ when Felicity came by, it wasn’t just a gag to have Felicity come by. It really was integrated into the story. When you reach what’s going on in ‘The Flash’ at that point in the season, Barry is really at a crossroads. Having Felicity come by exactly when he needs her really plays into the whole storyline. It’s fine because as Marc said, Ray Palmer is all about technology and STAR Labs is all about technology. We get to see Ray so happy to be in STAR Labs… With Cisco [Carlos Valdes] and Ray, they’re new best friends. The STAR Labs team is going to help Ray further his ATOM project.”

Routh was admittedly excited about the prospect of crossing over, telling Variety, “I’ve thought about that, because I’m a ‘Flash’ fan for sure — it’s a fun show and the energy of that show jives more with Ray’s energy, so I think he’ll definitely be a kid in a candy store over there, checking out all of their cool equipment and everything they have going on.”

“Arrow” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. and “The Flash” airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

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