Now that Arrow is a bonafide hit for The CW, they're bringing out the big guns for this week's jaw-dropping episode, "Dead to Rights." Not only is it packed with DC Comics characters — including the return of Michael Rowe's one-eyed assassin Deadshot — it sends at least two series regulars into wildly new directions and was penned by DC's grand poobah, chief creative office Geoff Johns. So who better to hit up for info on the epic hour?
TV Guide Magazine: OK, between your work on the comic books, DC Universe Online, and the various DC-related TV and movies, do you have any free time?
Geoff Johns: I do occasionally. I get to play some games once in a while, but not a lot. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: The last time we spoke, you said you had big plans for Aquaman in the comics and you weren't lying. He's finally getting the attention he deserves!
Johns: I love that character. I am always a sucker for the underdogs. I love Batman and Superman, but when it comes to the guys who don't stand in the front of the line, Aquaman is one of the key guys for me. He's so much fun to work on. I'm glad you're enjoying it.
TV Guide Magazine: He even got his own Chuck Taylor sneakers!
Johns: That's a huge deal, isn't it? I think he's made it, yeah.
TV Guide Magazine: And now, Arrow...it's so cool how well it's doing.
Johns: I have to say, I am psyched that there is already a second season planned. Everyone can go full-steam ahead on finishing the first season and start talking about the second one. It also opens up even more possibilities for DC, which I get excited about.
TV Guide Magazine: And they have been picking great characters to bring on to the show.
Johns: They're being very judicious, I think. The characters they have chosen all have a reason to be there. Huntress has another story that is coming back up, and it's not just putting DC characters in there to put them in there. That's really important to me. There's also a couple we've already talked about for Season 2 that I'm really excited about.
TV Guide Magazine: This has got to be a blast for you.
Johns: You know, it is. It's so fun for me to see a minor character like Felicity Smoak, who is a supporting cast member in the Firestorm comics, suddenly become this major character on Arrow. She's so great and Emily [Bett Rickards] does a great job playing her. Firestorm is joining the Justice League soon, so I will bring her in [to that comic].
TV Guide Magazine: The one I'm hoping to see on Arrow is Donna Troy. I know they can't use Wonder Woman, but surely Donna Troy could be used on the show.
Johns: You know what, never say never, man! There's a lot of characters to be used.
TV Guide Magazine: And this episode you wrote kind of feels like your Smallville episode "Absolute Justice," in that you have a ton of DC characters together.
Johns: Yeah, that's kind of what I do. I love using as many DC characters as possible, again not just to use them, but for good reason. If you're using an assassin, you gotta use Deadshot. And having the arrival of Laurel's mom? As a big fan of Black Canary, I am excited about that.
TV Guide Magazine: Hence the shout-out to the late Sarah Lance's pet canary in the early part of the episode...
Johns: Yeah, you gotta get it out there. [Laughs]
TV Guide Magazine: Is this a sign of you guys paving the way for a Laurel twist?
Johns: Um...I can only say that everyone talks about Black Canary a lot.
TV Guide Magazine: There are some seriously big moments in this hour, including a shocking Ollie reveal.
Johns: The cool thing about that is that it's not expected. And it's not going to go as well as it did with Diggle and Felicity. It's heartbreaking.
TV Guide Magazine: We also get to see a really nice development for Tommy. His father really does care about him!
Johns: Yep. His father is a second away from telling him everything...what is going to happen in the next few episodes, you'll have to wait and see, but that relationship is definitely going to evolve.
TV Guide Magazine: What kind of input do you have in the course of the stories being told on the show?
Johns: I give all the credit to [executive producers] Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti. I come in and give my feedback and we brainstorm, but they are running the show and doing a great job.
TV Guide Magazine: Was there something about this episode that made you want to write it?
Johns: Greg called me up and said that there was an episode coming up being directed by Glen Winter, who was the director I worked with on Smallville's "Legion" and "Society" episodes. They thought it would be a good episode for me to jump on and I said absolutely.
TV Guide Magazine: It's a pretty Tommy-heavy episode, which we love because Colin Donnell is so great. Was that a draw for you?
Johns: We talked a lot about it and I really wanted to focus on the Merlyn relationship. The things that were happening and where the story was going, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to explore Tommy and Malcolm. That became the center of the episode, the heart of it. For me, it's all building to the final scene, this moment of truth that could potentially spill over into something nasty.
TV Guide Magazine: How do you feel about Stephen Amell as Oliver?
Johns: Stephen is fantastic. He is such a pleasure to work with and to watch. He's delivered a huge performance here, and he does almost all of the action by himself. It's crazy.
TV Guide Magazine: Had it always been mapped out that this was the episode that would also introduce Alex Kingston as Dinah Lance?
Johns: There had been a lot of debate on [that]. It was Greg, and I so appreciate him for saying let's go for it. You know, do we open that door at this point? And Greg, to his credit, said let's open the door. And it's a good door to open at this point.
TV Guide Magazine: You have Deadshot, Deathstroke, China White, Laurel's mom, flashbacks to the island and all of this Tommy stuff going on, but there is still a deeply emotional story in the center of it all.
Johns: I love the action-driven emotional stuff. If the action doesn't lead to some sort of emotion, there is no sense. You won't care. It has to lead somewhere. For me, that is what the episode is about. All of the action is noise, otherwise. You have to have heart. It's all about the characters. I want people to hope and wonder and fear for everybody.
TV Guide Magazine: This actually feels like a season finale.
Johns: Yeah, and we have several more episodes to go, which is great!
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on The CW.
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