Although Oliver (Stephen Amell) finally defeated Damien Darhk (Neal McDonogh) and was elected interim mayor of Star City in Arrow's fourth season finale, this victory was short-lived, with Diggle (David Ramsey) and Thea (Willa Holland) hanging up their hoods once the battle was won. So, where does Team Arrow go from here?
That's the question at the top of Oliver and Felicity's (Emily Bett Rickards) minds when Arrow's fifth season begins. Picking up five months later, Felicity is fully ready to move on, pushing Oliver to recruit new members to replace Dig and Thea. But even after all this time has passed, Oliver remains in a deep state of denial.
"The thing he's hoping for is that things will go back to normal," executive producer Wendy Mericle tells TVGuide.com. "I think he's really saying that they're going to come back, we're going to get back to Team Green Arrow, and we're going to fight the good fight."
But when new villains storm Star City, Oliver will be forced to face reality and establish the most rag-tag team of heroes we've seen yet. What can viewers expect of the new recruits? How does Oliver balance his responsibilities as the Team Arrow leader with his duties as mayor? And how will Katie Cassidy return after the death of Laurel Lance? Check out everything Mericle revealed about Arrow's fifth season below!
TVGuide.com: In the premiere, we see the ruthless side of Oliver that we haven't really seen since the first season. How will that mindset affect his relationships and the way he functions as a hero?
Wendy Mericle: It's complicated. As we know from Seasons 1 and 2, that is a huge decision, to go back to his old ways, to go back to his use of lethal force. Again, I think this speaks to the threat that Damien Darhk presented and ... Laurel died. What they're taking on as vigilantes is a serious business. People can die out there. And as he says in the premiere, if he's not willing to go to that place, he shouldn't be out there at all. So I think it really sets up the framework for this season. He's going to be looking back at what he's done and what he's accomplished and he's assessing that. But he's also looking forward to think about, 'What is my legacy going to be? Is it going to be the legacy of a hero, or the legacy of a murderer?'
With all that on his mind, how will Oliver struggle to balance his responsibilities as the mayor with what he wants to accomplish as the Green Arrow?
Mericle: That's really the front of the season. He actually has responsibilities and can't run away from them. In Season 2 he was the CEO of Queen Consolidated, and yet it was a job [where] he could, because his name was on the building, get away with not being the most focused CEO. But when you're the mayor, you're in the public eye. There's a lot more scrutiny. So it creates a lot of problems for us in the writers' room, which is a lot of fun to figure out how he's going to be in both places at once, and also, to play with visions of identity. I think the other thing it speaks to is the character. Oliver's really more evolved than Season 1. He's trying to be more responsible and, again, he's trying to think about his legacy and whether he's more effective as the mayor or as Green Arrow.
We know that Flashpoint will affect the entire Arrow universe, but specifically Diggle's storyline. What can we expect of Diggle this season, and what will those ripples from Flashpoint look like?
Mericle: Flashpoint will definitely have an impact on him and his family life. In terms of where he is, we do try to tie all the characters together thematically, and Dig, like Oliver, is looking back. He's thinking about legacy. He's thinking about family. He's thinking about what he wants to leave behind. And he's also thinking about what happened with his brother last season. How is he going to reconcile the fact that he's the man who killed his brother, but he's still a good man and a family man? He wants to go forward and do something good in the world, so how is he going to reconcile those two sides of himself?
Felicity is in a similar situation after what happened at Havenrock. How will that burden affect her psychologically and the way she approaches her work on Team Arrow?
Mericle: I think for Felicity this is a watershed moment, when she made that decision. Felicity's been on the team for a while and she's always been able to distance herself from these bigger moral questions because she's not actually out in the field. But this is the first time that she's been directly responsible for the death of people. And we didn't go easy on her. We gave her the highest casualty count of anyone on the team, honestly. So for her, coming out of that, trying to figure out what that means and trying to figure out what kind of person would do that, and the complexity of the decision and how it was made, will really complicate [things] and give her what we hope is a very rich storyline this season, in terms of how she will deal with the guilt of that.
Team Arrow is adding a few new members this season. What can we expect of Wild Dog (Rick Gonzalez) and what new things he brings to the team?
Mericle: First of all, he's just a fun, cool character from the DC Universe who absolutely doesn't respect rules, doesn't respect boundaries, is a complete loose cannon through and through, which is a new dynamic. It's really fun to bring him into the team, especially with Oliver, who has zero tolerance for that kind of behavior. We were really lucky to be able to cast Rick Gonzalez in the role. He brings so much energy and such a different performance, a different perspective to the team, and scenes with him just really pop.
We met Evelyn Sharp last season and she made quite the first impression as a rogue Canary. So what will her transformation into a real hero look like?
Mericle: It's going to be hard for her. One of the biggest takeaways [from her first episode in Season 4] was she was very brave, had a huge ax to grind obviously with Ruve Darhk and Damien Darhk, and was brazen enough and brave enough to go out and try to fight the fight on her own. But she had no skills. At that point, she used a gun. She did not have a lot of fighting skills, and we really lean into that in this season. She's coming back and she's going to have a huge learning curve. She has a long way to go and it's going to be fun seeing her try to take that on.
Evelyn and Wild Dog aren't used to working as part of a team, so will it be a challenge trying to establish a new working dynamic with them under Oliver's command?
Mericle: Yes. Absolutely. Oliver himself is going to give them the hardest time possible. He's not 100 percent on board with the idea of the team, and when he takes them on he has a number of reasons for doing so. He's going to make sure that they know it's not fun and games. When they're out there, it's life or death. And he's correspondingly very drill sergeant-y and very hard on them, and is basically looking for ways to push their buttons and push them out if at all possible.
I'm so excited that Curtis (Echo Kellum) also gets in on the action this season. What is the training experience like for him, and how does deciding to become a vigilante change him?
Mericle: I think it's a huge shift for him. And as hard as it is for Evelyn, it's even harder for Curtis to take on this new role. I think from Oliver's perspective, he's the least qualified to be out in the field. I would say in some ways, in Oliver's eyes, even less than Felicity. He's an athlete, but he's not a fighter. He's very effective behind a computer or in a lab, but not necessarily out in the field. So for him, it's going to be a couple things. One, he's going to be going through some physical changes. That in and of itself is going to leave him battered and bruised and beaten up. And at the same time, he's got to deal with the fallout in his relationship. He's not necessarily being the most open with his partner with what he's doing at night, and that's going to create some pretty big conflicts with them.
How close will we see him get to earning the Mr. Terrific mantle?
Mericle: This is the season! You're going to get very close to it by the end of the season, for sure. Our goal is really to give the origin story for Mr. Terrific this season and see him evolve from this guy who really shouldn't be out in the field at all and should be working in a tech lab, to the end, where all of these elements are going to come together and he's going to be super badass.
Now that Thea has left Team Arrow, where is she finding her purpose?
Mericle: At the end of Season 4, Thea was really tired of the crazy life that she was leading. The poor girl has just had a series of traumatic events happen to her over the past four years and she just wanted some normalcy: she wanted a normal life, a normal job and maybe, at one point, a normal boyfriend. What we see her doing at the top of Season 5 is attempting to find that and enjoy that. We feel she was very effective last season working on Oliver's campaign, and so this season she'll be working in the mayor's office and really being the emotional anchor, not just for Oliver, but also for Lance.
Katie Cassidy did sign a deal to be a series regular across all Arrow-verse shows. What ways might we see her appear in Arrow outside of just flashbacks?
Mericle: I can tell you that we're really excited about having her back. You will see in the episodes where she appears - Episode 510 definitely, our midseason premiere. Keep your eyes out for that. We're so excited about getting to work with her again and her willingness to come back. It's one of the fun parts of the show. People can leave and get killed and you can still find new and crazy ways for them to come back. I can definitely tell you that there's a way we're going to bring her back and she's going to be alive and well. And Flashpoint might have a little bit to do with that.
There's so much mystery surrounding the Prometheus. Is there anything you can say about him and how he's connected to Oliver's past?
Mericle: I can tell you he's very scary, he's very determined, and he's a villain unlike any we've seen on the show before. He's less interested in killing people and killing Oliver, and much more interested in torturing Oliver and outing him. He's got Oliver's number. He has a very specific idea of who he truly is behind that mask and he's going to go after him and try to expose him to the world.
Tobias Church (Chad Coleman) is such a fun villain. How does his arrival in Star City shake things up? He seems to have quite a big agenda.
Mericle: He has a huge agenda, which we'll be seeing part of the culmination of in [Episode] 5. And I think what he speaks to is the state of the city. When we come back to Star City in the beginning of Season 5, it's suffered multiple terrorist attacks, but unlike in the beginning of Season 4 when people were leaving in droves, people have come back. They're living there now, but there's a power vacuum. Damien Darhk is gone and a bunch of criminals have risen to fill those ranks. Vigilantes have also popped up to take him down, but unfortunately, they're not as skilled as Oliver is, and they're creating more problems then they're solving and the city is in a state of crisis. Church is coming in to capitalize on that.
This is the last season of flashbacks. What are viewers going to learn about Oliver from seeing his time in Russia, and how will those flashbacks connect the present-day storyline?
Mericle: In previous years, we really didn't want to thematically sync up that much, because story-wise we weren't as invested in making the flashbacks speak to the present-day. This is a season where we're definitely going to. One of the fun things is we're going to see how he got that Bratva tattoo, how he became a Bratva captain and I think most importantly, emotionally, how he evolved to the person that we met in the pilot. We saw him in the pilot and he had PTSD, he was sleeping on the floor and was just all trauma. And this season will really be exploring, what are these horrible things that happened to him while [he was] in Russia that brought him to that place when we first met him?
Arrow returns Wednesday at 8/7c on the CW.
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