In its Season 5 finale, Arrow said goodbye to the island of Lian Yu in more ways than one. The flashback portion of the show depicting Oliver's (Stephen Amell) "five years in hell" came to an end, so Arrow bid adieu to them by blowing Lian Yu off the face of the earth — with almost all our favorite characters still on it.
When Season 6 opens, at least one of the characters left in jeopardy won't be walking away from that explosion. You'll have to wait until the end of the premiere to figure out who that is, but TV Guide talked to executive producer Wendy Mericle about how they decided who to kill off and what to expect from this season of Arrow.
Did you guys know at the end of Season 5 exactly who was dying or did you wait until you started breaking Season 6 to choose who made it?
Wendy Mericle: We knew. We try to plan ahead as much as we possibly, reasonably can. Every now and then we get surprises, and you have to let the show take you in directions and characters take you in the direction they sort of want to go. But we knew this. We knew exactly who was going to make it and who was not.
How did you come to the decision about who to kill off?
Mericle: We knew we wanted to blow up the island. That much we knew, that was from the very beginning of Season 5. That was always sort of a symbolic and visual cool thing to do. It sort of evolved into what it became with Prometheus kidnapping everybody and taking everybody there. One of the reasons we wanted to do that was because we didn't want the city in jeopardy again. We'd done that so many times, and it felt like Season 5 was more personal. It's about Oliver's legacy and his past and his team and the people that he loves. It felt like the right thing to do.
In terms of Season 6, there were certain story points we wanted to put in motion, specifically for Oliver. Knowing what we were working up to and how that was going to have an effect on him in Season 6, it was actually a pretty easy thing to decide.
How will being an active part in William's life change Oliver? And how will that effect William, on top of now knowing that his dad is the Green Arrow?
Mericle: Something I'm personally most excited about is seeing Oliver try to be a father. The truth is this is not his wheelhouse. He's never been a dad before. He's known for a little bit that he has a son, but it's not something that he's ever really had to take responsibility for or be a part of William's life in any way.
[William] (Jack Moore) has been traumatized on this crazy vacation called kidnapping... William is not going to forgive him easily for withholding that information. That's a big deal. So that relationship is going to be really complicated and not easy. I think it's just fun to see a character like Oliver Queen, who we've known for five seasons, being bested by a 12-year-old boy, just emotionally. In that sense that he's inexperienced - parenting kicks your ass, and we're going to see Oliver have to go through that.
How will Black Siren (Katie Cassidy) fit into this world where she's Laurel but not really Laurel?
Mericle: The fun of bringing her back is exactly what you just pointed out, which is that she's Laurel, not Laurel. Everyone knows her, she looks familiar to Oliver and anyone who makes it off the island and has known her in the past - I'm going to be cagey - but she's not. It raises this really interesting question for Oliver about nature versus nurture. This season really is about family and about parenting. With respect to Laurel in particular, you have her on Earth 1 and she was Laurel who founded CNRI and wanted to make the world a better place. On Earth 2, she's the devil. How did that happen? Is it possible that there's any of that Earth 1 Laurel in her somewhere that could be drawn out? That's really the question, I think, for her character this season.
I love Katie Cassidy, I'm so glad she's back.
Mericle: Me too. She is just so great in that role by the way, she really brings it.
Can we expect a Vigilante reveal? If so, when and how should we expect that to happen?
Mericle: I can definitely tell you it's not right away, but it will be happening. We're so excited about it. We're excited about the casting, we're excited about the stories. It was one of those things where we didn't know how far we were going to be able to take it, and it's evolved into kind of a bigger story arc than we thought, which is always exciting because you get to take the character in new directions, and it's going to have an impact on our characters. That's when you know the story is really working and things are really in sync. I think it's going to be really surprising. I don't think the audience is going to see it coming. At least I hope they don't. It's just going to be fun.
What can you tease about Slade Wilson's (Manu Bennett) episodes in Season 6? Has he been redeemed or can you really redeem a guy who did all that crazy stuff in Season 2?
Mericle: Well he still killed Oliver's mom. There's no way he's ever getting over that. I think the truth of it is, with or without the Mirakuru, Slade is always unpredictable. And even though Oliver enlisted him to help defeat Prometheus at the end of Season 5, the truth is he's still unpredictable. You don't know what he's going to do next, and that's something that I think Manu Bennett really brings to the role to keep it interesting. At the same time, he and Oliver are in a different place than they were in Season 2. They're both more mature, they've both evolved as characters and as people. I think the common ground, the touchstone that they're going to have this season is that they have sons. The episodes really center emotionally around fatherhood and the question of "How far does the apple fall from the tree?"
I'll tell you, we're excited about those episodes. Having Manu back on set and just seeing him and Stephen working together is exciting stuff. Those episodes are going to be fantastic.
Without any more island years to flash back to, how will flashbacks play a part in Season 6?
Mericle: We're so excited about having that device free to play with. In the premiere... five months will have passed since the island blew up. At the same time, we're going to use the flashbacks to go back and see what happened on the island and who lived and who died. That part - having the freedom and the real estate creatively to use that - is fantastic.
We're going to use them only as the story will dictate - only as needed and when it fits the story because we're not locked into telling the five-year story of Oliver anymore. It's been an adjustment creatively in a lot of ways, but a good one. It's opened up the opportunity to tell stories from different points of view and to get into the backstories of some of the other characters, which is fantastic.
Can you say whether we should consider that finale kiss between Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) a launch point for the rekindling of their romance if she does survive the island?
Mericle: I can say depending on the outcome of who dies and who doesn't, yes. That kiss was significant. I can't tell you much more than that, but we specifically wrote that in there as either a tragic ending or a really great beginning.
Arrow premieres Thursday, Oct. 12th at 9/8c on The CW.