When Arrow returns on Wednesday (8/7c on The CW), it will do so without its hero. In the wake of the Undertaking — in which an earthquake machine leveled half of The Glades — Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has retreated to his own sanctuary ... and we're not talking about the Foundry. The emerald archer has ditched his hood for the safety of Lian Yu, the island where Oliver was marooned for five years of his life.
It won't be long, however, before Oliver is pulled back into the world of Starling City, where his family name is now synonymous with mass murder. Will Oliver be able to be the hero that the ravaged city needs? Who might stand in his way? TVGuide.com caught up with executive producers Marc Guggenheim and Andrews Kreisberg to get the scoop on Season 2:
How is Starling City dealing in the aftermath of the Undertaking?
Kreisberg: Not well. It took it on the chin in the finale. As bad as the city was in Season 1, it's even worse now. That's part of Oliver's journey this season. We always say, "So goes Oliver, so goes the city." He's in a very dark place and he really realizes in the premiere episode that he can't be the vigilante anymore. It's not enough to cross names off the list and target the one percent. That didn't work. He failed last year. This season really needs to be about something else. The city needs a hero. It needs a symbol of hope. That's why we titled Episode 1 "City of Heroes." That's our title for the season in an odd way, because it's really about heroes coming out of the woodwork like Oliver. Even the villains this season are going to view themselves as the hero.
Will Oliver be alone in his quest to save the city in Season 2?
Guggenheim: One of the things that plays a big part in the first few episodes of Season 2 is the idea that when you basically launch into this crusade, you put on an outfit, you're using an exotic weapon and you are taking on the criminal element of the city, there's going to be a response. In fact, there's going to be a series of responses. Like Lance says in the first episode of Season 2, "Before the Hood came to town, we didn't have earthquake machines and Dark Archers." Arrow is basically like this stone has been dropped into this huge pond and the ripple effects are spreading out starting out in the premiere. Some of those ripples are good in the form of positive things — like Roy (Colton Haynes) adopts the Arrow's crusade and is trying to do a job of saving people in the city — but we'll also see the negatives to that, too.
Kreisberg: In the beginning, [the police] are overwhelmed. They're actually targeting the Arrow because there's a feeling amongst some of the characters that all of this insanity began when the Arrow showed up. For some people, he's become the symbol for what's wrong with this city. One of Oliver's missions this year is to change the way the police and the public feel about the vigilante.
What role will Felicity and Diggle (David Ramsey) play for Oliver this season?
Guggenheim: Their roles on Team Arrow evolve, particularly with respect to Felicity. In Season 1, Felicity was girl Friday where she would do whatever Oliver asked her to do. In Season 2, she's developing — like Diggle — more of a voice in terms of how Oliver goes about his missions. She's definitely coming into scenes with more of a point of view. She's a lot more involved in telling Oliver what's on her mind and that makes her a stronger character.
Will Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) stand trial for her involvement in the Undertaking?
Kreisberg: Yes. There will be some courtroom scenes. Moira behaved very badly last year. Everybody is really dealing with the repercussions of that. This season, for Moira, a lot of it is about redemption. Oliver wasn't the only one who failed last year. Moira really failed. As much as this season is about Oliver stepping into the light, it's about Moira trying to find her way back and how that impacts her children and the company and herself is so much of her journey.
Will Laurel (Katie Cassidy) play into that storyline?
Kreisberg: This season, Laurel is going to be joining the District Attorney's office, so she might have some dealings with that. Part of it is she's trying to stay out of it as much as she can, but as always with these things, bad stuff happens.
What's the state of Oliver and Laurel's relationship this season?
Guggenheim: We said there would be all these different repercussions from Tommy's (Colin Donnell) death and we're being true to that. Every episode invokes Tommy or comes out of what happened in the finale to Tommy in a very specific way. At the core, there's always their love for each other because they are star-crossed lovers. That said, I have to say something to keep myself from getting yelled at by the people who are shipping Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). The relationship between Oliver and Felicity over the course of Season 2 will evolve and deepen. Their relationship by the end of the season won't be the same as it is at the beginning of the season.
We see in the promos that Laurel is trying to take down Oliver. How will that affect their relationship?
Guggenheim: Obviously it doesn't make it easier. In the season premiere, we deal with the fallout in terms of their relationship from what happened at the end of Season 1, which was that they slept together and then Tommy died. We see the repercussions of both of those things. She has a new mission statement and that is to take down the Arrow. Their relationship gets more complicated in the first two episodes of Season 2 than maybe people are expecting.
How will the introduction of Black Canary (Caity Lotz) push Laurel in a new direction?
Guggenheim: You'll get your first glimpse of Black Canary in the premiere. Laurel needed a bit of a makeover. Last year, as a result of her job at CNRI and her relationship with Tommy, it sometimes felt like she was in a different show. One of our main goals this year was to really bring her into the fold in a way that made her an integral part of the stories we were telling. Black Canary's appearance is going to coincide with Laurel really struggling with a great number of things. We're throwing a lot of things at Laurel this year.
With the introduction of Black Canary, you're really close to Birds of Prey. Any chance of seeing that?
Guggenheim: We have an idea for how to do our version of Birds of Prey. When you think about it, we have a lot of pieces. It's a lot like the Suicide Squad. As we continue to populate our world with new characters and some returning people from last year, you start to go, "We're really close to that!" We saw this awesome bit of production art for a new set that we realized plays into Birds of Prey completely. Our Art Department wasn't even intending that! There's certainly a momentum towards that, but everything has to happen in due time. With respect to Birds of Prey specifically, there's an actress that we particularly need to make that piece work and we need to check on her availability.
Roy seems to be coming into contact with Black Canary.
Kreisberg: Roy has not given up his night job of going out and looking for trouble. He actually connects with the Arrow very early on in the season, who sets him on a new mission. When we find Roy in the first episode, he's floundering a little bit. He's trying to find his way and he really gets his purpose set for him, which is exciting. He and Thea (Willa Holland) are still dating. For everybody who found themselves in a bad place after the events last season, Thea is actually in a really good place. She's running the nightclub. Roy is working as a busboy at the club and she says to him, "I control both your paycheck and your sex life." Thea has really grown up during these five months. No more Catholic School girl outfits for her.
How did the decision to bring the Suicide Squad on come together?
Guggenheim: We introduced A.R.G.U.S. in Season 1. We also introduced Deadshot (Michael Rowe). We're thinking about how to expand the Arrow's Rogues Gallery, and Bronze Tiger (Michael Jai White) felt like he really fit into our world. We took a step back and realized that we were in spitting distance of the Suicide Squad. As with all things, we always have to be really careful not to let our geek selves drive everything. It has to be at the right pace for the show. We've got some really cool ideas for how to bring Deadshot back into the show. You're going to see that around Episode 6. We're hoping to get some new viewers in Season 2, so we want to repopulate our world. The hope is that we're moving in the right direction towards the Suicide Squad.
Kreisberg: Right now, we're taking it on a person-by-person basis. We have Deadshot as the leader of the Suicide Squad. We don't have any definitive plans to bring them all together. But, as always with these things, we see what people like and don't like.
Let's talk about the introduction of Isabel Rochev (Summer Glau), whose name was actually on Oliver's list last season. Did you know then that we'd meet her in Season 2?
Kreisberg: I'm so proud of the things that we thought of in the pilot that we knew we were going to do in the season, like the Deathstroke mask, and in Episode 2, the glyph, we knew all that. But I really cannot say with a good conscience that we knew we would get to Isabel Rochev. We just filled up that first page with names. Now, it's turned into a bit of a happy coincidence because we're so excited to have her on the show. Summer owns the screen. Oliver has a lot of antagonists this year. Last season, Oliver didn't care about being Oliver Queen. This season, since he's taking a leadership position in the company, he's going to find that that's very difficult. As much as he's saving everyone anonymously at night as the Arrow, people are throwing tomatoes at Oliver Queen during the day. A lot of his antagonists, including Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) and Isabel Rochev, they're really enemies for Oliver to overcome more than the Arrow. That's a brand new dynamic that the show has this season.
Will it be addressed that she was on the list?
Kresiberg: Oh yeah! We're not morons! [Laughs] Sometimes these things happen by accident and they turn out to be the best thing for us. As much as we had planned, some of what happened last year was completely by surprise. None of us had any conception of Felicity before Episode 3 and now you can't imagine the series without her.
Tell us about the differences between Isabel and Sebastian.
Guggenheim: What's really cool about having Isabel in the show is her character from the comics and the fact that we cast Summer Glau, I think, will form the basis of a lot of speculation as to what role she's playing in the life of the show. With respect to Kevin Alejandro as Sebastian Blood, the thing you'll see with him is he's also this force for both good and bad in the city. His confrontation with Oliver in Episode 2 is very, very pointed and charged. It's probably not the kind of confrontation that you would necessarily expect from Sebastian Blood, but he and Oliver go up against each other with sparks flying right form the jump.
You won't say whether these are the two big bads of the season, but you will still have two, correct?
Guggenheim: Our two big bads of the year, we know what their end game is and we know what their master plan is and the one thing we're committed to doing is we always say every villain is the hero of their own story, so both of the big bads will feel like they are acting from a righteous place. There's a Venn diagram in terms of their goals and in the Venn diagram there is overlap. Part of the fun is playing with the audience's expectations in terms of those motivations and in terms of how they're going to interact.
Will we see Deathstroke (Manu Bennett) off the island in Season 2?
Guggenheim: You'll get a hint as to where we're headed. Our challenge is if and when Slade Wilson shows up in present day, we owe it to the fans to do it in a way that's surprising. Knowing that Slade Wilson becomes Deathstroke, it's the thing everyone's asking because it's semi-obvious, so the trick is to do the obvious thing in a surprising way.
Is there a possibility that Oliver wasn't always on the island?
Guggenheim: Anything is possible. You'll get an answer to that question by the end of Episode 3.
Arrow returns Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW. Will you be watching?
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