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Arrow Boss Says Season 8 Premiere Is a 'Love Letter to the Pilot'

Prepare for callbacks!

Lindsay MacDonald

The best thing about knowing in advance that a show is heading into its final season is the writers get to build in all the easter eggs and callbacks fans look forward to as they prepare to say goodbye to a show, and Arrow's final season will apparently take full advantage of that.

TV Guide spoke with showrunner Beth Schwartz about the upcoming beginning of the end, and what we can expect from the final 10 episodes of the show that launched the entire Arrowverse. On top of guest appearances, one major death, and higher stakes than ever, Schwartz promised some major Season 1 callbacks are ahead of us, particularly in the Season 8 premiere.

Read our full interview with Beth Schwartz below!

Stephen Amell, Arrow

Stephen Amell, Arrow

Jack Rowand, The CW

Why did you guys decide to reveal in the Season 7 finale that Oliver (Stephen Amell) would die in Crisis on Infinite Earths rather than saving that twist for the actual crossover? And how does having that out there affect the direction of Season 8?
Beth Schwartz: I think we decided to do that because it's the story. We didn't want that to be the shock -- that he dies. And having that tease at the end of [Season] Seven, we were hoping it would bring everyone back to be like, "How does he die? What do you mean he dies? Does he really die?" You know, because on our show you never really die. So we just thought that would be a great way to end the season basically... And also everyone's theories! Because that's the fun of watching a show and having a mystery -- everyone trying to guess what's going to happen.

And speaking of those theories, is it safe to say that there's an element of surprise in store for fans?
Yeah, definitely. I mean, this is Arrow, so you think you know what's going to happen, but you don't really.

How does knowing that he's going to die in this crisis affect Oliver's story arc heading into Season 8?
Schwartz: I mean knowing, having the Monitor tell him that he's going to die, but he's got to do it to save the multiverse -- I mean his theme of the season is a hero's sacrifice and every character's going to go through that this season. And this is the ultimate hero's sacrifice, to know you're going to die, but you're going to save so many people's lives. And that's always been the juggle of the hero, of being selfless and putting yourself and sort of your family, in Oliver's case, a little bit second so that you can do the greater good.

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At what point in the series did you guys land on the idea of this has to end with him making that final sacrifice?
I think that's been something that from the creation of the show has been [the ending] from the beginning. I know Marc [Guggenheim] could probably answer this better, but I know that he's sort of always thought that was how the show would end.

Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow

Emily Bett Rickards, Arrow

Dean Buscher, Dean Buscher/The CW

And without Emily Bett Rickards in this season, how do you guys plan to honor her character even if we're not going to get to see her as much?
Schwartz: It's not like just because you can't see her that we're going to forget she was one of our most important characters on the show. And everything Oliver's doing, he'll be conflicted because he had to leave his family. And so that was really, as we saw at the end of Season 7, a heartbreaking and hard decision for him. So we will definitely not just skate past that... That last scene between them kills me. I can't watch it. It's just -- it was so good.

How heavily is having to be separated from his wife and child going to hang on Oliver this year?
It's going to be pretty hard on him. But he's going to have Dig, obviously, to get him through, but it's not easy.

As for Colin Donnell coming back, was that just good timing having him coming off Chicago Med, or was that always the plan to have him back?
Every season we want him back. He's such a great part of the show. We always love having him back. He's such a great guy. And when we knew it was our final season, he was one of the top people. We were like, "We have to get him back for our final season." We had a whole list of actors and characters that we went through that we're like, "We can't end the show without seeing them one more time." So he was just -- he's one of those.

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And did a large handful of these people you reached out to say, "Yes, I'm down"?
Yes. Yeah, and it was fun. It's been such -- I don't even know how to describe it, but this feeling of nostalgia and also kind of sadness but then happiness and gratefulness and just all these mixtures of emotions for a lot of us who've been doing this for eight years. It's a long time.

How many callbacks should we expect to see in this final season?
We have a lot of callbacks to Season 1 early on in, well, especially in the premiere. The premiere is very much like a love letter to the pilot, and it was so much fun to write. And the actors had a lot of fun as well. There's going to be a lot of that through the season.

Kat McNamara, Arrow

Kat McNamara, Arrow

Jack Rowand/The CW

You guys have said you're sort of breaking form this year. What sort of storytelling opportunities does that afford?
It's been so great. I mean when we figured out what we were going to do this season, it was both exciting and also we were like, "Are we really going to do this?" Or "How are we going to do this?" But since we're not going to be in Star City anymore for most of the season, it opened up our world to go to all different places, which then opened our world to revisiting a lot of old characters. Because we're not just in Star City alone. Because Oliver saved Star City last season, and we wanted this season to be -- the stakes are bigger than ever. He saved his own city, which we've been waiting for him to do for seven seasons, and now he has to save the multiverse... The stakes are bigger and the world's bigger.

Does that mean that there's not going to be that traditional antagonist that carries you through?
Yeah, a little. It's kind of a combination because obviously he's going to be fighting someone in each episode, but there's not just one villain. The villain really is Crisis in this season.

Is there any chance that we could ever get a scene between Stephen Amell and Katherine McNamara as Oliver and Mia before all is said and done this year?
Schwartz: I mean you never know.

Never say never?
Never say never.

And most importantly, are we going to get to see the salmon ladder one last time?
We'll see it. We're going to see it in the premiere. And I've also tried to do to the salmon ladder, but I was unsuccessful. Not surprising.

Arrow's final season premieres Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 9/8c on The CW.

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of CBS Corporation.)