Not only are the guys behind the hit CW series Arrow – executive producers Andrew Kreisberg, Marc Guggenheim and Greg Berlanti - passionate about the story they’re telling, they’re also willing to take a look at the show and evaluate what worked best and what didn’t, so that they can make it even stronger and better, which definitely makes me excited about where they’re going with Season 2. After the events of last season, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) must rededicate himself to his mission and be more than just another vigilante. To honor his fallen friend and to protect the people he loves, he must now become a beacon of hope for the city’s most vulnerable, but do so as The Arrow.
During this recent exclusive phone interview with Collider, Andrew Kreisberg talked about how the characters are in such different places now than they were last season, the decision to have Oliver Queen return to the island, that this is the season Oliver attempts to go from vigilante to hero, how much of the season they have planned out ahead of time, bringing Barry Allen (aka The Flash) into the story, how the relationship between Oliver and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) will evolve, and the journey for John Diggle (David Ramsey). Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: Arrow is one of those shows that a lot of people seemed to have been waiting, during Season 1, to find something bad to say about it, but instead found themselves totally hooked and enjoying the ride. Did that give you a sense of confidence, going into Season 2, or were you just focused on making it bigger and better than last season?
ANDREW KREISBERG: It’s funny because we really felt like, in the second half of the year, we really found our groove. It was very spotty in the early episodes. There was a really good one, followed by a less successful one. But, with the back half of the season, we felt like the show was really firing on all cylinders. And with that finale, we were so proud of that script, and humbled and amazed that production was able to pull it off, that coming into Season 2, we were like, “Oh, dear god, I hope we don’t screw this up!” So, we did feel a lot of pressure and we were nervous. It feels like, so far, the early reviews and the reaction to it has been really positive. We spent a lot of time analyzing what worked about the show and what didn’t. We’ve looked at specific episodes this season and said, “How does this remind us of what was successful about what we did last year?” While at the same time, every story goes through this, “What’s the Season 2 of it? What’s the 2.0 of this?” People are in such a different place than they were, at the end of last season, whether it’s emotionally, professionally or even geographically. So, we’re trying to mix things up and have new character interactions. It was a daunting task, but it feels good. These first nine feel like a continuation and a heightening of what we were doing, at the end of last season.
Did you intentionally want to go circle and have Oliver Queen revisit the island, and show the Deathstroke mask agin, like you did in the pilot?
KREISBERG: You know, it’s funny, we were actually going to do that later in the season. It was Greg Berlanti, our partner, who said we should open the season that way. It’s fun to open the show the same way we did last season, but also having Dig and Felicity on their way to the island felt like a great Season 2 event. The flashback story is much more heavily tied into the present-day story. You’ll be seeing more characters in the past who are appearing in the present. The island itself felt like a good way to start the season because the island and what happened there is very much affecting what’s happening in the present day. So, to start the season that way felt right.
KREISBERG: Yeah. Last season, for him, saving the city was staying in the shadows, being a vigilante, crossing names off of a list, and avoiding the police. By the end of the season, he discovered that that wasn’t working and that didn’t help. This season, he really decides that he wants to be a hero. For us, the entire series is about him going from where he started in the pilot to becoming the Green Arrow. This season, it’s just about getting from being the vigilante to being the Arrow. It’s one step along the journey. There will be mistakes and successes and stutter-steps. What’s been really fun for us, as writers, this season is watching Oliver set these new goals for himself, and watching him try to achieve them, surpass them, and fall short of them.
Did you always have a plan to address a name change for him, as early as you are?
KREISBERG: Yeah. Last season, Oliver didn’t care what anyone thought of him, as Oliver Queen or as the vigilante. The term “vigilante” and “The Hood” were all said so derogatorily. He realizes now, in the first episode, that the example he set last year was taken up by this gang called The Hood, that made a mockery of what Oliver did. So, he decides he needs to reboot and rebrand. It’s not just about hunting down criminals. It’s also about setting an example and being a symbol of hope for people. With that comes a name change.
How much of this season did you have planned out, going into it, and how much has already been surprising you, along the way?
KREISBERG: It’s funny, the biggest change is that, this season, on the island, we have a much clearer idea of what the story on the island is and how we can tie it into the episode. Last season, sometimes the flashbacks, even if they were a great story, sometimes they felt disjointed from what was happening in the present day. So, we have a clearer sense of that. We believe very strongly in having a plan, but giving ourselves the freedom to move away from the plan. Certainly, from the beginning, we knew that Episodes 8 and 9 were going to involved the introduction of Barry Allen, so we were always conscious of that and writing towards that. But, there are things that we’re doing this season that were things that we thought of when we were making the pilot last year, that are finally paying off. It’s been amazing to see some of that stuff finally happen. There were things that Geoff Johns and I, while sitting in a very cold beach in Vancouver, said, “Hey, if this show got picked up, wouldn’t it be cool if we did this?” We’re finally see that stuff being filmed and realized.
Since you announced the addition of Barry Allen and a possible spin-off series for The Flash so much earlier than we typically get to hear that stuff, does it make it more difficult to filter out people’s opinions and they talk about what they want to see, with as active as you guys are on social media?
KREISBERG: Especially going through the process with casting The Black Canary and The Flash, we were all reminded that when we cast Stephen [Amell], there was a hearty portion of people who were cursing us that we didn’t cast Justin Hartley. You can’t take that stuff too seriously. We’re doing our own thing. As I’ve always said, hopefully after our show, there will be another show about Green Arrow, or a movie. What’s fun about these things is that they keep coming back. Everyone who takes a wack at the pinata on one of these characters gets to bring their own thing to it. For the most part, Greg [Berlanti], Marc [Guggenheim] and I are all huge comic book fans, and we’ve all written comics, too. We’re all just so happy and excited to be a part of this world that we feel like, if we make ourselves happy, then we’re going to make a sizeable portion of the audience happy. We were never surprised about the audience’s reaction, last season, for the most part. The ones that we thought were super successful seemed to be the ones the audience thought were super successful. So, we just try to keep applying that measure of enthusiasm to what we’ve been doing.
With Roy Harper clearly more determined than ever to help Arrow, whether he wants his help or not, where will that relationship go this season? Can Roy ever truly be an ally, or will he always be a big risk to this secret identity getting revealed?
KREISBERG: First of all, Colton [Haynes] is amazing. We didn’t just name him Roy Harper without any expectation that he would become closer and closer to the Arrow, as the series progresses. Early on this season, the Arrow and Roy find a new gear for their relationship, and I think people will probably be surprised to find how quickly that devolves. One of the things we talk about is that it took Oliver five years to become the vigilante. If any of the characters on the show were to eventually become their comic book selves, they would also have to go through their own version of the island. This season is definitely Roy’s island. He’s going to go through some major things, as the season progresses. Hopefully, on the other side of it, we’ll meet a different, new and improved Roy Harper.
Are you also setting up this season to explore Diggle’s journey, as well, since he clearly won’t be able to fully heal himself until he comes face to face with Deadshot?
KREISBERG: Yes. Episode 6, this season, is a big Diggle episode. We’re going to find out some interesting facts about Diggle. There will be a big surprise from his past. Oliver is really the B-story in that episode. We’re all really proud of it, and I think it shows the strength of, first of all, David Ramsey’s performance as Diggle, but also the character and Team Arrow. Every episode is generally Diggle and Felicity helping Oliver with a case, but this is really an episode with Oliver and Felicity helping Diggle. So, you’re definitely going to get a lot of new information about Dig, a new sense of mission for him, and the resolution of his brother’s murder.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.