With just three episodes left until the Season 1 finale of The CW drama series Arrow, things are about to get epic, and there are sure to be twists and turns and shocking reveals, as everything is coming to a head. With life-threatening decisions, extreme danger, sacrifices and huge life questions, not everyone might make it out alive.
During this recent interview to discuss what’s to come, actor Stephen Amell (who plays billionaire playboy Oliver Queen, aka Arrow) talked about the journey he’s been on this season, why Oliver and Diggle (David Ramsey) have a bit of a falling out, that the Oliver-Laurel (Katie Cassidy)-Tommy (Colin Donnell) love triangle will be coming back into play, the inevitable showdown between Oliver Queen and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), how close Thea (Willa Holland) and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) might get to the vigilante, how big of a role The Undertaking will have, how much fun it was to do some pre-island flashbacks, the inevitability that individuals from the island will show up in the present day, the significant cliffhanger in the finale, just how much he actually knows about Season 2, and how excited he is for Comic-Con this year. Check out what he had to say, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
STEPHEN AMELL: I think of it a little bit differently. When you’re shooting the pilot, you can see the end of it because it’s three weeks long. But, I could not have imagined, on July 18th, which was our first day of Episode 2 and what I consider the start of our season because, to me, the pilot is a separate entity, there is no way I could have thought forward to where we are now, 22 episodes later. There was a nice synchronicity because the director of our second episode, David Barrett, directed our finale. When we were shooting the second episode, we were expecting the same amount from the pilot with half the time and less than half the money, and I remember David Barrett basically grabbing everybody by the scruff of their neck and going, “We’re going!” And he did the same thing with the finale. The finale was 10 days and so much bigger than our typical episode, so it was good to have him back. But no, I couldn’t have anticipated being here. We didn’t even know there was going to be the full season, at that point.
When did the success set in?
AMELL: The success aspect, I need a lot of distance from. Hopefully, I’ll get a little bit, during the off season, just to think about the season, in totality. It broke down into the stretch of time from mid-July until mid-October, when the show prepared, and that shortly thereafter, it was sometime around Episode 10 or 11 that we got the pick-up for the back nine episodes. And then, I focused on getting to the Christmas break. When I came back from the Christmas break, we had 11 or12 weeks of hard work. Now, here we are.
So, Diggle and Oliver have some sort of conflict, coming up, that leads to Felicity helping out Oliver?
AMELL: That’s Episode 21. Oliver and Diggle have a little bit of a falling out because Diggle is really after getting Floyd Laughton (aka Deadshot) and is becoming a little bit obsessive, and Oliver doesn’t share the same commitment because there’s still an overall goal. That rubs Diggle the wrong way. So, at least momentarily, he is not at my disposal and I have to send young Miss Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) into the field.
Is Oliver concerned about losing himself to the Hood?
AMELL: As things ramp up towards the season finale, he’s just focused more and more on the task at hand. Whether it’s his father’s list, the glyph, how it relates to The Glades, or the looming specter of Tommy knowing his secrets, there’s not a lot of time for him to have perspective right now. That’s why so many things are probably about to come crashing down.
Will the love triangle come back into play before the end of the season?
AMELL: Love triangles very rarely stay quiet for very long. It’s less between Oliver and Laurel this week, then it is between Oliver and Tommy. We’re going to get some clarification about how he feels, this week. But, I would expect to see Oliver and Laurel together a lot more, before the end of the season, and that’s not good for Tommy.
What would Oliver do, if he had to actually go up against Tommy?
AMELL: I think that he would do everything that he possibly can to avoid that happening, but if it were to happen, Oliver wouldn’t want to hurt him. Oliver never wanted Tommy to be involved. Everything that had happened before that had been by design. Telling Diggle was by design. Telling Felicity was a little bit earlier than expected, but by design. Telling Tommy was a life-or-death situation where Oliver didn’t want to sit with the guilt of letting Tommy’s father die because he needed to protect his secret. In a split-second decision, he did it, and he’s paying the piper because of it, unfortunately.
Does it come down to a showdown between Oliver Queen and Malcolm Merlyn?
AMELL: We had the fight in Episode 9, and there are a couple of fights to go. It’s wonderful because we have this entire mythology for the season. In Episode 21, we’ve announced that we’re flashing back to before Oliver sets sail on the Queen’s Gambit with his dad, and the entire mythology of our first season and the reason almost everybody is doing what they’re doing is laid out by Barrowman, in this very eloquent, John Barrowman-esque monologue. It’s nice because it pays off what we’ve been setting up. Just as a viewer, I would like it because you sit there and you go, “Oh, wow! These guys had a plan.” We had a plan, from the moment that we saw Malcolm in the fourth episode. Even the glyph in the second episode was the first connection where Moira sits in the car. All of that is coming home to roost right now.
Now that Roy Harper is going to become obsessed with finding The Hood, what will viewers be seeing with Oliver and Roy?
AMELL: We don’t see a ton of myself and Roy Harper this year, but there is one really good scene. I love the end of seasons, in general, that tie everything off and make you go, “Wow, where is it going to go?!” Just when you think there’s nothing, you sprinkle in a few little things. Whether it’s Diggle’s involvement with a certain organization, that you’ll see over the next couple of episodes, or me confronting Roy with Thea right there, while we are services a lot of our storylines for Season 1, you do start to see little Easter eggs along the way for Season 2.
What will viewers see in the finale, on the island side of things?
AMELL: It’s actually a two-part finale. We see the island in Episode 20, and then we actually take a break from the island in Episode 21 because the flashbacks are to before the island. Episodes 22 and 23, on the island, could have been one continuous thing, and I actually wish we shot it that way. I’m pitching that for next year. It’s the culmination of Edward Fyers and his plan, and it’s a moment of transcendence for Oliver.
AMELL: It was really fun. I’d never really played that guy before, except for one real quick scene in the pilot. It went really well. Both Marc [Guggenheim] and Andrew [Kreisberg] had wished that we’d gotten to shoot more of it. I got to shoot some stuff with Katie [Cassidy]. It was just fun to play that character, and to be carefree. I think the one who really shines in that episode, for me, in a character that we’ve never seen, is Susanna Thompson. She’s wonderful in the episode because she just plays Moira Queen, the doting mother. She’s not privy to all of this conspiratorial behavior. She just loves her children and loves her husband and she’s just really happy-go-lucky. But, it was fun shooting the Oliver stuff.
Will viewers see much of his relationship with his dad?
AMELL: You’ll see a couple exchanges. The most we see, with respect to the relationship with his father, is the actual sequence between the two of them on the boat. He knows that Oliver is a little bit of a philanderer. He’s brought Sarah on the boat and his father is saying, “That’s not the best idea,” and also giving him the secret high-five underneath the table.
Will viewers see a really different side of Oliver in those flashbacks?
AMELL: It was an interesting exercise for me. We do get a little bit of the backstory, as to why Oliver would make such a decision to have Sarah come on the boat with him.
Did that have anything to do with Tommy?
In Episode 22, you introduce Dr. Markov. What can you say about that?
AMELL: We get the explanation as to what Dr. Markov’s purpose is, in Episode 21. And then, the realization of who he is, is pretty immediate in Episode 22. It’s so immediate that I really can’t say anything.
AMELL: It does sort of seem like an inevitability that eventually some aspect of the island will touch Oliver’s life in the present day. Really, just name a character from the island, whether it’s Slade, Shado, Edward Fyers, Yao Fei. If any of those people showed up in the present day, I think that would be awesome. I’m a huge fan of Lost and the most interesting switch in the storyline, for me, was when we found out they got off the island and it made you go, “Okay, that’s interesting. They got off the island. How did they get off the island?” Let’s say that Shado showed up in the present day, and she and Oliver had all of this history that they were discussing, and maybe they hugged and kissed when she showed up. But then, you switch back to the island and you start going, “Wait, how did this happen?,” because maybe their characters are in a very different place. From a story standpoint, that would be really fun. And as an acting exercise, that would be cool because you can’t play to what you know is coming. It has to happen naturally.
At this point, how much do you actually know about Season 2?
AMELL: Oh, I know stuff! I’ve asked questions. I think the story on the island is really mapped out. If you talk with Andrew and Marc, they would say that this year, in Episode 5, when we introduced Edward Fyers and faux Deathstroke, Billy Wintergreen, and Yao Fei rescued me and I was tortured a little bit, that was when they really discovered what the island could be, and we’ve pushed it that far. But, I think they have a really cool idea and really have it mapped out, for what the island is going to be in Season 2. That will, hopefully, push us towards a couple of the episodes, like Episode 14, where it’s a little bit more island-centric. As for Season 2 in the present day, I kinda know where we find Moira, Detective Lance and Laurel, but I have no idea where Oliver is, at all. They had an idea for the first scene, but it’s something different than you would ever expect. I don’t know when Comic-Con is, in relation to when we start our season, but I hope it’s something that we can film and just air as a 90-second teaser at Comic-Con. It would be one of those, “Oh, my god!,” moments.
AMELL: I am excited! And I’m more excited for everyone to see the last four episodes. Breaks are terrible. I understand why they’re necessary, but I’m so proud of the last four episodes, and the last two in particular, that I just want everybody to see them.
What’s going to surprise viewers about The Undertaking, what it really is, and what it means for the city?
AMELL: The depths of everyone’s involvement. We don’t promise anything in the show and not deliver. We’re not going to promise this massive thing that you would call The Undertaking, and have it be this little teeny-tiny thing. Even if you think of what it could be in your mind, it’s bigger than that. It’s this massive thing, and I’m glad that it pays off the way that it does.
Felicity has a crush on Oliver, but what does he think about her?
AMELL: I think that every day that he sees Felicity, he finds out how capable she is. They have to work very closely together, in Episode 21 and Episode 22. By the time we get to Episode 22 and 23, with the stakes as high as they are, it’s not the IT girl in the Arrow cave. She is a member of the team, on equal footing with myself and with Diggle, and we need her as much as she needs us, in this scenario. I think that Oliver sees her as an equal, and as a very capable individual. Just based on her knowing more about him than just about anyone, at this point in his present day life, she could probably challenge me in ways that other people can’t, and that’s always attractive.
Do you think he sees her in a sisterly way, or as a woman?
AMELL: I think he sees her as a woman.
AMELL: At this point, Oliver actually encouraged Tommy to try to develop a relationship with his father. He doesn’t know anything about Malcolm Merlyn, other than maybe he could be a better dad. He certainly doesn’t suspect anything to the affect of him being slightly evil, let alone the other Archer. I think Oliver would support it because, ultimately, Oliver wants Tommy to be happy and stand on his own. Should he come to learn anything about Tommy’s father, he may feel differently.
Is there any chance Oliver would put on a mask instead of just make-up?
AMELL: I think there is a chance, actually. We really view Oliver, right now, as The Hood or Arrow 1.0. He’s living in the year 2013 and he’s using a wood bow that he made on the island. Things are going to change with him, as time goes on. You’ve always gotta introduce new gadgets. That’s what Felicity is gonna be for. She’s gonna research some cool new thing that I’ll use. So, I do think that there could be a mask. I know that there’s no firm plans for it, but Andrew and Marc are not saying, “Absolutely no mask, ever!” It’s an evolutionary thing.
What’s Thea’s role, in these last episodes?
AMELL: Well, we don’t see a great deal of Thea in Episode 21 because it certainly has more flashbacks and longer flashbacks than we’re accustomed to. We wanted to tell the origin story of the season. But, Thea and Roy are on the trail of the vigilante. If the police can’t just catch him, they’re not going to catch him, but Oliver does catch wind of it, before the end of the season. That leads to some interesting interactions between the three of them. And then, it’s time for Thea, in the finale, to actually really stand on her own and have some heroic moments of her own. And Willa [Holland] continues to impress. I think it’s really fantastic because Willa is such a wonderful actor. I feel like she’s just sitting there, waiting to be really utilized. In the first few episodes, she was trying to get me to open up, and then we basically stopped having meaningful, adult conversations. That’s something Oliver and Thea never had. She was 12, or thereabouts, when he left on the Queen’s Gambit. I think it would be very exciting, in coming seasons, to put them more on an adult-level relationship because she is so capable and is going to be a huge asset for the show, even more so than now.
AMELL: It’s pretty high, right now. We were making fun of my stunt double because, for the last three or four days of the finale, he didn’t do anything. When it came time for the sequence that opens the finale, where I’m chained up, he didn’t do a thing, and that’s an incredibly physical sequence. That’s because I’m getting better and the stunt coordinator and fight choreographer are getting more attuned to what I’m able to do, when they design these sequences. They’re given a great deal of freedom to choreograph them, and they are starting to play to my strengths a little bit, so I’m getting to do a ton.
Is that because you’re a competitive guy?
How are you preparing for Season 2 now?
AMELL: Gosh, we just wrapped Season 1, like 45 minutes ago! I’m going to go away to relax. I’m not necessarily tired at a superficial level. I’ve been getting decent amounts of sleep. I had two days off, during the finale. And I had a couple of days where I was just in a big scene, not all the big scenes. But, I think I’m structurally tried. I need to unwind a little bit. When it comes time for Season 2, I just know that, even if it’s a bigger season, which it will be, and it’s more physically demanding, which it will be, and it’s more fast-paced, which it will be, it will never be as hard as Season 1. The producers did a really good job this year, molding the rest of our cast into people that can carry episodes at a time. I don’t think any part of the fan base would complain, if all of a sudden, we announced that we were going to have a Diggle-centric episode. I think people would be legitimately excited. David [Ramsey] has earned the right for that, and I hope he gets it. And I don’t even want to single him out. So, I would like to think that Season 2 will be a little bit more like the finale of Season 1, where so many people have important storylines and so many things are coming to fruition that, while I am busy, it won’t be non-stop.
AMELL: By the time we get to the finale, we get to see Diggle, Felicity and Oliver as a fully functioning, no hierarchy, all in it for each other team. It took Oliver five years to turn into what he was when he showed up in the pilot episode. And the producers have always said that, as much as fans want to see Katie [Cassidy] put on fishnets and immediately turn into Black Canary, that would disservice what we tried to prove with Oliver’s storyline. It takes time. So, we’re getting to see these characters evolve. With Diggle and Felicity being privy to this world, we’re going to continue to see them become more and more capable.
Do you feel like there’s no hierarchy with the island storyline as well, by the end of the season?
AMELL: There is a lot of synchronicity between Shado, Slade and Oliver, and Diggle, Felicity and Oliver.
In the middle of the season, Oliver had it out with his mom, but then things settled down between them. How will her involvement with The Undertaking become an issue?
AMELL: At the end of Episode 14, Oliver said specifically, “We don’t know what The Undertaking is, and until we do, she is off limits.” We’re going to find out what The Undertaking is soon, and if she’s involved, it’s not going to just go quietly into the night. So much of the season has just been people with facades. There’s the one that Oliver puts up for his family, the one that Moira puts up for her family, and the one that Malcolm puts up for Tommy. All of those, towards the last two episodes, just melt away because danger is so perilously close. So, we get to see characters interacting in a way that they haven’t, all season.
Do you think Oliver will move out of his mom’s house, anytime soon?
AMELL: God, I hope so! Even if the season ends with them skipping down the yellow brick road together, and they’re happy-go-lucky, he’s 30 years old and needs to get his own apartment.
AMELL: Of course! Things just continue to get bigger and bigger. Before the start of the second episode, you’d be wondering if Oliver would let anyone know his secret. Now, he’s let 5 people know. One of them didn’t survive, so there are four people that exist in the world, right now, who know his secret, let alone people that may be lurking around from the island, that know what he’s been up to. I don’t think it would be responsible to have any sort of cap on the size of the team that he will use or might need.
Will viewers see any more heroes that might be out there?
AMELL: There is a wonderful tease at the beginning of the finale, with respect to origins that Oliver has, that we don’t know about yet, that have happened after the conclusion of Season 1 on the island and certainly before the beginning of the pilot. It’s some really cool stuff.
How much of a cliffhanger will there be in the season finale?
AMELL: Please let people know that Episode 22 is not our season finale. There is enough in Episode 22, both in the present and on the island, that you could just say, “Okay, that’s it! I need a break until October.” The totality of the island sequences in the season finale, the final scene of the season and the penultimate showdown, however that happens, were shot in the last three days. And the cliffhanger is significant.
Is there a chance that not everyone will come our of Season 1 alive?
AMELL: There’s always a chance. It is Season 1. Really crazy stuff is happening, and no one is ever safe.
Will viewers be left to ponder anyone’s fate, over the summer?
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW. Click here for all our past coverage.