The Season 2 finale of The CW drama series Arrow is sure to be surprising, gasp-inducing and action-packed. Finally bringing things to a head between Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) and Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett), the events in the episode, entitled “Unthinkable,” will push Oliver to the edge and force him to decide, once and for all, if he’s a killer or a hero.
During this recent exclusive interview with Collider, executive producer Marc Guggenheim talked about wanting to surpass the bar they set with the Season 1 finale, collectively deciding that this is the last time that they can destroy the city, that the Season 2 finale will have a moment that definitely answers where Laurel (Katie Cassidy) will fit in next season, and whether they ever considered the possibility of Slade Wilson finding redemption. He also talked about how the consequences of the finale will be felt in the third season premiere, that they already have a full plan for Season 3, along with the themes and character journeys, they know what their Season 3 finale will be, what they feel worked best in Season 2 and what they’ll improve on in Season 3, his hope for cross-overs between Arrow and The Flash, and that there are pros and cons of not working in a shared DC Universe, between the films and TV shows. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: The last two episodes have really felt more like the first and second acts of an epic three-part finale, rather than just stand-alone episodes. Was there ever a conversation, at all, about airing a special event for the finale, either as a 2-hour block or even as two 2-hour blocks?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: No. I wish that there had been. Those decisions get made by the network. I will say that Episodes 21, 22 and 23 were always designed to be of a piece. It’s actually very nice to hear that you feel the same way that they were designed, which is to be a big three-part finale. You go into these things with a certain intention, and it’s always nice when that intention seems to be successful with the people seeing the episode.
What can you say to tease the final hour, this season, and what fans can expect form the finale?
GUGGENHEIM: The bar we set for ourselves with the finale was that we wanted to basically surpass last year’s season finale, which had a lot of emotional depth, but also had a lot of scope and production value, and the stakes were really high. We have a lot of plates spinning, coming into Episode 23, this year. Our other goal was to catch all of those plates. For us, we go into each season with a plan, and we also give ourselves permission to deviate from the plan. But I’ll say that there’s at least four different things that happen in the finale that were part of our original pitch to the studio and network, a year ago.
When you burn down an entire city to end a season, it must make it really difficult to outdo, in future seasons. What plans do you have to escalate threats without running out of real estate?
GUGGENHEIM: It’s a great question. We’re hard at work, right now, on Season 3 already, and that’s something we’ve been talking about. I certainly don’t want to spoil, a year out, what our Season 3 finale will be, but we’ve all collectively said, “This is the last time we can destroy the city.” The consequences of the finale will be felt, just as they were last year, in the third season premiere. What’s it like to live in a city that is constantly under some kind of attack, and had a major crime problem, to begin with? The consequences of that are something that we’ll be exploring, as soon as the season premiere for Season 3.
GUGGENHEIM: We’ve actually been back at work for almost about a month now. By this point, we actually have a full plan for the season, and we do know what the themes are and what the character journeys are. We also know how the season will end. We actually have a very clear plan. I dare say that we have a clearer plan for Season 3 than we did going into Season 2, and I thought our plan for Season 2 was pretty clear.
You guys really pay attention to what works and what doesn’t on this show, and you build on that for the next season that you’re doing. What do you think worked the best in Season 2, and what are you look at, that you feel needs to be improved upon for Season 3?
GUGGENHEIM: Great question. I would say that one of the goals that we set for ourselves in Season 2 was to prevent characters from being siloed off into their own storylines, much like they were during Season 1. We wanted the B and C stories to be more connected to the A stories, and I feel like we definitely succeed in that. The episodes were all tighter, with a rising sense of escalation and stakes, in each individual episode. We were very, very happy with that. I would say that the thing we could have done better is that we committed the common second season mistake of introducing more characters than we really had time to service. In that regard, I’m specifically thinking of Isabel Rochev. The end of her story happens in the finale, but I would have liked to have spent a few more episodes with her, throughout the second season. Overall, we really leave it to the audience to determine what was successful about a given season of our show.
GUGGENHEIM: That is definitely one of the things that Oliver is dealing with. Probably the paramount thing he’s dealing with is that he made this vow, at the beginning of the season, not to kill, and here he is facing an opponent who, for all intents and purposes, it looks like the only way to beat him might be to kill. In fact, at least one character, during the finale, tells Oliver that what’s happening right now is because of his reticence to take a life, and that if he’s going to stop it, he’s going to have to break his oath. When we started out the season, and we knew that the season would be about Oliver going from vigilante to hero, we knew we would dramatize that, in the form of creating a situation where he would have to debate whether or not to commit murder. I don’t want to spoil how that gets resolved, but where Oliver finds himself in the finale has always been part of the emotional trajectory that we set for him, since the beginning of the year.
Do you feel like you’ve planted the seeds now, for Laurel to take on a more active role in Season 3, as far as the action and Team Arrow go?
GUGGENHEIM: I will say that the finale contains a moment that very definitively answers that question.
Had you ever considered Slade Wilson having a change of heart or finding redemption, at any point, or was this always the story arc that you wanted to follow, with him being a straight-up villain?
GUGGENHEIM: It’s a good question. We consider pretty much everything in the writers’ room. Everything is fair game. With Slade, he doesn’t consider himself a villain. Slade considers himself someone who has embarked on this path of vengeance that he feels is very justified. It would be hard to redeem that kind of character without him having a total 180. It would probably zap all of the dramatic tension out of things. But at the same time, it’s hard because Slade has his own code of honor. You don’t want to just reduce him to a two-dimensional villain. He definitely goes through a change, during the finale, that will definitely give viewers a new understanding of Slade’s vendetta, by virtue of the change he goes through.
Do you personally like the fact that at least right now the DC Universe of the movies and the TV shows are separate and don’t cross-over with each other? Does it make it easier, as a writer, to be able to invent all of this separately?
GUGGENHEIM: Honestly, as with most things, I see it as having pros and cons. We’ve enjoyed crafting the story that we’re crafting. We’ve enjoyed laying the foundation for The Flash series. In Season 3, I hope that we’ll get a chance to enjoy crossing the two shows over, every now and again. Because of working on the show, I’m very intimately familiar with the pros and cons of both working in a shared universe and not working in a shared universe. Beyond that, because it’s not my decision to make, I don’t actually have a strong opinion on it. What good would my opinion be, if I didn’t have any say in the results of it? So, our whole approach has always been, “This is the current state of affairs. If that changes, great, we’ll change, accordingly. But in the meantime, we’ll keep doing what we’re doing.” We’re actually very grateful for the collaboration that we have with DC. They’ve been incredibly supportive of the show, and they’ve been very giving, with respect to giving us access to various different characters and corners of the DC Universe. I don’t expect that to change, quite frankly. It’s been working out really well, for all concerned.
Well, thanks so much for making a great season of Arrow, and for talking to us a few times throughout the season. We’re really looking forward to seeing The Flash. And thank you for taking over the world, one superhero at a time.
GUGGENHEIM: I really appreciate it. Thanks so much.
The Season 2 finale of Arrow airs on The CW on Wednesday, May 14th.