After the big reveal at the end of “The Fallen” episode of Arrow, and in the emotional aftermath of Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) decision, executive producer Marc Guggenheim spoke with a handful of press about what’s to come in the remaining three episodes of the season, with a look ahead to Season 4.
During the interview, Marc Guggenheim talked about the Lazarus Pit side effects, how Team Arrow will be affected by Oliver’s decision, how Oliver feels about his choice, the play for Maseo’s soul, Oliver and Felicity’s romance, where Ray Palmer goes next and the role Atom has with Team Arrow, how much blame really falls onto Malcolm Merlyn, and what Nyssa thinks about everything that’s happened. Be aware that there are some major spoilers.
Question: Are there more side effects to come, with what Thea went through in the Lazarus Pit?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: That’s something we’ve been talking about a lot, in the writers’ room. You can expect that there will be more consequences. We established, very clearly, that the Lazarus Pit returns you, but not always in the condition in which you left. There’s a lot of story still to be told with Thea and her recovery.
Now that Oliver Queen essentially doesn’t exist anymore, how is Team Arrow going to be handling that, back in Starling City?
GUGGENHEIM: That’s actually the emotional currency of Episode 321. In the writers’ room, when we talk about each episode, we first talk about the character journey of the episode. The character journey of 321 is how the hell Team Arrow moves forward without Oliver. It’s a different circumstance in 321 than it was in 310. In 310, they thought he was dead, and in many ways, that was a whole lot easier. Knowing that he’s out there and alive, but a member of the League of Assassins, is a whole lot harder. I have to say, 321 is one of our most emotional episodes. Episode 321 is a villain-of-the-week episode. It just so happens that the villain-of-the-week is Oliver.
With Oliver giving in and joining the League, will he continue to struggle with his decision, or is he dedicated himself to it?
GUGGENHEIM: I would say Episode 321 answers that question pretty definitively. Even the opening moments of 321 answer that, quite frankly.
Is Ra’s al Ghul doubting his decision for Oliver Queen to take his place, at all?
GUGGENHEIM: Ra’s is not a self-contemplative guy. He’s not burdened by normal self-doubts. Ra’s is pretty dedicated to his course. Maseo’s soul is very much in play. That dynamic plays out, in the final three episodes of the season. In the past and the present, there’s a little bit of a play for Maseo’s soul. We just know, from the fact that he joined the League of Assassins, how that ended in the past, but how things end in the present and whether or not he can be redeemed, is definitely one of the questions that we’re building up towards answering.
What can you say about Oliver and Felicity, and the huge step they took, in their relationship?
GUGGENHEIM: One thing that was really important to us in the writers’ room was a strong desire to have Oliver and Felicity sleep together before the events in the season finale. That isn’t to say that we were going to have them sleep together in the season finale, but we wanted to take that off the table prior to the season finale. So, we knew that Episode 320 was the episode to do it in, and we went back and forth in the writers’ room about the right venue for it. As you could see, they ended up sleeping together in Nanda Parbat, and we all liked the romance of that. I’m personally fond of the fact that it’s Ra’s who gives her the final push. One of the things that I keep seeing on the internet is that Felicity has never told Oliver that she loves him, and that was very deliberate. We were holding that back, this season. The same way that we were holding back them sleeping together, we were also holding back her saying, “I love you,” to him. We wanted that to be part and parcel of that moment.
Does Felicity being out there represent hope for Oliver?
GUGGENHEIM: The last three episodes of the season spend a lot of time addressing the question of, is there hope for Oliver? And is there hope for Oliver in Felicity’s mind? Episodes 321 and 322 have some very specific things to say about that, and Felicity is coming to grips with that.
So, where do Felicity and Ray Palmer go from here?
GUGGENHEIM: They’re pretty well and truly kiboshed. They do have a very meaningful exchange in Episode 322. But, we’re not going to do an off-again, on-again, off-again thing with them. Romantically, this is where we leave them. When I was watching their scene in 322, I had to remind myself that they broke up. Regardless of who you ‘ship, and whatever people’s feelings are about Ray and Felicity, there’s a lot of chemistry between Brandon [Routh] and Emily [Bett Rickards]. Even when they’re broken up, you feel their chemistry. It’s just the way those actors are in a scene together.
Is there any chance Felicity could be pregnant?
GUGGENHEIM: No, Felicity is not pregnant. She practices safe sex. It would be a good twist. She’s only slept with two guys so far, this season.
Atom and Black Canary are both very under-trained. How will that affect Starling City?
GUGGENHEIM: We also talked a lot about that in the writers’ room. The tricky think about Episode 321 is making it different from Episodes 310, 311 and 312, where Oliver was missing and presumed dead. One of the things we talked about is, how is Team Arrow functioning post-Oliver? We didn’t want to get too much into crime on the rise because we felt like we did that with Brick. But you’ll see, in 321 and 322, what Team Arrow is up to and how they’re working to continue to protect the city while Oliver is away.
Are we going to see Atom play into Team Arrow’s plans a bit more now?
GUGGENHEIM: Yes, in an organic way. One thing that we’ve avoided doing this year is being like, “Ray is a superhero, and therefore Ray is a member of Team Arrow.” Every time he interacts with Team Arrow or allies himself with Team Arrow, there’s a story reason behind it, instead of their just being the assumption that he’s a part of the team now. But Ray plays a very large role in the events in Episode 322 and 323. Ray is not in 321 because it’s a very Team Arrow centric episode. Ray, for all of his charms and for all of the help that he can provide, is not a member of Team Arrow, and we wanted to keep the focus on the team.
Malcolm Merlyn says he’s free and clear of the League now, and that he wants to be there for Thea. Will she lean on him, in any way?
GUGGENHEIM: That’s a really good question. I will say that, by the end of the season, there’s a nice bit of closure between Malcolm and Thea. You’ll feel like their story has had a beginning, middle and end. The feelings that Thea has about Malcolm are pretty clearly explicated by the end of the season.
How much blame should Malcolm really take for everything?
GUGGENHEIM: Malcolm is an interesting guy. He’s not without a conscious. At the same time, I don’t think his conscious troubles him that much. He’s not a sociopath. He knows that he’s done bad stuff, and he knows that that bad stuff has had bad consequences, but it doesn’t seem to keep him up at night. Getting Oliver to engage with Ra’s has never worked out the way he planned. Malcolm’s perfect world was to have Thea kill Sara to bring Ra’s and Oliver into conflict, and then Oliver would take out Ra’s, and everything would be great. But obviously, it didn’t work out that way.
That being said, Malcolm, in his not quite sociopathic nature, is certainly very forgiving of himself. What’s fun about Malcolm is that he’s playing chess while everyone else is playing checkers, so he’s thinking 20 moves ahead, all the time. A lot of times, those 20 moves ahead are very self-serving, or at the very least, they’re in service of his world view, and that’s a world view that he believes a great deal in. He always thinks that he’s done the right thing. I think he views The Undertaking more as a failed good idea than a just god awful idea, and that’s despite the fact that it killed his son.
Obviously, Nyssa was upset at the idea of Oliver Queen stepping into this new role, but how will the reality of it change her? Does she have any idea about what she wants for herself now?
GUGGENHEIM: That’s a big, big, big topic of Episode 321. If you’re a Nyssa fan, 321 is your episode. We’ll actually learn a lot of things about Nyssa. Not in terms of backstory, but we’ll learn about how she reacts to things and how she’s dealing with life, post-316, and how Oliver’s joining the League affects her, both emotionally and as a practical matter. There’s a lot of Nyssa still to come. She looms very large, in these final three episodes.
What can you say about Captain Lance’s reaction to Oliver Queen joining the League of Assassins?
GUGGENHEIM: We certainly could tell that story, but we just ran out of time. To explain to Lance exactly what’s happened, that would require, “Okay, Quentin, sit down. I’ve got a lot to tell you.” We have to make choices, and we just chose not to tell that particular story. That’s not to say that, assuming Quentin survives Season 3, the topic won’t come up sometime in Season 4. But it wasn’t our design of the rest of Season 3 to tell Lance, “Okay, there’s this Lazarus Pit, and Thea was almost killed and she ended up in it.”
What is the Starling City public’s opinion about what’s happened with The Arrow?
GUGGENHEIM: Something that’s always been a struggle in writing the show is, how do we keep Starling City alive? All this stuff happens, and how do you get the general man-on-the-street opinion of things? It’s just a hard thing. We don’t really have a character like that. We don’t have a newspaper reporter who you go home with and learn about everyone’s opinions through. I actually would love for us to develop that aspect of the show. We just haven’t figured out how to do that yet. It’s just not where the show lives, at the moment.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.