When Arrow returns for Season 5 on The CW on October 5th, Team Arrow will still be reeling from the emotional impact of the events from last season. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) now has to balance being the Green Arrow with being the mayor of Star City, while Diggle (David Ramsey) is back in the military and Thea (Willa Holland) is adamant about leaving Speedy behind. To make everything even more challenging, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) is the only one left to help Oliver, as he trains a new crop of masked heroes who are looking to step up and defend the city.
While at The CW portion of the TCA Summer Press Tour, executive producer/writer Wendy Mericle sat down with Collider for this exclusive interview about the season’s theme of legacy, Team Arrow being scattered, who’s having the hardest time coming to terms with everything that’s happened, the new team of vigilantes, the evolution of Mr. Terrific, Diggle’s struggle, Olicity, and where the threats are coming from this season. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Collider: What can you say about the story you’re going to be telling in Season 5?
WENDY MERICLE: Well, the theme of the season is legacy, and for everybody, across the board, but especially Oliver. He’s looking back at, “Okay, I’ve been here for four years. I’ve been trying to fix the city. Have I succeeded, or have I not?” And now, he’s working as the mayor and still working as a vigilante, which are two full-time jobs. He’s gotta figure out what’s really going to be his legacy and how he’s going to honor what he set out to do, which is right his father’s wrongs. And then, Thea will be doing the same thing from her position in the mayor’s office, and also grappling, personally, with if she’s like her mother, at the end of the day, and whether she’s more Merlyn or more Queen. Felicity will be dealing with the fall-out of Havenrock. She ultimately was responsible for the deaths of 20,000 people last year. We went big. A nuclear bomb went off. So, she’s dealing with that. And Diggle killed his brother. How do you come back from that and regain your moral center? He understands that he had to do what he did, but it doesn’t make it any easier that, at some point, you’ll have to tell your own child, “Hey, I kind of killed your uncle. Sorry.” It’s a little dark.
Who will have the hardest time, trying to come to terms with everything?
MERICLE: That’s a great question. I think emotionally it will be hardest on Felicity. Dig is a soldier. He’s seen some things in his time. Oliver has been a bad-ass for a long time, cracking some necks. Felicity, though, was an I.T. girl four years ago. She never thought she’d drop a bomb on a bunch of innocent people. It’s a new reality for her. We really wanted to play, what would happen if it was your or me, in that situation? How would we feel? We’re trying to honor that. That’s a challenge for her, this year.
Aside from being Green Arrow and the mayor of Star City, Oliver is also going to be training some new vigilantes when he doesn’t particularly have a lot of patience for others.
MERICLE: Come on, he’s such a people person!
How will that work?
MERICLE: It works exactly like you’d think it would. He does not care for them and he’s hard on them. For as much fun as it is to have Oliver basically just run roughshod over these very wide-eyed, wet-behind-the-ears, wannabe vigilantes, the truth of it is that he’s really informed by what happened in Season 4. Laurel died, and no one is taking that lightly. It’s informing the entire season. He doesn’t want them to die. He wants to make sure they know the gravity of the situation they’re going into.
Why these vigilantes?
MERICLE: Felicity has been tracking all of the new vigilantes in town. Evelyn Sharp, who will be Artemis, is somebody that Oliver is pretty confident that he can mold. He succeeded in turning her in Episode 419, so he’s like, “Okay, maybe her. But, this other guy? This Wild Dog guy? No idea what this guy is going on about!” Wild Dog is the one who gives him the most trouble, early in the season, and he’s also the guy who has his own dark past and is going to be dealing with his own legacy. And then, Ragman has a very spiritual identity and he comes from a place of really honoring his Jewish religion. He’s going to present some moral challenges to Oliver. He’s like a parent to these guys. They’re going to drive him crazy.
One of my colleagues who knows far more about comic books than I do wants to know if you’re modeling this group of vigilantes after The Outsiders?
MERICLE: In terms of an actual model of a team, we haven’t talked about that a lot. I think what we wanted to do was really look at it from the specific point of view of Oliver, Felicity and Dig. It’s tough to find characters in any other setting that would have that unique blend of perspectives. These are the comic book characters that spoke to us the most, and we felt would represent the biggest challenges to our guys. It’s going to be a ride.
Curtis Holt seems to want to get involved, but doesn’t have any idea what that really means. Will he get way more than he bargained for?
MERICLE: Oh, yeah! He’s definitely bitten off a lot more than he can chew. The fun part about Curtis is that he really wants to do it, but in many ways, he’s the least equipped to do it, especially out in the field. He’s a very smart guy, but throwing punches is not his forte. You’ll be seeing the evolution of Mr. Terrific, and him dealing with his husband. His husband will have to come to terms with the fact that Curtis is out there fighting crime. I’m not sure Paul is going to be too excited about that.
Are you going to follow the Mr. Terrific that we know from the comics, or will there be a departure there?
MERICLE: In some ways. I would say we’ll definitely evolve the comic book characters this season, and he’ll be the closest to the original storyline. Canon, to us, is a starting part. In the show’s DNA, at its inception, is that it’s not the Green Arrow your father knew. It was very much inspired by Christopher Nolan movies and The Dark Knight, and they’ve been very open about that, from the beginning. It will always be inspired by the canon, but it won’t necessarily go as far as some comic book fans might want it to.
How does Diggle’s family feel about how he’s dealing with things?
MERICLE: Dig is in an interesting place. Coming out of last year, he feels this tremendous guilt about murdering his brother. He’s gone back to what he knows, which is the military, and he’s going to discover that he’s not going to find what he’s looking for there. He’s going to find it when he comes back to the team. But when he comes back to the team, it’s a whole other team. He’s got this other element to deal with, which is these punk kids that are coming in there to take his spot. He’s not going to be on board with that. He’s going to go through some complicated stuff. He’s got an interesting arc this season. I think he’s going to, in a lot of ways, be very similar to where Oliver was in Season 1. That will be fun to play with. We love him. His family is great, and they’re going to be a big part of the season, for sure. We’re going to see Lyla. We love Lyla.
You have a very devoted Olicity fan base who want to see Oliver and Felicity together. Do you think about that, moving forward?
MERICLE: Oh, yeah! At some point, we do think about it, and then you have to stop thinking about it. The funny thing about Felicity and Oliver is that it’s not in the comic books. Like you, I don’t come for a comic book background, and I feel like I speak for those members of the audience, who are a lot, that don’t. The thing about having Emily [Bett Rickards] on the show is that it was clear Emily and Stephen [Amell] had chemistry, and we wrote to that. Right now, they’re in an ambiguous place and we’re going to see where that goes. We’re going to lean into wherever these actors and characters take us, and that’s the fun of it. That’s why you can’t always please everyone. You’re in charge of figuring out what’s best for the show, creatively. Sometimes that isn’t what the Olicity fans or the Laurel fans want. Sorry guys!
How do Felicity and Oliver feel about each other moving on?
MERICLE: You’re going to see a lot of both of them reacting to this decision they made. Between seasons, they’ve definitely had a conversation about, “We’re going to work in the bunker. It’s going to be great.” They didn’t really get to that question of, are we going to date? So, when all that starts to come out, they’re going to have to make decisions. If they’re not going to be together, what are they going to do? They’re not going to be single for their own lives. They’ll have to see what happens. They’re going to have some big feelings. There might be some toes that get stepped on, for sure.
What can you say about where the threats are coming from, this season?
MERICLE: We’re excited, this year we’ve gone back to the real criminal underworld of Star City. We’ll be dealing a lot with the criminal underworld and the kind of gangs and mobs that are there. We’ll see Bratva, we’ll see Triad, we’ll see the Los Halcones, and we’ll see some of the Bertinelli family, as well. You won’t necessarily see some of the same faces, but you’ll see some of those same groups from earlier on. It’s much more of a gritty crime threat to the city. Damien Darhk didn’t succeed and we’ve had a lot of terrorist attacks there, and we were really interested in seeing what the real world fall-out of that would be. Crime is on the rise, and these vigilantes are on the rise. They’re as much a problem as they are a help, and how is Oliver going to deal with that?
It sounds like a very different kind of threat than you’ve dealt with before.
MERICLE: It is.
What does that give the show that it hasn’t had before?
MERICLE: It’s just different villains of the week. It’s something else for the team to focus on. For us, it’s a little more real. If you look at where the world is right now, there is this focus on what’s happening in our cities and what’s happening with violence in the streets. We’re able to reflect that back, in some way, and have dialogues about it in the writers room, and have our characters talk about it, too. It’s not magic. It’s not metas. It feels very much of the world we set out to explore, in Season 1.
Arrow returns for Season 5 on The CW on October 5th.