During a recent screening for the premiere episode of Arrow's third season, Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim joined a room full of reporters to talk about what they'd just seen, and what to expect going forward.
We've removed all the spoilery stuff about the actual episode (sorry, folks), and left in the stuff that's about the upcoming season. Check back after the premiere on Wednesday night to see the rest of what he had to say!
How would you like to preview Season Three of Arrow?
I feel like this episode is a really good jumping on point for new viewers. We closed a chapter at the end of Season Two, and this is a brand new opening. I don’t really think there’s anything you need to know, coming into it. It’s pretty new-viewer friendly. And that wasn’t necessarily by design; it just happened to work out that way with the story that we’re telling.
What would you say to tease the Oliver-Felicity relationship coming up?
Oh, God, I've been teasing them mercilessly on Twitter. [Laughs] I like to say that it’s an explosive first date. It’s so hard to tease it without spoiling it, but I’m very happy with the circumstances under which they have their first kiss. I hope it’s unexpected.
I hope it plays as unexpected. I hope it plays as emotional.
Obviously you guys have talked a lot about the theme of identity. How does family play into that?
I think family has always been a key component of the genetics of the show. This has always been a family melodrama, with the Lances, with the Queens, with the adoptive family of Team Arrow.
So, I wouldn’t say it’s any more or any less than any other season, but it’s definitely a huge component of the show itself, of the show as a whole.
Are we going to see you guys doing more with Roy Harper going forward?
That's a big component of this season. One thing I've been very honest about is that I felt very happy with Season Two, yadda yadda, I'm glad that you guys are, but always being self-critical, one of the things I felt we dropped the ball on a little is, in 212, we made a big deal about Roy joining the team and then didn't get a chance to do a lot with it because we were pushing a lot of other story.
And I think that one of the fun things about Season Three is we really get to play with that and you really feel like Roy is a part of Team Arrow and it's more than just wearing a costume; that he's really present and a member of this group, that the trio becomes a quartet. And that is really true in Episode Six. Episode Six is a very Roy-centric episode and it sort of speaks in some ways to episode 212. It's a little bit of...I don't want to say a sequel, but they're thematically related and they'll feel very similar and Roy being a part of the team is an important part of Roy's development and I'd be remiss if I didn't say that we're doing this comic book that bridges the gap between Season Two and Season Three and the explanation for the costume actually is covered in the comic book, along with the collapsible bow and all the other new little things and actually the origin of the Vertigo drug that you saw in 301, that gets set up in the comic book.
Is Roy alright taking orders from Oliver?
I think he’s fine being a part of the team, as he is. We played with that notion of Roy questioning Oliver’s judgement in Episode 218. I think what you see in Season Three is a much more mentor/mentee, master/apprentice relationship, which is what we were setting up in 212, and didn’t fully realize. It’s really more fully realized in Season Three. You really see how Oliver is training this kid to be a hero in his own right.
Is that why you guys have avoided using "sidekick" in the show?
Honestly, I think it's more like...I try very hard to encourage the writers to avoid overtly comic book-y kind of dialogue. It just always takes me out of the show, it takes me out of the grounded nature of the show, and I think "sidekick" is one of those.
We try to avoid using "secret identity" unless it's self-referential or a little bit of an in-joke and typically people will only be referred to as supervillains by Felicity, who's making a joke.
It's a subtle little thing. I love comic books, I love the genre, but those little things throughout an episode can actually take you out of the grounded episode and make you feel like you're reading a comic book instead of watching a TV show.
When will we learn about where Thea has been and what she’ll be up to this season?
A lesson we learned over Season Two was that we don’t have to pack everyone into a given episode. As we were breaking [the premiere] out, we discovered that it could be more interesting if Thea, who left town at the end of Season Two, wasn’t around, and it’s part of the mystery. Where is she? She’s not in Starling City.
That questions will get answered in Episode Two. You’ll find out where Thea went, at the end of Season Two, and you’ll also find out what exactly was said in that limousine, after their scene in Season Two ended. The beginning of Episode Three picks up with Malcolm and Thea in that limo, and you’ll hear the conversation that you didn’t get to hear at the end of Season Two.
What does Brandon Routh bring to the show as Ray Palmer?
There are several things we wanted to do. We started off with this notion that a lot of third season dramas bring in a new character to shake things up. Greg [Berlanti] did it with Scott Wolf’s character on Everwood...and it happens on dramas, with great success.
So, we were thinking about who is a kind of character that we haven’t seen on the show, and one thing that we haven’t seen is someone who can play at Felicity’s level, in terms of the banter.
We write Felicity as if she came in from a different show, but the problem is that she doesn’t have anyone else to talk to like that. We can’t write banter with Felicity and anyone because banter requires two people. So, lo! and behold, here’s Ray Palmer. I always joke that we basically came up with Felicity because we need one character on the show that we’re able to write. Greg, Andrew [Kreisberg] and I, our voices are all banter quippy-quip-quip, fun-fun-fun, but we've got Oliver, super taciturn...Dig, man of few words. No one was talking on the show! Felicity was supposed to be a one-off, but Andrew and I both sort of independently, had the same instinct, which is, let's just write a character who’s easy for us to write. Because we were exhausted starting off Season One.
I will say Ray is a joy to write for because his banter with Felicity is a lot of fun. It’s a quality of the show that we’ve never seen before. Also, he’s going to end up as the new head of Queen Consolidated, and we know from past seasons that people in charge of Queen Consolidated aren’t always the best people. So, Ray represents either an interesting departure or an interesting twist.
What Ray is planning and up to with his whole Star City campaign, and what he plans to do with the company, will be one of those mysteries. One of the things we wanted to do was reintroduce the concept of mystery to the show. We had that in Season One, with the glyph and the Undertaking, and what was the list about, and the notebook.
The nature of Season Two moved us away from that because we had Slade Wilson and it was a much more upfront story of vengeance. With Season Three, we wanted to reintroduce some of those elements of mystery that make you go, “What’s going on there? What’s up?” Hopefully, Ray is one of those characters that will do that for us.
Now that Oliver Queen doesn’t have a fortune or much of a family, what is his non-Arrow persona, at this point?
That’s honestly a big question of the season. It speaks to this issue of identity. That’s the challenge and the struggle that he’ll be dealing with, over the entire season. In Episode Three, we’ll demonstrate how important Thea is to him.
Basically, Thea is the one last tie he has to his persona as Oliver. But this is his season-long journey: Is there an Oliver Queen anymore? And if there can be, what does that look like? It’s a real conundrum for him.