In “The Fallen” episode of The CW series Arrow, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) must return to Nanda Parbat when Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) finally makes him an offer that he can’t refuse. With Thea’s (Willa Holland) life hanging in the balance, the team, along with Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), joins Oliver on his journey where a heartbroken Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) decides to take matters into her own hands.
After a screening of the episode at the offices of The CW, executive producer Marc Guggenheim spoke with a handful of press about Colton Haynes’ departure as a series regular, that Roy Harper will return again this season, developing this version of Ra’s al Ghul, where Team Arrow will hang out now, the bond of what remains of Team Arrow, that both Deathstroke and Amanda Waller could return, Felicity’s backbone, and the finale cliffhanger. Be aware that there are some spoilers.
Question: How did Colton Haynes’ departure come about, and what made this timing right?
MARC GUGGENHEIM: This was a little different from our ordinary departure, not just in the fact that Colton is not dead. When Colton came on board the show, as recurring in Season 1, he had just come off of Teen Wolf and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to do another series. It was like, “Just come over to Arrow and play with us for a little bit, and if it’s working out for you, than we can talk about making you a regular.” We’ve taken that approach with other actors, in the past, who are not quite sure if they want to commit to a series or not. So, Colton came on board, had a good time, and we made a two year deal with him. It wasn’t like Susanna [Thompson] last year, or Colin [Donnell] the year before. With this, we always knew that we’d have Colton for years two and three, and we started the year off with this end game in mind. I probably creatively had the conversation with Colton, back in January, where I said, “Okay, this is how we’re going to write you out,” and pitched him the whole thing. We knew, in large portion, at the beginning of the year, how we were going to pull it off.
Was there ever thought of convincing him to stay longer?
GUGGENHEIM: I don’t want to say that we tried to convince him and he turned us down. He’s got a big movie (San Andreas) coming out, and he’s got a huge career ahead of him. For us, it was more a conversation of how we continue to go forward. There’s a reason why we didn’t kill off Roy. We want Roy Harper and Arsenal to remain in this universe that we’re creating, and Colton was completely game for that. I can’t make an announcement and promise, “In Episodes 4, 5 and 6 of Season 4, he’ll be on Arrow,” but the relationship is still there and his desire to continue to play the character is still there, and those are the two things you need.
What can you say about the one episode he’s returning for, this season?
GUGGENHEIM: I don’t have a huge hunger to keep it a secret. Suffice it to say, the thing that we felt we owed the audience, more than anything, was some closure with Thea. Obviously, the circumstances under which Thea is in, in Episode 320, she was too busy getting “killed” by Ra’s to say goodbye to Roy. We see dangling plotlines as bills we still have to play, and we owed the audience some closure for this three season long love story between these two characters.
So, which episode will he be back for?
GUGGENHEIM: Episode 322.
How did you decide on this version of Ra’s al Ghul, when you were developing that character?
GUGGENHEIM: It was just a question of, what version of Ra’s do we want to put on the show? The one thing that we were dead set against, at the beginning, was making it too similar to the Ra’s in The Dark Knight movies. We’re all comic book fans, and we certainly recognize the story potential of the Lazarus Pit and the interesting nature of it. We didn’t really have any long, protracted discussions of, “Is this where we want to go?” We instinctively had a hunger for it.
With the Arrow cave done and gone, where does Team Arrow hang out now?
GUGGENHEIM: That’s a great question. They’re actually going to end up hanging out quite a lot at Palmer Technologies. We had to expand Ray’s workshop to allow for scenes with suddenly a whole large group of people, instead of just Ray and Felicity, so we did a bit of set redesign and redecoration. That basically is the lair for the rest of the season. That being said, you haven’t seen the last of the lair yet. It makes one final appearance in Episode 321.
There’s been something of a bond formed between Felicity and Laurel. What can we expect from them, going forward?
GUGGENHEIM: What happens in the wake of Episode 320 is that there’s a real trinity formed between Laurel, Diggle and Felicity. They’re all leaning on each other. They’re all processing things in different ways. Laurel is throwing herself into her work, saving the city. Felicity is struggling with heartbreak and grief. And something happens in 321 that really up-ends Diggle’s world. That’s something that will actually have repercussions through the end of the season.
When will we be seeing Lyla again?
GUGGENHEIM: You will see Lyla one more time this season, in Episode 321. She’s happy being a wife and mother. She’s chillin’ out. Right now, her biggest responsibility is being supportive of Diggle because Diggle will be going through some pretty tough times. She’s just being there for him.
Is Deathstroke off the table?
GUGGENHEIM: I haven’t been informed that he’s off the table. We have Slade Wilson ideas. We talk about it. I know that Manu [Bennett] is shooting another TV show in New Zealand, so there are some practical issues, but he’s not off the table, at least as far as I’m aware.
What about Amanda Waller?
GUGGENHEIM: Amanda is not off the table either. Cynthia [Addai-Robinson] is wonderful. She’s a great actress. The challenge that we had with her this season was that she was first on a show called Texas Rising, and then once that finished, she went over to a movie called The Accountant. Arrow was always in second position because she’s not a series regular, so you probably felt us working around her availability. But we love her and we have a story idea for her, for Season 4. Anything is possible.
Can we expect to see more of Felicity’s backbone?
GUGGENHEIM: For what it’s worth, and I’m not objective, I feel like Felicity has been developing quite a bit of backbone this year. We’ve certainly developed her as someone who’s not afraid to stand up to Oliver and show some backbone. That’s her character journey, in many ways, developing herself, outside of her romantic relationships. Speaking of her backbone, we did include her scar from Episode 214.
What made you decide to put this episode where it is in the timeline, and how it sets up the remaining episodes?
GUGGENHEIM: From Episode 318 on, I almost feel like each of those episodes could work as a season finale. Even though any of these episodes could work as a season finale, they’re all very cliffhangery. They’re all very, “Okay, you’ve gotta come back next week to see what’s gonna happen.” Not that we never do cliffhangers in our season finale, but I think, even if there’s a cliffhanger-like element, we close the loop on a lot of stories. What distinguishes 318, 319, 320, 321 and 322 from 323 is that 323 ends on a cliffhanger, depending upon your definition of cliffhanger, but not the kind of cliffhanger like, “Is he going to live, or is he not going to live?” It’s not that type of traditional definition of a cliffhanger. We like to provide a little more closure in our finales. That’s not to say that one day we won’t do a tried and true cliffhanger. We just haven’t done it yet.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights on The CW.