Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg and Geoff Johns Talk ARROW Midseason Finale, Introducing Arrow’s Mask, and the Al Ghul Family

     December 12, 2013


The CW series Arrow never shies away from shocking moments and huge reveals, and the last few episodes were full of them.  Although Season 2 has been about Oliver Queen’s (Stephen Amell) transformation from vigilante to hero, attempting to become a beacon of hope for the city’s most vulnerable, as The Arrow, there have been a number of bumps along the way.  And with the show on break until January 2014, executive producers Greg Berlanti and Andrew Kreisberg, along with DC Comics’ Geoff Johns, gave some hints about where the storylines and characters will be headed next.

During this recent interview, Berlanti, Kreisberg and Johns talked about cramming so much content in just one episode, the process for deciding what The Arrow’s mask would look like and how it would be introduced, that a couple more people will find out The Arrow’s identity, over the course of the season, what led to the decision to bring back Tommy (Colin Donnell), what’s next for Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), what Slade Wilson’s (Manu Bennett) motivations are, whether Thea (Willa Holland) will find out about her connection to Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), what to expect from Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law), and whether Ra’s al Ghul might ever make an appearance.  Check out what they had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are spoilers.

arrow-three-ghosts-stephen-amell-emily-bett-rickards-david-ramseyQuestion:  So many things happened in this last episode.  Do you ever worry about including so much in one episode?

GEOFF JOHNS:  I credit Greg [Berlanti] with driving story because he’s a real big believer in moving story ahead, and I love that.  It’s confidence.  It’s saying that we know we have more ideas. 

ANDREW KREISBERG:  We’ll pitch Greg and say, “Hey, we have this great idea for Episode 14,” and he’s like, “Why are you waiting?”  He wants us to get to it faster.  For us, we’re like, “Well, if we do this sooner, then we don’t know what to do next.”  And if our reaction is, “We don’t know what to do next,” the audience’s reaction is going to be, “Holy shit!  What are they gonna do next?”  Somehow we’ve always managed to figure out what to do next, so we’ve been okay.

GREG BERLANTI:  Sometimes it doesn’t work.  The Flash is a perfect example.  It could have ended up as just a CSI coming to town.  We had an aim of bringing the character on, but we wanted to do it right.  So many times, when you’re cooking something, you’re making it up as you go along, but you aim to do it a certain way.  We’ve been very fortunate with this show, in terms of the production team and all the actors.  All of these ideas that are hair-brained, late-night ideas, they’ll send us back and you watch it and you’re just totally engaged, like a viewer.  It just makes you try to do it, even more. 

How did you decide on when you would introduce The Arrow’s mask and what it would look like?

arrow-maskBERLANTI:  A lot of conversation went into that eight inches of material. 

KREISBERG:  We saw 50 or 60 different designs, and some of the earlier ones were crazy.  It’s funny ‘cause it worked out really well.  When we did the pilot, we debated having a mask, and we decided to wait, for a variety of reasons.  If you put a mask on him, right away, it says that this is cartoon-y or superhero-y.  It also fit in with his character because he wasn’t someone who ever thought he would ever be interacting with people.  He thought he was gonna be this dark sniper, firing arrows from the shadows.  As the series progressed, and he stepped more and more into the light, which is what his overall arc is, he’s really needed that.  It just seems so perfect, for this season, that he would need it.  And that Barry is the one that ultimately makes it for him just makes the bond between those two characters.  It’s kind of a superhero thing to do, to put on a mask.  But Barry, who’s a superhero fan, is like, “It’s cool to have a mask!” 

BERLANTI:  I always like to think of the episodes as “The one where . . .,” and the one where he gets his mask is such an iconic moment.  We’ve talked a lot about this show being his transformation from a vigilante to a hero, so we always thought of the grease paint as coming from the island.  As it turns out, we put the mask on him and realized that he still needs a little bit of grease paint.  So, for all of the audience members wondering, “When does he stop and put on the make-up, before he goes after the bad guys?,” he now has to put on the mask and a little bit of grease paint before he goes after the bad guys. 

JOHNS:  Same with Batman. 

grant-gustin-emily-bett-rickards-arrowKREISBERG:  We’ve seen cuts of Episodes 10 and 11, and when you see him with the mask, it’s just so cool.  It’s changed the way he can interact with people.  When he was talking to somebody he knows, he had to keep his head and it was a little awkward.  Now, it’s given Oliver the ability to much more freely interact with Laurel as The Arrow, or with Detective Lance as The Arrow.

JOHNS:  One of the big successes of this show is embracing the mythology at the right time.  You don’t embrace it all at once.  You’ve gotta build up to the episode when you do that.  But the greatest thing about this show, as a comic fan, is that it does embrace the mythology.  Everyone working on it embraces the mythology.  It’s all going to be introduced.  It’s just a matter of when.

Will The Arrow’s identity be revealed to even more people?

KREISBERG:  Everyone won’t find out.  Over the course of the season, a couple more people will find out.  Him keeping his secret identity is the least interesting part of the character.  People knowing, and letting him talk to people and share that experience, we find to be much more interesting.  Once Tommy found out, their relationship became much more interesting because they could talk about what was going on with him that week.  While at the same time, there’s the superhero trope and we try to preserve that, we don’t feel like our series is based on pushing off people finding out for six or seven years. 

What led to the decision of having Tommy be one of the three ghosts that Oliver saw?

arrow-susanna-thompson-2KREISBERG:  Given the flashback structure of the show, there’s always a chance [of having people back].  We were breaking this story and we literally had the same idea, at the same time.  Greg and I both felt each other gasp.  We were talking about ghosts, and that it would be three ghosts.  We were like, “Who else could he see?”  And we were talking about his dad.  And then, at the same time, we both said that it should be Tommy.  Colin [Donnell] is such a friend of the show, and he was so important to the success of Season 1.  And so much of this season is based around that character and his loss, and what a hole he left in the show, that it really fit with this season’s arc of Oliver’s journey of going from vigilante to hero.  And for the person he feels like he failed to forgive him and tell him to get up and fight, just even talking about it, I get chills.  I told Colin that the response has been so great, and he was just like, “Anytime, dude!” 

What’s next for Roy Harper?

KREISBERG:  The back half of the year is interesting.  In Episode 9, you see Slade injected, and you get a glimpse that he’s obviously taken a very dark path.  What’s fun for us, as writers, is that we see what Roy’s potential is, to go down that dark path, too.  One of the things you’ll find out, as you go along, is that it’s a deep-seeded anger inside of you that lets you survive the Mirakuru transformation, which is something Slade had.  That’s why he lived, and that’s why Roy lived, too.  One of the fun things that will be happening in the back half of the year is his relationship with the Arrow and how that changes, and how the Arrow basically makes it his mission to not let Roy go down the Slade path.  That’s gonna take some interesting twists and turns that will probably hopefully surprise people and that they’ll enjoy.

Is Sebastian really into Laurel, or is he manipulating her?

arrow-three-ghosts-stephen-amellKREISBERG:  You’ll have to wait to find out.  Who wouldn’t be into Katie Cassidy?  Come on!                   

What can you say about Slade’s motivations, and will Oliver and Slade actually have a face-to-face?

BERLANTI:  That’s very much the drive of the second half of the season.  This year, we’re doing something a bit different.  Last year, we had Malcolm, who was a single bad guy.  This year, we’ve got a two-pronged approach to the bad guy.  We probably shouldn’t say any more than that, but that is a driving force for the back half of the year.  Also, because Oliver knows about the presence of one of the bad guys, that helps us change the rhythms of the back half of the year from what we did last year.  That way, we don’t feel like we’re breaking the same story or doing the same show, and people are enjoying a different show with more evolved characters.

KREISBERG:  This year, we tried to have the flashbacks much more integrally tied to the present-day storylines.  We’ve used the first half of the year to show that Oliver and Shado had a relationship, and really seeing that Slade loved her from afar.  Now that you’ve seen Episode 9, you’ve seen what happened to her, and that really is his motivation.  Slade blames Oliver for what happened, and what’s interesting for our hero is that Oliver blames himself, too. 

BERLANTI:  And things don’t get better between them, on the island. 

What can you say about where things will be going, now that Malcolm is back and has revealed that he’s Thea’s dad?

arrow-season-2-poster-stephen-amellKREISBERG:  It’s gonna be awesome!  John Barrowman is John Barrowman, and there’s no way he was going to stay dead.  The real John Barrowman probably couldn’t stay dead.  That was one of the things that we were talking about, at the end of last season.  The story works, on so many different levels.  For one thing, Moira always works best when she has a deep, dark secret.  Last season, we were like, “How are we gonna top this deep, dark secret?”  But in a way, this one is even better because it’s more personal.  Now, again, she’s tied to Malcolm.  Thea, ironically, is one of the few people who actually turned out well, after last season.  You can probably assume that she’s gonna get hit with a whammy, as the season progresses.  We’re really excited with that storyline. 

There has been a lot of talk about Ra’s al Ghul, but won’t you be introducing his daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, soon?

KREISBERG:  We can’t have enough story in our show.  Watching how storylines that may seem very disparate, at one point, then intersect is really exciting for people.  There’s obviously these two big strands.  Some of these things will be tied up this season.  And if we get another season, they’ll be tied up in future seasons, too. 

What will the take on Nyssa al Ghul be?

KREISBERG:  Our Nyssa certainly has shades of Talia.  Katrina [Law] actually auditioned for Shado, and it came down to Katrina and Celina [Jade].  Honestly, part of it was just that we knew that because she’d have scenes with Slade, it felt like Spartacus overkill.  But, she’s somebody we’ve been a fan of.  When this part came up, we saw a lot of people for it, but she’s certainly exotic and beautiful and smart.  And our stunt guys are over-the-moon because she can do a lot of her own stunts.  She’s a member of The League of Assassins, and she comes to town.  She’s the next wave of The League of Assassins that comes to Starling City.  But, she has some interesting secrets, as well. 

Will we actually see Ra’s al Ghul, at some point?

JOHNS:  Maybe.  Never say never.  That would be cool. 

Arrow will return to The CW in January 2014.

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