Inside a dramatically lit Vancouver night club, Arrow‘s Manu Bennett repeatedly pitches himself backwards into the air, landing with a resonant thud in a leather chair that had just moments before been serving as cocksure villain Slade Wilson’s “throne.”
The actor will do this again and again for nearly 10 minutes before the cameras start rolling, determined to execute the move just right, seeing as it caps a pivotal scene in the Season 2 episode “Deathstroke,” airing this Wednesday at 8/7c on The CW.
“Manu does not do anything halfway,” affirms Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, who, like TVLine, was on set in mid-February to help the cast celebrate the early Season 3 pick-up. “He is such a force of nature, such a force of talent…. He takes his craft very, very seriously and really embodies the role. And in between takes he’s feeling all those emotions. He makes this personal sacrifice to really get into character, and that can be hard to shake.”
Shortly after the intense scene is filmed, TVLine invites Bennett to reflect on the investment he makes. “I feel a huge responsibility with these characters,” he says, citing Spartacus‘ Crixius and the Hobbit films’ Azog as other examples. “Not necessarily being a person who was brought up on comic books, the necessity to get the characters of Slade Wilson and Deathstroke right has made me invest even more emotion into making him, into making every twist and turn, psychologically real.”
Surveying his alter ego’s motivation — the tragic death of Shado, plus whatever else subsequently transpired as Slade held Oliver captive on the freighter — Bennett cites the old saw of how no villain sees himself as one. “When you have empathy for a character, regardless of whether he’s the good guy or the bad guy, that’s when the story gets really rich,” he posits. “That’s when the audience can be put right on the edge, wondering which way this story will go.”
Ever since Oliver’s onetime island ally-turned-fiercest foe resurfaced in Starling City, he has kept the ever-agile Arrow on his toes. First, he enlisted “Brother” Sebastian Blood in a scheme to experiment with the Mirakuru serum on local grunts. Then, in a quite audacious play, he sashayed into Oliver’s home, escorting Moira around on his arm unde the guise of a dashing political backer.
But when we last tuned in, Slade made his first inscrutable action, luring Oliver’s sister Thea into his town car. And it’s not to offer her a ride to Forever 21.
“Episode 17 ended with Thea getting kidnapped by Slade, and 18 deals with all the ramifications of that,” Guggenheim previews. “It’s basically about the manhunt for Slade, the search for Thea and the high stakes of what Slade is going to do. The episode is called ‘Deathstroke’ because this is the first huge move that Slade Wilson is going to make in his plan to exact revenge.”
The oh-so-dark details of said sinister plan have yet to be revealed — but this week’s episode will shed the first light on what all Slade has in store.
“His endgame is actually pretty complicated. It’s not one move, it’s several, and he hits a few of them in this episode,” Guggenheim allows. “At this point, Oliver knows that Slade’s plan is to basically take away everything and everyone he loves, including his city, and then kill him. But what Oliver doesn’t know are the specifics of how that plan will be enacted. And in this episode, he learns that the way Slade is planning on destroying him is completely unexpected.
“Oliver thought he was facing one kind of enemy,” Guggenheim teases, “but the truth is he’s facing a very different kind, and that enemy will really surprise him.”
OUT WITH A ‘BITTERSWEET’ BANG…?
With Arrow targeted for a one-week break after “Deathstroke” is unleashed — the next episode, “The Man Under the Hood” (featuring characters from the Flash pilot), airs April 16 — the plan was to end the hour “with a real bang,” Guggenheim says. “We wrote it to function almost as a season finale. Obviously, we’re doing five episodes past this, but this one is really, really epic.”
Asked to describe the episode’s denouement — while on set, we were witness to not just the aforementioned Slade/Arrow confrontation, but also a police station/media circus scene — Guggenheim first offers up the word bittersweet. “There are victories and there are losses,” he goes on to explain. “The victories are very unexpected, and the losses are equally unexpected. Moments that feel victorious are tinged with a kind of sadness, and even the sad moments, quite frankly, try to have a glimmer of hope.
“I’m really happy with the tone that we strike at the end of this episode, because it really does make you lean in for the final [run],” he continues. “You may think, ‘How can they possibly do five more episodes?’ But just wait and see. There’s a lot of story we have left to tell.”