Arrow's John Barrowman on Malcolm Sharing His Dark Secret and His Epic, Lex Luthor-Like Agenda

Arrow Season 1 Preview John Barrowman Dark ArcherThis Wednesday at 8/7c, The CW’s Arrow sets its sights on “The Undertaking” aka Malcolm Merlyn’s ubermysterious master plan for the sketchy Starling City nabe known as The Glades, revealing via flashbacks the well-dressed man’s previous interactions with Robert Queen and wife Moira. John Barrowman spoke with TVLine about Malcolm’s “epic” agenda, his super-tributary monogram and whether son Tommy will ever discover who is hiding beneath the Dark Archer’s hood.

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TVLINE | What all went through Malcolm’s mind when Tommy came to him for a job, to finally be taken under his father’s wing?
It’s something [Malcolm] has wanted for a very long time. He sees Oliver’s push and aggression and the way he deals with things, I think deep down he wants his own son to be very much like that — to grab hold of things and do things in the right way — and not just be a trust fund boy. So when Tommy came and asked to work with him, that was like music to his ears. It was one of those defining moments between him and his son.

TVLINE | Is Malcolm determined to conceal his Dark Archer identity from Tommy?
He’s actually desperate to tell Tommy. But anytime he may go to do it, or have the inkling to say something, something happens.Dead to Rights

TVLINE | Any more of those moments ahead?
You’re going to have to watch. We already had one of those moments when Malcolm was almost assassinated in his office; I’m sure there will be others.

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TVLINE | [Executive producer] Andrew Kreisberg told us that the flashback episode, “The Undertaking,” will fill in many blanks. Can you shed any light on what’s to be revealed?
Those blanks will [include] what The Undertaking is, how it’s come about, where it’s come from, why it’s happened…. You just get to know a lot more about it. And Malcolm is pivotal in The Undertaking, as is Moira.

TVLINE | If it comes to it, do you think Malcolm has it in him to have Moira killed?
Malcolm has it in him to have anybody killed. But, from my point of view, [he] likes her too much. Also, she likes her position too much to give in. But they’re both ruthless in their own way.

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TVLINE | Malcolm’s plan, The Undertaking, seems like it may be somewhat Lex Luthor-ish. The finale, after all, features a seismologist….
All I’ll say is that when I was asked to play the role, it was described to me by Andrew and the rest of the team that Malcolm Merlyn is the Lex Luthor of this world. That’s why he’s “M.M.” Again, that’s all I can say. They want him to be a big villain of this world.

TVLINE | And how are you describing the Season 1 finale (airing May 15)?
It is epic. It really is. It’s going to be massive. The cinematography, the shooting aspect of it is just…. It’s like any other episode on steroids. But good steroids, not the kind that freak you out. It’s going to be awesome. There’s lots of stuff happening.

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Want more scoop on Arrow, or for any other show? Email and your question may be answered via Matt’s Inside Line.

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  1. Malcolm will die, Tommy will blame Oliver, Tommy will become the new Dark Archer and before you know it, there will be a rivalry between the two. No disrespect to the writers, but I saw this storyline to be coming a while ago.

    • brb123 says:

      I have more faith in the show and I don’t see them taking the expected route. If Malcolm does end up dead, then I think it’ll be Tommy that kills him. That way Tommy will become the new Dark Archer but he will choose his path and it won’t be Oliver choosing that for him.

    • Temperance says:

      Well, that was completely obvious from the beginnig; in fact, it was pretty much directly suggested as a long range plotline by the showrunners. But I doubt it will be that linear or simple.

    • Alan says:

      just because you can see something coming doesnt mean its bad, its all about the execution.
      i dont think it will happen that quickly anyway, they would be nuts to let their best villain go at this stage.

    • John Smith says:


      Tommy is the one to die

    • christina says:

      Good try. But, you got it wrong based on what was seen in the finale.

  2. I really, really, really like how “Lex Luthor-like agenda” is used to describe a scheme that doesn’t involve building a giant robot spider to attack a city, or some other Silver Age-style silliness.

  3. hello says:

    I have this feeling that Malcolm is involved with The League of Shadows, and also Fyers on the island

    • zacqua10 says:

      League of Shadows is a Nolan thing. But the way Malcolm described where he got his skills, it did sound like Ra’s al Ghul trained him to be a part of the League of Assassins, which does have some part in Green Arrow mythology… sort of. I suggest reading the Wikipedia page because I can see where they’re going with this.

    • Alan says:

      well there was a reference to nanda parabt (sp?) made by malcolm a while back so that wouldnt surprise me. also its the league of assassins, that was a a stupid rename by nolan that made no sense and didnt add anything to the story.

  4. Azerty says:

    Well if Malcolm is the “Lex Luthor” of this world he won’t die anytime soon…I thought Tommy was the Lex Luthor of this world and Malcolm some kind of Lionel Luthor or they would repeat the Harry and Norman Osborn story…Anyway I hope the undertaking will happen in the season finale. I really enjoy to see the hero fail and try to fix the consequences of the big evil plan. And of course succeed to bring things back to normal!

    • Alan says:

      the undertaking is scheduled to happen in the season finale, we’ve known this ever since the good guys found out about it.

      • Azerty says:

        Yeah hum actually I meant I hope Merlyn will succeed in the Undertaking. There is still the possibilty that the Team Arrow prevent him to do it but I would like them to fail in their attempt and struggle next season to repare the damages.

    • Mikael says:

      I would hope that the writers saw how stupid the best friends turned enemies thing was on Smallville and would avoid a rehash. Michael Rosenbaum did great as Lex Luthor, but the rivalry with Clark was not done well. I hope Malcolm stays around for a while. I wouldn’t want a Harry/Norman Osbourne thing to happen either, where the son with misguided anger becomes the villain his father was.

  5. At the beginning I thought that Malcolm will end dead too, but now I don’t know.
    I want to see more Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn, he is great as the big villian. And the character can be very interesting if they know how to write him.
    Malcolm dying and Tommy becaming the Dark Archer is too predictable, I hope the writers surprise me.

  6. RichCD says:

    They would be crazy to kill him off. JB is awesome.

  7. Mi says:

    I hope Malcolm stays for another season. I’d hate to see Barrowman leaving now.

  8. Dennis says:

    this show is great, I hope they add more DC shows and interconnect them. the only thing I don’t like is how Nolan they are going, while I don’t want to see the show become a super-powered freak of the week type I would like to see some meta human abilities show up

    • brb123 says:

      I don’t see them introducing meta abilities. The show is grounded on reality probably because of budget constraints, it is a CW show after all and it has a much smaller budget than the rest of the networks.

      • Bucket of Truth says:

        Smallville was also on CW and there was no shortage of meta abilities there. I don’t think the lack of super powers is due to the budget.

        • Mi says:

          Smallville’s episodes had more fluff and less action scenes. I don’t think it’s a good example.

    • Alan says:

      they arent “going nolan” with it, the show is primarily based on the comic story “The Longbow Hunters”, written by mike grell; that was made in the early 1990’s and is very similar in tone and content to the show. if anything nolan pulled a longbow hunters with his batman movies, he didnt invent the idea of doing things with a grounded, dark tone, he just did it well.

    • luli says:

      Who’s Nolan??

  9. James says:

    I doubt they’ll kill him off. they don’t need to Malcom could easily manipulate Tommy into becoming his “apprentice” it’s not like Tommy and Ollie are get along, and now that Laurel is shifting towards Oliver agian Tommy will hate him even more thus giving in to his dad’s plan and becoming Dark Archer 2.0. JB is too good as the big bad to kill him off so soon, my guess is the finale will lead into a more serialized season 2 and we’ll see Tommy’s decent into the dark side. I kind of hope they start an injustice league or legion of doom what ever you want to call it, that would be pretty sweet, then Olliver can recruit Thea and Roy as Speedy and Red Arrow, and of course bring on a little black canary action.

  10. Susan Honig says:

    Its nice to see a multilevel villian . John B plays him so well you like Malcolm even though you know he is evil. Tommy is not ready to be the big bad- no training etc. one does not just become the dark archer. Malcolm had at least 2 years of training . I am hoping that they keep Malcolm into season 2 but not sure how they will manage it . I got to say I started watching the show only because of JB and will continue to watch it but not to the same degree .

    • brb123 says:

      If they keep Malcolm it’ll be on recurring capacity, he won’t be a regular anytime soon. We could see him plotting and sending more people to hurt Oliver, maybe digging up and finding people that know Oliver from his island’s days..

    • LPala says:

      Re “Malcolm even though he is evil…” Remember, every villain is the hero of his own story.”

  11. Jim says:

    I wonder if they will flip the script and kill Tommy, giving Malcolm another reason to hate Arrow.

    • brb123 says:

      I wouldn’t mind that. I like Colin Donnell but Tommy, not so much, so if they get rid of him and keep Barrowman, that’s fine for me.

    • JC says:

      I’m actually really hoping this is what happens, mainly because everyone is expecting the opposite. And Tommy turning evil and becoming Oliver’s arch-enemy, whether because of Malcolm’s death or not, is so so so predictable and I’ve really been hoping they would surprise me.

  12. brb123 says:

    I hope Malcolm survives, he’ll be more interesting as a recurring villain than the seemingly weak Tommy. I can’t see Tommy being able to train and reach Oliver’s level anytime soon, but I can see Malcolm beating Oliver.

  13. Andre says:

    Please don’t kill Malcom!!!!

  14. Yve says:

    Please keep Malcolm around, I love john barrowman on my screen TOO much.