Arrow EP Talks of Oliver's Obsession, Slade's Revenge, Laurel's Downfall and Juggling 'Olicity'

Arrow Season 2 SpoilersThe CW’s Arrow, having spent the first half of Season 2 putting assorted exciting pieces in place, is now poised to let the action and agendas fly, not much unlike a projective from Oliver’s bow. Among the big dramatic triggers: Oliver is out for Blood, while onetime compadre Slade Wilson has surfaced in Starling City with one good eye and a very bad disposition. TVLine invited executive producer Andrew Kreisberg to preview the new run of episodes to come, kicking off Wednesday at 8/7.

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TVLINE | Over the first run of Season 2 episodes, it felt as if you were setting up pieces on a chessboard….
That was definitely the plan.

TVLINE | So as the show comes back, will we see these different elements coalesce and take shape?
Absolutely. One of the things we learned from last season was we built up to Episode 9, where we revealed that Malcolm Merlyn was the Dark Archer, then we kind of put things on simmer — and this year we’re coming back [from the break] with a bang. Oliver is obsessed with finding the man in the skull mask, Brother Blood, who he finally got eyes on in Episode 9, and we’ll be seeing Blind SpotSlade in the present and his machinations with Sebastian to bring about Oliver’s downfall.

These next four episodes are also, in a way, a big Laurel chapter because we really get to see Laurel’s drug use come back to bite her. She hits rock bottom and Katie Cassidy is just delivering the most amazing performance. She’s really kicked it up a notch and we’re so proud of her.

TVLINE | That’s good to hear, because one of my questions was how you planned to make Laurel relevant to this next wave of storytelling, beyond possibly dating Sebastian.
You know, it’s been somewhat hard, I think, for Katie and us to hear some of the criticisms of her character because we don’t do anything without thinking about it. And one of the great things about having as much success as we had in Season 1 was the freedom to allow things to unfold the way that they should. We’ve always had a fantastic plan for Laurel’s character, and I know that there’s impatience out there in the world to see her “strap on the fish nets” [as Black Canary] but everything we’re doing is all about leading up to that in a the way that we feel keeps it the most realistic and grounded. To take somebody who is a public interest lawyer and turned her into a super hero… you have to go through the paces. So this season we’ve really been putting her through her paces. We always think of these things as chapters, and these next four episodes are really about Laurel. She’s taking center stage as she begins to suspect that Sebastian is not exactly who he seems.

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TVLINE | Is Alex Kingston’s return as Dinah Lance also a part of that?
Absolutely. We’re such huge fans of Alex and she’s quite the busy this year — she’s performing Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh — so we were so glad that she was available for a few episodes to come back, because we have some great stuff with the Lance family.

TVLINE | When she shows up, is Quentin going to be torn about whether to tell her everything he knows about Sara? He did promise to keep hush.
I think Episode 14 is probably the most Brothers and Sisters, as in the ABC show [produced by Arrow EP Greg Berlanti], episode we’ve done. Everyone in the Lance family has big secrets and it’s all going to get blown wide open — but in a good way.

TVLINE | Slade seems really angry Blind Spothere in Starling City, but when we last saw him on the island he was devastated that Shado was dead but he wasn’t really assigning any blame to Oliver. Are we going to get flashbacks to fill in those gaps?
I think the audience now understands that what the stakes are on the island and what is fueling Slade’s rage in the present day to destroy Oliver. It’s sad and hard to write because we spent such a long time building up the brotherhood and the bond between these two men to struggle to survive this horrible place, and now we see that Slade is his enemy. We’ll be charting that downfall in the back half of this season, but it was hard to write because we’ve come to love this Slade on the island, and to watch him slowly go insane and turn his anger and his hatred on Oliver… hopefully it will be difficult for people to watch. But the best villains are not the mustache-twirling kind. The best villains are people who are doing what they’re doing out of a sense of loss and love and regret. That was certainly true for Malcolm last season, and it’s doubly true for Slade now.

TVLINE | When we first saw Slade sitting at that desk, talking to Sebastian, repeatedly the camera showed him clenching his fist over and over again. Is there any significance to that…?
There actually is significance to that — and funnily enough, it was thought up by Manu [Bennett] himself. That will be explained later on.

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TVLINE | While it’s fun and all to assemble an army of super-soldiers – Roy possibly included — are we going to get a sense of Slade’s greater end game? Or is it purely to punish Oliver?
Slade has a very specific goal in the back half of the season, and I think people will be surprised to discover both what it is and what it means to Oliver. Like last season, we really do know what’s going to happen in the season finale and everything we do is going to be writing towards that. So hopefully it’s going to be another roller coaster ride.

TVLINE | One thing that has been so sensational about this season is the pacing. Like, the Canary storyline proceeded at a much faster clip than I’d ever imagined, with her unmasking, the backstory….
We act as if these are the only stories we’ll ever get to tell. I mean, any idea that we have where we’re like, “Oh, we could do that in Season 3,” we’ve moved into Season 2. We feel like that level of velocity — no pun intended with the Flash joining – is the way television is being produced now, especially when you look at shows like Scandal. You just can’t tell the story fast enough, and one of the great things about both the world that we’ve created for Arrow and also the greater DC Universe is there are always more stories to tell. There’s always more characters, there’s always more villains so we’re not ever really worried about where do we go from here.

TVLINE | I liked how in a recent episode Dig took the initiative to scout out a dangerous situation. Will there be new Dig-centric episodes coming up?
We actually are going to have an episode where we flash back to Dig’s time in Afghanistan, so that’s going to be a huge David Ramsey episode. Last season when we flashed back to the week before the Queen’s Gambit left and we left the chronological narrative of Oliver’s time on the island, the success of that episode allowed us to start playing with the flashback structure a bit, and people are able to follow it. So just as this year in City of HeroesEpisode 5 we had the flashbacks from Sara’s point of view, we have an episode in the back half of the season where the flashbacks are from Laurel’s point of view, and we have this other episode where the flashbacks are from Dig’s [Afghanistan] days.

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TVLINE | Along those lines, do you think you’ll have time to tell us anything more about Felicity as a person — where she came from, who she was before all this?
There are hints at that, and we have another story we’re toying with — one that, given everything that we are doing, might get pushed off. We actually have known for a long time what Felicity’s background is — where she came from and who her parents are – but it could be such a big story that it’s something we might hold off on. Emily is the best — I know she is certainly a fan favorite, and a favorite of ours as well.

TVLINE | Well, that brings me to one of my last questions. I know the whole Felicity thing surprised you in Season 1 — how that character took off, how Emily [Bett Rickards] took off. And you’ve obviously got viewers out there who want something to happen between her and Oliver. Is it a balancing act for you, to touch on “Olicity” now and again but not make this show about that?
One of the most important lessons that I’ve learned from working with Greg Berlanti, whose obviously had such amazing success in television, is to always have a really great plan, and then always know when to let the plan go. We are very cognizant of what makes people excited, and certainly seeing the fans respond to Emily last season helped cement her as a regular this season. We have a plan, but we also kind of go where the story takes us. So while it is a juggling act, we just do what we feel is right — and up until this point we’ve been lucky that most of the audience has agreed, and this is a show that we would love to watch. We really do make it for ourselves, and as long as we’re happy and excited, we feel like the fans will be happy and excited too.

TVLINE | I think this is a case where what ‘shippers are seeing is actually on the screen. Lord knows there are fan bases that are like, “Oh, put this couple together,” and you’re like, “They have no reason to be together.” But here you’ve got two non-unattractive people who work together under incredibly intense situations and balance each other out tonally, so I feel it. I buy it. I guess it’s a rich man’s problem to have.
Yes. Our lead has chemistry with multiple actresses. It’s nothing we’re going to be upset about.

TVLINE | You teased what happened to Barry Allen in the midseason finale. Are we going to get any hints in upcoming Arrow episodes about what has become of him, off camera? I mean, you’ve had a lot of fun with the Starling City TV news coverage of the STAR Labs particle accelerator.
Right? You’d think they were reporting on no other story. [Laughs] I will say this: Barry Allen had a very strong impact on both our show and our characters’ lives, and that impact will not be forgotten on Arrow this season. What happened in Central City at the end of Episode 9 was certainly big news, and the effects of that will be mentioned. Right now we’re focusing hard on writing the Flash pilot and breaking for the rest of the season of Arrow, and hopefully there will be some synchronicity between the two, hopefully in anticipation of getting to see Grant [Gustin] and the Flash [in a fall 2014 spin-off series].

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

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