With the powerful Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) stirring up trouble in the city they used to call home, will Oliver’s return to Team Arrow be the inspiration Star City needs?
ETonline screened the premiere early, and we’re bringing you 12 of the biggest things you need to know for the new season. (Warning: You're heading into spoiler territory!)
1. Star City is in major trouble
Things are even worse in Starling City (renamed in memory of Ray Palmer) ever since Oliver left town for greener pastures. Though Diggle (David Ramsey), Thea (Willa Holland) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) are doing a pretty good job of keeping Star City safe-ish, they need Oliver’s expertise when “Ghosts” suddenly start to infiltrate the town. When Oliver reluctantly returns for what he thinks is a temporary visit (his first mission in months has him sporting a ski mask), it takes one person close to him to ultimately persuade him to stay for good.
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2. Oliver and Felicity get serious, but someone’s keeping a secret
The trailer gave a glimpse into the couple’s new norm in Suburbia USA, a.k.a. Ivy Town, and the first episode takes their relationship to a whole new level. Talk of marriage – the engagement ring in the soufflé?! – and even talk of kids – a funny moment with a married Ivy Town couple – show just how far their romance has gone. But, and it’s a big but, one of them is keeping a secret from the other (and we’re not talking about the ring, either) that prompts the two to have one of the most realistic arguments and moments in the pseudo-lair. More importantly, will Oliver pop the question?
3. Oliver and Diggle’s friendship is a work in progress
Don’t expect Diggle to turn a blind eye to Oliver’s betrayal last season – it’ll be a while before they’ll be pals again. At one point, Oliver tries to smooth things over in the premiere, but Diggle has the harshest response – and he uses the word “dark.” Ouch. “It’s something we want to explore – seeing them at odds and really honoring what Oliver did at the end of season three, which was pretty egregious,” Arrow co-showrunner Wendy Mericle tells ETonline. “It’s going to take some time, but they will get back on the same track.”
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4. Damien Darhk is the baddest villain of them all
Team Arrow has gone up against formidable foes in the past, from Ra’s al Ghul to Deathstroke, but Damien Darhk (played brilliantly by McDonough) is one villain they’ve never encountered before. As Oliver and the gang will soon see, it’s impossible to beat him in typical Arrow fashion, with his mysterious magical powers and H.I.V.E. connection. “There’s a real glimmer in his eye whenever he puts the screws to someone,” Arrow co-showrunner Marc Guggenheim says. “Damien really could give a f*** whether you think he’s noble.… He’s really enjoying having no conscience – it’s very freeing for him.”
5. Team Arrow will be a democracy
No more Oliver dictating tasks to his fellow crime-fighters, instead it’ll be a much more even playing field – which should lead to interesting strategy sessions this season. “It’s going to be more democratic for sure,” Mericle explains. “Oliver can’t walk away and then come back and expect that Dig and Laurel and Thea have not found a new dynamic and a new way of working. It’s a very different way of doing the show and it puts Oliver in a different position vis-à-vis the team, which we found interesting.” Guggenheim adds that "the biggest fracture point on the team" will be Oliver and Digle. Oliver, for his part, will try to mentor the newest member of the club, Speedy, whose aggressive fighting tactics may be too close for comfort.
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Remember season one Oliver Queen, with his offhand quips and deadpan delivery? He’s back in a big way this year, thanks in part to his new Green Arrow identity and his new lease on life. “It is deliberate,” Mericle says of the lightened tone. “He’s happier now. He’s in love with Felicity. He’s no longer the post-traumatic stress disorder-suffering soldier he was in the first three seasons. That’s really where it’s coming from.” In fact, a few LOL-worthy jokes are sprinkled throughout the premiere, including this one, which Oliver adoringly tells Felicity, “You have failed this omelet,” or when he points out the exact spot Ra’s stabbed Thea and jokes, “We could get a rug.”
7. Laurel’s family drama ramps up
This will be a big year for the Black Canary, who, at the start of the season, embraces her vigilante identity and proves a capable member of the team, as well as mentor to Thea. But with her sister Sara’s impending resurrection via the Lazarus Pit -- the core focus of episode three, titled “Restoration” -- Laurel has a lot on her plate. To make matters worse, she may have to deal with another unforeseen betrayal from a family member. “The overarching theme of the season is about chosen family versus blood family,” Mericle teases, “and she’s really going to be dealing with Sara coming back but also with the family on the team.”
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8. New blood will shake things up
A slew of new faces are coming to Star City, and they’ll be sure to make things interesting. In the second episode, titled “The Candidate,” Jeri Ryan makes her debut as mayoral candidate Jessica Danforth, who is an old pal of Moira’s (R.I.P.). In the same hour, we’ll meet Curtis Holt, a.k.a. Mr. Terrific (Echo Kellum), a Palmer Tech employee whom Felicity befriends, a character the producers had nothing but praise for. “He’s somebody for Felicity to talk to and have scenes with,” Mericle says. “It’s very magical. They’re great together.” Plus, with Roy Harper “put to bed,” as Mericle puts it, Thea will be gaining a new love interest in political consultant Alex (Suburgatory’s Parker Young).
9. Ray Palmer’s presumed death will be addressed
While Star City and Team Arrow believe Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) died in the Palmer Technologies explosion, we know that’s not the case. On Arrow, his assumed passing will be dealt with – except it won’t be a focal point. “It’s acknowledged,” Guggenheim assures, “But it’s acknowledged in the way it would be. If Ray died yesterday, it would be acknowledged in a very different way than if he died five months ago.”
Though Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) is not in the premiere episode, Mericle assures “you’ll see him early.” His arc this season, she says, “is revolving around Thea and him trying to be a good father, while also being very evil” – which will have its complications. “He’s going to be different with Thea we hope and we would like him to find a way to be a father – he doesn’t know what that means as a character,” Mericle says. “That [said], we do want to restore him to more of the season one Malcolm, who is going around messing up Oliver’s plans.” With Malcolm taking the helm in Nanda Parbat as Ra’s al Ghul, expect Nyssa (Katrina Law) to return early in the season – and she’s still not happy about her new superior. “She’s definitely not going to be on board with Malcolm as Ra’s and we’re hoping to take that in a [fighting] direction,” Mericle hints.
11. Felicity's new life as CEO
Felicity will be operating as CEO (in absentia) of Palmer Technologies, a powerful new role she's still not fully used to. Early in the premiere, she even jokes to Oliver while the couple is in bed, that she gift him his company back as an early Christmas present. Though The Flash hinted that Oliver would one day get his company back in a future headline announcing a Queen Consolidated/Wayne Enterprises merger, he won't be CEO for a while. "Not this season," Guggenheim reveals.
John Constantine’s (Matt Ryan) upcoming visit in episode five, titled “Haunted,” is one to circle on the calendar. (Don’t worry Constantine fans, producers assure that the former show's original props and costumes were used.) “For us, when we finished watching the first cut of it, we were like, ‘You know what, this feels like a legitimate crossover,’” Guggenheim says. “It feels like we’ve crossed over with the other show and not just the other show crossing over with us.”
Are you excited about the return of our favorite crime fighters? Tell us what you’re looking forward to by tweeting Philiana Ng at @insidethetube, and don’t forget the #ETnow hashtag!
Come back to ETonline.com following the premiere for a special treat!
Arrow returns Wednesday, Oct. 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.