The fourth season of Arrow began with the show’s lightest tone yet. Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) were living out their domesticated bliss, far away from the dangerous streets of Star City, and their team of fellow heroes were successfully carrying on without them.
But, like all happy moments on the CW’s gritty superhero drama, it wasn’t meant to last. Before the credits rolled on the season premiere, the couple were back in town, Oliver was back in the Green Arrow hood, and a foreboding black cloud was hung over the season, in the form of a flash-forward scene, where the show’s hero mourned an unnamed character in a graveyard.
Thanks to the ominous previews, fans know that the victim in the grave is not Oliver, Felicity, or The Flash’s Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), but, according to the showrunners, every other character is a potential target, including longtime Arrow favorites like Oliver’s sister Thea (Willa Holland), teammates John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), and Laurel’s father, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne).
“Obviously Arrow is always a show that’s evolving, it’s always a show where every character, arguably -- except for The Arrow -- is fair game,” Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim told reporters on Monday. “We make the creative choices that we feel benefit the show as a whole, and the story that we’re telling overall.”
The foreshadowed death will finally play out in Wednesday’s episode, titled “Eleven-Fifty-Nine,” which the producers describe as a “game-changing” hour that will irrevocably alter the course of the series and deeply affect all who are left behind.
“It’s easy to forget that our characters are vigilantes,” EP Wendy Mericle explained of the “shocking” episode. “They’re out on the street, doing really dangerous things. What this does is it brings that reality back, in a kind of rude and brutal way. I think that’s good for the audience to be reminded of that, and our characters as well.”
“Every time we’ve killed off a character on the show, it’s really been for the effect it has on all the characters left behind,” Guggenheim added.
Within the CW’s DC ‘verse -- which includes Arrow, The Flash, and freshman superhero team-up Legends of Tomorrow -- several characters have returned after dying, thanks to mystical solutions like the Lazarus Pit, time travel, and the existence of multiple universes. However, the producers are standing firm that Wednesday’s death will be a permanent one.
“We definitely recognize, across all three shows, that when we kill off a character, it means something different now,” Guggenheim acknowledged. “Death does not mean goodbye on any of these shows, but we made a creative choice, and we’re sticking to it.”
“Arrow, much more so than Flash or Legends, traffics in death,” he added. “We started off the series with the apparent death of Sara Lance, the actual death of Robert Queen, and a hero who murdered people. For better or for worse, death is part of the show.”
The aftermath of “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” will leave the characters not only mourning the loss of one of their own, but also figuring out how to move forward as they each deal with varying degrees of guilt and responsibility for the death.
“I will say that the episodes we’ve written in the aftermath, they’re devastating, and they’re meant to be. That’s what we wanted,” Mericle explained. “We wanted to explore that, and have everybody feel the impact of this loss, because it is significant, and we do feel like it is a game changer, in a very sad way, in that we’re losing a beloved character. But also, unfortunately, big moves like this will open up new storytelling avenues and will force our characters to rethink their decisions and to rethink their objectives.”