Arrow returns for its midseason premiere on Wednesday with a familiar face -- from beyond the grave.
“Laurel is back!” executive producer Wendy Mericle told ET ahead of the CW superhero stalwart’s winter return. “True to form, we brought her back, and obviously that’s going to raise a whole host of questions.”
Fans got a first glimpse at the surprising return of Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) in the show’s midseason finale, when she appeared in front of Oliver (Stephen Amell) in the Arrow bunker after behind killed at the hands of last season’s big bad, Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough).
While Mericle would not confirm any speculation regarding time travel or Earth-2’s Laurel Lance -- who fans of The Flash have met as Black Siren -- she did note, “We always bring people back and they’re never quite who we think they’re going to be. We always have a twist somewhere in there.”
Fans will also have to wait and see how Laurel’s return factors into the plans of season five's big bad, Prometheus, who Mericle described as an “uber-villain” whose ultimate goal is to prove to Oliver that “he’s not the hero he thinks he is.”
“However he can do that -- by hurting the people around Oliver, by hurting the people who work with him -- he’s gonna do that,” she explained. “It’s more of a psychological game, he doesn’t want to kill anybody necessarily, but his ends are to bring Oliver to his knees.”
And, while the Green Arrow and his team narrowed in on the masked villain’s identity and motivations in the midseason finale, Mericle hinted that Prometheus is still “10 steps ahead” of the team, and they may only think they know who he really is.
“There is absolutely more to the mystery… We’ve never dealt with anybody like this,” she revealed. “He’s really playing the long game, and it’s a very long, psychological con that he’s pulling on Oliver. He’s really smart. He’s really good at what he does. So there’s a lot more mystery to unravel in the back half of the season.”
Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), in particular, will be be “hellbent” on making Prometheus pay for orchestrating the death of her boyfriend, Detective Malone (Tyler Ritter), Mericle said, gearing up for a true “revenge mission” in the second half of the season.
“She’s definitely seen her share of dark times,” Mericle said of the character, whose harrowing journey last season included her role in the Havenrock nuclear blast as well as temporary paralysis and her breakup with Oliver. “But this is very different, and it’s very personal this time, in the sense that, this was her boyfriend and he wouldn’t have died if it hadn’t been for her. She knows that despite what Oliver did, Prometheus manipulated the entire thing, and she’s hellbent on getting him and making him pay.”
Part of Felicity’s battle, Mericle explained, will include lending a hand to Diggle (John Ramsey), who was captured at the end of the midseason finale, assumedly by the corrupt Colonel Walker (Garry Chalk), whom Mericle described as a “formidable foe” for the former Army ranger.
“I think the key thing for [Diggle] emotionally is, whereas in the past he was willing to let Oliver bust him out of jail, now he’s not,” she explained. “He’s going to fight on his own terms, through the right channels, and Felicity is going to be the one that really seals the deal and helps him get on the other side of this.”
“It’s really in keeping with what we’ve been doing this season, which is trying to have Felicity and Digg experience a lot of what Oliver’s gone through in the past four seasons,” Mericle added. “Felicity’s going to understand what it’s like to lose somebody close to her -- as a result of her being a vigilante -- and Digg is going to know what it’s like to sort of have to live underground with a secret life and a secret identity. It’s going to bring the team closer together, emotionally, and as a team.”
As for the emotional backlash that will come from Oliver killing Felicity’s boyfriend, in terms of their personal and professional relationship, the Arrow EP says that the former couple will still be divided, fighting separate battles towards the same goal.
“For us this season, our intent at the beginning was to do stories with Oliver and Felicity independent of the romantic relationship -- sort of take a break, and let them date other people,” Mericle added. “Going forward, to continue that, Felicity is going to be on a revenge mission against Prometheus. She doesn’t blame Oliver for what happened in 5x09, I think rightly so, and she’s going to be on her own path towards avenging Malone’s death. And Oliver will be on his own path dealing with Prometheus. Ultimately, they’re both going to be facing off and dealing with Prometheus, but in their own, independent ways.”
For Oliver, that path includes factoring in his personal growth through the years, as well as his responsibilities beyond the Green Arrow hood.
“We’ve said many a time that this [season] is our answer to season one, and him looking back at his legacy,” Mericle noted. “I think it’s different in the sense that he’s more evolved, he’s more mature. He’s not as quick to go on that revenge journey the way that we’re going to see Felicity do.”
“The other difference this season is that he has a different legacy evolving through the mayor’s office,” she added. “I think we’ll make him question which path is the right one, which path is the one that’s more effective for accomplishing his goals of helping the city.”
Helping him along the way will be one of the show’s new characters, Tina Boland (Juliana Harkavy), who Mericle describes as a cop who “knows how to handle herself with a gun.”
“She very much a badass, she’s a very accomplished fighter,” she added. “She’s very much an equal of Oliver’s, and I think we’ve never seen anyone quite like that -- Laurel had an evolution in training, as did Speedy, when Thea (Willa Holland) was donning the hood -- but she’s going to be a different type of colleague for Oliver, which we’re all very excited about.”
The show is also gearing up to introduce an adult Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig), daughter of legendary DC villain and former Arrow big bad Ra’s al Ghul, who was first seen as a child on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. Mericle cryptically describes Talia as “someone who trained Oliver in the past.”
“He doesn’t necessarily know the full extent of her backstory,” she warned. “We’ve come up with what we hope is a really cool, surprising way of revealing that to him. She’s definitely not who she seems.”
Arrow was recently renewed for a sixth season by The CW, a significant milestone for the series, which has been telling the story of Oliver’s five years away via flashbacks, and will finally catch up to his season one return to then-Starling City at the end of the season. Mericle said the show’s creative team is “very excited” about both the renewal and the opportunity to explore the next season without the flashback device as a prominent storyline.
“We’re closing that chapter,” she said. “We’ve always known that, once we reach season five, and we pick up where the pilot started, that the flashbacks are probably going to go away. That said, we’ve used the device to great effect. I would not ever say that we wouldn’t go back to them, but we’re really going to be looking at season 6 as a fresh, clean slate.”
“We’ve closed this chapter on the first five seasons, and it’s going to be time to start looking at new ways of writing the show and exploring different structures as well,” Mericle added. “We’re a little bit freed up by not having to do the flashbacks, as well, which is actually really refreshing and exciting.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.