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Arrow's farewell has officially begun.
The eighth season of The CW's superhero drama kicks off Tuesday with the series' last 10 episodes ever, and the final season premiere is a direct callback to the original 2012 pilot -- when things were a tad simpler and a lot less cosmic. With the five-part DC crossover, "Crisis on Infinite Earths," queueing up in December, the Arrow producers say balancing the march-up to the epic event while also making sure they pay homage to what made the show has been a rewarding challenge.
"We're using 'Crisis' in its run-up as an opportunity to re-examine the show -- to look back and, as [showrunner] Beth [Schwartz] says, revisit our greatest hits," executive producer Marc Guggenheim tells ET of Arrow's final run. "That's something that is definitely true within the episodes leading up to the crossover and it's even true in the Arrow episode of the crossover. The Arrow episode is a little bit more of a hat tip to Arrow than the other shows are doing [during the crossover]."
"We want to be true to Arrow while engaging in this enormous crossover. We got our heads together and I feel like because of it, we're going to honor the past seven seasons... instead of just doing another season with the same structure," Schwartz tells ET. "We're going to touch on characters we haven't seen in a while. We're going to tie up some loose ends from every season. With this new structure it's allowed us to do that. It actually helped us make this last season the best season we'll have hopefully."
Titled "Starling City," the first episode of the season puts Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) back on familiar soil (i.e. the Queen mansion and a few other iconic locations) while on his quest to fulfill The Monitor's (LaMonica Garrett) mysterious mission. While back in Starling City, Oliver encounters several familiar faces he hasn't seen in years, most notably his mother, Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson), Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) and Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). A love letter to the series' pilot, fans may find themselves experiencing a sense of deja vu.
"The season premiere is like a remix of the pilot. It really revisits fun, key moments in the pilot -- to the point where when I sent my scenes off to Beth, I said, 'In a good way, it didn't feel like a season premiere, it felt like a series finale because it is so backward looking.' It plays as a real acknowledgment of the show," Guggenheim hinted, with Schwartz expressing, "I think that the fans are going to love [the premiere]. It was so fun to write."
"It was really important to me that our favorite places that mean so much to the series are something we revisit in the final season. Not only characters but settings," Schwartz continued, adding that it was important that they honor key characters from past seasons, like Thea Queen (Willa Holland), Tatsu (Rila Fukushima), Talia al Ghul (Lexa Doig), Yao Fei Gulong (Byron Mann) and Adrian Chase (Josh Segarra). "We only get one last chance to see Tommy or other characters, so what do we want to do with them? Who do we want to see? What scenes do we want to see? We only have 10 episodes; this is our last chance. That opened up our wish list of what we wanted to do."
For Thea's return to Arrow, which takes place in the third episode (titled "Leap of Faith"), Guggenheim hinted that a lot of answers will be given about what the younger Queen sibling has been up to. "We very clearly tell the audience where she is, what she's been doing since season six. It's a good update," he promised. "Of course, we have to do that relative to what we learned with Roy's character last year, so all those questions will get answered."
But what about Felicity Smoak? Emily Bett Rickards' absence is felt in the season eight premiere, who is mentioned often throughout the episode. Because the hour revisits the first season, Guggenheim shared that there is one scene in particular that is a direct call-out to a classic Felicity and Oliver moment. "There's a throwback to Felicity in the season premiere -- Emily's not in it -- but there's a very conscious, and I think funny, acknowledgement of her," he hinted.
Still, Guggenheim holds out hope that Rickards will appear one more time before Arrow officially signs off in early 2020, confessing that his biggest bucket list item is getting the actress back for the swan song. "If Emily were inclined to return for the finale, I know exactly how she would be returning for the finale. And I'm very much like a dog with a bone. Part of the job of producing anything is not taking 'no' for an answer, which is not to say we've gotten 'no' for an answer. You always have to keep trying because you never know. You just never know," he emphasized. "You never close the door on anything. You never know what's going to happen."
The show's signature flashback/flash-forward format will be done away with for the last season, with the producers approaching each episode as its own event, though the new Arrow class will concurrently have their 2040 arc. While there will be a different introductory voice-over for the show's final run, Schwartz revealed that Oliver and company will be traveling nomads for a big portion of the season.
"We're not going to solely be in Star City. It's going to be a little more of traveling heroes, going to different location to different location," Schwarz said. "Green Arrow and his team saved Star City last year so that's not what's at stake this season. It's not 'You have failed this city.' Now it's 'You have failed the multiverse.' [Oliver] has to save the multiverse. That's what's allowed us to open up our structure leading up to the crossover and allowed us to visit with some characters who aren't in Star City."
When asked if the final shot of the series has evolved over the past several years, Guggenheim confirmed that there have been changes in his vision for what that last image will look like.
"It's shifted for a variety of different logistical reasons. Things that were originally planned for the series finale are now in the crossover, and by moving those moments into the crossover, it allowed me to look at those moments through a different lens and through a different eye and that changed some things," he said. "Until we actually shoot the finale, Beth and I were talking about this earlier today, I've given myself permission to not be dogmatic about what the finale is and allow myself to remain open for another idea."
"You just want to feel satisfaction -- that watching for eight years, even though you're sad the show ended, you have a feeling of 'Oh, that was really good. I feel OK walking away from the show,'" Schwartz explained. "I just want everyone, and myself included, to feel like that was the perfect ending to a show that I've been watching for eight seasons. My favorite series finale was Six Feet Under; if we can do anything in the vein of that show, I'll be happy. I want it to feel specific to Arrow and a perfect ending to Arrow."
As production begins to wrap up on Arrow's eight-season run, Guggenheim said that he and the writers are "all very conscious of the fact that we're doing this for the very last time."
"If we're going to do something, this is it. It's 'go,' 'no go' on the whole mission at this point," he said. "That said, just knowing what we are doing and what we have planned, I don't think we're leaving any moments or stories on the table."
Arrow debuts its final season Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
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