As Arrow heads into its fifth season, the superhero drama is taking aim at the past. The renewed focus on what’s come before is appropriate for The CW’s long-running series, as it will reach the landmark 100th episode, a feat rarely met today.
“We have found a lot of inspiration in going back and looking at what we’ve done the previous four years,” executive producer Wendy Mericle told ET in a recent sit-down in Beverly Hills, California, of the new season’s “nostalgic” focus. “You have the benefit of having all that experience and knowledge, what works and what doesn’t.”
“It’s nostalgic, going back to our roots in season one and really revisiting what everyone loved about that first season,” she later added.
It’s not just those involved with Arrow behind the scenes who are taking inspiration from the show’s history. Oliver Queen, who was introduced as a murderous vigilante, will be taking stock at a life led and what his future may hold. “He’s looking back at his own past and his own legacy,” Mericle said.
It’s a stark contrast from where Oliver was at the start of the show, when he was nothing but a remorseless killer with “total tunnel vision” on righting his father’s wrongs. “That’s all living in the past,” Mericle said of Oliver’s original mindset. “This is the first time he’s had the maturity and the space to think about, well, how long can you do this?”
That’s where the new recruits come into play. The newly-elected mayor of Star City will find himself taking on a new “team” of sorts -- including Wild Dog, a faux Canary and even Curtis Holt -- while the original Team Arrow remains disbanded for the time being.
“They don’t know what they’re doing -- and Oliver knows that. Truth be told, I’m not sure how excited Oliver is taking on anybody,” Mericle said of the new vigilantes-in-training. “In a season where we’re talking about his past, he’s fine to be out there on his own. He starts to think about his future and training them and what the legacy is [that] he wants to leave for his city. That’s really where he’s coming from.”
Season five also marks the final year of Oliver’s island flashbacks, closing the loop on a years-long journey that fans have embarked on since the pilot in 2012. The anticipated flashbacks will focus primarily on Oliver’s time in Russia as he rises through the ranks of one of the country’s most dangerous gangs, the Bratva.
“We want to do it right. It’s something the fans have been waiting for,” Mericle said. “We want to make it gritty and dark and true to what that world would look like … We’re headed towards not just an endgame, but an iconic moment in our show.”
Dolph Lundgren, who plays the Russian big bad Kovar (mentioned at the end of season four), will give Oliver and star Stephen Amell a run for his money. “Stephen’s excited to take him on,” Mericle said with a smile. “He’s a force of a nature, and Stephen -- and Oliver -- will have to take that on and figure out how to conquer [him].”
Oliver’s time in Russia will directly parallel what he’ll be going through in present-day Star City, and unfortunately for fans of the Oliver and Felicity pairing, things may not be back on track right away.
“They’re not together when we come back,” Mericle said of “Olicity’s” future. “Oliver’s in this space now where he’s got two huge full-time jobs and he’s trying to figure out where he is the most effective.”
“Felicity is still dealing with -- she directed a missile at 20,000 people and they died,” she continued. “This is the first time she’s coming face to face with the reality of ‘Oh my god, I’m responsible for the deaths of [all these] people. For where they both are character-wise, the relationship is not at the top of their priority list right now.”
If the writers have a plan for Oliver and Felicity in the romantic sense, Mericle isn’t dropping any hints -- for now.
“The relationship, much to the chagrin to the Laurel fans, was borne out of that symbiotic relationship between the writers, what we were seeing on the dailies and the actors. We’re going to stay consistent on that,” she said. “We’re going to continue to see where these characters lead us. So it could go where the Olicity fans want… or not.”
Arrow returns Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.