In the latest episode of "Arrow," the bonds between Oliver and his friends began to crack. Still reeling from Felicity being caught in a barrage of bullets, Green Arrow took drastic measures in his effort to take down Damien Darhk once and for all.
Among the decisions Oliver made was to cut the psychopathic Anarky loose in order to do their dirty work. Ultimately, however, he was unable to fully stoop to either villain's level. When Darhk's family was placed in danger due to Anarky's deadly machinations, Green Arrow saved them. Meanwhile, though Felicity survived her emergency surgery, it was revealed that she is now permanently paralyzed.
"Arrow" Executive Producer Wendy Mericle spoke with CBR News about where Team Arrow finds itself in the wake of their all-out assault on Darhk. Oliver reverted back to his old habits, after all, and that's going to put additional pressure on his already strained relationships. Plus, Diggle will continue to learn more about his estranged brother Andy --and he may not like what he discovers), Felicity and Oliver will struggle with her new condition, Darhk's wife wishes Oliver was dead, and the team remains unaware of the death that looms in their future.
CBR News: Without his friends to rein him in, Oliver almost slipped back into his old vigilante ways. What did that relapse say about the character? Is that temptation always there?
Wendy Mericle: With Oliver, one of the ideas that we're coming to this season is it's really hard for him to overcome his past. He had three years in the city dealing with these PTS and solider-of-war issues that we saw him grappling with in those first few seasons. Prior to that, he underwent some pretty serious trauma over the course of five years. I don't think that is ever easily overcome. Those events changed him.
One of the things we're really excited about going forward is [exploring the idea], if you do go through that, and you do have the desire to change like Oliver does, how much can you actually move past those issues? And, is there a part of him that is always going to default to that kind of darkness inside of him? That is always a danger, and will definitely have complications. Not just for him as a superhero going forward, but also for him and his relationships with everybody on his team, especially Felicity.
Diggle physically beat up his captive brother for information... and then he played cards with him. Where does that relationship stand moving forward?
This has been one of the real finds this season. The dynamic between David Ramsey and Eugene Byrd has been so amazing and dimensional and surprising. We're going to be taking this to some cool and exciting places.
The real question on the table for Diggle right now is, yes, he went and played cards with Andy in the episode, but can he ever really trust his brother? Diggle is going to discover in episodes going forward that there's even more to Andy's backstory than he knew. In some ways, Andy is more than the brother Diggle thought he was -- but he's also darker in some things beyond working with H.I.V.E. that calls for Diggle to question his own judgement.
Anarky seems to consider Thea a kindred spirit. How does that resonate with her?
She's initially just confused by it. She's like, "What the…? This guy is a whack job and here you are telling me I'm your favorite person." The interesting thing about Thea is that ultimately she's the by-product of Moira Queen and Malcolm Merlyn. For her not to be a bonafide sociopath would be a sheer miracle of genetics. There's something very dark in her and it does resonate with her. What Anarky does and the lengths that he's gone to -- and the fact that she is ultimately responsible for giving birth to the character he becomes -- I think, despite her best intentions, it is part of her.
Speaking of family, why was it important for Damien Darhk to have one?
When we introduced Damien Darhk at the beginning of the year -- kind of upending our traditional way of introducing the supervillains and waiting until midseason or even later -- we knew we were going to have to keep turning the knife and twisting and changing the story. One of the things we were really excited about doing was giving dimension to the supervillain and in a different way than we had in the past. Before, we understood Malcolm's motives. We understood Slade's motives. Ra's al Ghul is a completely different kettle of fish in terms of why he's doing what he's doing. But, Damien is just a maniacal sociopath, for all intents and purposes. Yet, he's a man who would do anything to protect his family. It both gives him some dimension and humanizes him in some way.
His wife seems far from innocent or helpless.
That's very important, too. Truth be told, we wanted to do a female supervillain, and she's a version of that. She's just as crazy as he is. She has her own drive. She's very Lady Macbeth in the way that she's goading him. We like that she has an agenda of her own. It's the same as Darhk's, but it can diverge in terms of the means to get to the end. She thinks he should have killed Green Arrow.
Another major development is that Felicity is now paralyzed. As the computer whiz, is Felicity being groomed her for an Oracle-type role on the team?
Oracle is completely off the table for a slew of reasons. We were really more interested in exploring the reality of what it's like to go through something like that. How do you deal with it emotionally, and how do you deal with it on a practical day-to-day basis. Specifically for Felicity, how is she going to deal with it in a relationship with Oliver, and also, her role on the team. It was less driven by any agenda with Oracle and much more of, "What are these challenges like?" Hopefully, we are doing some justice and paying a lot of respect towards people that really do live day-to-day with that reality.
Does Felicity's condition further fuel Team Arrow's desire to take Damien down?
It absolutely fuels Oliver's fire to take down Darhk. And, as you saw in [episode] 410, it's what motivates Diggle to go after his brother the way he does. Obviously, Felicity is beloved by everyone on the team. It's definitely going to galvanize them. Not that they needed anything extra to take Damien Darhk down, but this will motivate them in a big way.
The episode ended with another clue as to who is -- or isn't -- dead and buried in the cemetery. What went into the decision to deliver that tease?
A couple of things. It's keeping it alive and, in a lot of ways, reminding the audience that these are the stakes this season. Also, we've been through a big tragedy in 409 with Felicity. We felt it was important to see the evolution of her. This loss that we're going to experience in the future puts her in a dark place as well.
When will those scenes pay off? And, given the buildup, how confident are you that it will be worth the wait?
I'm very confident it will be worth the wait. It will definitely happen towards the end of the season. I can't tell you which episode, but it's going to be a game-changer, for sure.