Comics On TV

Arrow Showrunner on How Season 8 Premiere Sets Up Series' Final Episodes

“We are cruel, aren’t we?” admits series boss Beth Schwartz about losses in store for Oliver Queen this season.

by | October 15, 2019 | Comments

The Arrow season 8 premiere, “Starling City,” was extremely nostalgic, genre-bending, and emotional for fans of the series. It also serves as an opening salvo in the program’s coda year. But considering its surprisingly cosmic quest, shocking ending, and cutaways to Team Arrow 2.0 in 2040, some in the audience may be wondering what the rest of the season will be like and what the premiere means for the Arrowverse overall. Thankfully, Rotten Tomatoes answered the call to speak with showrunner Beth Schwartz; learning some of the inner workings of “Starling City,” how it relates to Arrow’s final season and the upcoming “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event.

Spoiler Warning: If you haven’t watched the Arrow season premiere, do so now. There are massive spoilers beyond this point.

Honoring The Pilot

One of the early ideas Schwartz and the other writers discussed was taking Oliver (Stephen Amell) to Earth-2 to relive a number of moments from the pilot episode. The Flash previously established the Earth-2 Oliver died when the Queen’s Gambit sank, creating the perfect opportunity to deposit Oliver on Lian Yu and experience a déjà vu only the Arrowverse can provide — an exciting prospect for Schwartz and her team.

“It was so perfect because part of this episode was a little bit of It’s a Wonderful Life and ‘What would have happened if Oliver didn’t come back from Lian Yu?,’” she said.

Eagle-eyed watchers may have noticed a few things in the episode’s cold open were different – like a Batman cowl taking the place of Deathstroke’s mask. While Schwartz declined to elaborate on it or the direct mention of Bruce Wayne later in the episode, she thanked the existence of the Batwoman television series for making Gotham City references easier to pull off.

“Now that they’re in our universe, we’re able to get away with a lot more things Batman related,” she explained. Previously, a passing reference to Bruce, Gotham, or its famous vigilante required approvals from several divisions of the WarnerMedia family.

But in remounting the pilot — with the notion that 12 years had passed instead of five — allowed for different story opportunities, including the death of the Earth-2 Thea Queen.

“When Oliver came back [in the pilot], she was a totally different sister than he remembered leaving. She was really heavily into drugs and he saved her on her birthday in Season One,” Schwartz said.

In the season 8 premiere, the Earth-2 Moira (Susanna Thompson) explicitly mentions Thea died on that same birthday.

“If he wasn’t there that she probably would have died,” Schwartz explained. “So that was the decision for this episode.”

That key twist on the Earth-1 story set much of the episode’s plot in motion. Thea’s death broke Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell), inspiring him to create the Undertaking unseen on Earth-2, but a major plot point in Arrow’s first season.

The Earth-1 Thea (Willa Holland) will recur throughout the season, with Schwartz teasing she will return in a “very cool way.”

Felicity’s Absence

As the episode continued to mine key season 1 moments, it eventually found Oliver confronting Felicity’s (Emily Bett Rickards) empty desk in Queen Consolidated’s IT department. Schwartz, who found it weird to write Arrow without Felicity, said it was important to find a way of “keeping her still there without seeing her.” This time, it was admitting her absence — and revealing her Earth-2 counterpart as a successful business owner — but subsequent references to the character will arise from other “creative” means.

Schwartz also the door is open for Rickards to return for the series finale.

“We welcome her back and we’ll see what happens,” she said.

Team Monitor?

Arrow -- "Welcome to Hong Kong" -- Image Number: AR802a_0101b.jpg -- Pictured: LaMonica Garrett as The Monitor -- Photo: Sergei Bachlakov/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

As revealed in the season opener, Oliver is tasked with obtaining various objects for The Monitor (LaMonica Garrett), but as is the interdimensional being’s way, he refuses to explain what the objects are for. Schwartz said Oliver is unhappy about the arrangement and “confronts him soon” about the issue. But that confrontation will no doubt see The Monitor questioning Diggle (John Ramsey) tagging along for the quest.

“He does not like what has happened in this episode,” Schwartz teased. “But Diggle was always there for Oliver and his family. Specifically, Lyla has understood that throughout the seasons that you can’t separate those two.”

Of course, it still remains to be seen if Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) has been another member of Team Monitor all along. The original comic book version of the character, Harbinger, was introduced as The Monitor’s assistant and as Anderson will appear as Harbinger in “Crisis,” Lyla’s connection to the Arrowverse’s interdimensional upheaval is very much a mystery. Schwartz said an answer to the Harbinger question will present itself in the third episode of the season.

But the ersatz Team Monitor also presents an interesting cross-show wrinkle: over on The Flash, Barry is unaware of Oliver’s activities or that they apparently share the same fate. When we spoke with The Flash showrunner Eric Wallace, he mentioned there is a scene in which Barry and Oliver discover their roles in The Monitor’s plan and “let’s just say people might get pissed off a little.”

Life In 2040

Arrow -- "Starling City" -- Image Number: AR801b_0176b.jpg -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow -- Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

(Photo by Jack Rowand/The CW)

While Team Arrow 2.0 is still going through a number of growing pains, Schwartz said Mia’s (Katherine McNamara) decision to lead at the end of the episode will be the new status quo. This would irk Connor (Joseph David Jones) if not for the fact he has to deal with his adoptive brother J.J. (Charlie Barnett) – the new Deathstroke.

“The brothers have this really fraught childhood that we’ll explain more in the upcoming episodes,” she teased. “Of kind of how they got to this place where J.J. is willing to kill his own brother. And how he went down this path when he’s Diggle and Lyla’s son.”

The Rest of the Season Will See Oliver in Other Familiar Locations

While the premiere will be the only time Oliver visits another Earth – at least until “Crisis” – the rest of the season will see him running to locations outside Star City.

“[In] upcoming episodes, we visit places that we’ve gone to in our previous seasons,” Schwartz teased, adding only two or three episodes take place in the city Oliver risked so much to save. And though she declined to say what these locations might be, we’re willing to guess return trips to Lian Yu, Nanda Parbat, Central City, Russia, and Hong Kong are on the itinerary. Episode 2 of the season is called “Welcome to Hong Kong,” in fact.

The show is known for staying put in Star City, but Schwartz appreciated the production challenge of mounting new locations each week.

Legends [of Tomorrow] does it every week so we can too,” she quipped.

Earth-2 Was Definitely Destroyed

Arrow -- Image Number: ARRS8_8x12.jpg -- Pictured: Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen/Green Arrow -- Photo: The CW -- © 2019 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.

(Photo by The CW)

In what has to be one of the biggest cosmic event on any of the Arrowverse shows thus far, the season premiere saw Oliver, Diggle, and Black Siren (Katie Cassidy Rodgers) witnessing the destruction of Earth-2. And though the designation was never used in the episode, Schwartz confirmed that world was the first to be lost in the Crisis, adding, “It does indicate that ‘Crisis’ is starting earlier than we thought.”

“We wanted to start big and we wanted to introduce the upcoming Crisis immediately. Because that is what this season is about and what Oliver is struggling with the entire time,” Schwartz explained.

But as Earth-2 is shared concept across at least two shows, The Flash production team had to sign off on the explosive conclusion.

“We were like, ‘Is this OK? Does this ruin things?’ They were very gracious,” she said.

Clearly, the destruction of Earth-2 offered no immediate problems for The Flash, but with characters like Harry Wells (Tom Cavanagh) and Jessie Quick (Violett Beane) now dead, we imagine that world’s end will be marked in some way later down the line.

The actual visual representation of a universe dying – from the red skies to the way Tommy and Moira disintegrated in front of Oliver’s eyes – recalled the destruction artist George Perez outlined in the first issue of the Crisis on Infinite Earth’s comic book. Schwartz said getting it right in live action was the last thing the production locked down.

“It’s such an important moment, it sets up the crossover, it sets up ‘Crisis,’ and we just wanted to make sure we got it right. So it was a lot of meetings, a lot of conversations,” she explained.

She also admitted there were discussions about saving both Tommy and Moira – whose Earth-1 counterparts are both dead – but those talks concluded with the decision to sacrifice the characters to the antimatter wave. Asked if this was the last time Oliver had to watch them die, Schwartz said, “We are cruel, aren’t we?” before suggesting other versions of Earth-2 characters seen in the premiere may pop up in the remaining episodes or “Crisis” itself.

“Some of them will return, yeah,” she said, but declined to elaborate.

In the meantime, Oliver has plenty of his Earth-1 issues to deal with as Arrow‘s final season continues toward its conclusion.

Arrow airs Tuesdays at 9/8C on The CW.

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

sitcom live action scene in color Travel Channel Extras binge worst movies Opinion saw TV renewals Hulu Holidays TBS WarnerMedia game of thrones Sony Pictures Mary Tyler Moore best Teen HBO dramedy Paramount Plus Video Games crime drama renewed TV shows Mudbound BET Awards cartoon Fargo posters Music Universal Marvel Television TCM Pride Month TCA Awards SXSW game show New York Comic Con Adult Swim heist movie MCU king arthur Martial Arts spider-man Broadway science fiction Certified Fresh action-comedy Mary poppins Neflix hispanic heritage month Image Comics Ovation know your critic football IFC Apple TV Plus SDCC historical drama black comedy Pet Sematary Discovery Channel MSNBC boxing E3 CBS All Access indiana jones Syfy 4/20 Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt RT History cancelled Chernobyl VICE theme song Western Amazon Prime Video Crunchyroll TV One lord of the rings FX on Hulu Film Festival spider-verse National Geographic trophy concert Columbia Pictures ESPN Hear Us Out Apple TV+ 1990s japan ID Nominations high school french Sci-Fi documentary name the review boxoffice Tokyo Olympics crime deadpool transformers werewolf Logo Action Walt Disney Pictures anime Election olympics TV TV Land spanish Rock 21st Century Fox mcc dreamworks travel jamie lee curtis Avengers Pop TV casting talk show unscripted free movies 2020 Warner Bros. The Witch Pacific Islander Television Academy reviews FOX Nat Geo disaster Anna Paquin Cannes Polls and Games Women's History Month batman Crackle remakes chucky Amazon prank halloween Netflix Christmas movies Vudu adaptation Pop BET witnail Calendar Funimation toronto Disney+ Disney Plus worst Epix 93rd Oscars Red Carpet adventure harry potter feel good Reality romantic comedy biography 24 frames BBC America Emmy Nominations Lucasfilm book adaptation kaiju directors children's TV richard e. Grant Fox News 2017 E! Masterpiece spain cancelled TV shows Comics on TV HBO Max satire cops Tumblr nfl Set visit Creative Arts Emmys Ghostbusters Acorn TV Paramount comics Lionsgate fast and furious razzies HBO Go marvel cinematic universe BBC Musicals doctor who Turner Drama cars obituary golden globe awards news APB Disney comic books period drama scorecard italian sequels popular DC Comics Classic Film zombie adenture 99% FX Trophy Talk Baby Yoda 2018 The CW Amazon Studios war justice league Instagram Live NBA Awards Tour TIFF criterion Bravo 45 tv talk animated hollywood telelvision Sundance Mystery WGN The Purge Box Office breaking bad genre Year in Review new york venice Holiday comic book movies dceu Fantasy DirecTV true crime psycho Arrowverse legend aapi Super Bowl Marvel trailers ghosts debate jurassic park ABC Family 2021 Lifetime Christmas movies cancelled television award winner slasher stop motion Pirates rotten crossover Fall TV CMT universal monsters scary royal family ViacomCBS james bond rt labs critics edition marvel comics Hallmark Christmas movies YouTube Premium DC streaming service new star wars movies vampires fresh Disney Plus zombies christmas movies Endgame Emmys Binge Guide leaderboard Legendary ABC Signature slashers President japanese social media Marvel Studios young adult docuseries Toys IFC Films Photos spanish language Animation sopranos discovery GLAAD festival Thanksgiving Rocky Premiere Dates reboot History Showtime Star Trek hist Turner Classic Movies Musical australia streaming Food Network king kong Rocketman zero dark thirty The Academy Comedy Central sports Esquire cancelled TV series superman facebook blockbuster cats NYCC foreign MTV Christmas natural history PaleyFest screenings The Walt Disney Company Mindy Kaling Chilling Adventures of Sabrina BBC One 71st Emmy Awards Winners spinoff 007 Fox Searchlight Song of Ice and Fire all-time biopic Country Comic-Con@Home 2021 streaming movies Cosplay 20th Century Fox latino dogs The Walking Dead Starz IMDb TV Alien supernatural comic CBS finale what to watch archives OneApp 2019 GoT 72 Emmy Awards Schedule 73rd Emmy Awards Britbox YA Sneak Peek Valentine's Day sag awards gangster kong Awards OWN Paramount Network Mary Poppins Returns sequel crime thriller Watching Series godzilla Black History Month diversity A24 green book Pixar CNN Ellie Kemper El Rey hispanic dark cooking Horror nature Quiz classics south america Captain marvel suspense Spike psychological thriller LGBT series elevated horror rt labs live event Black Mirror a nightmare on elm street Character Guide Lifetime X-Men Star Wars Kids & Family critic resources robots medical drama canceled TV shows Family Best and Worst blockbusters franchise Disney Channel Sundance TV critics First Reviews Tubi Trivia laika USA parents ABC Infographic halloween tv strong female leads comic book movie child's play stand-up comedy quibi Superheroe CW Seed Shudder PBS wonder woman emmy awards blaxploitation teaser cinemax dexter toy story GIFs TruTV PlayStation Winter TV Heroines revenge basketball 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards festivals television Dark Horse Comics VH1 Marathons based on movie FXX versus Reality Competition rotten movies we love Rom-Com comedies TCA Winter 2020 Film AMC Spectrum Originals women A&E nbcuniversal Oscars documentaries politics Trailer Writers Guild of America Television Critics Association mission: impossible First Look independent die hard thriller NBC DGA Stephen King miniseries Podcast YouTube cults aliens rt archives dc anthology hidden camera TNT Tarantino See It Skip It scary movies Comic Book rom-coms TLC ratings Spring TV video Superheroes Peacock technology spy thriller Biopics Freeform Cartoon Network Grammys Sundance Now Hallmark Tomatazos Countdown TCA police drama Wes Anderson vs. art house Netflix DC Universe romance black 2016 AMC Plus superhero SundanceTV Disney streaming service twilight ITV space VOD Elton John BAFTA LGBTQ kids Academy Awards pirates of the caribbean mutant political drama Summer new zealand TV movies Apple Exclusive Video USA Network 2015 serial killer monster movies dragons asian-american YouTube Red joker RT21 screen actors guild The Arrangement stoner Universal Pictures Shondaland Comedy Interview target movie video on demand 90s mob book golden globes international singing competition TCA 2017 Brie Larson Amazon Prime composers docudrama San Diego Comic-Con canceled indie American Society of Cinematographers Nickelodeon films movies mockumentary comiccon