It’s safe to say that Arrow has surpassed everyone’s expectations, whether it’s DC Entertainment, Fans, Warner Bros, The CW, or Critics. It turns out, it has even surpassed the expectations of those directly working on the show.
Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim has stayed busy working as part of the team running Arrow, now at the midway point of its second season, while fellow EPs Greg Berlanti, Andrew Kreisberg, and DC Entertainment CCO & series writer Geoff Johns split their focus between the show and its first possible spin-off, The Flash, currently in development with a pilot for a series in the fall of 2014.
So where is Arrow now that it’s halfway through the season? Well, Slade “Deathstroke” Wilson has been revealed as the “big bad,” pulling the strings of Sebastian Blood and his followers, Roy has been injected with Mirakuru giving him super strength and durability (and more than a little crazy), Laurel is strung out on pain meds and lost her job, her sister Sara came back from the seemingly-dead as the Canary, then disappeared again, Ra’s al Ghul was mentioned, Queen Industries is still in trouble, Moira was let off mass murder charges, Barry Allen came and went in a flash (sorry), and Oliver has pledged not to kill anymore, officially embracing “The Arrow” as his nom de asskicking, instead of “The Hood,” while Laurel’s father, now Officer Lance has become part of the team – even if only as a peripheral member. Phew. And that’s just the first half of the season, and doesn’t count the numerous other DC Comics cameos like Bronze Tiger (who’s back this week), Solomon Grundy, and many more.
We caught up with Guggenheim for a mid-season check-in, got the lowdown on Deathstroke, some teases for DC Comics fans, and just what Mirakuru is (or isn’t).
Newsarama: Marc, this week’s episode! Whew! Deathstroke in action, Roy getting recruited…
Marc Guggenheim: It was fun, wasn’t it? Yeah, that was a fun episode. Glen Winter directed it, and just knocked it out of the park, as he always does. There were some sequences in there that just blew our minds when we saw them all cut together. It’s exciting stuff.
Nrama: So, I have to ask you, how early were the plans for Slade being Season 2's "big bad" in place? Was this something you guys intended from his first introduction on the island?
Guggenheim: Yeah. I think it was pretty obvious to all of us that was going to be where we were headed. We always knew that we would have Slade Wilson as Deathstroke as a present-day villain since the pilot, since Geoff Johns suggested that we have the Deathstroke mask on the island. So we’ve had these plans in place for quite some time.
It’s always exciting when some of our longer tail plans come into fruition.
Nrama: It’s funny hearing you say “Deathstroke,” because we haven’t heard Slade called that just yet, but I did notice in Stephen Amell’s AP interview this week that he said he was really excited about saying a specific DC character’s name…
Guggenheim: You know what? I’ll tell you this. The name Deathstroke will be uttered soon, but the first time it happens it will not be uttered by Stephen.
Nrama: People have really been responding to the high volume of DC Comics elements and characters that have been brought into the show. Is that a concerted effort, or is it just something where you come to a point in the story and say "okay, would an existing DC character work here?"
Guggenheim: It’s exactly that, we come to a point in the story and say “can we put in a DC character here.”
That’s the way the show has always operated, and it’s operated best that way. Fortunately, the DC Universe is full enough and replete enough with every kind of character that you could want, that it’s not that hard to find the right character. Sometimes it’s nothing more than an easter egg, or a name drop, and sometimes it’s someone like Deathstroke, who is a huge part of the DC Universe. Hopefully we also find characters all the way in-between that on the spectrum.
Nrama: Is that where Geoff comes in a lot, to help facilitate those sorts of things?
Guggenheim: Geoff helps with that, Pornsak Pichetshote helps with that at DC Entertainment. We have some real hardcore geeks on the writing staff, too though. Keto Shimizu and Ben Sokolowski. Everyone brings something to it. We’ll take a good pitch from anybody.
Geoff’s been terrific though. Like I said, Geoff’s the reason we have Deathstroke on the show. David Nutter, back when we were filming the pilot, said “I’d really like to have something, like a totem on the island. Is there anything anyone can suggest?” And Geoff’s idea was the Deathstroke mask. That really has opened up so many stories for us, obviously. It’s become a huge part of season two as we move towards our endgame.
Nrama: Any hints of upcoming DC Guest stars? You guys get hit with a LOT of rumors, I know. It has to be weird working on a show where people are constantly trying to guess every character and plot point that's coming up!
Guggenheim: It’s fun actually! I consider that part of the fun, and really appreciate the fact that our fans do that.
For me, it’s not the whole show, all the DC references, but it’s definitely part of the fun. I think the guessing and the rumors is the audience playing along, so I really enjoy every time they do that. The only bummer for me is that nine times out of ten, I can’t comment.
I will say that we have a crazy number of DC – it’s funny, there’s stuff that will be happening in the middle of this season that we haven’t announced yet, that if people think we’ve done a lot of DC Universe stuff now it pales in comparison to where we’re headed. It’s really going to be kicked up to a ridiculous degree.
There’s two episodes in a row, where we’re keeping the titles secret, because both episodes will just blow people’s minds.
Nrama: Of course Barry Allen, The Flash, drew a lot of attention. I know his pilot was changed to a stand-alone, but he's still been mentioned again - can fans expect him to show up again this season?
Guggenheim: You know, it’s funny, I always dodge those questions, because they relate to Barry, and I’m not involved with The Flash spin-off. The one thing I can say is that, just as episode 10 proved, we’re not ignoring Barry’s existence. Unlike a lot of shows, we’re not ignoring the spin-off. We’re incorporating news of Barry into our world. That’s all I will really say about it at this juncture.
Nrama: I have to ask something that’s a point of contention for some fans right now. As a big DC fan, I can't help but think that Mirakuru sounds a lot like it would be the Japanese phonetic pronunciation of Miraclo, and I know there's also an Hourman show in development – So can you settle this, is Mirakuru Miraclo? Am I grasping at straws here or onto something?
Guggenheim: I can tell you that was not our original intention. The truth is, Mirakuru got named because, we needed a name for it, it came from Japan – we first thought “what’s the Japanese word for ‘god’ or what’s the Japanese word for…” we just threw out a bunch of words. We picked the one that sounded the best [for this formula], and that was Mirakuru. I can’t comment on the Hourman show cause that’s still in development.
The nice thing about Arrow is, we never say never on the show. Hopefully the show will have a nice long life, and all manner of things can potentially happen. We didn’t start with “Miraclo” and work backwards from there, though, we just happened upon Mirakuru. It just so happens that a Japanese word for Miracle fit there – truth be told, it’s not even a proper Japanese word [Newsarama Note: In Japanese, especially post-WWII, they have incorporated words from several other languages, spelled out phonetically – both Miracle and Miraclo could be spelled and pronounced Mirakuru]. We just liked the way it sounded so much, that we took some artistic license.
But again, I’ll never say never [to a future connection].
Nrama: The pace of this show is remarkable, and pretty uncommon for a serial, where you guys will introduce a mystery, and have it play through to the revelation, at least for the viewers if not the characters, in usually just an episode or two - why have you taken that approach? What about this show's story drives it forward so quickly?
Guggenheim: I think it’s a combination of a few things. Part of it was, [fellow executive producers] Greg [Berlanti], Andrew [Kreisberg], and I had this combined experience, working together on Eli Stone, where because the show was always on the bubble and we were always about two minutes away from cancellation, we learned not to save story. We didn’t want to hold something back for “season 5” because we didn’t know if we would get to a season 5. That experience taught us that sometimes serial storytelling functions really well when the pace is fast! We learned on Eli that if we were to turn cards over quickly, we’d always come up with other cards to turn over.
So part of it was that. Part of it was that after Eli, I worked on a show called Flashforward, which was a post-Lost mythology show. I noticed that Lost had sort of worn out our welcome; because of Lost, audiences were no longer being patient with slow reveals, they wanted answers quickly, and they wanted story to develop much faster. By the way, that’s not to criticize Lost; I love Lost. But it was such a seminal show that every show that’s come after it has been effected by it. What I took away from my Flashforward experience is that when you’re doing a serialized mythology show, you put your foot on the gas and you do not take it off.
It’s been an approach that I think has worked out very well for Arrow, and we’ve really enjoyed sprinting across the high wire!
Nrama: Very cool. Conversely, Roy is a character where you seem to have to be a little slower, and a little more careful with him. Will that be changing with the next episode, “Tremors” and as he comes into the fold with Arrow’s team?
Guggenheim: Yeah, absolutely. I think with Roy, the destination that he arrives at in episode 12 is made far more exciting by the fact that the journey has taken as long as it has. I think that if we had brought Roy under the Arrow’s wing within three episodes of introducing him last year in episode 15, Roy being part of the Arrow’s universe wouldn’t be as impactful. So I think that because we delayed gratification and have really earned the moments that we have between Roy and the Arrow in next week’s episode, those moments have a lot more impact.
It’s important, because obviously it’s a big moment in the evolution of these characters. Everyone who knows what I call their “comic book destiny” knows what a big, important episode that episode 12 is going to be. That importance would’ve been squandered had we rushed into it.
Nrama: Romance was a big part of season one, and has been downplayed considerably for season two. Why is that, what has changed about the show for you that has moved it in that direction?
Guggenheim: It’s a good question. We have some romance coming up, we’ve had a little bit in season 2. It wasn’t romance per se that we were trying to steer away from, it was the way we were doing romance. I think if you look at all the “romantic” storylines last year, we sort of felt like they were siloed off from the main action of the episodes. Whenever we went to a “Thea and Roy” or “Laurel and Tommy,” their romantic storylines felt separated out from everything else that was going on in the episode with the Arrow and everything else. One of our big goals in season 2 was to avoid those sort of separated off storylines.
The result is that maybe we haven’t had quite as much romance, but each episode has been better for not feeling so schizophrenic. It’s been better for not feeling like we were suddenly a different show when we got to the C story.
But for people that are fans of romance on the show, there is quite a bit of romance coming their way. The difference between this year and last year is that the romance will be integrated into the body of the series.
Nrama: Let's go for the immediate future to close out - what are you particularly excited for fans to see in the next episode, Tremors?
Guggenheim: A lot of real, big, seminal moments. We have the return of Bronze Tiger, we have the return of Malcom Merlyn’s earthquake machine. We have Roy working with the Arrow for the first time.
And then we have one nice little surprise for comic book fans that honestly, it’s such an applause-worthy kind of moment, I don’t want to spoil it. It involves two returning characters, and it’s not to be missed.
Nrama: Oh, I can’t wait. I loved that the earthquake machine had ties to Markov and thus Geo-Force and Terra!
Guggenheim: Oh, thank you, thank you! Originally we were going to call it the Geo-Force, I forget why we didn’t, but we had some good reason at the time. But yeah, it’s always fun for us to drop those nuggets. There are some more Geo-Force related easter eggs coming in upcoming episodes, in fact.