Stephen Amell’s TV show, “Arrow” is in its third season, while the comic book spinoff from “Arrow,” “The Flash” is setting ratings records for The CW. Amell’s fans have also lobbied for him to play Green Arrow in DC’s upcoming Justice League film.
The actor talked with Speakeasy about life as a comic book icon.
We are now 50 episodes into Arrow’s run. Given such a momentous occasion, I decided to rewatch the pilot before tonight’s episode and was surprised by the parallels between the pilot and tonight’s episode. For one, tonight’s episode does remind us of how much Arrow resembles Batman. Secondly, tonight’s episode does contain a homecoming—that of Thea’s, who, like Oliver when he returned from an island, is hiding something. Lastly, Laurel is still angry over Sara’s death. Yet, with all of these similarities, it’s still clear just how far Arrow has come; Laurel is moving away from being a problem-character, CW’s patented soap opera storylines have receded to the background, and while the presence of the League of Assassins may remind us of Batman, it doesn’t work against the show because in the past two years Arrow has really come into its own.
With strong performances for nearly the entire cast, “The Magician” is a strong episode that, through the returns of Nyssa al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn, takes advantage of the rich world Arrow has built in the past two years, while also giving this season the dramatic kick it needed.
FLASHBACKS – HONG KONG
Let’s just get the flashbacks out of the way really quickly and get to the good stuff!
Malcolm Merlyn is returning to the scene of his most horrendous and heinous crime: Starling City.
The season-one big bad left the town behind after Moira (Susanna Thompson) relayed word back to League of Assassins leader Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) that Malcolm (John Barrowman) had, in fact, survived the Undertaking—the very event that violated the League’s code of honor, making him an enemy to Ra’s. But he’ll return during Wednesday’s episode of Arrow, and it won’t be long before Oliver (Stephen Amell) discovers that the Dark Archer is still alive. It should come as no surprise that Oliver suspects Malcolm had a hand in Sara’s (Caity Lotz) death.
“Episode four is really a referendum on whether or not Malcolm Merlyn lives and it’s a choice that Oliver gets to make,” Amell tells EW from the Vancouver set. “We get to see how much he follows his moral compass in episode four. There are things that Oliver blames Malcolm for that extend far beyond the fact that he may or may not have killed Sara. You get back to Tommy [Colin Donnell] and the whole chain of events that devastated Starling City. He’s really at the center of everything that’s happened that’s bad on the show since its inception.”
Malcolm’s return to Starling also coincides with Nyssa (Katrina Law) coming to town to find out what happened to Sara. “Oliver and Nyssa disagree about their tactics, but when she returns to Starling City, they very much have a common goal, and that’s to find whoever killed Sara Lance,” Amell says. “How Nyssa and Oliver are dealing with Malcolm and want to deal with Malcolm, that’s where they come to blows in the episode.”
“Everything that’s happening with Sara and Nyssa’s involvement is all leading to a much bigger conflict which is really the crux of our first nine episodes,” Amell continues. “By the end of episode four, there is a ticking time bomb in the form of the League of Assassins that is over Oliver’s head. Oliver is so protective of his process and his city that by the end of episode four, he makes enemies with the League.”
Another challenge that comes with Malcolm’s arrival is keeping his pledge to be honest with Thea (Willa Holland). “When Oliver learns that Malcolm is alive, one of the people he has to tell is Thea and that certainly creates some tension,” Amell says, noting that Ollie is unaware that his sister not only knows that information already, but she’s been under his tutelage for the last several months. “If that happens, that’s a ways down the road.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
Arrow had quite a few balls in the air tonight. In addition to Oliver, Roy, and Diggle’s trip to Corto Maltese to bring Thea back and track down a missing a A.R.G.U.S. agent, there was also movement forward with Laurel’s storyline and Felicity and Ray’s new working relationship. With so much going on in tonight’s episode, it’s should come as no surprise that some things didn’t work as well as others. But that’s okay because while the A.R.G.U.S. plotline felt rushed and rather underwhelming, the episode took its time developing Laurel’s subplot, which was both compelling and poignant.
FLASHBACK — Thea and Malcolm
Last season was tough on Thea. Not only did her mother die, but she found out that her brother, Oliver, and her boyfriend, Roy, were constantly lying to her and keeping secrets from her. This is where her mind’s at in the opening scene, a flashback to her getting into Malcolm Merlyn’s limo the day after Slade’s siege on Starling City. Thea tells Merlyn that she wants to go away with him because she believes he’s the one who can teach her how to never feel this kind of pain again—the pain that comes with betrayal and loss.
Later, we are shown Thea’s first day of training under Malcolm’s tutelage. Her first lesson: learning that while pain may be inevitable, suffering from it is optional. Malcolm demonstrates this truth by pouring boiling water on his hand without flinching. To Thea’s horror, he then takes her hand and proceeds to pour hot water on it.
What’s left of the Queen family will be reunited this week as Oliver (Stephen Amell) travels to Corto Maltese—also the name of Wednesday’s Arrow episode—to track down his missing sister, Thea (Willa Holland). The youngest Queen heir left Starling City at the close of season 2 with her real father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), otherwise known as the Dark Archer, Ollie’s sworn enemy whom he believes to be dead.
Joined by Diggle (David Ramsey) and Roy (Colton Haynes), Oliver sets his sights on being open with his sister in hopes of bringing her home. “They didn’t end off on a very good note, but if you remember they had that scene in the mansion in the aftermath of Moira’s [Susanna Thompson] death,” Amell tells EW from the Vancouver set. “Oliver was pretty open and honest and loving towards his sister. She took that with her. There isn’t a huge amount of residual bitterness, which is surprising because of how cataclysmic the events were the last time that they saw one another. Their dynamic is always going to be big brother-little sister, but Oliver is very much dealing with Thea on an equal playing field and trying to be as honest with her as possible. How honest he’s going to be is really the crux of the episode.”
Unfortunately, Thea won’t afford him that same level of honesty. Amell teases that Oliver is still unaware of Malcolm’s involvement in Thea’s life—let alone that evil daddy dearest has been training his little sis into a formidable fighter. “He doesn’t know where she’s been,” Amell says. “He doesn’t know who she’s been with. He comes out of this episode not really knowing or understanding what she’s been up to, despite the fact that he’s found her. He just wants her to come home, that’s it.”
There is a slight sense that something is amiss, but Team Arrow’s focus will be elsewhere as Diggle is enlisted to help A.R.G.U.S. track down Mark Shaw (David Cubitt) in Corto Maltese. “Diggle’s there at the behest of Lyla [Audrey Marie Anderson],” Ramsey says. “She asks him to go there to find an A.R.G.U.S. agent, who could have gone rogue, but has certainly gone of the grid. There are some dealings that he has that threatens A.R.G.U.S. and his family, so he has a vested interest in getting to the bottom of it.”
Meanwhile, back in Starling City, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) will be taking up her new position under Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh)—but fear not, she’s still on Team Arrow. “She’s very exhausted with her dual jobs, almost dual personality, too,” Rickards says. “She’s been promoted to an executive assistant position there. She gets to work with Mr. Hunk. It’s been pretty flirty. Their IQs are accentuated by each other. He’s very brilliant and sort of awkward, but he’s running a business, so he’s a go-getter. She’s definitely an asset to him. They balance each other out, but also bring each other up with their IQs.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.
This past Friday, I was among a group of journalists who had the opportunity to visit the Vancouver sets of both Arrow and The Flash. With Arrow going strong in Season 3 and The Flash bringing in impressive ratings in its first two weeks, excitement is growing for the big crossover storyline the shows have coming up, in the eighth episode of each show this season.
During our visits to the sets, we spoke to both Stephen Amell (“Oliver Queen” / “Arrow”) and Grant Gustin (“Barry Allen” / “The Flash”) about what to expect when the heroes of Starling City and Central City come together.
Said Gustin, “I was talking about this yesterday with a friend; about how Oliver and Barry are so different and me and Stephen are just really different. We really get along outside of work and it’s been fun to show Barry and Oliver kind of butting heads. We’re seeing them learn how to work together, but it’s really funny because they’re so different and the conversations they have are hilarious.”
It’s been said that a really big moment will occur for Oliver Queen / Arrow during the crossover storyline, but specifically on The Flash episode of the storyline. Asked about this, Amell nodded and revealed, “It’s my idea. I can’t tell you anything about it other than it relates to Central City. When I saw it in the Flash script, it ended up being really actually quite gratifying. First of all, when I say it was my idea, everyone has ideas all the time. It all goes into a melting pot. I just thought it would be a cool idea. I thought it would be a cool idea for The Flash. It ended up being a cool idea that we were able to utilize me for because we were doing a crossover with The Flash. So it was very professionally gratifying.”
Death is a natural part of any superhero story. It’s something every hero must deal with, and no one knows that better than Oliver, who has watched his best friend and mother die in the past two years. In the wake of those deaths, Oliver lost confidence in his mission and sought isolation from the world to grieve alone. Thankfully, tonight’s episode does not retread old plot points, and, instead, we start to see how Sara’s death will force our characters to make decisions about what they want their lives to be. While, “Sara” might not be as poignant as last season’s “City of Blood,” it still does a decent job of handling Sara’s death.
The episode opens with Oliver, Felicity, and Roy are arguing about something as they enter the Arrow Cave, but their conversation is interrupted when they find Laurel standing over Sara’s dead body on the table. Because of Sara’s vigilante alter-ego, Laurel didn’t know where else to go and couldn’t stand to leave Sara’s body lying in the street, so she brought it to Verdant. Everyone reacts as you’d expect: Felicity starts rambling, while Oliver and Roy remain silent.
As EW’s Natalie Abrams reminded us in her handy-dandy round-up of the 33 spoilers for Arrow’s new season, this season’s theme is identity—and everyone is in on it. Arrow has never been one for subtly when it comes to its thematic material—and there’s nothing wrong with that—so, we shouldn’t be surprised that the theme of identity is all over Arrow’s cleverly titled third season opener “The Calm.” From Oliver trying to figure out if there’s room for him to be Oliver Queen to Detective Quentin Lance dealing with circumstances that challenge how he defines himself, all of our characters are using the calm after last season’s epic finale to decide who they want to be. (Even Starling City itself gets in on the thematic action.) Something happens at the end of the hour that has repercussions for everyone and will definitely redefine how one person conceives of his place in the world.
STARLING CITY — PRESENT DAY
Villain of the week: The New Count Vertigo
After HBO’s Game of Thrones, the CW’s Arrow is the master of action sequences, and the fast-paced one that opens tonight’s episode is a great reminder. It’s clear from the ease with which Team Arrow carries out its operation in the fast-paced cold open that, since last season ended, they’ve become a well-oiled machine; everyone has their tasks and executes them perfectly: Felicity is monitoring communications back at HQ, Diggle is in charge of securing a shipment of black market weapons, and Oliver and Roy—who flips onto the scene debuting his new Arsenal costume—handle the bad guys. An underlying sense of calm that wasn’t in the Team before could be detected in the opening mission, signaling that they’ve finally got this crime-fighting business down.
On the Vancouver set of Arrow, during an uncharacteristically sweltering August day in the usually cool city, Stephen Amell was bewigged. The star of Arrow was shooting a scene set in Hong Kong, where Oliver landed in the Season 2 finale, finally sprung from the island where he had been captive in flashbacks during the show’s first two seasons. As a present-day billionaire superhero, Oliver veers between his (green) Arrow costume and designer suits, with a cropped haircut that matches his grown-up rich-kid station (despite some current financial problems). In flashbacks, however, Ollie is often dirty, bedraggled, and shaggy. Amell apologized for his appearance, and told a story about going home in the middle of a workday — while still in flashback costume — to say hello to his wife and baby daughter, and how he ended up terrifying his child. In a flattened tone, Amell said, “I hate it.”
Too bad. Because the nature of Arrow is that Amell, 33, plays multitudes. He is the Oliver Queen who is a Starling City socialite returned from the dead two years before; he is the Arrow, who was fueled by rage upon his return to the world, but now seeks justice and aspires to heroism; he is the Oliver of the flashbacks, who has had to transform from a hapless prisoner to a shrewd, hardened ass-kicker; and in wayback flashbacks, he’s Ollie the playboy douche. And within all of those personas, Oliver is keeping secrets, calculating his future moves, and trying to remain a human being.
Andrew Kreisberg, who developed Arrow with Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim, said to BuzzFeed News: “We always say, every week we’re trying to make a movie. And that wouldn’t work if we didn’t have a movie star in the lead.”
Question: The wait for Arrow‘s return feels almost cruel. Can you give us an Olicity morsel to help dull the pain until Wednesday’s premiere?! —Sophia
Ausiello:Due to the events of the season premiere — some of which are expected, and some of which are not — Oliver and Felicity’s “relationship is going to take ups and downs and twists and turns,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim teases. “I think part of the fun — or agony — of watching these two people is they’re together, they’re apart, they’re together, they’re apart. We’ll see what the future holds for them.”