The CW's Arrow started its seventh season opened with Oliver Queen locked up in Slabside Prison for his crimes as a superhero. His plan: to lay low and serve his sentence peacefully. A series of unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate, events never allowed that to happened.
That storyline finally culminated in last night's "The Slabside Redemption," in which the highly-anticipated and brutal rematch between Oliver and crime lord Ricardo Diaz took place. In the end, Oliver walked out of there a free man with Diaz behind bars… for now.
Earlier in November, Stephen Amell sat down with the press, including SYFY WIRE, to discuss how prison life has changed Oliver, whether he'll return to his old vigilante ways, his reunion with Felicity and the physicality of those intense prison brawls.
The action this season has been ramped up to a whole other level, especially with that shower fight scene. Then, episode seven was basically a small action movie. Can you talk about what it's been like for you?
It's been great. The shower fight scene, that was obviously in the first episode of the season, and it's not often that we get an opportunity to do something like that. This was obviously incredibly unique in so far as we've had a couple of fights in the history of the show that we can't double me, not that we do it a ton, but this obviously had to be... We didn't use a body double or anything like that.
Episode 7, they just turned the stunt department loose. It was the shortest script that I've ever read because it had such little stage direction in it. It was basically Beth going to James Bamford and saying, "This is the throughline of what happens to Oliver from start to finish. Do what you can in the time that you have. Go." There's some specific stuff like Stanley gets Oliver with a needle and Oliver's tied up or whatever, but all that choreography, that was something that the stunt department really excelled in.
Are we going to see a definitive change from Oliver after he's released from prison and sort of his personality and how he adjusts to being on the outside again?
Yeah. I spent a lot of time talking with Beth [Shwartz] about Oliver when he gets out because I felt like in the first episode this year, we were really trying to charge ahead with a lot of cool new ideas, but it didn't necessarily lend the proper weight to what happened at the end of season six in an episode that's titled "Life Sentence." The first episode of Season 7 ["Inmate"] focused a lot on Oliver focusing on good behaviors so that he could get released, and I was like, "Well, I mean, one way or the other, he's been in there for five, seven months, whatever the case may be. He's got at least 14, 15 to go if he has good behavior."
So, we changed the focus a little bit. Same thing happened when I read episode eight ["Unmasked"]. I know they wanted Oliver back in the world, and he is and in a new and exciting way. Concurrently, it felt like we were treating my experience at Slabside like I spent a night in county jail. In actuality, even for Oliver, it was a pretty horrific experience.
So, I did want a change in him. I wanted a change in him in the way that he interacts with people, with the public, and even so far as his wardrobe. I went to Maya [Mani], and I'm like, "Oliver's in his mid-30s, he's a former politician. I want him to dress a little bit more like he used to dress for Sunday brunch at the Queen mansion." Waspy is the wrong word, but it's not totally the wrong word. But that's not what we were going for.
In the first episode that I'm out, we had him going to a gala, and I was in sort of the same suit that I would wear as the mayor. I didn't like that. So we pushed that in a different direction, and part of the fun of this year is I've pitched a bunch of stuff, and not the opening scene of Episode 8, but the first time that you see Oliver, we came up with a really interesting way I think of showing what prison life did to him without really bashing people over the head with it.
How does he see his role as the protector of the city now that he's out and there's this new Green Arrow?
Well, he runs into the new Green Arrow, or runs into the new Green Arrow's exploits pretty quickly. But, coming out of prison, he gets asked that specific question very early on, like, "What are you going to do?" and he says, "I'm going to try and do what you guys did, which is just find a different way to help the city." We come up with that idea pretty quickly, but I think one of the fun things is it's not Oliver who comes up with it.
Oliver decides to leave Diaz alive at the end when he leaves prison, so will he come to regret that decision and will that decision influence his relationship with Felicity when he gets back?
His decision to leave Diaz alive will not influence his relationship with Felicity, but I think it's going to have an incredibly impactful moment on another person that he's very close with. I don't know if he'll come to regret the decision, actually. Probably. Maybe that's part of the new Oliver post-prison, is those are the decisions that he has to live with, even if ultimately the best thing to do would've been to not leave him alive. We shall see.
For those who haven't seen it, can you preview a little bit about Oliver and Felicity's reunion? And how is Oliver going to react or reconcile to this new version of Felicity, this little darker side of her?
Wow, we have some really fantastic scenes in [Episode] 8. Obviously, we see each other for the first time at the end of [Episode] 7, but then pretty quickly, I learn that a lot of the stuff that Diaz was saying about Felicity is true. I thought the way that we worked it out – and we do work it out pretty quickly – we come to an understanding that nothing's ever going to be perfect.
One of the other things that we talked about a lot is Oliver can't live in a normal apartment building anymore, right? I thought that they should militarize the Queen mansion. I got shot down. I think we could afford to do that. But nothing's ever going to be perfect or normal about our relationship, and I think that the sooner that the two of them accept that, the sooner that they can move on with their lives.
The horrible things that happened on Level Two as far as brainwashing Oliver or conditioning you or whatever to break your cycle of violence, do you think that's ultimately going to be a positive for Oliver going forward?
Absolutely. It teaches him a lesson. I think that the person who was trying to teach him that didn't use the most nice tactics to get him there. So, I think that the answer's a little less black and white. But it definitely teaches him something and it's addressed, I think, in the first episode after he leaves prison and sort of what his new mantra is going to be if, and when, he puts the suit back on.