If you haven’t been watching The CW’s Arrow, then we have just one thing to say — this fall is the perfect time to start.
The Green Arrow-based DC series isn’t just one of the best comic-book adaptations on television, it’s one of the best genre shows on the air. Period. It takes the comic canon seriously, tells compelling stories and isn’t afraid to take some risks.
It’s because of all those things that there’s a boatload of awesome stuff to know as we barrel toward the Oct. 8 premiere date. Suit up and take aim — it’s time to take a trip to Starling City.
Arrow’s backstory: The island, back to Starling City and Deathstroke
The series is a fairly faithful adaptation of the Green Arrow comic story, and it hits most of the high points with some nice twists along the way. Basically, a rich playboy named Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) takes off on a yacht with his dad and his girlfriend’s sister (you read that right), when the ship crashes and almost everyone dies (or so it seems).
Oliver makes it to the shore of a nearby island and hooks up with some rebels fighting against a paramilitary group controlling the area. It’s here where his training begins, and though we don’t know all the details of what happened during that missing era, Oliver eventually finds his way to rescue and makes it home to Starling City. But he returns a changed man.
The mission: It turns out Oliver’s father survived the boat crash for a while and sacrificed himself so Oliver could live, but not before charging his son with righting his wrongs — many of which revolved around his shady schemes with Malcolm Merlyn/The Dark Archer (John Barrowman). So Oliver adopts the secret identity of a hooded vigilante eventually dubbed the Arrow and starts cleaning up the city.
Loss of a friend: Along the way, he eventually faces off with the Dark Archer but fails to stop his scheme to blow up half the city. Thousands die, including Merlyn’s son and Oliver’s best friend, Tommy Merlyn. It was a gutsy move for a season finale, with the hero basically losing (though he did win the fight with the Dark Archer, after which the baddie vanished). Tommy's death also inspires Arrow to stop killing. The aftermath of the attack on the Glades is felt for much of the second season, especially after the Queen family’s connection to the conspiracy is revealed and Oliver’s mother is briefly jailed.
Season two found Oliver taking a more active role in his family’s company Queen Consolidated, though that didn’t turn out so well once he eventually lost the company after passing over control to a sleeper baddie in Summer Glau’s (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) Isabel Rochev. Season two also gave us a bit of origin story for Colton Haynes’ Roy Harper/Arsenal, who helps out the team after being infected himself briefly with Mirakuru super-soldier juice.
Canary: Oh, and remember the young lady who accompanied Oliver on the yacht, aka his girlfriend’s sister, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz)? Well, she survived and eventually made her way over to the League of Assassins, where she trained to kick a whole lot of butt. She makes her way back to Starling City to help out Team Arrow, gets a release from the League of Assassins and has a fling with Oliver. She’s set to recur in season three as well.
All about Deathstroke: But the real story of season two was Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson/Deathstroke. Oliver spent some time with Slade and Selina Jade’s Shado while on the island, with both men developing strong feelings for Shado. But Shado is killed in a contrived circumstance that can kinda/sorta be blamed on Oliver, and Slade is out for blood. Too bad for Oliver, they shot Slade up with Mirakuru super-soldier serum in an effort to save his life, which turned him into a full-on psycho whose only goal is to make Oliver suffer.
Jump to the present day, and Slade shows up in modern-day Starling City looking for revenge, but before he goes after Oliver directly, he decides to wreak some havoc on his family and friends. He murders Oliver’s mother, turns Oliver’s sister Thea (Willa Holland) against him and tells his one-time lover/friend/assistant district attorney Laurel (Katie Cassidy) about his secret identity.
The big finale: Then Deathstroke juices up his own soldiers for a full-on assault on Starling City, which causes quite a bit of havoc until Team Arrow finally takes down the threat and captures Slade, who is turned over to ARGUS (aka DC’s version of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and locked up.
But don’t think that means everything is wrapped up with a bow. Thea disappeared with her secret father Malcolm Merlyn, who it turns out was not killed in that final battle with Arrow last season. Oh, and since he signed away the company, Oliver is officially broke now. Then, on the flashback front, Oliver finally made it off the island — only to land himself in Hong Kong as part of some mysterious deal with ARGUS.
Phew. See, we told you a lot happened those first two seasons.
What comes next: Being broke, crossovers and the soapy stuff
Luckily for us, despite the fact that so much has happened up to this point, there are still a ton of stories left to tell. Judging by everything we know about season three, it could be the best yet.
Crossovers: One big arc we expect to see this year is some nifty crossover action with new CW superhero series The Flash, which is actually a spinoff of Arrow. We know they’re cooking up some crossovers, including a big two-parter that could reportedly pit the two heroes against one another on opposite sides of a case. Can’t wait for Batman v Superman? Maybe this will wet our whistles in the meantime.
Olicity?: For fans of the soaper side of the series, one big storyline they’re teasing hot and heavy is the relationship potential for Oliver and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), who has become an integral part of the team and one of the leading love interests — even beating out Oliver’s “true love” (at least according to the comics) Laurel for some fans.
We’ve already heard the two will share a date, and Amell has teased that Oliver has one woman this year: “That woman is Felicity.” Producer Greg Berlanti said they definitely plan to address Oliver’s confession of his feelings to Felicity at the end of last season, which was partially used to set her up as bait for Deathstroke (though it still felt true):
“None of us like to throw stuff out there and then not deal with it in some way. It doesn't mean it occupies the story and that's all we deal with, but you want to be fair to the audience. [That’s] something that we've been working toward and building toward since she first showed up on the show. We deal with it head-on in the premiere, but there aren't a lot of superheroes who are married. It's more that we're dealing with the finale than we are with them.”
They also have to address the fact that Team Arrow is now operating on a very tight budget. The deep coffers of the Queen fortune are long gone, and Arrow is now the (very) poor man’s Batman. Amell teased that that story is definitely one they’ll be following, noting: “Being broke is interesting until it's not.”
Daddy Diggle: The final arc of season two had Diggle learning he would be a father, and co-star David Ramsey (Diggle) revealed that storyline will play out in season three as it tests his dynamic within Team Arrow. It turns out Oliver will have some reservations about risking the life of his crime-fighting partner now that he knows there’s a kiddo in the mix:
“I always joke that he’s going to have a Bjorn and a Glock. Oliver is really going to have a problem with the idea that this guy’s a father and he’s risking his life everyday. Diggle has always been the voice of reason. We’ll see what all of that means to the team.”
The Suicide Squad is back: More than just about any other comic-based show out there, Arrow has done one heck of a good job digging into the comic-book lore to enrich the series as a whole. One little corner we’re dying to see explored deeper? The Suicide Squad, a team of mercenaries and killers run by ARGUS for black ops. They’ve joined up with Team Arrow before, and the producers promise they’ll be back soon — and might even have a few new members this time around.
The Atom and a ton of DC baddies
Considering they used Arrow to launch this year’s Flash series with an extended cameo for Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), it’s no surprise the series makes excellent use of its DC license. They’ve introduced a boatload of comic-based heroes and villains over the first two seasons, and they show no signs of slowing down.
A Batman heavy: Arguably the biggest addition for year three? Legendary Batman villain Ra’s al Ghul, who’ll be played by Matt Nable (Riddick). They’ve been flirting with Ra’s for a year or so now, and we’ve already met one of his daughters — and former pupil in Malcolm Merlyn. If you’re looking for a way to top Deathstroke, this is about the only character who comes to mind as an obvious contender. Seriously, where will they go next year? Brainiac? (We kid. Probably.)
The writers have done an excellent job of upping the stakes year to year, and Ra’s al Ghul is easily the biggest name they’ve featured to date. Seriously, this is one of Batman’s top nemeses. It should be absolutely insane to see him face off with Arrow this season, and he’s more than formidable to do some damage. But don’t think he’s only there for shock value. Berlanti notes Ra’s will be used to reflect the types of stories they tell this year:
“We try with the big bads to make every season feel different and for them to be reflective of what we want to put the hero through and characters through.”
The Atom: But don’t think the baddies are getting all the buzz this year. The writers are also adding former Superman Returns star Brandon Routh as Ray Palmer/The Atom, an established hero in the DC comic canon. Routh has already hinted he’ll be suiting up at some point, but in the meantime, Routh will be kicking around Starling City as the new head of Queen Consolidated. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he also has a thing for Felicity. As Berlanti explains:
“We kind of had John Wayne with Oliver, that kind of essence, and we wanted Cary Grant … This IT girl (Felicity) that went from being IT girl to being the assistant to the chairman of the company, and he’s particularly interested in her rise.”
Arsenal: Part-time hero Roy Harper will also make his full-time transition to bona fide hero as Arsenal. It seems the writers will use the time jump between last season and this year to help set up his masked emergence as a hero alongside Arrow, and Amell has teased that Arsenal’s introduction, along with The Flash, could be the first step toward a small-screen version of their own Justice League:
"We are creating a Justice League on TV for us. I don't think there is a logistical reality to us participating in the feature side. That being said, I never wanted to have to feel like the show was justified, just because we participated in the movie. I don't think my character would participate on the cinematic side. What's that saying? Is it six seasons and a movie? Our show right now has me, Arsenal, Flash. There's going to be Firestorm (on The Flash) and Atom. The Justice League elements of it are very present on our shows ['Arrow' and 'The Flash'] already."
A few other folks: Season three will also bring Mark Shaw/Manhunter, played by David Cubitt (Medium). He’ll apparently be an ARGUS agent with a strong connection to Diggle. In the comics, he also has a connection to the Suicide Squad. Hmm.
They’ll also be adding DC character Ted “Wildcat” Grant, a DC character who will run a gym in Starling City for underprivileged youth. It’s hinted that he could be Laurel’s trainer as she potentially starts the transition to take the reins as Canary. Maybe.
Fans of The Wolverine will likely recognize Rila Fukushima as new addition Tatsu Yamashiro/Katana, a skilled martial artist character who first appeared in DC’s Green Arrow origin comic. On Arrow, she’ll play a key role in the Hong Kong flashbacks as one of Oliver’s mentors who has a “critical influence” on his journey to become a hero.
Back to the baddies: Back to the rogues gallery side of things, the series has cast Nick Tarabay (Star Trek Into Darkness) as Digger Harkness/Captain Boomerang, a recurring Flash villain from the comics. In the comics he’s portrayed as a baddie with deadly boomerangs. On Arrow, he’ll be a former ARGUS operative who is highly skilled in martial arts and espionage with a bone to pick with his former employer. Hmm, could he be a potential Suicide Squad member, too, you think?
DC comic baddie Simon Lacroix/Komodo will also pop up this season, portrayed by Matt Ward (Tron: Legacy). In the comics, Komodo is an archer who pops up in Green Arrow’s rogues gallery. On the series, he’ll be a mercenary who comes to Starling City to cause a boatload of trouble.