Arrow showrunner Marc Guggenheim both giveth and bloweth up.
After an entire season of dark turns in which Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) has appeared to die, then break bad, and his friends have been kidnapped, poisoned, or murdered, Guggenheim admits he has been nuking the show lately, and will take it even further in tonight's season finale on The CW.
But just as he approaches the Season 3 finale as a series finale, tees up Season 4, and closes the chapter on the first big arc of Ollie Queen/The Vigilante/The Arrow -- and possibly future Green Arrow – Guggenheim is also creating a new hero for comic book fans: Jonas Quantum. An episodic Legendary Comics sci-fi title from Guggenheim and artist Freddie Williams II, The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum is set to debut this September. A creator-owned book, it is the story of a hyper-intelligent hero (shown here in all his super splendor) who can do everything from "cure" death to time travel and slip through wormholes, but his real challenge might be going on a date.
Guggenheim joined me via phone to tease –- a lot. In the following conversation he discusses tonight's finale, and reveals that someone will die, just as a new threat will emerge. He also provides insight as to why a show needs to be blown up on occasion, as Arrow will. Additionally, we address the Arrow/Constantine talk that was sparked following Stephen Amell's recent comic con appearance in Philadelphia, and explore how a character such as Jonas Quantum can be so smart without being a time-traveling jerk.
Would it be accurate to say the finale is wrapping up the first big arc of Oliver Queen, which has played out over three seasons?
I think that's exactly right. The season finale feels like a series finale, in the best possible way. It definitely feels like we're closing a chapter, for sure.
In the teaser for tonight's episode, Stephen Amell delivers the line, "I am Oliver Queen," but can he be Ollie after he's scorched the earth so much?
That's the big question posed by the finale. I don't want to spoil it, but we basically nuked the show in the past few episodes, and the finale goes a little further. People have been asking how the show can go on after the events of Season 3, and they're going to continue to ask that question. I don't think it's a traditional cliffhanger, but that's the feeling people will have at the end of the finale: How is this possible to continue?
But why nuke a show that's been doing well with its previous structure?
It is a couple reasons. For a show to have legs, it has to constantly evolve and change. It can't become formulaic. Some of my favorite shows, mostly on cable in this regard – like the revised Battlestar Galactica, Nip/Tuck, Breaking Bad – these are all shows I remember numerous times I'd watch a finale and go, "Oh my god, they blew the show up!" How could the show possibly go on, then the show reconstitutes itself and becomes even better or stronger than before. I feel like, with Arrow, we're following that time-honored tradition. What is unusual about it is we're doing it on a network show rather than a cable one.
I am a guy who might be causing you a headache right now because I hosted the Stephen Amell panel at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, which has been getting buzz because we spoke about a Constantine crossover. But Amell also said he'd love to take on the lighter nature of the comic book Green Arrow. Will we get there, and will he be known as the Green Arrow at some point?
To the first part of your question, I don't know. And to the second part, I don't want to say. I will say we definitely want to continue to evolve the character. We always say the show is a little like Batman Begins. It is a process of evolution, and a bit of an origin story in that respect. There is a reason he's Arrow and not Green Arrow. That said, there is a desire on all our parts to lighten the tone a bit in Season 4. Season 3 started with Sarah's death, and that set the tone for the rest of the season. Without turning the show into something it's not, we'd like to give it a bit of a lighter tone.
Amell revealed he wanted to bring Matt Ryan's Constantine into the Arrow-verse, and even wanted to use him as an expert on the Lazarus Pits. Is this something you will pursue since the future of the show Constantine is still uncertain?
I think it is certainly a possibility. If you were to say to me, "Hey, do you want to do Constantine but ignore the Constantine show?" Part of my interest level would go down to just bringing in a different actor with a different take. But let's see where the dust settles with Constantine, the show. Hopefully, things will work out in a way that we can realistically talk about a crossover or some kind of acknowledgement of the other show. It is a weird period right now, because the show is in limbo right now, and I think we all need a little more clarity on it.
With lighter characters –- like Barry Allen or Ray Palmer, who is moving on to the Legends of Tomorrow series -- being around less, does the Arrow-verse run the risk of becoming darker?
No, but we're definitely cognizant of Barry being a limited participant of Arrow and Ray moving off to the spinoff, what that does to the overall tone of the show. We're making adjustments.
What can you tease for the finale?
Someone is going to die. I would say it is a pretty epic finale, and a lot of questions get answered. A lot of stuff gets teed up, and it's our most emotional season finale. There is a lot more character work going on in this finale then there has been in seasons past.
Will Season 4 have another big villain and arc, or be a series of smaller self-contained stories?
We'll always do a big bad, and we have a game plan.
With The Infinite Adventures of Jonas Quantum, he's described as a hyper intelligent, time-and-space traveling hero who can cure death. What more can you tell us about him?
His intellect is his super power and kryptonite. From a very early age, he was the smartest person on the planet, so he had a difficult time relating to other humans. He is a very intellectual person, but as a result, not a very emotional one. Consequently, he has a difficult time relating to others. He is not a misanthrope, but will go out on a date and have absolutely no idea how to behave or what to say, because his mind is moving at a hundred billion miles an hour. It is impossible to find someone who operates on his speed.
There is a long tradition of characters in genre, such as The Doctor from Doctor Who, who are incredibly intelligent, but incredibly arrogant. Is that a natural consequence for a character that is super-smart?
It is a good question. I have tried really hard to avoid that arrogant stereotype. I tried to write Jonas to be humble. Unlike a lot of these super brilliant guys, especially in comics, he is not a d***. He is just a little socially arrested. That doesn't manifest itself with him treating people badly, it manifests in not being able to talk to others or relate to others. Hopefully, he is a bit more sympathetic than the super-intellect cliche.
After operating in the continuity-heavy Marvel and DC universes, do you enjoy play in a separate sandbox?
I bounce back and forth between creator-owned stuff, and DC and Marvel. I feel like there are pros and cons. I love working in the Marvel and DC universes that are so built out, and have such a deep bench of mythology and characters to choose from. At the same time, it is nice to work on the other side of the street and enjoy that everything is brand new. I am definitely someone who enjoys both sides of the coin. And Jonas is an enormous amount of fun that each issue is not limited by anything. It is something I'm trying to make part and parcel of the book to keep pushing myself and try newer, crazier ideas, and not be limited by even my own imagination.
This is an open-ended series, so will you be treating each issue as a separate story, or building up a larger arc?
Each issue is going to be self-contained, so each will tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end. That is exciting for me. There are a couple notions for what Jonas' last adventure will be, but hopefully that's very far off in the future. For the time being, it will not be a very serialized series, and each issue will be its own adventure in keeping with the title. Perhaps over time we'll build out that mythology and complicate it, but for the time being, the fun for me as a writer is telling these individual, episodic stories instead of a one long arc.
What are the challenges for you in writing for time travel?
The biggest challenge with the series is having a character only limited by his own imagination. It pushes you to push your imagination because Jonas is a much smarter guy than I am. But with time travel, how do you present that concept in a way you've not seen multiple times. That's a fun challenge for me.