Spoiler Alert: Do not read on unless you've seen the Season 1 finale of "Arrow," titled "Sacrifice."
The shocking "Arrow' finale saw Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) make the ultimate sacrifice to save ex-girlfriend Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), ending the season with a heartbroken Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) mourning the death of his best friend as half of Starling city crumbled around him. So where does the hit CW show go in Season 2?
HuffPost TV spoke to executive producer Marc Guggenheim about the events of "Sacrifice" and the plans for Season 2, which will return to Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in October, per The CW's new 2013-2014 schedule.
Tommy was the one character who I absolutely wasn't worried for going into the finale -- so congratulations on totally shocking me.
Thank you! If Twitter is any indication, we managed to surprise a lot of people and that’s really hard to do in today’s day and age. It’s the internet and Andrew [Kreisberg] and I had both done a lot of pre-interviews and we had even spoiled the fact that someone would be dying and I’m really gratified that we were able to surprise people. It’s a very rare thing, so it’s been fun for me.
Is he really, 100 percent dead? No Lazarus Pits or "Buffy"-style misdirects where next season we'll open on a funeral and then he'll walk out completely fine?
The only thing I will say is what I said to Colin Donnell after he filmed his last scene, and that was, “I’m really glad this show does flashbacks.” But no, there will be no miraculous Lazarus Pit-like device. Poor Tommy’s gone, unfortunately.
How did you come to the decision that Tommy needed to be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice?
It was really hard. At the end of the day, it worked out for what we refer to as the creative map that, of all the characters, it’s Tommy’s death that impacts everybody. Obviously Oliver and Laurel the most, but even Thea [Willa Holland] because of their closeness and Moira [Susanna Thompson] because she’s now responsible for the death of Oliver’s best friend, and Lance [Paul Blackthorne], who knows that Laurel loves Tommy ... it’s the one character whose death impacts everybody. And that’s really what you’re looking to do. When you kill off a character, you’re closing off a variety of storylines because there’s no story to be told with that character, and the only reason to do it is to open up new storylines and more storylines by killing off a character than you have by keeping them alive. Tommy’s death will reverberate throughout the whole of Season 2, and there are even some things we have planned for the middle and end of Season 2 that would not be possible or wouldn’t have the same weight if Tommy had stayed alive.
I like that he was allowed to die a hero instead of going a Lex Luthor or Harry Osborn route as many were anticipating.
I think if you look back to even the pilot, one of our favorite tricks is to lean into what people expect and then do the opposite.
Oliver told Tommy that he didn't kill Malcolm (John Barrowman) -- was that an act of mercy in his final moments, telling him what he wanted to hear, or is Malcolm actually still around? Because he looked pretty down for the count.
That was 100 percent an act of mercy, that was him telling him what he wanted to hear, knowing that Tommy was gonna die. He definitely had to get some comeuppance for all the chaos he had wrought.
How will Tommy's death serve to motivate Oliver next season? After finding out Oliver's secret, Tommy really tried to hold Oliver accountable for killing people, so will that impact the way Oliver does things from this point on?
I don’t want to spoil too much about Season 2, but the whole of Season 2 is about Oliver changing the way he does things and you’ll hear us talk a lot about making the transition from vigilante to hero. That whole transition and evolution would not have happened but for Tommy’s death. It’s a huge part of Oliver’s drive and character arc for Season 2.
Tommy told Laurel that he loved her before he died -- I can't imagine that's something that she can easily get over, even now that she and Oliver are back on track. Will there be hesitation or guilt over their getting back together?
I don't want to say too much, but obviously Tommy’s death is going to have huge repercussions on what she thinks about Oliver, it’s going to have huge repercussions on what she thinks about The Arrow, it’s going to have huge repercussions on what she decides to do with her life, because obviously CNRI is gone. So Laurel stands at a crossroads and what she decides to do next is in large part because of what happened with Tommy. All of the characters will be dealing with Tommy’s death in their own way and they’ll be making some life decisions based upon that loss.
Roy (Colton Haynes) and Thea didn't actually manage to unmask The Hood this season, but we saw Roy saving people and being very heroic in the finale. Does he feel like he still needs The Hood or might he take matters into his own hands regardless and decide he doesn’t need a mentor?
All those questions are going to be answered in the early episodes of Season 2, that’s a big piece of the early going of Season 2.
Are you thinking that you might do a time-jump when you come back, or are you planning on picking up pretty much right where you left off?
We’ll probably do a time-jump only because one of the things we’ve tried to do over the course of Season 1, one of the rules we’ve had for ourselves is that we’ve played the passage of time between episodes as realistically as we can. For example, the gap between Episodes 9 and 10 was six weeks and we passed six weeks on the show. We’ll be looking to pass time, because we always want the episodes taking place around the same time they’re being aired. We will fill that passage of time but we are continuing to publish the "Arrow" digital comic through June and we’re gonna end Season 1 of the digital comics with a two-parter that takes place during the finale and in the time after the finale. Some stuff you otherwise wouldn’t get to see on television you will get to read about in the digital comic. [Look for the "Arrow" digital comic finale here on June 12.]
Do you still intend to tell the island storyline over a span of five seasons, or do you see yourselves accelerating it?
It’s still the plan to tell it over five years. The only thing that would cause us to recalculate that is … the show’s ratings could stay exactly the same; we could become an even bigger hit in Season 2 in which case we’d be like "maybe we’ll last longer than five years!" or we could totally tank and be like "oh my god, are we gonna get cancelled after two years?" So you’ve got to leave yourself open in terms of what the long term prospects of the show are, but so far, there’s nothing in our ratings that has us second-guessing the plan to go for five years for the flashbacks.
What was the biggest lesson you learned over the course of Season 1?
There were so many lessons. When we did Episodes 7 and 8 without the flashbacks ... I think we thought the show could sustain itself without the flashbacks, and some people consider the two-parter some of our strongest episodes, but my personal feeling and I think Andrew and Greg [Berlanti] feel the same way, is the show is just so much more resonant and so much more interesting and three-dimensional with the flashbacks, so one of our biggest lessons was have the flashbacks in every episode. Another huge lesson was have the opening moments of an episode be action-packed or very suspenseful -- open strong, that was another big lesson for us. And finally, we went in with this plan of "we’re gonna tell a lot of story and we’re gonna burn through plot very quickly and there’ll be development after development after development," and I think that resonated with the audience, so that was less of a lesson and more that we were very gratified to see that that instinct paid off.
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