Now that The CW's Arrow has used its mid-season break to remind everyone that there really is nothing else like watching comic book characters recreated on screen, the minds behind the show are getting ready to take things to bigger and better places. Not that Oliver Queen will see it that way.
The first half of the Green Arrow TV series brought some familiar faces to DC Comics fans, but the upcoming episodes will not only bring a return visit from Huntress, but an introduction of Roy Harper, AKA Red Arrow. The latest promotional images imply - and executive producer Marc Guggenheim confirms - that Oliver's toughest challenges lie ahead.
The Arrow mid-season finale saw Ollie come face-to-face with his most potent nemesis so far: the Dark Archer. The physical match led to a memorable fight scene (for both viewers and the pair of archers) - but by now, it's beginning to seem like every problem or challenge Oliver will encounter will be won or lost with his fighting skills or aim with a bow. It's a pattern that could get old.
In an interview with Examiner, Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim promised that where villains are concerned, fans haven't seen anything yet:
"I personally subscribe to the philosophy of ‘the more formidable the adversary, the more heroic The Arrow...I think part of the strategy is to just lean into it; you just write yourself into a corner and create a villain who can do almost anything, and you can sort of see what Oliver does to get himself out of it. But the other piece of the puzzle, and something I think you’ll see a lot of in the second half of the season, we really mix up the kind of villains he’s going after."
That kind of dedication and versatility will put Oliver's years of island-survival to the test: a trial by fire that viewers have yet to fully witness. While previous episodes have shown Oliver to be soft and co-dependent on his mysterious master, the newest official images for Episode 11, "Trust But Verify," prove that he's poised to start his own fight against the island's shadowy occupants. Meanwhile, things in modern-day Starling City get far more interesting:
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Even though Roy Harper AKA Red Arrow/Speedy/Arsenal (Colton Haynes) has recently been confirmed and cast, fans will apparently have to wait until Episode 12, "Vertigo" at the earliest to see him in action. From the episode title, it sounds like Harper's introduction alongside a slightly re-imagined Count Vertigo (Seth Gabel) could offer the chance to make himself a key figure right off the bat. Unfortunately, all we know for sure from leaked set photos is that he'll be sporting a red hoodie.
But before we get to that plot-thickening introduction, fans will be welcomed back courtesy of Firefly in Episode 10, "Burned." According to Guggenheim, the villain on hand for Episode 11, "Trust But Verify" may not be the real antagonist to Oliver's crusade, instead signalling the more difficult conflicts to be explored in the future.
This time, the name on Oliver's his list happens to be a personal hero and fellow soldier to his partner-in-crime, John Diggle (David Ramsey). Moral grey areas and a dispute among friends is guaranteed:
"The episode’s about how correct is Oliver’s list and can he rely on the names on that list? I have to say, ["Trust But Verify"] is one of my favorite episodes because at its core is the Oliver/Diggle relationship, which I think is playing to our strengths. When I look back on the most successful moments of the first season, most of them rely on the Oliver/Diggle relationship, and in this episode, really puts that front and center."
It's tough to disagree with Guggenheim's evaluation, since a friendly butting of heads over crime-fighting tactics isn't something most superhero movies or TV usually contains. And in that regard, Diggle won't be the only character who knows Oliver's secret, and isn't afraid to put him in his place.
To date, the most memorable and pivotal comic book character adapted to live-action has to be Huntress (Jessica De Gouw). According to producer Greg Berlanti - reiterating previous statements that the writers had long terms plans for Helena Bertinelli - they're already hard at work on her next appearance:
“She’s going to come back. We’re just writing that episode right now. We like to think of her as the crazy ex-girlfriend. So if you can only imagine the turns…her mission isn’t done or complete yet. She wanted to kill her Dad and he’s still alive.”
That may not be much to go on story-wise, but there's no question that the relationship between Ollie and Helena has legs, due in no small part to the pair's chemistry. To see exactly how romance will factor in to an escalating fight to reclaim Starling City, fans will just have to wait.
Arrow returns Wednesday, January 16, with "Burned" @8pm on The CW. See the drama intensify on the island and at home in Episode 11, "Trust But Verify" on January 23.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.