Warning: Spoilers for Arrow's midseason finale ahead!
Before Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) came home after five years on a not-so-deserted island, life in Starling City was fairly simple. Now, one and a half seasons later, Arrow fans have seen a veritable cavalcade of comic book villains and heroes, both major and minor, emerge on the city's streets to wage war against the vigilante - or to take his side.
It's a war that remained fairly grounded in reality last season, when no one had any superpowers and instead had to rely upon the skills that were achievable within human limitations. Thanks to Sebastian Blood's (Kevin Alejandro) borrowed miracle serum, however, season 2 has seen the arrival of Starling City's first superpowered villain in the preternaturally strong Cyrus Gold.
Luckily the good guys aren't wasting any time in playing catch-up, as this week's midseason finale of Arrow saw Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) caught up in a Hollywood science cocktail of brightly colored chemicals, a lightning storm and a blast from a malfunctioning particle accelerator. As the red spark travelling under his skin indicates, all these elements have come together to give him the super-speed that will turn him into iconic DC superhero The Flash, just in time to film the pilot of his own spin-off show.
This raises a tricky dilemma for Arrow co-creators Andrew Kreisberg and Greg Berlanti: should the show stick with human heroes and villains, or go off exploring into the more fantastical reaches of the DC universe? The answer, it seems, is that The Flash will deal with the latter, while Arrow sticks mostly with the former.
In an interview with CBR, Kreisberg implied that this will be one of the primary differences between the two shows:
"We'll want to keep 'Arrow' as distinctive as possible, and 'Flash' as distinctive as possible. Part of the fun will be how those two things play out in both shows, if we get that opportunity.
"In the same way that 'Arrow' was conducive to bringing on characters like Deadshot and the Huntress and some of the more grounded people, hopefully with 'The Flash' there's a way to bring on some of the more fantastical characters, that will probably still go through the grounding lens with which we view everything. But we could tackle some of the bigger villains, and possibly heroes. There's a hint of a major character in the pilot.
"But it's always important to remember -- like with 'Arrow,' everybody wants Batman to come on and whatnot, but Arrow has to be the coolest person on 'Arrow.' The same thing with 'The Flash' -- Barry has to be the coolest person. If we're lucky enough to get to do more past the pilot, it'll really be about making sure that the audience loves The Flash, and Barry Allen, and Grant Gustin, as much as we do."
Assuming that The Flash does end up getting a full season order and Barry Allen goes off to head up his own show, that still leaves Oliver to deal with the multiple people who have been given super-strength thanks to the Mirakuru. Blood's administrations of its already have a pretty high body count, so Kreisberg cleared up exactly what the magic ingredient is that allowed Slade, Cyrus and Roy to survive it:
"What's fun for us, as writers, is we see what Roy's potential is to go down that dark path. One of the things you'll find out as you go along is that it's a deep-seated anger inside of you that lets you survive the Mirakuru transformation, which is something Slade had, which is why he lives, and it's why Roy lived, too. One of the fun things that'll be happening in the back half of the year is his relationship with the Arrow, and how that changes, and how the Arrow basically makes it his mission to not let Roy go down the Slade path. "
Finally, the showrunner touched on the subject of the Arrow's new mask, custom-made for him by Barry and the final result of more than 50 designs that Arrow's costume department came up with before finding the right one. Until now, Oliver has managed to get away with nothing more than a smear of green paint over his eyes, and this poor identity concealment was apparently a key part of his character arc:
"When we had the pilot, we debated having a mask. We decided to punt for a variety of reasons -- most importantly, it was that if you put a mask on him right away, it sort of says, "This is cartoony or superhero-y." It also fit in with his character. He wasn't someone who ever thought he would be interacting with people. He thought he'd be this dark sniper, firing arrows from the shadows. As the series has progressed, and he's stepped more and more into the light -- which is also what his overall arc is -- he's really needed that. It just seemed so perfect that in this season that he would need it, and also that Barry would be the one who ultimately makes it for him."
The mask also means that Oliver can stop staring at the floor whenever he's trying to talk to people - that can't be good for his posture. Check out our review of the midseason finale to find out if we thought it was a worthy way to finish off the year, and share your thoughts on the direction that Arrow is taking in the comments.
Arrow will return on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 with ‘Blast Radius’ on The CW.