[This article may potentially contain SPOILERS for Arrow season 4.]
The dark and somber tone of The CW's Arrow has come to define not only the series but also its main character, Oliver Queen. Stephen Amell's Arrow is a decidedly more moody and serious take on the character than DC Comics' Green Arrow - a character that's often funny, charming, and more relaxed in the field.
However, the show's argument for this more grim portrayal is that he's not yet fully formed, he's not yet Green Arrow. But all that changes next season. In season 4, Oliver is returning to work as Green Arrow, complete with a new costume and a brighter outlook on life (thanks in no small part to his relationship with Felicity).
In a recent interview with EW, ahead of Arrow's season 4 premiere next month, executive producer Marc Guggenheim discussed the series' shift towards a lighter tone:
"Ever since Slade Wilson [Manu Bennett] came to town around [season 2, episode 15], the show has been on this very, very dark path, leading to Sara’s [Caity Lotz] death and the culmination of season 3. Our goal was to return the show more in the tone of the first season-and-a-half.
It still feels like Arrow, but at the same time, Oliver’s got a new outlook on life. We’re driving conflict to the show in ways that we never would have in the first three years. So it still feels like Arrow, but it’s a different take on the show."
Moving Arrow away from its darker roots may prove a turn off for some fans - those who prefer their Oliver troubled and brooding. But it's now time for Oliver to move on and to stop dwelling on the past. As producer Wendy Mericle put it, season 4 is "less about erasing his father’s legacy and more about establishing his."
Yet while Oliver is developing a more positive spin on life, not everything will be going swimmingly for the rest of Team Arrow. Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) takes over as CEO of Palmer Technologies after Ray's apparent "death." There she meets a few "unexpected challenges," which Guggenheim says will give them a "chance to really show a different side of Felicity."
Diggle (David Ramsey) - now outfitted with his own costume - will struggle with Oliver's return, as well as this season's new villain Damian Darhk (Neal McDonough), the man responsible for the hit placed on his brother. Guggenheim also says Sara Lance's impending resurrection comes about from "decisions that Laurel [Katie Cassidy] makes and choices that Laurel will then have to live with," implying the decision to bring her sister back is one that won't sit easy with Laurel (and possibly others).
For her part next season, Thea (Willa Holland) will try balancing "a personal life with being a superhero," bringing Arrow back to many of the themes it explored during its first season when Oliver was still "trying to keep his secret identity secret on the show," says Guggenheim.
Lastly, as many an eagle-eyed fan has spotted, Arrow has been dropping some heavy hints about Oliver's upcoming visit to Coast City. Next season will be no different, with Guggenheim admitting there's a "nod or two" to Green Lantern and that "there may or may not be a ring in the season premiere." Whether he's explicitly referring to a power ring is unclear, Guggenheim could easily be talking about some other ring (an engagement ring, perhaps?), but by juxtaposing it with comments about Green Lantern, well, of course we're all going to draw the same conclusion.
How do you feel about Arrow making a tonal shift towards being a lighter show? Are you looking forward to a more carefree Oliver? And what of Guggenheim hinting at a ring in the premiere? A nod to Green Lantern or just a misleading teaser? Sound off in the comments below!
Season 2 of The Flash premieres Tuesday, October 6 at 8pm/7 central; Season 4 of Arrow debuts Wednesday October 7 at 8pm/7 central; Legends of Tomorrow begins in 2016.