Arrow season 8 will see another blast from the past, with John Barrowman confirmed to be returning as Malcolm Merlyn. Premiering in 2012, Arrow followed the journey of Oliver Queen as he returned following a mysterious five-year absence and embarked on a quest to save his city. The action-packed show quickly gained a passionate following and spawned what has come to be known as the Arrowverse. Earlier in the year, however, it was announced that Arrow season 8 would be its last.
Barrowman debuted as Malcolm Merlyn all the way back in season 1, serving as the inaugural season's primary antagonist. He later reprised the role numerous times across the show's run, flowing back and forth between being an outright villain and an occasional, tenuous ally. He most recently featured in the Elseworlds crossover, appearing as a hallucination after Oliver came into contact with Scarecrow's fear toxin while visiting Gotham City. He and Barry Allen were ultimately saved by Kate Kane (Ruby Rose), whose solo Batwoman show will premiere later in the year.
Appearing on stage at Fan Expo Boston 2019 (as reported by CBR), Stephen Amell, who plays the titular hero, was asked about a certain birthday tradition of Barrowman's. To celebrate Barrowman's 50th birthday, Amell previously delivered a cake to the actor while wearing nothing but a tight-fitting bathing suit. Recalling this event, a fan asked whether it was to be a regular occurrence. It was at this moment that Amell gave away that Barrowman would return in the show's final season. "It's part of the deal. Every ten years, I put on a tiny suit and I deliver John Barrowman a birthday cake," Amell declared. "He's back in the show in Season 8 and that was actually a rider that he put into his contract."
Though it will only be comprised of ten episodes, Barrowman won't be the only familiar face returning for the show's final season. The first season 8 trailer previously confirmed the return of Adrian Chase. The character of Katana will also return, scheduled to appear in episode 2, "Welcome to Hong Kong". On the opposite end of the spectrum, Colton Haynes will no longer serve as a regular. Fans, however, continue to hope that the character of Roy Harper will still feature in some capacity.
In terms of Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn, it remains unknown as to what form the character will return. Equally, it's unclear how big of a role he will play in the final ten episodes. Although his character (outside of hallucinations) was last seen sacrificing his life on Lian Yu, it isn't outside the realm of possibility for him to turn up alive and well. After all, Merlyn is known as The Magician for a reason, often coming back from supposedly-certain death. Then again, with Oliver last seen venturing into the unknown with the extra-dimensional being known as The Monitor, it could just as likely as part of a trip into the past or some other kind of otherworldly vision. Whatever the case, fans will no doubt be excited about Barrowman's return. As the show's first Big Bad, it wouldn't quite be a full circle ending without Oliver squaring off against The Dark Archer one last time.
Arrow season 8 premieres October 15 on The CW.