Those tuning in to both Arrow and The Flash have needed little concrete evidence to start speculating on just how quickly The CW would be looking to add another weekly superhero show to their line-up. Even so, the producers have dropped a few bombs of late. Chief among them: that the network has begun discussions about the next spinoff - and that Brandon Routh is a top contender.
To be fair, the network has confirmed that more DC Comics spinoffs were being "discussed" months ago. But that was before viewers knew just how ambitious a story line was being planned for Arrow's Ray Palmer (Routh). When the show returns from its winter hiatus, Ray Palmer is expected to play a much larger role in protecting Starling City. So large a role, in fact, that executive producer Marc Guggenheim confirms he's a frontrunner when discussing potential spinoffs.
Speaking with EW, Guggenheim reiterated that the producers and network have discussed the potential of an Atom spinoff series "in the most preliminary of ways" (read: don't get your hopes up just yet). The motivation for the talks, it seems, is simply how well Brandon Routh has slid his way into the existing Arrow/Flash universe. But Guggenheim maintains that there's no 'master plan' for The CW's next superhero series with Routh in mind - at least, there wasn't to begin with:
"When we met with Brandon, the whole point of Ray Palmer for us — not the whole point but a big piece of Ray Palmer — was… Felicity’s voice is of a different show and we always say that Emily’s playing tennis against herself. [Laughs.] So we wanted to create a character that could vibrate at her frequency. And Ray really brings that and brings that energy and he’s so much fun to write. He’s a joy to write.
"Brandon’s so terrific and embodies the role so well that when we talk about how to further expand things, he’s a natural person to talk about. It’s like Brandon said on the panel, originally when we met with him we just wanted to bring a great character onto the show and we wanted a great actor to play him. That’s really how it always starts."
It should come as some reassurance to fans of The CW's superhero drama that the top priority remains their existing shows, and not the next possible spinoff. As Greg Berlanti also stated at the Television Critics Association event, possible crossover between Arrow, The Flash and Supergirl will have to wait until the challenge of launching Kara Zor-El's CBS series is taken care of. And whatever the end goal when he was first introduced, fans of Ray Palmer can look forward to a treat.
The brilliant billionaire's motives for acquiring Queen Consolidated were mysteriously alluded to throughout the first half of the show's third season, but the midseason finale ago left little doubt. Palmer intends to build his own armored suit - dubbed A.T.O.M. - with which to battle Starling's singular form of crime. Though the suit was only glimpsed in holographic schematics at the time, Guggenheim claims the finished product is "the most ambitious costume we've ever done on the show."
Those worried that a TV version of the Justice League would be inherently less powerful than a big screen incarnation might be pleasantly surprised when A.T.O.M. finally arrives:
"Our goal when we had an idea to do a super suit was 'How do you do it in a way that’s not Iron Man?' That’s the trick creatively. Because we don’t want to duplicate Iron Man, we want to do our own thing. So there’s a lot of practical elements to the costume that on Iron Man they have done with CG. We’re gonna do it practically.
"And we’re doing in addition to the costume a digital double like they have on Flash for Barry Allen, so that’s its own envelope-pushing thing. Yeah, we’re trying some new stuff that we’ve never done before production-wise on the show — and practically. That’s exciting. It’s always exciting to push the envelope but it’s also nerve-wracking at the same time."
Guggenheim restates that the A.T.O.M. suit, or the action associated with it shouldn't be viewed as an audition reel for an Atom spinoff series (as was the case with Grant Gustin's introduction in Season 2). The character, the actor, and the suit itself were all conceived of to move Arrow's story forward. Namely, to have more metahuman or superhero vigilantes roaming the streets than Oliver would ever have thought possible. No matter how good their intentions may be, some snags in the plan are all but guaranteed.
Whether Guggenheim and his fellow producers intended to launch a series starring Routh - or Robbie Amell's Firestorm, for that matter - they made sure to hedge their bets; both actors have shown characters or superpowers worth exploring further, spinoff series or no. Make no mistake: if Palmer's suit and A.T.O.M. action gets fan jaws dropping and the executives buzzing... an official announcement concerning the character's future wouldn't be surprising.
What do you think of a potential spinoff or even miniseries dedicated to Brandon Routh's superhero-in-the-making? Do you take the show's producers at their word that discussions are still informal, or do you think plans are farther along than they're letting on? Share your thoughts and hopes in the comments.
Arrow will return on Wednesday, January 21, with "Left Behind" @8pm on The CW.