When a “Crisis on Infinite Earths” shook the Arrowverse, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) made the ultimate sacrifice and died saving the multiverse. While Earth-Prime will go on, the loss of the Emerald Archer means the end of Arrow’s story on The CW. On Tuesday, January 28, it’s time for Arrow’s “Fadeout” – the final episode in an eight-season journey that began on a not-quite deserted island and traveled to Star City, across the globe, to other earths and other times, and beyond.
Co-creator, longtime executive producer, and co-writer of the series finale, Marc Guggenheim was less than 24 hours from viewing the final mix of the show when he spoke with IGN, and he shared what he hopes Arrow’s legacy will be.
“I would like to think, in my most optimistic or most positive moments, that we gave a jolt in the arm to superhero television in general, that when Arrow [came] along, it had been a while since there was a superhero television show. Kind of the way X-Files gave a jolt in the arm to science fiction and genre on television, I feel like we sort of gave a jolt in the arm to the languishing genre of superheroes on television,” Guggenheim told IGN. “So, that’s the thing I’m most proud of. Quite frankly, I’m most proud of us just simply not screwing it up. Translating a comic book to live action, particularly nine years ago when we were trying to do it, was really challenging and very, very daunting and Greg [Berlanti, Arrowverse executive producer] and I had just come off the Green Lantern experience and there are far more examples of people getting it wrong than people getting it right, and just the fact that it wasn’t silly was… that felt like an achievement to us.”
As we prepare to say goodbye to Arrow, the show that spawned the Arrowverse (The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, Batwoman, and the upcoming Superman and Lois), IGN asked Guggenheim to reminisce about his favorite major episodes and moments over the seasons. What follows are his picks:
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Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
1: “Pilot,” episode 101
Guggenheim: “So, the first, I thought, was the opening moments of the pilot because they really established that the show was big. I felt like those opening moments that David Nutter directed really captured the feature quality, cinematic scope that we were going for.”
2: “Honor thy Father,” episode 102
The action sequences in this episode, directed by David Barrett, Guggenheim said, “proved that we could do big action sequences on an episodic schedule and an episodic budget, which, at the time, was a real open question. I remember after we delivered the pilot, Warner Bros. called us into their offices to basically say, ‘The pilot’s amazing. Our problem is, it’s so amazing, we don’t see how you’re going to do that every week.’ And, the funny thing is, if you go back and you look at the pilot, it actually looks small now compared to the things that we ended up doing.”
3: “Lone Gunman,” episode 103
Guggenheim: “Item No. 3 is, of course, Felicity’s introduction in 103. And, sort of the sub-moment for that is I remember viscerally when I first saw [Emily Bett Rickards’] audition. Auditions are all posted online, and [when] I first saw her audition, I remember, not quite running, but certainly fast walking down to [Executive Producer 2012-2018] Andrew Kreisberg’s office, to be like, ‘You need to see this actor right now. This person is special.’ So, that was a moment both for the series and for the show.”
4: “Year’s End,” episode 109 (midseason finale)
Guggenheim: “Believe it or not, despite it being the midseason finale, the reason that is memorable to me is that apart from the pilot, every single episode up to that point had gone through reshoots. We had to reshoot at least a scene per episode and in some cases more. So, getting to episode 9, I remember watching the cut that John Dahl directed in Greg’s office and we both were just so relieved. We were relieved to get a cut where we didn’t have to reshoot anything. That was a personal high watermark, which speaks to the fact that over the course of Season 1, I felt like there were certain episodes where the show found another gear and got closer and closer to the show that it wanted to be and that sets up the next one that I have earmarked . . .”
5: “Trust, But Verify,” episode 111
Guggenheim: “… which is episode 111 that Nick Copus directed and Gabby Stanton wrote and it just, again, it just sort of felt like the show was finding another gear.”
6: “The Odyssey,” episode 114
Guggenheim: “Episode 114 is one of my favorite episodes that we’ve ever done. It was the first of what became a tradition of – we call them all ‘flashback episodes.’ That’s a little bit of a misnomer, it’s more like, ‘mostly-flashback episodes,’ which flipped the ratio from present day to flashback. And John Behring directed that one, and it was like a breath of fresh air, and it really opened up the flashback stories in this really terrific way. And the other reason that episode is notable to me is that was the episode where Felicity finds out that Oliver is the Green Arrow.”
7: “Salvation,” episode 118
Guggenheim: “Episode 118 … was another episode directed by Nick Copus where the show just, again, felt like it found another gear. I remember just really loving that episode.”
8: “Sacrifice,” episode 123 (Season 1 finale)
Guggenheim: “David Barrett directed it and it had this incredible scope. We destroyed Star City with an Earthquake (Editor’s Note: it was called Starling City back then). We shot for 10 days. It had huge scope, but most importantly it had emotional resonance because we killed Tommy. And it was this creative risk that we took that really became a staple of the show. We killed off a lot of characters in eight years, and the reason we did that was we always wanted the show to feel unpredictable and that no one on the show was safe and this episode really established that. And I think, as a result, created a tension built into the narrative of the show that became a part of the show in seasons 2-8.”
9: “The Promise,” episode 215
Guggenheim: “That was our second mostly-flashback episode. And if you go back and you look at that episode [directed by Glen Winter], it’s ridonkulous. The production value and scope is just so off the charts. We literally built – because we couldn’t find one to shoot on – the top deck of a freighter, just for one episode.”
10: “Unthinkable,” episode 223 (Season 2 finale)
Guggenheim: “We always knew we were building up to an epic fight between Slade Wilson and Oliver Queen in both the past and the present, and the way it was scripted and the way it was designed was always that it would be two fight sequences that felt like one fight sequence – that we were literally having the past and present talk to each other. And it really is a testament to James Bamford, who was our fight coordinator, who has since become our directing producer, and John Behring, who directed the episode, that those two sequences really do speak to each other, and we’re sort of telling this story between these two men that spans five years. And I always love that.”
11: “The Climb,” episode 309 (midseason finale)
Guggenheim: “Similarly, in terms of fights, #11 is 309, which is the mountaintop fight between Oliver and Ra’s al Ghul that Thor Freudenthal directed and [it’s] just epic, just epic action. And kudos to Stephen [Amell] and Matt [Nable] for being shirtless outside on Grouse Mountain for an entire fight sequence. That was not easy on them. But, the shirtless fight was a staple of the Batman/Ra’s al Ghul fights in the Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams Batman run, so we felt like them being shirtless was actually important for the comic book street cred of it all.”
12: “Haunted,” episode 405
Oliver and company needed a little supernatural help to deal with a post-Lazarus Pit Sara Lance, who was in the bloodlust phase, and in this episode, producers brought in the Master of the Dark Arts, John Constantine. “It was our first experience working with Matt [Ryan] and just a wonderful addition to the Arrowverse and it really, really excited me,” Guggenheim explained.
13: “Brotherhood,” episode 407 & “Code of Silence,” episode 414
Guggenheim: “I cheated with No. 13, I picked two episodes. … Those were James Bamford’s first two episodes as director and they were next level, again, feeling like the show [was] finding another gear. 414, I think, is a great example of how a director can elevate an episode, because, I’ll be honest, the plot is not great. The plot is a group of criminals basically using buildings as weapons, blowing up buildings to kill people. And Bam just directed these sequences and you’d be surprised at how much is in-camera in terms of the explosions and everything. Our actors are dodging actual explosions and actual debris and it really lends the episode this air of verisimilitude and made the episode much, much, much better than it should have been.”
14: “Beacon of Hope,” episode 417
Guggenheim: “This is going to be my controversial pick, but I stand by it, which is episode 417. This is the infamous ‘bee episode.’ Personally, I love this episode. I know people love to hate on it, but I love the fact that the show could go to this place that was light and fun. It’s not a place I would ever want the show to live in, but for an episode, I thought it was a refreshing change of pace, particularly in light of the fact that I think people forget how unrelentingly dark Season 3 was. Season 3 was so dark – it began with the death of Sara Lance and it ended with the death and resurrection of Thea Queen, and Oliver going dark and joining the League of Assassins. It was just such a dark season that we really did feel a need in Season 4 to just go the other way and lighten up the show a little bit and I thought 417, it succeeded on that. That kind of set up for me . . .”
15: “Legacy,” episode 501
Guggenheim: . . . “item number 15, which is the season premiere of Season 5. Because we had done this sort of course correction in terms of tone in Season 4, it basically set us up to do what we did in Season 5, which was, I think, find that right level in terms of [making] the show dark and gritty and tactile, much the same way it was in Season 1, but do it in a way that wasn’t as oppressive as it was in Season 3. And that episode, that James Bamford directed, it all came together. It’s one of my favorite season premieres.”
16: “Invasion,” episode 508
“Episode 508, also directed by James Bamford – that episode is the second part of the ‘Invasion’ crossover. I didn’t even include crossover episodes in this list because I feel like they’re their own thing, but that episode also happened to be Arrow’s 100th episode,” Guggenheim told IGN. “And interestingly enough, a lot of people think that we were ripping off the Superman story that Alan Moore wrote called, ‘For the Man Who has Everything,’ and that’s actually incorrect.”
Instead, Guggenheim said, they were actually “homaging,”or inspired by the 20th anniversary issue of the Fantastic Four. “Truth be told, what happened was … because we were really struggling with ‘how do we do the second chapter of this three-part crossover, while at the same time honoring the fact that this the 100th episode of Arrow?’ and Greg pitched out, ‘Well, they’re kidnapped by aliens at the end of Part 1 and basically … they’re living in a virtual reality, an alternate reality created by the aliens in their minds.’ And I immediately said, ‘Oh my God, that’s “Terror in a Tiny Town.” That’s perfect,’ because, the 100th episode of a comic book show is the equivalent of an anniversary issue or a landmark issue of a comic book. And there’s a reason why John [Byrne] chose to honor the 20th anniversary of the Fantastic Four with this ‘Terror in a Tiny Town’ story. So, it just felt right, because … that device allows you to revisit all the things that sort of make the show the show in a way that you wouldn’t be able to do in a ‘normal’ episode,” Guggenheim explained.
The producer also revealed that comic book artist/writer Byrne “gets namechecked in the series finale. So it all comes full circle,” he said.
17: “Spectre of the Gun,” episode 513
Guggenheim: “This was our gun control episode. I’m very, very proud of the fact that we dealt with politics and dealt with a real-life issue. I do regret that I played it a bit too safe, I think. I thought the risk was just tackling the subject matter, but looking back on it – especially in light of the number of mass shootings that have happened since that episode aired – I wish I had banged a little harder on the soap box. Interestingly enough, that episode was written – the first three acts were written before election day 2016, and the second three acts were written after election day 2016. … If you re-watch the episode with that in mind, I think you’ll sort of see how it kind of altered the course of that episode.”
18: “Lian Yu,” episode 523 (Season 5 finale)
Guggenheim: “Adrian Chase [played by Josh Segarra] committing suicide to basically blow up Lian Yu and take his final revenge against Oliver – that, to me, will always remain the gold standard of our season finales.”
19: “The Dragon,” episode 619
Guggenheim: “So, 619, directed by Gordon Verheul – that was Kirk Acevedo’s [who played Ricardo Diaz] sort of star turn. It was the only time we’d ever done an all-villain episode. It was Season 6 and I wanted the show to continue to take chances and take risks and I thought probably the biggest risk we could take was to do a whole episode from the villain’s perspective. And I found that to be really satisfying.”
20: “The Slabside Redemption,” episode 707
Guggenheim: “The high concept for that episode was our ‘all-action’ episode. It was basically ‘prison riot that Oliver finds himself caught in the middle of’ – and this is a good time to mention, this show has never received a nomination for an Emmy in stunts. I don’t know how that’s possible.” (Editor’s note: Us neither.)
21: “Fadeout,” episode 810 (series finale)
Guggenheim: “Diggle’s eulogy in the series finale always brings a tear to my eye.” We won’t say any more until you’ve seen it.
Those were Guggenheim’s top moments and episodes from Arrow’s impressive eight-season run – what are your favorites? Share your picks in the comments, and be sure to come back after the Arrow series finale for more from Guggenheim and Arrow showrunner Beth Schwartz, plus our review of the finale.
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