Interview: ‘Arrow’ Showrunner Wendy Mericle on Dolph Lundgren, Metahumans, and What’s Ahead in Season 5
Posted on Wednesday, October 5th, 2016 by Fred Topel
During The CW’s panel for the Television Critics Association on their four DC superhero shows, producers announced that Dolph Lundgren had been cast in the fifth season of Arrow. We’d previously reported plans for Arrow to return to the format of the first season.
We got to speak with current Arrow showrunner Wendy Mericle about the fifth season. Season four ended with much of the Arrow team splitting up, and Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is now focused on being mayor of Star City. We got to talk to Mericle about Lundgren’s role, the evolution of action on the show, and bringing in metahumans.
Will this be the year the flashbacks catch up with the pilot?
It sure is. We’re going to go to Russia and we’re going to see how Oliver became a member of the Bratva and our endgame is syncing up with the pilot. It might very well be the last year we have flashbacks.
Since Dolph is playing a villain in the Russian flashbacks, are you leaning into his legacy as Ivan Drago?
Absolutely. That’s part of the reason we were so excited to get him. I do believe he’s Swedish though.
He is but he played the Russian in Rocky IV.
Absolutely, I’m a huge Rocky IV fan. We were really excited to get him. It’s one of the reasons. We said this actually to him directly, he’s one of those names that’s come up in the writers room multiple times and every time we’d be like is the right role, is this the right character for him? We finally found the right guy and we got him. We’re really excited.
Would you ask him to say, “I must break you” to Oliver?
We might find a way to work that line in. You never know.
He said it for Chuck so he’s done it before.
Did he really? I’ll find out. I’m glad. He seems like he’s up for everything.
How many episodes is he in?
I think I’m allowed to say three.
Lasting five years, is it a great luxury to be able to revisit the format and themes of the first season?
It is a luxury. Being on a season five show is an amazing privilege and we all feel very lucky to have gotten this far. It’s a lot of fun to go back and look at the first season and talk about where was Oliver psychologically? What were the themes we were exploring that year? Especially, we’ve announced that this season we’re going to be really exploring legacy. This is a season where Oliver’s going to be looking back and going, “Have I actually accomplished the things I set out to do in season one?” He’s going to have to answer for that this season. So yeah, we are excited about it.
You’ve gotten to try different things over the years and it’s not to say you can’t try those again or try new things in the future.
Not at all but I think one of the things that’s exciting is we’re able to honor where we’ve come. We’ve taken these characters on this evolution. We want to honor how they’ve evolved and yet we also want Oliver to look at his history from that vantage point and we want all the characters to look back and think. Felicity, Diggle, all of them, think, “Where was I four years ago? Have I accomplished what I set out to accomplish?”
In the beginning he feels guilty thinking he’s the cause of Sara’s death. Now he can feel guilty over Laurel’s death and what Thea’s been through. In a way is he back where he started in that regard?
I do think he’s back where he started in the sense that he’s asking himself have the methods he’s chosen worked? He’s lost people along the way. He lost his mother, he lost Tom and he lost Laurel. Now Thea and John Diggle both at the end of season four said, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” I think he’s in a period of reflection and really self-assessment and wondering did he make the right decisions in the past?
Even talking about the format of season five, doing more villains of the week and crime stories, with four years of experience are you able to look back on season one and think, “We can do this better now?”
I think so. I think one of the privileges of having been on a show this long is you know all the things you’ve tried and the things that have worked and the things that haven’t. But I think the fun part is that in season five, there are some things you wanted to try in seasons one, two, and three that you knew you couldn’t do until now. That’s part of the fun. At the same time, you get to go back and look at the things that worked and homage them. Or, you don’t want to repeat them but you want to explore them from a different vantage point.
What are some of those things you’ve been wanting to try since seasons one, two, and three?
I think one of the things in particular is finding new ways to do action. The action on the show has become, again, we evolved it. We’re in a universe now where we’re dealing with metahumans. We’re dealing with Daredevil and Jessica Jones. It’s not as straightforward as it was when we premiered which was we were the only game in town. We’re trying to at the same time keep the scope and the scale high and keep the production values up. We also want to go back and make it more personal.