Arrow is finally paying off the mystery it set up at the beginning of this season. No more teasing. No fake outs. "This is the episode where you find out who's in the grave," executive producer Marc Guggenheim told reporters at an early screening of Wednesday's episode, "Eleven-Fifty-Nine."
Back in the season-four premiere, the final moments revealed that someone close to Oliver (Stephen Amell) was marked for death at the hands of Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough). A flash-forward scene set six months in the future showed Oliver kneeling next to a freshly dug grave in a cemetery, holding back tears. The Flash's Barry Allen (Grant Gustin) arrived after the funeral ended (he was too busy battling Zoom to make it on time) to give Oliver his condolences, showing that whoever died was important to both men. The only character safe from the grave fate was Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), since it was revealed in the midseason premiere flash-forward that she was waiting for Oliver in the limo at the cemetery.
Although the death is going to be permanent, Arrow's showrunners promise that the character will still remain a big part of the story going forward.
"Dead is not goodbye," Guggenheim said. "We definitely recognize across all three shows [Arrow, The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow] that when we kill off a character, it means something different now. I'm not going to put a qualitative judgment on whether it's more or less impactful. I'll leave that up to the audience. But certainly, we acknowledge that there's a difference. Arrow much more so than Flash or Legends, for a lot of reasons, it traffics in death. For better or for worse, death is a part of the show. What we're finding as we're pushing into season five, the show has to evolve. The concept of death on the show is evolving and changing as we've seen with Sara Lance. As the show has evolved, so has death."
But the producers went into writing this particular death with the goal of making it stick to show how it will impact all of the characters moving forward.
"It's going to be huge and significant," said executive producer Wendy Mericle. "There's no question that it is going to be shocking. It was a shocking thing for us to process and to write the aftermath. We really wanted to make sure that we did it in a way that was very honorable and gave us space to honor all the characters' various reactions to it. The episodes we've written in the aftermath are devastating. They're meant to be. We wanted to explore that and have everybody feel the impact of this loss."
Mericle and Guggenheim said the writers didn't want to kill off the character in question, but they felt they needed to pay off the storyline set up in the premiere. At the time of the premiere, the writers hadn't yet figured out who they were going to put in the grave.
"It is a game-changer in a very sad way that we're losing a beloved character but also in the sense of it's going to open up new storytelling avenues and will force our characters to rethink their decisions and their objectives," Mericle said. "Death is a reality and with the Lazarus Pit and the possibility of coming back, it's easy to forget that these people are vigilantes, they're out on the street, they're doing dangerous things. This brings that reality back in a rude and brutal way. It's good for the audience to be reminded of that and for our characters as well."
While the death will certainly have an impact on the other characters, recent paparazzi pictures of Arrow shooting on location threatened to spoil the death on social media and subsequently soften the blow for viewers after months of anticipation.
"Look, it's not cool. Straight up," Guggenheim said. "Honestly, I just look at these paparazzi people as like, they're just spoiling it for everybody. They're taking a big steaming dump on the work that all these people do."
These leaks have unfortunately been an ongoing problem for the show, as well as spinoff Legends of Tomorrow.
"[The crews] work in Vancouver, unbelievable hours, in the rain, terrible conditions, and they do it all to produce shows that everyone can be entertained by, and part of being entertained is being surprised," Guggenheim said. "We take precautions, but unfortunately when you're dealing with a cemetery, you have to go out on location. We have to be out in the world. We can't produce the show just on our soundstages. But it does happen and it just sucks. I'll just say it: shame on those people."
Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.