Hope you're ready for one emotional ride through Arrow's past!
While it's really less of a ride through the past and more of a peek into a present that could have been, tonight's part of the epic four-show crossover currently ruling over The CW—which also just happens to be the 100th episode of Arrow—is still filled with callbacks to the earlier seasons of the show. You know, back before everybody died, when the sun still occasionally shined in Star City (or Starling City, as it was once known).
Through some alien business that has to do with everyone who was disappeared at the end of last night's episode of The Flash, Oliver (Stephen Amell) wakes up in an alternate universe. It's just before his wedding to Laurel (Katie Cassidy), and we get to find out what life would have been like if he had never gotten on that boat. As it turns out, life would have been pretty good for the most part.
What could turn into a somewhat annoying stake-free, just-for-fun, what-if episode never really does, and it also manages to pay loving tribute to the characters and the show that birthed an entire universe of DC TV on the CW.
"I would say half of it is great superhero, heroic fun, and it's pretty awesome," executive producer Marc Guggenheim told E! News at the 100th episode celebration party. "The other half doesn't feel so much like the 100th episode of a TV show—it feels like the 100th episode of a comic book. It's the kind of thing you would do for an anniversary issue of a comic book."
"Someone said it was a love letter to the show, and I think that's really what it is," executive producer Wendy Mericle said. "It's very nostalgic, it's really bittersweet, and it's a look back. It's a look back at what has been and what could have been."
It seems both lucky and unlucky that the show's 100th episode would land right in the middle of the crossover, so making sure the Arrow of it all got to shine through the mix of heroes was a huge challenge.
"We're in this universe now where there are metas and there are aliens, and we have to deal with that," Mericle explained. "We also really wanted it to feel like an Arrow episode, and honor the beginning of the show."
"I gotta give props to Greg [Berlanti]," Guggenheim added. "He came up with a great idea that allowed us to literally have our cake and eat it too. Half of the episode is all about the 100th episode milestone, and the other half is just great, superheroic fun."
"It's very emotional," super-executive producer Berlanti told us. "It's a celebration of the many episodes we've all toiled on together, and hopefully still really fits in with the crossover."
Not only did Berlanti, Guggenheim, and Mericle manage to honor the 100th episode while fitting into the crossover, but Oliver's arc within the episode also speaks to what this season is all about.
"It's really about Oliver trying to determine whether or not he ever should have become a hero," Mericle told us. "He's looking back and thinking about his legacy and really questioning his mission, and his family name, and what he's done with his family name."
Viewers know that this world where Oliver hasn't lost his entire family and hasn't become the Green Arrow isn't going to last, so the episode ends up having more of an emotional, psychological impact, which also goes with the overall theme of the season, according to Guggenheim.
"The stakes this year are more psychological," he said. "[S]eason one ended with the stakes being the entire city, earthquakes, you know. We've threatened the city several times over. Last year we decided to up the ante and threaten the entire world, and this year we realized, well you can't go bigger than threatening the entire world, and you certainly can't threaten the entire world two years in a row, so our intention is to threaten in a more psychological way."
"I think this year it's a lot of old wounds that are rising up, and I think it is much more psychological," Berlanti said. "Because in many ways, a lot of the things that Oliver's facing, he is personally responsible for. So it's a big turning point for him, and I think everyone's on a very similar journey."
Of course, not everything in tonight's episode will be sad and serious, because as Paul Blackthorne pointed out, "Aliens are fun."
Alternate universes are also pretty fun, and this one is certainly no exception.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW.