How the Arrow Series Finale Gave All Its Characters Perfect Endings & Potential Futures

Showrunner Beth Schwartz and EP Marc Guggenheim talk bringing things to an end and what could be next after Arrow's series finale.

By Lauren Piester Jan 29, 2020 10:49 PMTags
Arrow, Series FinaleThe CW

It wasn't just Oliver and Felicity who got the most perfect ending in Tuesday's series finale of Arrow

Before Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) met up with Oliver (Stephen Amell) in the afterlife, back in the office where he first saw her, we got to say at least a short goodbye or even a "see you later" to almost everyone we've ever loved from Star City and beyond. 

It would be fairly easy, in fact, to see most of those characters later, since the majority of Arrow's main characters have already gotten to appear on or at least interact with characters from other CW superhero shows. There are already five on the air including The Flash, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow, Black Lightning, and Batwoman, while Superman & Lois is on its way and Green Arrow and the Canaries is awaiting pickup. Plus, there's HBO Max, which already has more superhero series in the works, like a Green Lantern show produced by superhero superproducer Greg Berlanti

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So it feels like we might not be saying a real goodbye to most of Arrow's main characters anyway, especially if spinoff Green Arrow and the Canaries makes it to TV. Even Oliver Queen could return. 

"There's always the opportunity to cut to him and Felicity in the afterlife just hangin' out," showrunner Beth Schwartz joked.

In reality we're not likely to see Oliver again for a while, but never say never, especially after we've all had time to really process his death. 

"As we've sort of said, in the saga, so he's become something else. You know, the whole point of making him the Spectre was just to give us opportunities, to give us story opportunities, because who knows what's going to happen in the future," executive producer Marc Guggenheim said after a screening of the finale. "And the one thing I always say every time a character dies on any of the shows, it's like, we've got alternate realities. We got time travel, we got flashbacks, you name it. We have all these different devices. No one's ever really gone. I mean, look at Colin Donnell. I mean, Jesus Christ. He's practically a series regular still in season eight." 

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Bringing Oliver back in the premiere of The Flash season seven, for example, would probably ruin the death a bit, but Guggenheim said he would always love to see Stephen back. It's just about how and when.

Speaking of Colin Donnell though, the Earth-Prime reboot did bring Tommy back from the dead, finally. We've met alternate versions of him through the years since his death in season one, but now he's really truly alive. We learn in one brief conversation at Oliver's funeral that Tommy and the original Earth-1 Laurel had been married before her death, and now he's really happy to see the Earth-2 Laurel who remains. 

If you thought you spotted a spark between Tommy and this Laurel, spot a spark you did. When a reporter asked about it, Guggenheim nodded emphatically.

"I think it was in the stage direction," he said. "It was certainly in the tone meeting."

"And they nailed it," added Schwartz. 

If Green Arrow and the Canaries goes forward, hopefully that spark can grow. 

"Oh, we can play that in the spinoff," Schwartz said. "We'll find a way." 

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"I think part of constructing any series finale is you want to close off a certain number of loops, but you also want to open a certain number of loops, because these characters' lives go beyond the show," Guggenheim explained. "Even when it's not a shared universe, even when there's no spinoff, these characters don't cease to exist. And who doesn't hook up at a funeral right? Am I right?" 

While Tommy and Laurel are just a spark for now, another pair reunited and got engaged during the finale. Thea (Willa Holland) and Roy (Colton Haynes) hadn't seen each other since he just up and left the mission they were on together, but they left the finale back together and engaged. 

Given how many times both Holland and Haynes have left the series, we're unlikely to see them again, so that's a nice send off for them both. 

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Arrow's other main characters all clearly have things to do in potential other shows. 

Dinah (Juliana Harkavy) will join the spinoff along with Laurel if it happens, so for now, she's off looking for people who need her help. Rene (Rick Gonzalez) is running for office, and we know he's mayor in 2040, when the spinoff takes place. 

As for Diggle (David Ramsey), he's got something very different going on. 

At the end of the episode, just before he was moving to Metropolis with his wife and both his children, he witnessed a small box fall out of space. He picked it up, opened it, and was hit with a whole bunch of green space light. We don't know exactly what's in the box, but it means that Diggle's story is not yet over. 

"He did get a green box, and it was very exciting, and I don't know what that means, but he does go to Metropolis and he got a green box and we'll see," Ramsey said. "We'll still see, believe it or not. We'll find out." 

Even if Ramsey knows, he can't say, and neither can Guggenheim. 

"This was something that was worked out over a year ahead with DC Entertainment," he explained. "We very specifically negotiated and discussed the parameters, and to say anything beyond what we have showed you would violate our agreement with DC." 

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Diggle becoming a Green Lantern, part of the coalition of beings who can harness power from a ring, has been a theory for several seasons now, especially with scenes like John Wesley Shipp's Flash asking Diggle where his ring was during the Elseworlds crossover. 

Ramsey said it was "very important" to be able to pay off that fan theory in the finale. 

"It's exciting," he said. "This whole thing has been exciting. Yes, the tease...there has ben a bit of a payoff, but we'll see what all that means...I think we've done some justice to the six-year tease." 

"We've actually talked a lot about Diggle's and David's post-Arrow future," Guggenheim said. "We've got some really good ideas, and I'm going to stand pat on that." 

A Green Lantern show is in development at HBO Max, with Greg Berlanti at the helm. The first black Green Lantern from the comics was named John Stewart, and John Diggle's father's last name was get it. And if that's not the plan for him, he is moving to Metropolis, home of Superman & Lois, so there are plenty of opportunities for John Diggle. He not only got a perfect ending, but a new beginning. 

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In a separate interview with E! News, Schwartz opened up about how they approached the finale, which she co-wrote with Guggenheim. 

"I was most worried that the ending wouldn't feel satisfying. 'Cause you know, I'm a fan of TV, and I know that I've seen finales where it just didn't feel like the show to me, or it wasn't the ending that I had hoped, and so I just wanted to make sure that, as someone who's been on the show from the beginning, that it felt like our show, and that it wrapped up enough characters that it would feel satisfying and also leave a little hope and new stories so that you could imagine these characters living on after the finale," she explained. 

She refused to spill on which finales she wasn't satisfied with, but there were a few she looked to as examples of really great series finales. 

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"Six Feet Under is one of my all time favorite series finales," she said. "They just ended the show perfectly to what the show was, and that was something that inspired me for this finale. I wanted it to feel like Arrow. I didn't want it to feel differently, and I just wanted to end each character and give an answer to the fans so you weren't just like, what happened to Roy? So that's why we got as many characters as we could into it. Parenthood was another really good finale that ended very specific to what the show was." 

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There was a bit of a backwards element to Arrow's finale, since the second-to-last episode served as a backdoor pilot to the spinoff, which is set 20 years in the future. So we already knew a few things, like the fact that the city did get saved, and Laurel, Dinah, and Rene are all still thriving, while Oliver Queen's legacy was alive and well in 2040, and the spinoff was likely lacking in a few things that wouldn't completely ruin finale surprises, like the fact that Moira Queen survived to meet her granddaughter. 

"I definitely did [feel backwards] because we also didn't want to spoil things that happen in the finale, but I think it ended up being really cool timing," Schwartz told us. "It gave everyone a breath in between Oliver dying, and then saying goodbye to him in the finale, and it also gave people hope that maybe this will continue on before we're able to say a final goodbye." 

It was the first time we've been to a 2040 that wasn't dark and devastating and filled with crime and sadness, as it has been in every flashforward for the past two seasons, which had made a lot of us ask what the point of al of this was if we knew the city wasn't getting saved. 

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"A lot of times when I see fans are upset about things, I can't really say, oh, we'll, we're addressing that, "she said. "But I would encourage people to wait until they watch everything before they get upset."

The 2040 we got to know was not originally imagined with the ending in mind, but as soon as they knew the show was ending after season eight, they knew it would all end with the city getting saved after all. 

Of all of the endings in the finale, it was Felicity's that felt most final, and like many fans, Schwartz was particularly invested in her return. 

"I would have been really upset if it didn't work out where she came back, and it just wouldn't have felt...I've said this before, but it wouldn't have felt like the series finale without her," she said. "Of all the challenging things in the finale, that was the least challenging, because as you saw in her performance, and throughout the episode, she was just mourning her husband but at the same time was able to jump back into Felicity mode for the team." 

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"That's basically how every character approached the finale in terms fo mourning for their brother, their teammate, whatever Oliver meant to them, their hero, and then also able to honor him and his legacy to save his family," she continued. 

For Schwartz, ending Arrow was "strange," because she started the show as a writers assistant on season one and ended the show as showrunner, and has a lot more than Oliver Queen to thank. 

"It is crazy looking back at season one, starting as a writers assistant and then ending running the last two seasons," she said. "But I really wanted to thank [Marc Guggenheim], [Wendy Mericle], and [Greg Berlanti] for mentoring me and teaching me how to take the reins and believing in me." 

As fans, we'd like to thank all those same people, Schwartz included. It took eight years, but the city feels pretty safe. 

Arrow aired on The CW.