Arrow may only have ten episodes in its eighth and final season to close its stories as well as tackle "Crisis on Infinite Earths," but the original Arrow-verse series is packing some familiar faces into its farewell season on The CW. While Emily Bett Rickards hasn't been confirmed one way or the other, an actor who played a character that many fans loved to hate is on his way back: John Barrowman. Is he the "gracious" guest star?
Stephen Amell dropped the exciting news about John Barrowman's return at Fan Expo Boston 2019 (via Fandom Spotlite), and it wasn't in response to a fan even asking for Arrow spoilers. Instead, somebody asked if Amell would be celebrating Barrowman's 60th birthday with a cake and skimpy suit, as he had for Barrowman's 50th. Here was Amell's surprisingly spoiler-ific response:
It's part of the deal, every ten years I put on a tiny suit and I deliver John Barrowman a birthday cake. He's back in the show in Season 8, and that was actually a rider that he put into his contract, so… [Gives thumbs up.]
Somehow I don't see Oliver Queen showing up scantily clad with a cake for Malcolm Merlyn, not least because Stephen Amell already stated that Oliver won't be miserable in Season 8. Although that certainly be one explanation for why Oliver won't be wearing his wedding ring right off the bat in the new season!
In all seriousness, John Barrowman's return comes after a return to the Arrow-verse in 2018 for a brief appearance in the "Elseworlds" crossover. Previously a regular across all the shows in the Arrow-verse after he branched his villainy beyond just Arrow, Malcolm was killed off (although off-screen) in the Season 5 finale. This time, the death seemed to stick.
So, is Malcolm Merlyn the latest super dead character to somehow return for Season 8? Tommy and Prometheus are both coming back as well, and they're definitely dead. Could Malcolm have somehow survived? Honestly, nothing would surprise me after he somehow survived the end of Season 1. Maybe he is still alive!
Or maybe Malcolm will be resurrected. The return of Roy in Season 7 brought Lazarus Pits back into play, although Roy himself won't be back as a regular in Season 8. The resurrection of Sara well after she died was proof that, in the Arrow-verse, months of decomposition don't mean that a person can be up and ready for action after a dip in the Lazarus Pit! That said, this is Arrow we're talking about.
Dead characters have been brought back via parallel worlds, flashbacks, visions, drug-induced hallucinations, and head trauma-induced hallucinations, so Arrow could easily bring back John Barrowman without resurrecting Malcolm or revealing that Malcom has been alive all along.
After Stephen Amell dropped the news of John Barrowman's return, Barrowman himself took to social media to confirm and cryptically tease what's in store:
Personally, I was ready to say goodbye to Malcolm Merlyn by the time he was finally killed off in Arrow Season 5, but John Barrowman is always a joy, so I'm looking forward to seeing what Arrow has in store for him in the final season.
It's entirely possible that John Barrowman is joining the ranks of Kevin Conroy and Burt Ward (not to mention Brandon Routh as Superman) as bonkers additions to "Crisis on Infinite Earths," but the phrasing by Stephen Amell and John Barrowman makes me think that Malcolm will be back for an episode of Arrow that's just Arrow rather than part of a five-show crossover.
John Barrowman himself will reprise this iconic role in the not-too-distant future; Barrowman fans can only cross their fingers that his pitch for a return to Captain Jack Harkness results in a new Doctor Who project as well. At least we can always count on Malcolm to come back!