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Once upon a time on Arrow, dead just meant dead. When people were confirmed dead in Season 1, they stayed dead. Now, as the seasons have passed and Oliver’s world has gotten bigger, death means something very different. According to Arrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim, showing the evolution of the meaning of death on the show is essential to asserting Arrow’s place in the expanding DC TV universe.
Dead is not goodbye. We definitely recognize across all three shows 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 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.
Marc Guggenheim’s chat with THR about death in the Flarrow-verse is timely considering that Arrow is on the verge of revealing the identity of the person in the grave from the Season 4 flashforward. Although Arrow did fabulously take the Lazarus Pit out of commission, introductions of get-out-of-death-free cards on Flash and Legends of Tomorrow have made it harder to guess if a person who dies is actually going to stay dead. Marc Guggenheim has said in the past that the upcoming big death will be permanent, but few farewells are forever on any of the CW’s DC shows anymore.
It’s fitting that Guggenheim mentions original Arrow character Sara Lance. She’s been presumed dead, almost dead, actually dead, and then ultimately resurrected. Now, she’s traveling through time and interacting with presently dead characters in the past. Who's to say she won't encounter a dead Arrow character somewhere down the line.
Similarly, The Flash has found a way to introduce different versions of Earth 1 characters thanks to crossovers with Earth 2. One Arrow star whose character's Earth 1 life is in jeopardy will even be crossing over to play an Earth 2 character. Arrow can still kill people off, but that doesn’t mean that those people can’t come back to the present very much alive in slightly altered forms.
It’s a good sign that Marc Guggenheim is embracing the need for Arrow to evolve as it heads toward its fifth season. The status quo needs to keep changing to keep things fresh, and sharing a universe with The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow, and even Supergirl to a certain extent has meant that treating death as though it still meant "gone forever" wouldn’t have worked. Hopefully, Arrow can find a balance between continuing to pretend to kill people off in “Gotcha!” moments and acknowledging there are loopholes to mortality now.
To see who is the unlucky person in the grave in Season 4, tune in to Arrow on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.