For most successful TV shows, a final season allows the writers to prepare for the finale by wrapping up various storylines in a way that sends the characters out on a high note. For the CW’s “Arrow,” wrapping up the series was going to be a bit more complicated, considering the series was the anchor of a multi-media franchise of several shows based on various DC Comics characters.
In its eighth and final season, “Arrow” was tasked with not only its own finale, but also a setting up a potential spinoff, not to mention servicing one of the largest crossover events in television history. And it had just 10 episodes to do it, when previous seasons had averaged about 23.
“There were challenges, but also we were very excited about the shorter episode order because it allowed us the freedom to do a different kind of structure, and I don’t think we would have been able to do that if we had a full 22 or 23 episodes,” said executive producer Beth Schwartz, who has written for the show since its first season and served as showrunner for seasons seven and eight.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment April 28 will release Arrow: The Eighth and Final Season as three-disc Blu-ray Disc and DVD sets. The same day also sees the release Arrow: The Complete Series on 31 Blu-ray Discs or 38 DVDs containing all 170 episodes of the show that began in 2012.
Adapted from the Green Arrow comic book, “Arrow” stars Stephen Amell as Oliver Queen, the billionaire’s son who spends five years in exile following a shipwreck that leaves him stranded on a distant island. Tasked by his father’s dying wish to clean up Starling City, Queen returns home and takes up the mantle of a ruthless vigilante who will stop at nothing to complete his mission.
The show’s cast included David Ramsey as John Diggle, Rick Gonzalez as Rene Ramirez, Juliana Harkavy as Dinah Drake, Katie Cassidy as Laurel Lance, and Emily Bett Rickards as Felicity Smoak. Former cast members such as Paul Blackthorne, Willa Holland, Colton Haynes, Colin Donnell, Echo Kellum, Susanna Thompson, John Barrowman and Josh Segarra return as guest stars in the final season, many in the finale, called “Fadeout.”
For the first five seasons, the show used a flashback structure interweaving and contrasting Oliver’s time in exile with events of the present.
“In some ways the flashback structure was so great, especially in the first two seasons, where is explains that missing time and that’s how it’s constructed,” Schwartz said. “But once we got past that time, it started to feel a little formulaic, where we were just putting flashbacks in because that’s what the structure was. I think that’s when we all realized that it would be nice to take a break from the flashback structure and spend more time with our present-day characters.”
In season seven, the show adopted a flash-forward narrative set in 2040 focused on Oliver’s children, Mia (Katherine McNamara) and William (Ben Lewis).
“We always talked about flash forwarding, but we didn’t want to assume the show was going to go for as many years as it went for, so we didn’t know if that was ever going to be a possibility,” Schwartz said. “But there was always the discussion early on that it would be interesting to see this idea of flash-forwarding to his children.”
Over the course of the series, Oliver meets new heroes, spawning a shared universe, known as the Arrowverse, that contains the TV shows “The Flash,” “Supergirl,” “Batwoman,” “Legends of Tomorrow” and “Black Lightning.”
In the final season of “Arrow,” Oliver becomes one of the key players in averting a crisis that threatens to destroy the multiverse. While annual crossovers between the Arrowverse have become a tradition, the “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover event was bigger than them all, involving characters from all the Arrowverse shows, but also cameos from previous DC Comics movies and TV shows such as “Smallville” and the 1966 version of “Batman.”
“Crisis” began with an episode of “Supergirl,” continued on “Batwoman,” “The Flash” and “Arrow” before concluding with an episode of “Legends of Tomorrow.”
The season-eight and complete-series Blu-ray sets include a limited-edition bonus disc with all five episodes of “Crisis on Infinite Earths” and six crossover featurettes. The ability to collect the entirety of “Crisis” thus gives the Blu-ray a distinct advantage over the DVD, which just includes the “Arrow” episode of the crossover.
“We wrote the story imagining the viewer experiencing all of them in order as you watch them live on television,” Schwartz said. “You want to serve your own show obviously in your hour, but you’re also serving a larger story. And how the crossovers have evolved, especially ‘Crisis,’ is it has turned into a huge movie event. But it’s not even about your show anymore, it’s about the story of ‘Crisis.’ Yes, on the DVD it probably won’t make sense if you haven’t seen the other ones.”
Schwartz credits the shows’ assistant directors for keeping all the logistics of the crossover sorted out.
“The real heroes are the first A.D.s on all the shows because the scheduling has the most challenges,” Schwartz said. “And for us having the crossover and also the series finale where we have so many guest stars from the other shows, I’m super grateful for all those actors who were able to squeeze that in after working tirelessly on all the crossover episodes.”
Because the ‘Crisis’ storyline involved alien beings with the power to bend time and space, Oliver’s future children were brought to the present to join the fight.
“That was super important in terms of getting that connection between Mia and Oliver because they never met,” Schwartz said. “So as soon as we knew we were doing ‘Crisis’ and we were allowed to do things like that, because our show as much as we can keep it is very grounded, so it opened it up a lot more which we were grateful for because we knew we could get these amazing scenes between Stephen and Kat. Mia and Oliver because had never met before and she was so much like him, and those scenes were great.”
The fourth episode of “Crisis” was also the third-to-last episode of “Arrow.” The second-to-last episode of the final season, “Green Arrow & The Canaries,” was made as a backdoor pilot for a new spinoff in which Mia picks up the mantle of the Green Arrow 20 years in the future.
“The spinoff was the most challenging because we had to fit it right between ‘Crisis’ and the finale,” Schwartz said. “I think it works really well looking back because you were actually able to see 20 years in the future after ‘Crisis’ … and the other future that we saw leading up to ‘Crisis’ had been changed forever. So I think it allowed us to do a lot of things that we wouldn’t have been able to do if we didn’t have that backdoor pilot in that position.”
Production shutdowns associated with the coronavirus pandemic have delayed the decision about whether the spinoff has been picked up, she said.
The Blu-ray and DVD also include deleted scenes, the Arrow: Hitting the Bullseye finale retrospective special, and highlights from the DC Comics shows at San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The series is also available for purchase through digital retailers, and the Blu-ray editions of the series and final season will come with digital copies of the episodes.
Schwartz is now working on a project that will take her beyond the Arrowverse, but looks back fondly at her time helping to develop the franchise.
“I think about it more in terms of the characters and not the reality of how they’re making all the shows, but the legacy of ‘Arrow’ and specifically Oliver Queen brings out this world that sort of got out of control with so many shows and it’s so crazy to think about it,” Schwartz said. “I just remember season one, watching the pilot and joining everyone in the writers room and wondering if people were going to like this show. We all liked it and we felt it was something different, but we had no idea how people would respond to it. It’s just so hard to wrap your brain around what it has created and it just makes me feel happy to have been a part of this experience.”