What do you give the man who has given everything?
That’s the question facing John Diggle, Felicity Smoak and the other men and women in Oliver Queen’s life. But it was also the question facing the writers and producers of Arrow, the long-running TV series that spawned an entire small screen universe and that takes its final bow tonight in a heartfelt hour-long episode titled “Fadeout.”
“It was really important to me and Marc to honor all of our characters in this,” shares Executive Producer and series showrunner Beth Schwartz, who co-wrote the episode with Consulting Producer Marc Guggenheim. “We spent a lot of time in the room brainstorming endings for all our characters, whether they were series regulars in season eight or they were series regulars in season one. We really wanted to give everyone a satisfying ending, so that you could envision what their lives would be like after the show was over.”
There was also the little problem of Oliver Queen, the series’ central character, being dead. As viewers know, Green Arrow sacrificed himself to save the Multiverse during the recent “Crisis on Infinite Earths” crossover. Balance that with also connecting to last week’s futuristic backdoor pilot episode and wanting to make sure the finale was a fitting sendoff that would please fans and the show’s creative team had their work cut out for them.
“I didn't know exactly where we were going,” reveals actor David Ramsey, who has played John Diggle in the series going back to the show’s premiere. “There are a lot of challenges. I mean, how do you bring your protagonist back who has been dead for two episodes? Right? We were all thinking that in the cast too—what happens in this finale?”
The solution was to rely on something the show has used extensively throughout its run—flashbacks—but to go about them a different way. Without spoiling anything, these flashbacks cut to the very heart of who Oliver was as a hero and what Arrow, at its core, is really about.
“We always knew that we wanted Stephen in the finale,” explains Guggenheim. “The obvious solution to that seemed to be to do a flashback story which also would honor the flashback convention that's been so important to the show, particularly in its first five years. It seems to make sense since in a series finale, you're really looking backwards.”
That includes plenty of emotional, affecting visits by many of Arrow’s current and former cast members. It turns out that after spending, in some cases, years as part of a cast that occasionally bleeds over into other popular DC shows, quite a few actors and crew members were there for the last day of shooting to say goodbye, including some that weren’t even scheduled to work that day.
“The whole day, it was a celebration, but also just surreal,” Ramsey recalls. “Obviously, this was ending and some people were sad. There a lot of tears. But also, there was an expectation that we're doing something. Just to have the opportunity to go out the way you want to go out. I think that was doing something to us too. I think we felt like we had some control over what we said and how we said it. So, there were a lot of emotions that day.”
“Saying goodbye was really hard,” admits Juliana Harkavy, who plays Dinah Drake on the series and in the finale. “It’s saying goodbye to your family. It felt sort of like when you leave for college. It’s surreal. We will always have each other—sometimes, you know, you say that and then you never see each other again. But genuinely, we stay connected and we are a family. It was bittersweet, but we know that we have each other forever. We know that we created something incredible, but also, life is different now and things are not going to be the same.”
Among other things, “Fadeout” includes Oliver Queen’s funeral, which has all of the emotional impact that you might expect. One unexpected guest who’s already been revealed is Ollie’s grown daughter. Mia Smoak makes one last visit to the past, care of Sara Lance and the Waverider. Only this time, it’ll allow her to interact with her other parent—Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak, who also returns for the episode.
“There's a lot of wish fulfillment,” Schwartz shares. “I'm a new parent and seeing your child as their adult self is really crazy and also amazing when you're proud of who she became as a woman. Mia’s also honoring her father's legacy. It’s obviously not under great circumstances because they're at Oliver's funeral, but I think it’s a very meaningful moment in their lives.”
“I was so, so happy to see what the finale episode was because it’s really beautiful and emotional,” says Kat McNamara, who plays Mia. “We get to go back and tie up all the loose ends that we can and revisit so many of those nostalgic moments and relationships. Shooting it was really lovely. We got to see people come out of the woodwork and go above and beyond to give Arrow the send-off it deserves and to really honor this legacy that Stephen and the entire team have built. You can tell how much it means to everyone, and I think that will show onscreen as well.”
If the idea of a funeral-based episode has you worried that you’re in for an hour of heaviness and emotion, however, nothing could be farther from the truth. While there are moments that may tug your heartstrings, the Arrow series finale also includes one final mission that the team undertakes together, along with arguably the show’s best action sequence since last season’s prison breakout. (It’s a real standout.) However, the final note is a happy one, despite all of the sadness, and it’s one that Guggenheim and Schwartz have had in mind for a while.
“I meditate every morning,” shares Guggenheim. “And this one morning, I came out of the meditation with the entire scene in my head, like literally word for word. And I quickly opened up my laptop, and I’m like, ‘I gotta get this down!!’ It just felt so right. I very excitedly texted Beth and was like, ‘I wrote the final scene, and I gotta send it to you!’”
“We didn't even think of another ending,” admits Schwartz. “We didn't have a backup plan at all.”
While Arrow is ending, the universe it helped spawn remains strong—and after the events of “Crisis,” is more cohesive than ever before. While tonight’s series finale feels like one important chapter is ending, to borrow a line from the episode, “the mission doesn’t end.” It certainly won’t for fans of the Arrowverse…and it might not for some of the Arrow actors either. After all, there’s always a chance they might show up on one of Arrow’s sister shows.
“Just being on a show where you have this network with The Flash, Legends, Batwoman and all these tentacles,” ponders Ramsey. “It's strange because it feels as if it’s over. But you’re also kind of like, ‘Look at all my children. Look at this world we created.’ So, it's over, but then again, it’s not over. I'm used to, as an actor, you do a show and you're done, and you move on to the next. There's that, but there's also this legacy that we've created that feels really special.”
Sounds like a pretty good tribute to the man who started it all…and sacrificed it all.
"Fadeout" airs tonight on Arrow at 9 p.m. (8 p.m. CST) on The CW. Be sure to visit our official Arrow page for more news, features and articles on the world of Star City.