This story originally ran on Den of Geek UK.
This article contains spoilers for Arrow season 4 so far (up to episode 9, Dark Waters).
Since its very first episode, Arrow has played around with its timeline. Far from content with sticking to a normal linear narrative, the show has a tendency to intercut the modern day vigilantism of Stephen Amell’s Oliver Queen/Green Arrow with the five years he spent in “hell” (Ollie’s term for his surprisingly globetrotting origin story) prior to the main timeline of the series.
Season 4 introduced a new idea, as well – what if the show could jump forward in time too? We haven’t just seen Oliver’s heroic present and his morally murky past in season 4, we’ve also caught a glimpse of his future. In the season 4 premiere, we saw Ollie in a graveyard “six months later.” Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen shows up and apologizes for missing the funeral.
“There was a time when I would have thought this was my fault, that I brought this darkness upon us,” a sombre Oliver intones, before clarifying that “now I know it’s not my fault, it’s my responsibility.” It’s his responsibility, he says, “to end it.”
“I’m gonna kill him,” Oliver gravely promises – presumably talking about season 4’s main villain Damien Darhk – before asking Barry to leave him alone. Ollie kneels, briefly touches the headstone of the grave and then holds his chin for a sad and thoughtful moment.
But who is the dead individual who has emotionally affected the usually-steely Oliver to such a degree? Assuming that it’s not a villain or a character who spends most of their time in The Flash or Legends Of Tomorrow, here are a few ideas…
At this stage, we’re probably meant to think that it’s Felicity Smoak in that grave. The midseason finale “Dark Waters” ended with Arrow’s female lead Felicity gunned down by Darhk’s men. The love of Ollie’s life has been shot, and looks to be bleeding out when the credits roll.
There is, indeed, every chance that this could be genuine. After four seasons of romance slowly blossoming, it would be typical Ollie luck for Felicity to be snatched away from him before he could wed her and live happily ever after. In terms of big character arcs that could come up in the future, it’s tough to imagine anything more major for Ollie to go through than the death of Felicity.
However, we can’t help questioning whether The CW would be this brave. Emily Bett Rickards’ performance as Felicity has been the light-hearted anchor keeping the show’s moodiness in check for years. Without her, the show could descend into pure misery. Rickards is also immensely popular with fans; so killing her off would surely incur some backlash.
Felicity dying would be too obvious from a plotting perspective, and perhaps too dangerous on the future showrunning side of things. I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s Felicity in the grave. Wouldn’t Ollie be more upset if she were dead? Or wouldn’t Barry employ his time traveling abilities to save her?
Perhaps it could be the other founding member of Team Arrow who ends up six feet under. Losing John Diggle would be a big blow for Ollie, and would save the showrunners from having to kill off Felicity and sacrifice the lion’s share of laughs in the show in exchange for a hefty emotional impact.
Besides giving pep talks, interrogating his brother and dressing like a Magneto knockoff, Diggle doesn’t have too much to do in the show these days. And once the story of Andrew is sorted, he may begin seeming a little surplus to requirements. This universe is full of superheroes now – do we still need a bodyguard with a gun?
Arguably, we do. Having a normal guy like Diggle around helps ground Arrow in something that, at times, can just about pass for reality. If you squint. Without him, perhaps the wackiness of magic and superpowers would begin seeming more silly. Still, it’d be a smaller risk for the creative team than killing off the romantic lead.
Again though, I can’t help but feel that Ollie would be in pieces if Diggle – the man that tries to retire from superheroics ever other week – eventually died in the line of duty, leaving a wife and a child to survive without him. Your guess is a good as mine, of course, but I feel like Diggle is another somewhat unlikely option.
She’s had blood lust and anger issues all season, so it doesn’t seem entirely implausible that Thea could go one step too far at some point and get herself killed… again. And, having seen what happened the first time he brought her back via dodgy means, Oliver would probably decide to let her rest in peace second time around (rather than asking Barry to save her with time travel or attempting to rebuild the Lazarus Pit).
Again, though, my reading of the grave scene is that Oliver is upset, but not utterly torn to emotional shreds. Losing his only surviving relative (except for his secret son) would surely send Ollie into a downward spiral of rage and self-loathing.
Thinking of Thea’s arc this year, as well, it’s equally plausible that Malcolm will end up luring her into evildoing rather than get her killed. Their relationship is definitely leading to something, but it doesn’t have to be death.
Like Thea, Laurel was on the list of people that Oliver tried to protect before she ended up ignoring his advice and joining Star(ling) City’s ever-growing superhero crusade. It’d be a gut punch for Ollie, then, if she eventually died as a result of ignoring his advice and becoming Black Canary.
There’s also the fact that the idea of Laurel and Ollie ever being couple has seemingly been ditched entirely. With that plotline out of the way, Laurel is become a bit more disposable to the show. Killing Laurel could help tee up season 5, too, allowing for Quentin to be even more pissed off at Ollie’s masked antics.
To go back again to the grave scene, you could argue that Ollie’s dialogue does seem to fit in the case of Laurel – it’s not his fault (as he tried his best to stop her, but Laurel ultimately made the choice to become Black Canary of her own free will), but it’s his responsibility as her friend to put things right and stop Darhk once and for all.
It could be Laurel, then, but it could just as easily be one of her relatives…
Sara is another character who has already been brought back from the dead once. And – to again try and read the implications of the grave scene dialogue – the darkness that followed her resurrection wasn’t explicitly Oliver’s fault (since Laurel brought Sara’s corpse to Nanda Parbat without Ollie’s permission).
If this darkness eventually leads to Sara dying once more, then, you can see how Ollie wouldn’t blame himself, but would feel a responsibility to achieve justice in Sara’s name by killing the ‘him’ that he holds responsible for her demise. Interestingly, in the case of Sara, this ‘him’ could be someone other than Darhk.
Sara is one of the lead characters in Legends Of Tomorrow, the upcoming time travel spin-off that will see a legion of heroes and villains uniting to bring down Vandal Savage, the immortal villain we glimpsed in the recent Arrow/The Flash crossover episodes.
If Savage killed Sara in the spin-off, this could motivate Ollie to join the Legends team to help kill him once and for all. It’s worth remembering that Oliver never explicitly states in the grave scene that it’s Darhk he wants to kill. Perhaps this one’s a bit of a curveball, but it does still seem possible.
Another contender for that ambiguous hole in the ground is Quentin Lance. This year, Quentin has been on the inside of Darhk’s shady operation. He’s provided intel for the Green Arrow on regular occasions, which could – in all probability – cause Darhk to kill him if and when he confronts him about it.
This wouldn’t be Oliver’s fault (again, Quentin initially aligned himself with Darhk without even telling Ollie), but the death of his sometime cohort (and father to two of his friends/former girlfriends) could be the final straw that convinces Oliver that Darhk must die.
It all fits, perhaps better for Quentin than it does for anyone else. We’d be sad to say goodbye to Paul Blackthorne’s sarcasm, questionable fathering techniques and anti-Arrow assaults, but it is tough to deny that the show would survive just fine without him at this stage.
Quentin’s death would be an emotional shock for the surviving characters, but wouldn’t create too big a chasm for the writers when it comes to season 5. Quentin is my best bet at the moment, but there is one other person it could be…
Set up ages ago as the mother to Oliver’s secret child, Anna Hopkins’ Sam Clayton reappeared in the 2015 Arrow/The Flash crossover episodes. Oliver finally found out about his son, William, before opting – twice – not to tell Felicity about him. Clearly, this strand is building to something.
If Samantha was the one to die, the entire status quo of Arrow could change for season 5. Suddenly, we could be looking at an Oliver Queen who has to raise a child as well as being a superhero and probably the mayor of Star City. Within that personal juggling act, there could be loads of great stories.
To get there, though, Samantha would need to be drawn into the main action of season 4, interact with Darhk, and end up dead in a way that Ollie wouldn’t feel was his fault. There are a lot of pieces to move around, then, but it’s far from impossible.
At the moment, only Oliver and Barry know about William. But if Darhk somehow found out, both William and Samantha would surely be nice easy targets in his battle against Oliver. And, assuming that Arrow wouldn’t even consider killing off Connor, it seems likely that Sandra could wind up dead as a result.
I could be wrong – and probably am – but Samantha or William is my best bet at this stage… what do you think?
With thanks to Caroline Preece.
Arrow season 4 returns to The CW on the 20th of January.