It was eight years ago this week that Arrow kicked off what would be known as its “Mystery Grave” season, seeing as the opener ended with a “SIX MONTHS LATER” flash-forward that saw Barry Allen arrive late for the funeral of someone clearly close to Oliver Queen.
The only clues we had to go on from that startling, minute-long stinger was that Oliver felt responsibility for whomever‘s death, and as such now was resolved “to kill him,” the person responsible for it.
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I forget what exactly prompted me to jot down a reminder of this kinda-random “8-Year Anniversary” — I suspect I did it back when onetime Arrowverse EP Marc Guggenheim marked the April “Canaryversary” of the to-be-revealed demise. Regardless, it got me revisiting Season 4, which in hindsight dropped far fewer weekly clues about the “Mystery Grave” than you might remember.
From go, Guggenheim told us, “It’s not a fake-out,” that the person for whom the funeral was held in fact died, and he/she would not be coming back. At the time, TVLine offered our “odds” on who it might turn out to be. Quentin Lance was our “top” pick with a 5-skull rating, followed by Thea with a 4-skull rating.
The person it ended up being only merited two skulls in our knee-jerk, start-of-season predictions.
Following that Oct. 7, 2015 season premiere, Arrow went many weeks without offering a single other clue on the flash-forward front — in part because Season 4 had a lot going on!
There was drama surrounding Thea’s bloodlust following her date with the Lazarus Pit, and Laurel’s wish to revive her sister with those same magic waters at Nanda Parnbat…. When Oliver and Felicity returned from a stab at mild-mannered life in Ivy Town, the former formally adopted the moniker of Green Arrow…. Diggle spent much of Season 4 hiding things about his brother Andy, who was involved with H.I.V.E. and the new Big Bad, Damien Darhk (played by Neal McDonough)…. Felicity’s momma, Donna, struck a spark with Quentin (who was in a forced alliance with Darhk)…. There was a famously and laughably forgettable series of Lian Yu flashback…, John Constantine paid a visit, in part to try to tame a post-Lazarus Pit Sara…. Echo Kellum joined the cast as Curtis, and seeds were planted for presumed-dead Ray Palmer’s return/segue to Legends of Tomorrow with Sara.
But perhaps most notable — aside from the eventual death that filled the “Mystery Grave,” of course — was a December crossover with The Flash that paved the way for Oliver to learn that ex-girlfriend Samantha Clayton had secretly bore him a son, a reveal that Felicity herself had to process twice. (The first time aka the most preposterous fight in #Olicity history wound up getting “erased” by some time-rewinding Flash heroics.)
In fact, it was not until Episode 10 of the “Mystery Grave” season that we got our next meaningful clue, in the form of a flash-forward that confirmed that the doomed character was (whew!) not Felicity — though judging by a glimpse of her bare ring finger, her and Oliver’s nascent engagement would not be going well.
From there, all kinds of drama awaited Oliver’s fiancée, in the form of a gunshot that left her paralyzed (but not with an Oracle moniker), and her finally meeting her father, Noah Cutler aka The Calculator (Everwood‘s Tom Amandes).
Finally, come Episode 18 (titled “Eleven Fifty-Nine”), the “Who’s in the grave?” mystery was solved, when Damien Darhk used one of Oliver’s own arrows to brutally stab Laurel’s Black Canary. Following an urgent surgery, Laurel had enough life left in her to share something in private with onetime beau Oliver (and which would not be revealed until Season 5), before seizing and dying.
“We started off this year with the promise of a death,” Guggenheim, who co-wrote the episode “Eleven Fifty-Nine” with future Legends of Tomorrow boss Keto Shimizu, said at the time, “and when we worked our way through our various creative choices, we realized that the thing that will give us the most pop going into the end of the season, into next season, unfortunately would be” the death of Laurel, played by original cast member Katie Cassidy.
Guggenheim at the time said he knew that Cassidy/Laurel/Black Canary fans would be disappointed by the choice, “But at the end of the day, we have to tell the story we’re telling, and we did it in spite of what we imagine will be a rather loud response.”
Cassidy — who had only learned of her fate when filming the second episode prior! — told the press during the week of her death scene, “I was OK with it,” adding: “We all sort of came to an understanding that this is what was going to happen, and it made sense to me.”
Guggenheim, in the aforementioned “Canaryversary” blog post, revisited that controversial Season 4 decision, claiming that at the time “there were still a lot of cooks in the kitchen and very few decisions were made by a single person…. This is true for the decision to kill Laurel.”
Guggenheim also reminded folks that, when all was said and done, Cassidy was brought back — not just for an imminent appearance on The Flash as Earth-2’s Black Siren, but ultimately in a major way, especially during what would be Arrow‘s farewell run. She even was set to co-star in the prospective, Canaries-centric Arrow spinoff!
“We were already in the process of [writing Katie back in] when we got a phone call from then-CW President Mark Pedowitz, who said, ‘So when are you bringing Black Siren back?'” blogged Guggenheim. “Of course, our response was, ‘We’re already on it,’ because we were.”
What do you most remember, for better or for worse, about Arrow Season 4?
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