While appearing at a PaleyFest panel on Saturday celebrating the DC superheroes on The CW, executive producer Andrew Kreisberg made a startling declaration about season four of The Flash: “Next season, no speedster as the villain.”
“It’s hard because you become a victim of your own success,” Kreisberg explained. After the success of the Reverse-Flash as the season one villain, he knew the show had to up their game, so they choose Zoom as a scarier threat for second season and, hopefully, Savitar as Barry Allen’s greatest speed-related opponent. He also added that each speedster, in a way, aids Barry in his journey to become The Flash of the comics. “The shows should be ‘Flash Begins or Arrow Begins,’ because they’re not who they are yet,” he said.
“It better be getting close!” shouted Arrow star Steven Amell, whose Oliver Queen only received the name “Green Arrow” at the beginning of the series’ fourth year.
Reflecting back on Arrow’s early days, Kreisberg admitted he never expected to see superpowers on the show. “At [our] first PaleyFest, we were asked if there would ever be superpowers on Arrow and we said no,” said. Now, not only has Oliver befriend superheroes like The Flash, but the success of the shows led to a major change of identity for The CW.
“I never knew expanding would be part of the plan,” Kreisberg continued. “I remember it being so hard to put that first year [of Arrow] together. There was an episode we couldn’t work out and [executive producer] Greg [Berlanti] said, ‘Next year, we should have Barry Allen show up in episodes eight and nine, have him struck by lightning, then have him wake up in his own show.’ I was too busy trying to make this one episode work to really think about it.” Nevertheless, Berlanti’s plan to launch Barry into his own series was such a success, it led to the team developing a third show for the network and Supergirl for CBS.
Berlanti also broke a logjam in the planning of this year’s crossover between Arrow, The Flash and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow. As viewers saw back in October, Arrow’s 100th episode coincided with all of the heroes teaming up to fend off the invasion of the Dominators. “Why weren’t we smart enough to not do that?” joked executive producer Greg Guggenheim. “We talked about it and Greg said, ‘Here’s what we’re going to do.’” His plan involved trapping the characters from Arrow in a virtual reality simulation. In that world, Oliver was never lost on the island and his parents were still alive. “It advanced the trilogy story and the hundredth episode. It was his brainchild,” Guggenheim said.
“We were excited about that,” added Arrow executive producer Wendy Mericle. “What could Ollie have been had he never been on the island? It was great emotional episode in the middle of all this alien business.”
“It felt like the twentieth anniversary issue of The Fantastic Four. It felt like a milestone issue of comic book instead of a milestone episode of a TV show,” Guggenheim said.
Amell was surprised at the feeling of accomplishment he sensed while shooting the hundredth episode. “The first shot [we filmed] was [Caity Lotz] and I and it was a one-take wonder. I looked at the crew, so many of them have been there since the first episode and it struck me,” he said. He noted than many of the crew members across all four shows have been involved in the world of CW superheroes since Smallville. “It was easy to play the emotional moments of that episode, because so many of them are true,” he added. “That scene where I said goodbye to my parents, there wasn’t a lot of preparation because it came so easy.”
Though he felt the path to 100 episodes was a tough once, he joked that “the path to 200 will be easier.”
Returning to The Flash, star Grant Gustin said he sympathized with fans alarmed by Barry’s recent decision to walk away from Iris after proposing to her. “He’s always been an optimist, and this year we see Barry getting pulled by his fears,” he explained. “But I understand the fans.”
According to Kreisberg, the change of heart was planned as a lead-in for the upcoming Flash and Supergirl musical crossover. Recalling the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he said one of the great elements of that “gimmick” episode was that it continued to tell the on-going story of the season. They wanted to do the same thing with their musical crossover. “We set it up so that Barry and Kara will be in romantic crossroads so they can go on this journey together,” he said.
“You guys love torturing the viewers,” quipped Amell.
“You’re part of this, too.” Kreisberg retorted.
The producer also offered some insights into other upcoming episodes. Episode eighteen is about a villain from the future called Abra Kadabra. “He knows who Savitar is, and it becomes a conundrum as to whether or not to let him go to learn Savitar’s identity,” he explained. “Nineteen is called ‘The Once and Future Flash,’ and Barry decides the only [place] he can find out what he needs to know is in the future.”
“We’re really excited for the audience to see the last seven episodes,” he added.
Turning attention away from Earth-1, moderator Kevin Smith noted Supergirl seems more at home on The CW and asked about moving from CBS, which aired the first season. “We did pitch a lot of season two to them before we left and they were cool with it. It’s not as much of a switch as people think,” he explained. In planning the second season, they looked at what the other shows do well and what Supergirl could bring to the line-up. “Flash is family drama. Arrow is crime drama. Legends is insanity. With Supergirl, it was built into the cake that it could take on issues [of the day]. We were talking about immigration, journalism, and LGBT rights and this show and its cast could handle mixing that real world stuff into a superhero world. We’re really proud of the episodes where we’ve touched on that.”
In fact, the show was nominated for a GLAAD award for highlighting LGBT characters in a positive and compelling light. “We didn’t set out for that,” Kreisberg explained. “But the personal stories we’ve heard about how much Maggie and Alex means to them, how much Alex’s journey means to them, and how much her family being there for her has meant to them. We’re here entertaining people, but if we’re making someone feel less alone for forty-two minutes, that’s really special.”
Star Melissa Benoist added, “With what’s happening in the world, it feels like what we do and what we stand for in playing these characters is an important message to spread.”
Returning to Earth-1, Smith asked Legends executive producer Phil Klemmer about the seismic shift in the show from the first season’s slower pace and unsure footing to the second year’s speed and out-there plots. “People talk about how crazy the show is, and we never set out to blow people’s minds,” Klemmer said. “These are the stories that appeal to us. We’re like a jam band. Seventeen episodes later, it’s like, ‘How did we get here?’” Recent episodes have seen Ray and Nate inspiring George Lucas to stick with filmmaking, the Legends discovering a real Camelot, and Ray rescuing Apollo 13.
The nature of a time travel show allowed Klemmer and his writers to “find stories that are on the scale of absurdity,” but he credits the cast with grounding the plots through their characters. “There’s heart there that keeps it tethered to the real world,” he said.
But if they learned one thing from the first season, it was when and how to spotlight different members of the Waverider crew. “In season one, we tried to be democratic and give equal parts of the pie. Then, we decided we could focus on one character or dynamic and have the characters cycle through.” He cited last week’s episode as an example, with Ray getting a larger-than-life plot piloting the LEM of Apollo 13 while Nate had a more emotional story with his grandfather.
Klemmer also added that “ninety percent” of the ideas they brainstormed in the first season have yet to be realized, and he hopes to mine them in season three.
“I never know what’s coming,” added star Caity Lotz. “When I first got on Arrow, it was three episodes. Then, it turned into more, then they were killing me off. Then, a couple months later, I was back. Each time, I don’t know where it’s going. I didn’t see Sarah becoming the captain.”
Smith also asked Legends star Brandon Routh about his Atom suit. “For the first hour, it’s fine. But we shoot for twelve to fourteen hours. The suits are fantastic, though,” responded Routh. Smith, however, was curious about a specific part of the suit.
“Is there a ‘dick door’ in that suit?” asked Smith.
Routh blushed, leading the crowd to cheer. When he regained his composure, he managed to explain there is a way for him to take bathroom breaks. “Little snaps snap over. But I have to take the arms and the chest piece off to get access to it,” he said.
“I think I’m getting an email from Brandon this week,” joked Guggenheim. “Subject: Season Three Requests — Dick Door.”
Photo Credit: HOLLYWOOD, CA – MARCH 18: Moderator Kevin Smith with the cast and creatives of The CW’s Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow at PaleyFest LA 2017 honoring The CW’s Heroes and Aliens, presented by The Paley Center for Media, at the DOLBY THEATRE on March 18, 2017 in Hollywood, California. © Michael Bulbenko for the Paley Center