Ra’s al Ghul is coming to ‘Arrow’ and EP Marc Guggenheim offers details

The “Arrow” Season 3 tease that played at Saturday's (July 27) Warner Bros. Television Presents a Night of DC Entertainment in Hall H was identical to the teaser that played before the Ballroom 20 panel on Friday.

Well, not in ALL ways. 

As Night of DC Entertainment MC Stephen Amell teased easier, the only difference in the sizzle reel was the last 15 seconds.

And what a difference those 15 seconds made, as they set up this “Arrow” season's big DC Comics' addition, noted League of Assassins frontman Ra's al Ghul, a character best known to the widest audience from Liam Neeson's performance in “Batman Begins.” The character was name-dropped repeatedly last season on “Arrow” and his daughter Nyssa made several appearances tied to the origin story of Sara Lance as Black Canary.

Check out the teaser.

I hesitate to call Ra's al Ghul this “Arrow” season's Big Bad, because within this universe, Ra's and Oliver Queen's Arrow have a common enemy in Malcolm Merlyn, another of Ra's students. If you go by the old “enemy of my enemy is my friend” thesis, Arrow and Ra's al Ghul could be heading toward an uneasy alliance. Or maybe not. 

I was backstage at the Night of DC Entertainment event — You can read my full live-blog of the Geoff Johns-moderated climactic panel with featured players from “Arrow,” “Flash,” “Constantine” and “Gotham” — with two other reporters and we got to chat with “Arrow” EP Marc Guggenheim about actually bringing Ra's al Ghul to TV.

Guggenheim recalled, “It's funny. It really happened very organically in the sense that we had this notion that in Episode 16 we were gonna reveal that Malcolm Merlyn was trained by The League of Assassins and that's because that's basically the comic book — Malcolm Merlyn was a member of The League of Assassins. We were like, 'Oooh. You know what we're gonna do? We're gonna get away with little reference about a guy in Nanda Parbat who changed his life.' And that was just the beginning and then Episode 3 of Season 2, we were like, 'Let's namecheck Ra's al Ghul and see if we can get away with that.' And we just slowly started creeping towards it and creeping towards it and creeping towards it and then discussions started happening with DC and I think 'Superman/Batman' started to come into clear focus and the character seemed to be available as far as not being used in the movies and it was a very, very organic progression and that's, quite frankly, what was fun for us was just how natural it all happened.” 

He continued, “And we have a really clever way of doing Ra's this year that is true to the comic book origins, but also different from the way Ra's was portrayed in the Nolan movies. And that was important to us too, because you don't want to compete with 'Batman Begins,' even though we've always said 'Batman Begins' was a huge influence on us. We really wanted our Ra's to be very different, at least our own 'Arrow'-ified version of him. But it was all just a very natural, slow progression. In fact, even when we were talking about Ra's in the third episode of Season 2 it was like, 'Well how many times should we mention his name and how often should we talk about him?' because that name actually has a lot of power, particularly among comic book fans and we didn't want to over-milk it and over-use it. One of the fun things, I feel, about the Comic-Con trailer that we just showed is that we not only show you a little hint of Ra's, but we also repeat all the times wer basically mentioned his name, which shows you how long we've been talking about this and thinking about it.”

One key issue I wanted to bring up, because it came up last season when I wrote about that third episode, is the pronunciation of Ra's al Ghul's first name, which has traditionally been something close to “Ras” or “Ross” when referred to colloquially, but becomes something closer to “Resh” or “Reesh” when savvy fans discuss him.

“The beauty part of what you guys do is you just have to type it and it's the same spelling even if it's a different pronunciation,” Guggenheim laughed. “Basically what we decided to do, and I think you sort saw this in Episode 2.13 when Nissa came to town, is we basically honored the two different pronunciations, some of our characters saying 'Ras' and the ones sorta more in-the-know say 'Resh' and that struck us as a very reasonable compromise. There are clearly two different schools of thought and we wanted both to be represented.”

Guggenheim teased us that Ra's will be introduced for the first time in a scene with Nyssa, played by Katrina Law, and that Nyssa has a major arc this season, but he wouldn't say when that would take place.

He also wouldn't say the limitations DC has put on their usage of the character, who is also an important part of a past Batman screen franchise, even if he isn't necessarily involved with Batman's upcoming Affleckian incarnation.

I asked what the negotiations were like, but he demurred.

“I will say, we never really negotiate with DC,” Guggenheim said. “It doesn't quite work that way with our partnership. It's basically like they're just partners in the process and we tell them… Just like with the studio and the network, they're just like another studio and we basically sorta say, 'Hey, this is what we have in mind' and they'll weigh in with, 'Oh, we have this idea or we have that idea' and 'Oh, could you stay about from this because of that' but it's not a negotiation in the sense that they're here to stop us from doing what we want to do. It's really just the opposite. They're actually helping us enable what our vision is. They know sorta what our plan for Ra's is over the course of the season and it wasn't like, 'Oh, don't do this or don't do that.' They were very on-board with what we had pitched them.”

Start the casting speculation now!

The other big (albeit less-big) “Arrow” character announcement on Saturday night was that Ted Grant and Wildcat will appear in an upcoming episode, only promising that the character would have some interaction with Laurel.

Season 3 of “Arrow” stars on October 8 on The CW