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Arrow is shooting off into a new chapter in season 7, which begins with Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) behind bars after his unmasking as Star City’s resident vigilante. But there’s been an even bigger change behind the scenes as Beth Schwartz, who started on the series as a writer in its inaugural season, has taken over as show­runner. Here, she gets to the point about Arrow’s new season.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are the challenges of taking over a show in its seventh season?

BETH SCHWARTZ: The challenges are sort of: How do we tell new stories? How do we shake things up? I always like to go into the writers’ room and say, “What have we never done before? How can we tell a story differently, from a fresh perspective?”

What is this season’s theme?

Redemption. It hits all of our characters, especially Oliver being in prison. [After] the way things ended last season, he’s got to prove himself to part of the city he’s been lying to for six years. He was their mayor and the Green Arrow, and they had no idea. Everyone’s got mixed opinions about him as a person, and he’s going to have to redeem himself through the season.

How does the theme of redemption touch the other characters?

As we showed in the trailer for the season, there haven’t been vigilantes in five months. It’s actually illegal. So they all have to kind of, the same way that Oliver has to rebuild himself, they have to figure out what it means to be a hero in the city without going out as a vigilante. They all turn to something different.

How is Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) handling Oliver being in jail? I remember we got a lot of questions about this during Comic-Con.

We’re going to see a different side to Felicity than we’ve ever seen. She wasn’t in on the decision that Oliver made — the deal he made which led him to prison — so she’s going to take matters into her own hands a lot this season. She’s going to fight back, and we’re just going to see a different side to her that I think the fans are going to be really excited about. That’s all I can say.

At Comic-Con, you told me that this season would be dark and compared it to season 1. Why was it important to try to recapture the feeling of season 1?

For me personally, being on a show this long and having such a huge series moment of Oliver finally saying he’s the Green Arrow, it kind of brought us back to how did he start that journey and sort of answering season 1, in terms of basically now that everyone knows who he is, he has some explaining to do and he’s got to sort of answer to the city. There’s just a lot of callbacks to season 1 that we felt were fitting because of that reveal.

You’ve been on the show since the beginning. In your opinion, when is Arrow at its best?

I think Arrow is at its best when [we’re] just threading through a lot of mystery. There’s going to be a lot of that this season, which is why I have been the spoiler police, as I’ve been called. If you think back to the pilot, it’s all about how did he become Arrow. We’re keeping that kind of tone, where it’s not just that it’s dark in tone, but there’s going to be a lot of mystery. Some of my favorite parts of the show are when we’ve been able to pull off those cool reveals.

According to Stephen, Oliver is pretty unheroic at the beginning of the season. Why did it make sense to take the character in that direction?

I think the cool part of him being in prison is that having a hero be in prison is very challenging, especially for Oliver. Just being able to survive prison, similar to when he was on Lian-Yu, he has to make some questionable choices to survive. We sort of wanted to write to the real of what that situation would look like if he was locked up with a bunch of previous villains that he’d previously put in there, and they’re now on the same playing field. There’s so much conflict there. He can’t do things the way he did them as the Green Arrow. The rules are different in prison.

The shower fight scene is the climax of that trailer. There’s an added level of brutality to it that feels new for Arrow. Is that indicative of the season as a whole?

Yeah, James Bamford, who directed the [premiere], just killed that fight sequence. It was very ambitious and worked really hard on, and it came out so well and we’re very excited for everyone to see the full thing. But, yeah, since returning to season 1, we wanted our fight sequences to be a little grittier, a little more personal, painful like you said, kind of in your face. We want to feel Oliver’s pain, and we definitely do in that fight sequence.

Colton Haynes returns to the show full time. How is Roy different from when we’ve seen him in the past, or from where we left him?

He’ll be the same Roy that we love. Last time we saw him, he went off with Thea, so a lot has happened since then, and he’ll be affected by what happened when he left when he returns.

We already know that we’ll see Bronze Tiger, Brick, and Derek Sampson in season 7. Can we expect any other familiar faces to pop up this season?

Yes, there will be another familiar face in prison, but I’m not going to say who.

Arrow returns Monday, Oct. 15, at 8 p.m. on the CW.