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Malcolm Merlyn has been one of the longest serving members of the CW's highly successful Arrowverse; from his humble beginnings as the big bad of Season 1, he's gone on to take part in most of the key events in Arrow and even joined the Legion of Doom in Legends of Tomorrow. After the Season 5 finale, the future of many Team Arrow members was thrown into doubt, but one man's fate seemed more clear cut than the others — especially when Malcolm appeared to be killed by a land mine.
However, at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, Marc Guggenheim has offered Digital Spy an intriguing tidbit about everybody's favorite Dark Archer:
"Honestly, that's up to John, totally up to John. We told John when we called him up to tell him about the events of the finale: 'Listen, quite frankly, every single person on all the shows can come back in some way shape or form. We've got flashbacks, we've got time travel, we have parallel universes – goodbye is never goodbye and he has an open invitation to return to the show any time he wants."
As they've offered John Barrowman an open invitation to return, it's plain to see that he's an incredibly valued cast member. The actor seemed to let news of his departure slip before the show's finale, and the last we saw of Merlyn was when he was caught up in an explosion - but was there really a definite end to this character?
We Never Actually Saw Him Die!
One of the golden rules of TV deaths is that nothing can be confirmed unless we actually see a character die on screen. Even then, there are still many characters who manage to cheat death by other means. At the moment the mine detonates, we are actually looking at Thea and the others as we see an explosion in the distance, so who's to say that Malcolm definitely died? We're just left to assume that Merlyn is dead.
While it would be a fitting end for his character — finally making a noble sacrifice to save his daughter — it's not out of the question to think that we'll see more of John Barrowman in the #Arrowverse.
So, How Else Could Malcolm Merlyn Appear?
For now, lets assume that Malcolm Merlyn is dead. So, how else could he appear in the show? Perhaps the most obvious solution would be with a flashback because, as we all know, Arrow loves a flashback. Though this element of the show will be taking a back seat throughout Season 6, the producers haven't ruled out the possibility of using them again. We need to discover who made it off Lian Yu, and more importantly, how they did it.
Aside from flashbacks, Arrow's showrunners could opt to use time travel. With Merlyn as a member of the Legion of Doom, we've already seen a time-displaced version of him wreaking havoc across the timeline. It was already confirmed at #SDCC2017's Legends of Tomorrow Panel that Damien Darhk would be reappearing in Season 3, and we witnessed his death in the Arrow Season 4 finale. So, it's not out of the question that the same thing could happen with Malcolm.
The Arrowverse Is Constantly Expanding — He Doesn't Have To Appear on Arrow
Because the Arrowverse is a constantly-evolving universe featuring an ever-expanding cast of characters, there's nothing to limit Merlyn's potential reappearance to Arrow. It's equally possible that he could show up as an alternate-Earth doppelgänger in #TheFlash. In the Season 2 finale of #LegendsOfTomorrow, we even discovered that the heroes had broken time itself, so there's yet another way we could be reacquainted with the Dark Archer.
Whatever happens, John Barrowman has been an integral part of the Arrowverse and Arrow is arguably just as much Malcolm Merlyn's story as Oliver Queen's. Though his story did come to a fitting end, it would be foolish to assume that the show's most charming villains will never reappear on the show again.