Warning: Spoilers for season 4 of Arrow and, specifically, the season finale, follow.
It’s been a long journey for Thea Queen (Willa Holland), the girl who started Arrow as the spoiled daughter of a billionaire and found herself doing all the wrong things. Now, she’s a hero, protecting Star City under the alter-ego Speedy alongside her brother. That is, until the end of the fourth season finale, in which she – along with Quentin Lance and John Diggle – decided to take some time away from Team Arrow after she threatened to kill Damien Darhk’s daughter in a heated moment.
“I don’t want anybody to get too scared in the fact that most of us walked away from Star City, but we just needed a little vacation,” Holland told reporters at MCM London Comic-Con on Saturday. “I needed to go to maybe Corto Maltese or Hawaii or somewhere with a beach and Diggle and Lyla needed to do the same thing. I feel like we’re all going to be coming back at our own pace for our own reasons so I don’t want anyone to be too afraid.”
It’s been a tough road for Thea. After starting the pilot having spent five years thinking that her brother Oliver and father Robert were both dead (the latter was), she later discovered that her mother Moira was part of a plot to destroy the Glades, lost her friend/half-brother Tommy and later her mother, was told that her real father was in fact homicidal maniac Malcolm Merlyn who then trained her to be a killer, only to drug and use her to kill Sara Lance, before being killed and resurrected (and getting left with a bloodlust to boot). Any one of those things would be enough to break a person, but Thea has come out the other side stronger for it.
Of her character, Holland said: “One of my favourite things about this show is being able to represent not only just females as a whole, but I really have enjoyed bringing a young girl who’s damaged and a little crazy and full of herself in the beginning to a real standup human being, and taking that evolution, having her go through things from the negative partying to actually losing her family and just going through all these real life scenarios and growing up in her own right. And taking the time that we did to do it was really great because we were able to do justice to her growth, rather than just like ‘in one year she goes through everything and at the end of it, she’s in a Speedy costume.’ It was really nice to have this story to progress along with.”
Katrina Law, who plays Nyssa al Ghul and was also present at Comic-Con, supported Holland’s thoughts: “I think we’re really fortunate on this show to be a part of a writing staff and production team that values its female characters and female castmates so much. We get to fight for freedom and for love and for justice right along next to the men. Sometimes we fight for our men and sometimes we fight for our own storylines and I think that’s very rare for females on television in general so it’s wonderful watching a character like Thea turn into Speedy or someone like Nyssa who learns to love through the Lance sisters and watching the Lance sisters go through their entire development. I think we have a wonderful cast of strong females and I think that’s so important and vital, especially for the young generation coming up.”
She too, has had it rough. Her father, Ra’s, trained her to be a ruthless killer but showed her little love. Her one ray of light came from the connection she established with former League of Assassins member Sara, with whom she entered a relationship. Her lover’s death at the hands of Malcolm and her father’s insistence that she marry Oliver, who was to become the new head of the League, rather than her, put her into a dark place with regards to both individuals involved with trying to make her life worse.
But that relationship with Sara pleased Law, who says: “I think it was a wonderful step and I appreciate the Arrow writers for how they dealt with it. A lot of times, if you have a character that is not a male, white character [or a] female, while character, there’s always an explanation for why they’re black and on the show, why they’re Latino and on the show, why they’re Asian – they have to have a story of some sort to explain that, or if they’re gay or lesbian or transsexual, there has to be an explanation as to why. And the beautiful thing that the writers did on this show was that they just introduced our relationship, said ‘this is what it is. We don’t have a backstory for it’ and everybody just kind of accepted it, and I love that. So they weren’t gay or bi[sexual] because this happened in their life – they just were what they were and I think that’s so important and a huge step forward.”
Season four has seen the team lose the other surviving Lance sister, Laurel, who had been with the show since the beginning. That long bond between actress Katie Cassidy and the rest of the cast made her departure incredibly difficult to stomach. “That was one of the most difficult things that any of us have had to film,” Holland says. “Not that any of the deaths have ever been easy, but we lost Tommy after season one, Moira after season two – this was four years in so we were all so close at this point to the point where, more than ever this time, it felt like losing a limb.”
Part of Thea’s journey has been the relationship cultivated between her and Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), with Roy’s early desire to associate himself with The Vigilante/The Arrow the building blocks for Thea transforming into Speedy. Haynes left the show late in season three as Roy faked his own death after taking the fall for being The Arrow, and has since returned for a one-time appearance in season four’s “Unchained”. In season five, Roy will be coming back for “a number of episodes,” and Holland couldn’t be more thrilled: “(Roy coming back is) the greatest thing ever. Having him come back in season four was amazing, I wish that we had got to do more stuff together, I really wish we had got to see us both in our costumes and hopefully we’ll see that in season five.”
“When Colton’s arc ended, we were all like ‘wait, what? Why? Where are you going? Can you please come back?’ and it was so great that he decided to come back for that one stint and the fact that he’s coming back for more, I hope we just lock him in a box and keep him there forever. I’d love to see him back as Arsenal. I’d love to see Speedy and Arsenal fighting alongside together. I just want to be working with him as much as possible. He’s my favourite human being.”
One other notable thing to come out of Holland and Law’s conversation was a discussion about the TV shows’ (Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl) separation from the DC Cinematic Universe, currently being developed with Zack Snyder at the helm; Justice League: Part One, the sequel to both Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, has commenced filming and will be released in November 2017. None of the actors on the respective shows will be getting to play their character in the film universe – Ezra Miller was cast as the big-screen Flash, rather than using Grant Gustin – but that has affected Arrow in its storytelling.
Early on, the show introduced Floyd Lawton, aka Deadshot (Michael Rowe), and later planned to create the Suicide Squad. However, with DC producing a film centred on the characters releasing in August, Arrow killed off all of the team’s major players, ending with Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) early this season. “Once DC [decided] they were going to be doing their own movie of it, we had to axe all of the characters before we even got to show them which was a little annoying at first,” Holland says.
“When Stephen found out that there was going to be a Justice League [movie], it only seemed rightly so that he would be playing Green Arrow on it as well as that Grant would be playing The Flash, and it just seemed like the bright, normal answer. And then once they said ‘No, you can’t really fight against them for it because they are the people who gave us the job in the first place,’ so you just have to sit there on your hands.”
Law was convinced of one thing, though: “I do know that if Stephen and Grant were to be given their parts in the movie, they would kill it and just be amazing.”
Arrow returns to The CW (in the U.S.) and Sky 1 (in the UK) for its fifth season in October.