Spoiler warning for anyone not caught up through “The Thantos Guild.”
[Update: Another one bites the dust]
Arrow has a problem. The ever-growing Team Arrow is just too big, and as a result it’s sacrificing our interest in these once-beloved characters. Look, I get it — introducing new superheroes will always be awesome, but giving the older and even the newer characters the backseat because of it is simply not worth it. Arrow once excelled at keeping its cast busy and intertwining their stories, but that is no longer the case.
This problem couldn’t have been more apparent than in last week’s “The Thantos Guild.” The episode itself was actually a great send off for Thea (Willa Holland), but that’s the point. Why did it take Thea leaving the show for her to be given an interesting and detailed storyline? Why was this character standing around all season before that? It’s simple: Arrow doesn’t have room for everyone.
So what happens next? Well, unfortunately, any development on the new Lazarus pits and the map Malcom (John Barrowman) left behind will happen off-screen. This could have made for a great story to lead up to Thea’s departure. Instead, we got it all in one final episode while the character languished for most of the previous episodes (Editor’s Note: Remember when she was in a coma?).
Thea has been a pivotal player since the show’s premiere. She went from spoiled teen to skilled assassin and eventually to a responsible and mature adult. Not all her story beats hit the mark, but running the night club and meeting Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) will always be highlights. Her bloodlust arc was a bit prolonged, but it was her venture into City Hall in Season 5 where things really started to slow down. There were good ideas at play, sure: Thea in a leadership role makes total sense, and her mother’s brutal influence was fascinating to watch. It’s too bad that this story wasn’t given the time it needed to flourish, though, especially when you had stretches of episodes where she didn’t appear at all.
It’s worth noting that Season 5 was also the year of the new recruits. We got Rene Ramirez (Rick Gonzalez), Dinah Drake (Juliana Harkavy), Curtis Holt (Echo Kellum), Rory Regan (Joe Dinicol), and Evelyn Sharp (Madison McLaughlin). It’s true that only three would go on stay with series in Season 6, but that’s three extra characters that each deserve their own time and story. And yet, those characters didn’t get much individual attention, and were mainly grouped together as “The Newbies.” Dinah had a great introduction with her backstory with her meta powers, but not an episode later she was pushed into the background for the majority of the season. Thankfully, in Season 6, she was given the Vincent story and the fallout from his death, but there’s always a tradeoff — which characters are now the ones suffering for getting sidelined?
Trying to give characters small arcs and then silencing them for weeks is not working. This season, Diggle (David Ramsey) had a drug problem and a stint as the Green Arrow, but it was all quickly discarded once that story was put on pause. Rene is currently focused on getting custody of his daughter, but it’s such a slow burn that it’s not catching interest from week to week. And while I will always love seeing Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) interact, it’s hard to ignore that his character has become so focused on a single plot. Last season it was coping with the death of Laurel, and the current season focuses all his attention on Black Siren. At least this new Laurel has the evil edge to gives the character new life, but Quentin has been relying on his daughters for story material for one season too long. Not only that, but the poor guy has been through hell and back. Once things look good for Black Siren’s redemption, let’s give him a send off too.
In Arrow Season 1, you had characters that were involved in different situations whose stories originally didn’t have much to do with each other, but those story threads organically found each other. Everyone got their character development. Now, a season is focused on one main plot, and characters are used to serve that rather than the other way around. Forget these short, quickly-forgotten mini-arcs for certain characters — give them more complex stories that can last from the start of the season until the end.
Even though Thea has left the show as the season heads towards its final episodes, her absence will be hard to notice. She’s been so underutilized this season that it’s doubtful it will make a difference in furthering the stories of existing characters. It’s time for Arrow to start making the hard choices and give lingering characters an exit. Or better yet, send them over to Legends of Tomorrow. At least that way we can rest assured they’ll be taken care of.
Arrow airs Thursday nights on The CW.