He’s been off-camera for a few episodes, but in this week’s (even more incredible than usual) episode of “Arrow,” Tommy Merlyn is back in the spotlight. “Dead to Rights” shines new light on Tommy and Oliver’s life-long friendship, with unexpected insight into the boys’ childhood, particularly after Tommy’s mother’s death. When Oliver discovers that Deadshot — who is a deadlier shot than ever, thanks to his new mechanical eye — has Malcolm Merlyn in his crosshairs, his vigilante alter-ego has to get closer to Tommy than ever before. Which, of course, isn’t particularly easy, given Tommy’s general disdain for the Hood.
“[The Hood] is doing it for good, but he’s using tactics that are reprehensible in a lot of ways,” Colin Donnell told us when we visited the “Arrow” cast on set earlier this month. As for the scene in the pilot when a dazed Tommy may have seen Oliver take out their kidnappers, Donnell teases, “I think that moment holds a lot of doubt, and it’s going to come into play again.”
When the Hood shows up with the intention of saving Malcolm from Deadshot, Tommy sees him as a threat, not an ally, which complicates the mission a bit.
The fact that Malcolm is targeted by a dangerous assassin like Deadshot will certainly raise some flags for Tommy, and it brings him closer than ever to discovering his dad’s less than honorable extracurricular activities. Donnell isn’t spilling any details about how Tommy may or may not react to finding out that his dad is the Dark Archer, though. “That’s a tricky question without giving too much away,” he says.
What he can say is that Oliver and Tommy’s almost brotherly bond will be tested in coming episodes. “That’s something … that [Oliver] struggles with,” says Donnell. “The Arrow and
Oliver Queen wanting to be there for the people that are closest to him
and not being able to be there for the people that are closest to him.
There are things that come up in the next few episodes. It’s going to
put a strain on their friendship.”
We’re about to head into a short spring hiatus, but when the show returns in a few weeks, Oliver’s night club that Tommy has been working on will finally have its grand opening, featuring DJ Steve Aoki. It’s a big moment for Tommy. “Oliver basically placed all of his trust and money into … Tommy being able to take it and run with it. He’s proved himself as a standalone man,” Donnell says. “It was his chance to really man up and take responsibility. He was a lot kid in a lot of ways, because he hadn’t ever had an opportunity to really fend for himself in the real world. Finally, through some really unfortunate circumstances, he was given that opportunity, and he took advantage of his friend’s kindness and was able to let his ego go.”
Even though this week’s episode emphasizes the depth of Oliver and Tommy’s bond, it also complicates their friendship further. Donnell tells us that, despite the distance between Tommy and Malcolm now, there’s still a chance that Tommy could follow in his father’s footsteps and become an adversary for Oliver in the future.
“I love the idea that that’s a possibility,” he says. “One of the things that really excited me at the beginning … was that, because of the namesake, that is where I’d end up. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility. It’s his best friend, still, and Tommy doesn’t know that his father is the Dark Archer.”
Tune in Wednesday at 8 p.m. EST on The CW to see “Dead to Rights,” undeniably the best episode yet. In the meantime, you can watch our interview with Donnell below — just be warned, there are portions of it that are very hard to hear, because Aoki was rehearsing on set. We didn’t want to edit those parts out, though… they’re just too fun. You’ll see.