How do you solve a problem like Roy Harper? You write him out of the show once Colton Haynes’ contract expires, that’s how.
When I put it that way it clearly implies Roy Harper was a problem on Arrow, which not everyone will agree with. However, the reality of the situation is that “Broken Arrow” wrote Roy Harper out of Arrow, sending him off to destinations unknown, perhaps traveling the world Kung Fu style. Roy faked his own death in jail as part of an elaborate plan he put together with Diggle and Felicity, convincing the world that he, not Oliver, was The Arrow, and then convincing the world that he was dead. Ergo, while both Roy and Oliver get to live The Arrow is effectively dead, and Roy must find his way in the world on his own, assuming false identities and perfecting the craft of deflection, weaseling out of directly answering anyone who should ever look at him and realize he looks just like that guy who turned out to be the Arrow. Traveling the world looking like Roy Harper is going to be complicated.
Maybe that will be addressed in the future because as the producers told Deadline this is not necessarily the end for Colton Haynes. [SPOILER ALERT] He will be back for one more episode this season, and the door is open for him to make guest appearances down the road, either on Arrow, Flash, or the untitled team-up spin-off we all find deeply confusing. The exact reason they gave for writing him out simply comes down to business, much in the same way Nina Dobrev’s surprising departure from Vampire Diaries mostly comes down to an actress fulfilling her contract and choosing to try new things. Greg Berlanti told Deadline they’ve always known Colton Haynes would be leaving after season 3:
“We made a two-season deal that had a clock on it, we always knew that. When he was coming off Teen Wolf, we described the role to him, and we agreed to do it for a couple of years. At that particular moment, he had a lot of opportunities to do things, and we’re lucky he chose us. He brought a lot of notoriety and viewership to Arrow when we were growing, and the show wouldn’t be the show it is without him. He is such a talent and such a nice guy, everybody from the crew to the writers were so enthusiastic to have him for the time we had him.”
Based on Haynes’ social media presence, that last part is particularly apparent. He seems like a very nice guy, often displaying a fun back-and-forth with Emily Bett Rickards. Yet, for me writing about the departure of Roy Harper from Arrow feels a bit like attending the funeral for a person I knew but didn’t particularly like. Good manners dictate that I should merely pay my respects and let those who had a more positive relationship with the deceased mourn in peace. After all, for all the jokes I’ve ever personally made or seen other reviewers make about Roy’s affinity for curiously timed parkour jumps, propensity for mostly blending into the background, and questionable acting I’ve also seen those who wanted Ray Palmer’s head on a platter after he dared use his ATOM suit to strike Roy a couple episodes ago. Some liked Roy just because they have a built-in affinity for the character from years of comic book reading, others liked him because of Haynes’ performance and legitimately model-quality good looks (Sin jokingly called him “Abercrombie” because Haynes is an actual former Abercrombie & Fitch model), and others like him because he was the perfect sidekick, never pulling focus and coming off as believably formidable but always in need of someone else’s assistance, usually Oliver’s. Or maybe it’s a collection of all of those things mixed in with his on-again, off-again with Thea.
I never fully invested in Roy Harper as a character, though, because I rarely got the sense that the actual show was invested in him, routinely placing him on the backburner in favor of more pressing matters. Sometimes, it felt like the writers completely forgot about Roy, like when he first met Team Arrow in the second season at the end of one episode and wasn’t even referenced or seen in the following episode. That type of thing led the producers to declare in-between seasons that they had dropped the ball with Roy, thus making it their mission in season 3 to work harder to build him up, particular his mentor-pupil relationship with Oliver. At times, they absolutely accomplished their mission, with Roy really rising to the occasion during the “Oliver Queen is Dead” mini-arc or way back when Roy talked to Thea in Colto Maltese or the scene where he told Thea about all the money and gifts he anonymously donates to the family of the man he murdered last season.
Yet his perpetual sidekick status seemingly always resulted in him more or less getting his ass kicked, as if in the pecking order for fight scenes Oliver rules all, Diggle is close behind, then Roy, and then Laurel’s Black Canary. If Roy was in the field with anyone above him in that pecking order they would usually come out of it looking better than him. Plus, the writers still completely forgot about him sometimes, most notably when the ATOM shot him with some kind of blue ray of energy a couple episodes ago, and then just left him there, Oliver and Ray going opposite ways and never checking to verify that Roy was still alive.
As a result of all that, “Public Enemy” felt like the Arrow writers’ last valiant attempt to make up for their past sins and send Roy out on a high note, doing a very Oliver kind of thing and helping to save someone close to him without telling them he was doing it. Of course, if you didn’t pick up on that particular element the episode really spelled it out for you, having both Roy and Felicity beat home the somewhat familiar central theme of Oliver needing to accept help from those he loves. Why exactly was the subterfuge totally necessary? Why couldn’t they have just told Oliver what they were up to? Mostly because they just really wanted to give us a twist of “And then Roy died” followed minutes later by “Just kidding, he’s totally alive. Are you willing to believe that Diggle’s wife knows a man who can stab a man in a way that makes them appear to die even though they actually survive? Good, because that’s what we’re going with.” What the heck would Felicity and Diggle have done if they hadn’t been able to talk Oliver out of trying to break Roy out of prison?
Obviously, the real reason they didn’t tell Oliver is because he wouldn’t have let them go through with it. Roy making such a big decision like that for Oliver without even asking him is definitely a “The student has become the master” moment, even if the exact specifics are a bit goofy. It was also incredibly nice to see him fend off his attackers in prison, giving him a non-mirakuru-enhanced moment of physical badassery, another way of suggesting that he has come into his own. He does leave the show without any closure on his relationship with Thea, which the writers clearly tried to kick start in anticipation of Roy’s departure, reminding us what he is sacrificing by taking the fall for Oliver. This lack of closure could be regarded as a weakness, but I am willing to forgive it knowing that Roy will be back for at least one episode.
However, when he returns Thea probably won’t be the same Thea anymore. I don’t know effective it was to “kill her off” in the final moment mere minutes after they’d faked Roy’s death and just a couple of seconds before the preview for the next episode revealed that Thea isn’t quite dead, surviving on life support at a hospital, and due to be revived by Ra’s al Guhl’s Lazarus Pit. Comic book readers already know that characters revived in the Lazarus Pit don’t always come back the same, which is one theory for how the producers might bring back Caity Lotz for the spin-off as a version of Sara Lance who may be totally different, possibly without any of her prior memories. I have no idea what’s going to become of Thea. However, this is an inarguably effective method for Ra’s to finally convince Oliver to accept his offer, e.g., Replace me or your sister dies, even if all of this is forever undercut by lingering questions like “Why the heck is Ra’s so determined that Oliver be his successor?”
And all of that seemingly just barely scratches the surface of what went down in “Broken Arrow,” which saw Doug Jones playing a metahuman (Jake “Deathbolt” Simmons”) with laser eyes, Captain Lance raiding the Arrow Cave but discovering it’s possible to wipe everyone’s finger prints other than Roy’s (or wipe everyone’s and then have Roy touch everything to leave a new set of prints), and Oliver and Ray teaming up, with Oliver literally controlling the ATOM suit from afar like a superhero version of Real Steel. Plus, Cisco from The Flash showed up, kind of out of nowhere, to lock Deathbolt away in the Central City super prison and realize that not all metahumans were created by the particle accelerator accident, a seemingly huge change to the formula probably meant to set the stage for non-Central City metahumans to show up on Arrow in the future. There was the requisite Olicity moment, possibly several of them, with Ray again picking up on the fact that Felicity does not love him. Asking Oliver to do nothing went as well as could have been expected, Amell playing the frustration beautifully. There were also flashbacks, which really leaned on us remembering stuff they haven’t discussed in weeks (I’d forgotten a lot of it) and mostly served to re-inforce that past-Oliver and present-Oliver both struggle to accept help from those around him.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I might have been wrong to doubt Arrow after “Public Enemy” as “Broken Arrow” really does suggest a brave (or foolhardy, departing on your p.o.v.) new future for this show in which Oliver has fewer sidekicks and is no longer the Arrow. Or at the very least he won’t be the Arrow again until the end of the season. Either way, they ran with “What if the entire city discovered the superhero’s secret identity?” story, and then wrote themselves out of that corner in a way which had some serious consequences, specifically that Roy Harper is no longer a regular character on this show. Although I never warmed to him, I think the writers gave Roy a fairly effective farewell.
1. Insert your joke about how you can’t believe it took the show this long to actually name an episode “Broken Arrow.” Maybe add in some jokes about wishing John Travolta and/or Christian Slater had showed up to some kind of homage to the movie Broken Arrow.
2. The second Felicity declined Oliver’s offer to walk with her as protection it was 100% obvious she was going to get caught by the bad guy, right? That’s just how that kind of thing goes on a show like this.
3. I’m a little surprised Thea wasn’t being inundated with interview requests and tabloid reporters at her door, asking questions about Roy, either as her ex-employee or ex-boyfriend or both
4. Minus Cisco’s appearance and a quick line about Barry, there were no references to Felicity and Ray’s recent Central City adventure.
5. Flashback Nitpick: Oliver using Maseo’s pass card to get into the central office seems too easy, begging questions like “That card would still work?”
6. It was only after the episode ended that I thought back to Roy’s prison phone conversation with Thea and finally realized what secret he was keeping from her. Prior to that, I found that scene a little frustrating.
7. Ray: “How many abandonded warehouses are there in Starling City? I’m genuinely curious.” That was good enough, but then he asked Cisco how the imprisoned metahumans eat and go to the bathroom, a question Cisco wisely ignored. Ray got to speak for the audience and poke some pretty big holes. It made me laugh both times.
Collider – “Season 3 has been a bit of a rough ride for Arrow. In addition to managing the show’s meandering seasonal plot arcs, it’s had to fold in a number of cross-overs and references to sister show, The Flash. Some of those moments admittedly worked better than others. “Broken Arrow” serves to remind fans that this series it as its best when it is focused, tautly paced, and dares to kill its darlings. It also comes as a much-needed salve to soothe concerns that Arrow had lost a step, and reinvigorates the fan base as the season heads into its final few episodes. And though this episode title ironically suggests otherwise, “Broken Arrow” is strong evidence that Arrow remains far from broken.”
Here’s the full Deadline interview with the producers:
DEADLINE: When did you know that Colton Haynes was leaving after Season 3?
BERLANTI: When we made the deal. We made a two-season deal that had a clock on it, we always knew that. When he was coming off Teen Wolf, we described the role to him, and we agreed to do it for a couple of years. At that particular moment, he had a lot of opportunities to do things, and we’re lucky he chose us. He brought a lot of notoriety and viewership to Arrow when we were growing, and the show wouldn’t be the show it is without him. He is such a talent and such a nice guy, everybody from the crew to the writers were so enthusiastic to have him for the time we had him. We are sad to see him go but excited to see what he does next.
DEADLINE: How and when did Roy’s Season 3 storyline came about?
BERLANTI: We knew based on what had happened last season. Roy has struggled with guilt after killing a policeman. In saving Oliver, he sees a chance to absolve himself. Hopefully it was surprising for the audience as some thought for a moment that he might die.
GUGGENHEIM: We were able to deign his arc for the season with the end point in mind. We always knew he would take a heroic stance and redeem himself for his actions. It’s always a blessing when you know where exactly you are going to end up.
DEADLINE: Did you consider killing off Roy?
BERLANTI: We wanted to do something different. These characters are so young, they represent the next generation of superheroes, and we love the idea of having them just out there. And as a person we like Colton so much, we all would love to see him back. Such a talented, great guy.
GUGGENHEIM: The hope is that he’ll continue to be part of the universe we are building. We love working with his so much. We’ve talked to him about returning to one of the three shows, and if available, he has expressed interest. He is gone but definitely not forever.
DEADLINE: What will the impact of Roy’s departure be on Team Arrow?
BERLANTI: It’s always affecting the show when one character is moving on to the great beyond. That allows the show to grow and change, with the state of loss providing high stakes. The end of this season is very much a punctuation mark on the first three seasons. Third season will feel like the end of a trilogy, with elements and pieces coming together. We are heading into a big, epic, climactic battle, and I’m not not going to give away who is going to make it. Everything will be changed after this season.
GUGGENHEIM: The third season finale is among our best episodes, with each twist more shocking and surprising than the next.
DEADLINE: Will Oliver get a new sidekick?
BERLANTI: Watch the finale to find out. Fans will really wonder where you go from there.
DEADLINE: Do you know where the show will go from there?
BERLANTI: We have planned something cool and radical to open next season.