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Arrow Says Goodbye To An Original Cast Member

Contains spoilers for season 6, episode 16 of Arrow

The CW's Arrow bid farewell to one of its original cast members this Thursday (March 29). 

When a dangerous new threat rocked up to Star City, Team Arrow splintered, and one hero chose to leave town to right her father's wrongs. If you hadn't guessed by now, the departing character was Willa Holland's Thea Queen (also known as Speedy), the maternal younger half-sister of Stephen Amell's Oliver Queen (the titular Arrow). Holland has been a part of the Greg Berlanti-backed DC Comics drama since day one, having portrayed Thea for six seasons in 130 episodes.

The most recent episode of the series, which follows notorious playboy Oliver Queen returning home after spending five years stranded on an island and deciding to fight crime as an arrow-wielding vigilante, saw the League of Assassins' rogue crew The Thanatos Guild emerge in Star City in hopes of getting their hands on a bit of treasure Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), former Demon's Head of the League, left behind. As they searched to capture the mysterious box, the Guild crossed paths with Thea, Malcolm's daughter. 

Though Team Arrow swiftly swooped in and countervailed the immediate danger, the members quickly realized that Malcolm had uncovered a trio of Lazarus Pits — the regenerative pools used for granting longevity and rejuvenating the weak, but which strike users with a feral bloodlust if they're resurrected in their waters. Stuck between one major and one monstrous threat, Thea decided that the right thing to do was to leave Star City to find the Lazarus Pits and destroy them for good. Thea's recently resurfaced beau, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), announced that he'd be joining her. 

Arrow showrunner and executive producer Marc Guggenheim addressed Holland's exit, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "We're very sad to see Willa go. She's been a critical part of Arrow since its inception and a wonderful and talented person to boot. But we're in our sixth season now and supportive of her wish to stretch her legs and pursue other creative opportunities. The door is always open for Willa to return if she has a hankering to."

Guggenheim also spoke with TV Line, revealing that the plan to write Holland's character out of the show had been in motion since the end of the fourth season. "By the end of season 4, Willa had expressed a desire to reduce her episodic commitment to the show and that was sort of done in sort of conjunction with an indication that it was likely that she wouldn't want to renew her contract past season 6," he explained. "So, we've kind of known for a while that this was in the offing. We revisited it with Willa at the beginning of season 6, and she indicated that she hadn't changed her mind, that she was still interested in moving on."

In her contractually reduced role post season 4, Holland appeared as Thea in 14 of the 23 episodes of season 5, and in 10 of the 16 episodes of season 6 thus far. 

Guggenheim then addressed how Holland's sendoff impacted the rest of the Arrow cast, particularly Haynes and Amell. Haynes left the series after season 4, when his character faked his own death, but reappeared in the current sixth season. Guggenheim stated that Haynes' encore perfectly aligned with Holland's departure, as the actor had "expressed a desire to come back to the show" a few months ago and Guggenheim knew Roy would want to be there to say goodbye to Thea. 

"It worked out really, really well because we always knew that in a perfect world, Thea's departure from the show would involve Roy in some way," said Guggenheim. "Roy's been such a big part of her story that [Haynes' return] was a fortuitous circumstance."

As for how Amell felt about Holland's final turn as his on-screen sister, Guggenheim explained that the farewell scene between the two actors was bittersweet. "That's one of the things that's hard about this is — Stephen and Willa are always terrific together. Their scenes are always really great scenes. At the same time, we are very philosophical about it: 'This is the sort of thing that happens when you go past five seasons,'" he stated. "People start to reach the end of their contracts. People start to think about other opportunities. They want to stretch their legs creatively in different directions. This is a reality as old as television itself. So, you just wish everyone well."

The Arrow creative summed the situation up in saying that everyone involved with the show loves Holland and adored working with her. "She's done right by us and so we wanted to do right by her," he said.

Arrow currently airs on Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.