When Arrow returns to The CW in the fall, it will be serving up its final ten episodes to the fandom that has stayed faithful to the Emerald Archer since 2012. Joining the celebratory season will be Colin Donnell, who was there in the beginning as Oliver's best friend Tommy Merlyn. Donnell has reprised the role of Tommy several times since the character's presumed death at the end of Season 1, but things will be different in Season 8.
How different? We're not quiet sure about that just yet, but Colin Donnell is here to soothe any worries about what audiences will be seeing. In his words:
I think Stephen said it best at Comic-Con. I think fans are going to see Tommy in a way that they've maybe wanted for a while.
Comic-Con would have been a great place for Arrow's cast and crew to fully explain how Colin Donnell's Tommy Merlyn will be returning, along with all the other major Season 8 details. Unfortunately for some, that's not quite how showrunner Beth Schwartz and executive producer Marc Guggenheim like to handle things.
So it's business as usual while waiting for Arrow, by way of ramping up the speculation process for all the teases that have come out so far. Arguably the biggest question that fans have concerns Emily Bett Rickards' potential to return one last time to get romantic with Stephen Amell. Since that probably won't be fully confirmed until the series finale airs, we have to put our conjectures elsewhere, such as on Tommy's presence in Season 8.
His most recent returns in Season 6 and Season 7 were fun enough, but didn't actually bring "Tommy Merlyn" back into the show in any legitimate sense. For Season 6's "Docket #11-19-41-73," the masked Tommy was actually just the "Human Target" Christopher Chance in disguise. Then, in Season 7's "Living Proof," Colin Donnell's Tommy appeared to Oliver as a sage hallucination.
So with all of those return angles already taken, how could Tommy Merlyn return in a way that fans have been "wanting for a while?" Ohh, I dunno, probably by making him the Dark Archer! Considering Arrow Season 8 appears to be starting off with some alt-timelines happening, it could all make sense.
Within the Arrow mythos, as well as in much of the Green Arrow's comic book canon, the Dark Archer mantle is taken by Arthur King, who later became Malcolm Merlyn, Tommy's father. (Memorably portrayed by John Barrowman through many years in the Arrow-verse.) As part of the "Kingdom" arc in Green Arrow, though, Tommy was given the Dark Archer moniker, and he was a beast.
Considering Dark Archer is Tommy's main alter ego in the comics, it's hard to think about another change-up that Arrow could make that fans would be completely down with. I mean, if they made him Batman, that would be pretty damned amazing, since there's no official Dark Knight in the Arrow-verse yet.
Of course, if Tommy showed up as the real Dark Archer, and was proven to have been alive all this time without tracking Oliver down, then I don't think that would lead to star Stephen Amell maintaining his happiness and optimism for either seeing Felicity again or for saving the world.
Speaking with TV Guide about Season 8 and his legacy on the show in general, Colin Donnell said this about making one final return for the last season.
It's cool to see what our show was and to see how it's expanded into the whole Arrow-verse that exists now. I'm really proud of it and happy to be back for this last season in a very different way. You know, to sort of cap off a whole eight years of our lives. It was cool.
But was it cool because he turned into Oliver's brutal antagonist, Dark Archer, or because he got to do some other more generic stuff that didn't involve him shooting arrows at Oliver?
While we're not quite sure how that situation will shake out, or how John Diggle's Green Lantern situation will be addressed, we do know that Arrow Season 8 is heading to The CW's primetime schedule on Tuesday, October 15, at 8:00 p.m. ET. And don't forget to check out Colin Donnell's role in Season 5 of Chicago Med, premiering in the fall.