Answering Arrow Season 5’s Greatest Mystery: Where’s Thea? Answering Arrow Season 5’s Greatest Mystery: Where’s Thea?
Thea's absence from recent Arrow episodes is explained. Answering Arrow Season 5’s Greatest Mystery: Where’s Thea?

A lot of Arrow fans on social media have noticed that the last few episodes of the series were missing an actress who has been one of the best parts of Season 5: Willa Holland, who plays Thea. Fret not; it’s not a conspiracy to steal away our Speedy, but just a [sometimes] unfortunate lesson in the form of the 23-episode TV season. And, yes, Thea is back with a major role in this week’s new episode “Spectre of the Gun” and it sounds like she’s in next week’s show and several more to come after it as well.

“Everyone’s, like, ‘where’s Thea?’ Well, Willa’s [in] 14 out of 23 episodes this year. She’s not in all 23. That’s not her contract. So we’ve had to write around that,” Arrow Executive Producer Marc Guggenheim addressed during a Q&A at the CW headquarters in Burbank this morning. [Editor’s note: Marc didn’t clarify if the crossover episodes were part of that 14]

Usually, series regular contracts, despite being credited for 23 episodes, result in actors appearing less than that, though usually they are guaranteed something between 11-13 episodes per year, with more as the story and actor availability permits. We saw this before when John Barrowman would miss episodes of Arrow; you’ll also notice that Paul Blackthorne is not in every episode of the show, and he, too, hadn’t been seen a whole lot for a few weeks before his return in “Bratva.”

This happens on other CW series as well. Fans of Smallville remember those years when Erica Durance wouldn’t appear every week as Lois. On The Vampire Diaries, it worked like clockwork that inevitably, Jeremy, Bonnie, and/or Tyler would “be out of town” for a few weeks in the middle of every season. Sometimes it’s noticeable when an actor is missing; other times, so much is going on in the series that we, the audience, don’t even notice they’re gone on a particular week.

“It’s complicated,” Guggenheim admitted. “We try to make the process invisible in terms of our storytelling, but there are just human realities and contractual realities that not only tie our hands, but tie the hands of everyone running a show these days.”

Willa Holland returns to Arrow on Wednesday, February 15 with “Spectre of the Gun.” And, no, she is not Prome-thea-us.

Craig Byrne

Craig Byrne has been writing about TV on the internet since 1995. He is also the author of several published books, including Smallville: The Visual Guide and the show's Official Companions for Seasons 4-7.