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Why Tommy Merlyn Was The Best Arrow Character

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Ok, yes, we only got one season of Tommy Merlyn [Colin Donnell] on CW’s Arrow. And yes, it’s amazing that by leaving the show he was able to star in not only a killer musical (seriously, Love’s Labour’s Lost– it’s on Spotify, check it out), but also meet his wife and soulmate, the inimitable Patti Murin. Seriously, our loss seems to be his gain, so us fans are trying hard to be gracious about it all. 

But every time I watch that first season, especially the pilot and the finale, and Tommy dies (in a shockingly similar way to Wash from Firefly/Serenity which is something I’m going to have to think about quite a bit more) it kills me deep in my soul, and it just doesn’t seem right or fair or okay – but it is what it is and I’ve come to terms. (Not that I don’t adore him on Chicago Med). 

And while many of us fans have found Season 6 to be… well, I’m going to be polite and positive and go with merely “problematic” or “frustrating,” even though I understand those harsher criticisms, at least we got to see a version of Tommy (from Earth X, and yes, he was a Nazi… but he was AMAZING as a bad guy and now I want him to land a super villain role in something. He’d be amazing and oh so incredibly hot- AAAAND I think I just pinpointed my historical problem with men… remind me to bring this up at my next therapy appointment). Then last night, we got another visit from our favorite dark-haired brooder – crashing through the glass of a courtroom in a dark green leather suit, suspiciously similar to the Arrow’s style. (And damn, that boy can wear leather). 

But we’re not going to talk about last night – not right now. Instead, let’s take a look back at the many reasons to love, adore and even contemplate starting a cult to celebrate the talent and the beauty and the off-beat sense of humor that is Tommy Merlyn. (I should note that at this point, my 1/2 Corgi, 1/2 Jack Russell named Sherlock is currently trying to lie on my keyboard while sighing passive-aggressively anytime I mention the name Tommy – even when it’s my younger brother I’m talking about. It seems Sherlock’s not a fan of my crush/infatuation.)

Tommy Merlyn, wow, it’s just impossible not to love him, isn’t it? I mean, if we’re being honest, especially early in season 1, he’s got moments where you aren’t sure whether he’s a total douchebag or oddly charming–a tightrope Colin Donnell manages to walk as though he’s an actual circus performer–yet, he almost always comes across as Prince Charming, even if a slightly damaged one.

Reasons We Love Him

The Bromance

Who doesn’t love a good bromance? Personally, it’s my favorite thing in TV and Oliver and Tommy have one for the ages. It’s clear Colin and Stephen Amell have very real chemistry off-screen as well, based on the pictures of them hanging out together. I especially adore the pic of them together at Colin’s wedding.

The chemistry between them as actors seems to be there from minute one. Tommy is just so charming and looks genuinely happy to see his best friend after all of this time. He never moved on from Oliver. They joke, they hug, they rib each other, and their camaraderie is so enjoyable you just want to hang out with them at a bar, having a few beers and singing karaoke.

Reunion

Also in the pilot (Note: some of the amazing moments between Tommy and Oliver had people shipping them as Toliver), Tommy is planning to take Oliver out on the town to catch him up on what he’s missed. Finding him in Thea’s room leads to this particularly interesting (and disgusting if you’re a follower of the show) bon mot:

Tommy is just charming AF

Tommy’s charm, sense of humor, and desperate need to avoid overly tense situations leads to a lot of the best lines in Season 1. There are moments where he could easily be seen as a giant douche, but he instead comes across as sexy and charismatic and lovable.

Tommy: By my rough estimate, you have not had sex in 1,839 days. As your wingman, I highly recommend Carmen Golden.

Oliver: Which one is she?

Tommy: The one that looks like the chick from Twilight.

Or this delightful exchange when they all go to Big Billy with John and meet Carly.

Tommy is the best big brother

When Oliver was missing, Tommy didn’t lose hope he was alive for a long time and he wanted to make sure Thea, Moira, and yes, even Laurel were okay. But the way he treats Thea? Especially during her most difficult of times and her most embarrassing of moments, well, he’s the big brother that LITERALLY every girl dreams of having. (Of course, we all find it ironic later on when we discover everyone’s lineage). Top big brother moments:

Oh, and the coup de Grace?

Ouch. It would be hard to maintain a relationship like this, even with a beloved sibling missing. And yet, when Tommy throws the CNRI fundraiser and Thea mistakes his comments as interest in her, NOT Laurel, and responds by drinking way too much, Tommy once again steps up in the best way possible. (I have to wonder if Colin Donnell was that guy at parties in college who would walk everyone back to their dorms and hold back their hair as they puked in the bushes…)

Tommy and Laurel

It’s no secret that I don’t love Laurel Lance. I don’t really care for her character or her portrayer, but that’s my personal opinion. However, I think her best work came in her scenes with Tommy. He just brings out the best in those he performs with and his love for Laurel just radiated off him.

                                            I mean, who doesn’t want to be told that?

                                    She’s Not Wrong

Tommy Grows Up

Mid-season, Tommy’s trust fund is frozen by his father, Malcolm (I’m not going to bother getting into the legal issues/questions I have with this plot point, I’m just going to go with it). But that loss comes at the right time, as we’ve been watching him grow up and change for the better. He wants a real relationship with Laurel, so he’s done sleeping around with random girls. He’s an amazing brother to Thea… and then he starts to work with Oliver on Verdant and just blossoms.


Tommy is the best best friend in history. Remember how he was monitoring Oliver’s accounts years after he disappeared? He ran to China the second there was a reason to think he could find Oliver. He took care of Thea and Moira. It looks like he even took care of Laurel for a while (and sometimes in a truly platonic way). So, of course, our hearts broke in half when Tommy learns Oliver is the Vigilante. He doesn’t have any idea how to process that information, but he feels betrayed by the last person who should ever betray him.

And though his death absolutely crushed the entire fandom (yeah, it’s still too soon to make jokes about. It will probably ALWAYS be too soon), let’s not forget his legacy – how he changed Oliver’s mission.

To Honor Tommy, His Mission Changes

“I know I called you a murderer, but you are not. You are a hero. You beat the island. You beat my father. So fight, Oliver. Get up and fight back.”

And so we lost our favorite member of the Arrowverse, but seeing him last night, even for just a few minutes, yeah, that felt pretty damn great. What did you think, was his appearance worth it?

Written by Meg Williams

A lover of so many things: dogs, wine, books, my husband and theater. I'm a pretty unapologetic nerd AND geek. I'll talk Star Trek (DS9 is the best) or Buffy all day, but I also love Broadway and I'm an actress and singer in another part of my life. I'm studying to be a Sommelier so I talk about wine and cocktails A LOT. Usually I'm at home in front of my computer, a TV or with a good book, drinking wine and snuggling with my two pups.

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