‘Arrow’ stars John Barrowman and Willa Holland on their dysfunctional father-daughter bond

VANCOUVER, BC. For most of the season's first two “Arrow” episodes, a pretty big question lingered: Where the heck are Thea Queen and her newly-revealed pop Malcolm Merlyn?

Viewers got at least a partial answer at the very end of last week's episode when we were whisked off to Corto Maltese — a land most famous from Vicki Vale's award-winning series of photos — and discovered that Thea has apparently been undergoing some intense martial arts training courtesy of dad and his minions.

The abrupt departure from Starling City was part of Thea's attempt to redefine herself after a grief-and-danger-filled season, but it remains to be seen who Thea will be when we see her next. It's doubtful that she'll just return to being Oliver Queen's club-operating sister, but is she on the path to be the latest incarnation of the classic Green Arrow sidekick known as Speedy?

Rest-assured that nobody involved wants to give any definitive answers, but on the Vancouver set of “Arrow” last week, stars Willa Holland and John Barrowman teased what we can expect from this week's episode, which focuses heavily on Thea and Malcolm, or at least on Oliver's quest to get Thea back.

As we saw in last week's episode, Thea has been undergoing some training and that has carried over to “The O.C.” veteran Holland as well.

“I'm still going through it. I'm still learning a lot,” Holland said. “But I've been doing a lot of weight lifting, hitting the gym a lot with my trainer, Brady Roberts, who tortures me on a daily basis for at least an hour every day of the week, like seven days a week, Sundays even. I don't know if I can reveal the other trainers that I've been working with. I've been focusing on weight lifting and getting my mobility going. I've been hitting a few fronts, like kind of dabbling in almost everything the show has been offering, so it's been kind of nice.”

She added, “I'm actually surprisingly a quick learner. I totally thought it was going to be a lot harder than it was, and some of the things are actually very, very difficult. The katana thing is very, very difficult. But when it comes to other things, I was quite surprised at how I was a bit of a quick learner. And I'm also quick on picking up the muscle, I guess.”

Holland declined to give any detains on which particular things were coming quickly for her, but I guess we'll see some of that as we go along. But even Holland doesn't know the character's superhero destination, even if the hints have been broad dating back to the pilot.

“It's always been teased to be Speedy, but it's very up in the air, I fee like,” she said. “Especially in our version of the DC universe, when it comes to being on our pages, it's sometimes rewritten and changed. I don't quite have the answer to that. But I wish I did. And if I did, I probably wouldn't be able to tell you anyway. I'm sorry.”

And what are Malcolm Merlyn's motivations at this point? For now, he's just enjoying fatherhood, Merlyn-style.

“He”s happy that he is in control of the situation,” Barrowman said. “I”m not going to spoil anything that”s coming up but how he does control is pretty vicious. In the past, Malcolm has always used is money and power to manipulate people. The one thing he was never able to grasp was because he lost his wife, she was emotionally connected to changing the city. He lost Tommy who was emotionally connected to Laurel. He lost Moira because Moira emotionally connected to her children and she always sacrificed herself. So Malcolm has never been able to emotionally get to somebody. So I think that”s his question. To emotionally manipulate people now rather than, he still uses physicality, but it”s a new twist. I”m liking what they”re doing because I think I”ve said it six times before they started writing it and they now put it in. Kidding.”

Is there a loving side to the Malcolm-Thea bond? Well, kinda…

“I don”t think we”re there yet. It”s the most dysfunctional, brutal father-daughter relationship,” Barrowman teased. “The type that you”re going to watch, when you watch on television, you”re going to look at it and you”re going to go I can”t really, this is too uncomfortable, but I really want to stay watching it because it”s like a car crash. It is. It”s going to be, but again he loves her, he really cares for her. It”s his daughter and he”s kept this secret for a long time and again manipulated somebody else with it, as you do. But I think there is a genuine love there and caring for her but he wants her to be strong. He wants her to be able to stand on her own two feet.”

Because you can't really appreciate John Barrowman's energy in mere text, check out some video highlights from Barrowman's on-set chat with reporters above. 

And check out some additional highlights from Holland's interview, including her reaction to sharing scenes with the lively Barrowman, below. Apologies, again, for the amateurish sound and lighting!

The “Corto Maltese” episode of “Arrow” airs Wednesday (October 22) night on The CW.