This was a very good episode of Arrow. But I didn’t love it.
There’s no denying that one of the primary reasons the second season of Arrow was such a bonafide success was due to Slade being one of the most kickass villains of all time. While Ra’s Al Ghul should have been an equally menacing threat this year, he has unfortunately been afforded exactly six seconds of screen-time thus far. That will surely change going forward, but so far this year has been an utter flop villain-wise. That’s why it was so refreshing to see Slade again in The Return.
Manu Bennett just exudes badassery at every turn, and he is physically imposing in a way that makes you genuinely fear for Ollie’s life. Sadly, if I were being completely honest, I don’t think his return was handled as perfectly as it could have been. His appearance simply felt like a plot device to get Oliver and Thea to work out their issues (thanks to Malcolm letting the beast loose), and once those were resolved, the Big Bad was promptly returned to his cell. Seriously? This is how we treat the greatest antagonist the show’s ever produced? Deathstroke deserves better, and it would do the show good to remember that the next time it decides to pop him back in for ill-convceived reasons.
Still, this was a tremendous episode for Thea. I’m ecstatic that she finally knows the truth about killing Sara, and was even more pleased by how effectively she fought off Slade (and even saved her brother’s life). Maybe her training was rushed (a case can be definitely made for both her and Laurel’s sudden skills), but I love having them both in on the action. And it certainly looks like the writers might be building towards some kind of face-off between these two budding warriors. Moreover, how perfect was Thea’s final speech to Malcolm? It’s moments like these that remind me that Will Holland can be quite the capable actress when she’s not saddled with the same whiny story beats over and over again.
The flashbacks were thankfully given a nice jolt in the arm this week as they featured Ollie back in Starling City. I want to say this subplot was masterfully executed, but it had a bit too many nudge-nudge-wink-wink moments. Sure the whole thing was enormously fun to watch, but did we really need to see Felicity talk to a picture of Ollie and call him “cute”? Wouldn’t Ollie remember her since he was just a few steps away after all? Moments like these just didn’t feel all that organic or earned. Much more successful were the Laurel parallels with her pushing away her hero calling and temporarily taking up a corporate job in San Francisco. Not only was it cool to see Tommy’s first attempts at romancing her (woohoo Colin Donnell), but it was even cooler to see her remember her purpose. This was well contrasted with present-day Quentin berating Laurel for lying to him and showing her how much their bond had suffered thanks to her dishonesty. All in all, Laurel’s journey this season has been a welcome one, although I’m fearful of just how far Quentin’s downward spiral is going to go. Laurel can’t possibly lose him too right?
Bits & Arrows
– Top-notch cinematography with Ollie and Thea sparring on the island.
– Past-Thea buying drugs at her dad’s grave was a pretty low move. Thankfully, Tommy to the rescue!
– Funny nod with Thea suspecting something between Moira and Walter. If only this episode featured Susanna Thompson again. Apparently she’s not interested in returning to the show at this point in time.
– Great little moment with Oliver dreaming of Sara on the island. Nice to know she’s not totally forgotten.
– Clever transition from Robert Queen’s grave in Starling to his grave on the island.
– Did anyone else find it unintentionally funny that Oliver did God-knows-what to Thea’s hand so she could reach the HIGHLY-CONVENIENT button.
– Diggle’s brother – can’t say I ever remember him being mentioned.
– Ollie snapping the drug dealer’s neck was very reminiscent of the manner he used to off people back in season one.
– Epic moment with Past-Quentin going nuts and berating Laurel, Tommy AND Thea after the murder in the mansion. He even called Laurel “a gold-digger”. Damn.
– So that fun lil booby trap was Ollie’s? Ha!
– I do hope we’ll get tons more moments of Ollie and Thea fighting side by side against a common villain. Their sibling dynamic is a wonderful one.
– Absolutely loved Slade relaying the season’s themes and asking Oliver how much much he’ll lose. At least Manu got to do something worthwhile!
– I miss the Queen Mansion dearly. Thankfully, we got that excellent scene of Ollie watching his dad telling him that he failed the city and renewing his son’s sense of purpose in the process.
– Absolutely loved China White not even budging during the shooting and carrying on with the auction like a boss. Her getting punched by Ollie however was lame. Also, notice that she ordered the Yamashiros dead before getting captured. Is that how their son gets killed?
– So Waller’s boss is a General called Matthew Shreieve. Okay…
– Quentin calling Laurel “The Black Canary”! YES!
– Gorgeous symbolism with Laurel pouring the bottle and Sara’s grave in the background.
Quentin: Yeah. Ah, well, this is Laurel. You know, the daughter that lived.
Diggle: Nothing like a rich kid’s party to remind me of what I miss about being shot at in Afghanistan.
Quentin: Wow, you really have a thing for these rich bad boys, don’t you? I mean, you think maybe, just maybe, one of ’em getting your sister killed would have gotten you cured of that.
Quentin: (to Thea) And what about you, sweetheart? Dressed like that. It’s funny; I can’t figure out if you’re following in your brother’s footsteps or my dead daughter.
Laurel: Dad, you know what–
Quentin: I’m just observing how one little boat trip can turn everyone’s life to crap.
Robert: You can right my wrongs. You can be better than I was. You can save this city.
Ollie: Yeah, I pulled the hoodie down to cover my face.
Mateo: That disguise wouldn’t work even if you smeared grease paint all over your face.
Slade: She’s lost, your sister.
Oliver: No, she’s not.
Slade: You can see it in her eyes. She’s being touched by darkness. Was it Merlyn? He’s an interesting man to do that to his own daughter. So now you’ve lost your father, your mother, and now your little sister. How’s the girl with the glasses? What’s her name? Felicity. How many people can Oliver Queen lose before there is no more Oliver Queen?
Quentin: Are you going to get your mask and your Billy club and take it away from me, huh? Black Canary?
Quentin: When does your shift start, huh? Shouldn’t you be running around on rooftops by now?
Thea: The only person that I’m afraid of right now is you. I will work with you to stop Ra’s. Because that’s what my brother says we need to do. So I will be your student. I’ll be your partner. Even if I have to, I will be your solider. But never again will I be your daughter.
A solid outing of Arrow, but I was expecting an all-time great hour.