Arrow: The Return

Oliver: "I pulled the hoodie down to cover my face."
Maseo: "That disguise wouldn't work even if you smeared grease paint all over your face."

Well, the truth gloves have really come off. This was a very packed episode, with quite a few returning characters.

This wasn't the first time that the flashback took up the majority of the episode. But I loved how the action was switched, and the current story took place almost exclusively on the Island. This episode also answered a lot of small lingering questions, which were mostly fun little details and continuity nods, but also some things that I would never have thought to ask about.

Mainly, the story focused around Oliver reacting to the world that went on without him. For the most part this was a lot of fanservice. We got to see Diggle working security for Tommy's party while partnered with his brother. I wonder now that they have officially cast Diggle's long lost brother, are we going to see him again? Is he really dead? DC comics has a tendency to fake character death for dramatic purposes, and this show is no exception.

Then there was a fun little moment with Felicity, and Oliver getting a much needed smile from her doing her usual awkward talking to herself routine. Unfortunately it wasn't all smiles and fun. There was poor Quentin at the height of his alcoholism and his rage over Oliver's role in Sara's first death, and Thea's very rebellious descent into drug use.

At least we got to see Tommy again, and in fact he seemed to have played a fairly large role in everyone's lives while Oliver was gone -- specifically, Laurel and Thea. Tommy, no matter his faults, had to step up and try to be a big brother to Thea. Of course he wasn't all that successful, which led to Oliver literally killing Thea's drug dealer. It was also a nice nod to continuity that we saw the beginning of how Laurel and Tommy started their romance. A bit sad, knowing how badly it turned out. It was interesting that for Tommy, Laurel represented something good and real. Maybe she was supposed to be the person he wanted to settle down with, even though he was still a bit too immature to commit.

We saw Laurel when she was at her most idealistic. She had to battle with her father over his drinking, and debate whether or not to take a job at one of the most prestigious law firms in the country. This of course paralleled the scene we got between Quentin and Laurel in the present. It turns out the truth didn't break Quentin like Laurel feared. Nor did the truth about her taking over as the Black Canary. He's horrified that she lied to him about Sara, because they have always been alike and he trusted her to tell him the truth about the big stuff.

The Island:

That level of trust also mirrors Oliver and Thea, but in reverse. Instead of the truth breaking up the relationship, it seems to have strengthened it. Oliver's struggle with the final looming secret he was holding back from Thea was well done, and I honestly wasn't sure how she would handle it.

Of course she died a little inside when he told her, and it also effectively destroyed any relationship she had with her father, so I guess that did run parallel to the Quentin/Laurel fall out. Anyway, I was so relieved that Thea didn't immediately turn it around on Oliver, and while she was understandably upset, she didn't use that guilt as an excuse to fall further into darkness (by killing Slade). That showed more about her strength than her acceptance of Oliver as the Arrow. Even more so, while afraid of Malcolm for obvious reasons, she essentially ripped Malcolm a new one. That final admonishment she threw in Malcolm's face was just amazing, and something I've wanted to see her do since the beginning of the season.

All this drama took place during a long protracted chase scene with Slade. I think it was a bit too much that Merlyn once again betrayed Oliver and Thea with the excuse that it was 'training'. Forcing them to kill Slade might've worked for just Oliver. But together Oliver and Thea make a pretty great team. I loved that she was strong enough to carry her own weight in the fight, and even managed to land a few unexpected blows on Slade. If she can do that, she is more than ready to be a hero in her own right.

As for Slade, I thought he served the plot pretty well. He was a credible threat, and he wasn't killed off (meaning he will return at some point), and in a way Slade made a very interesting point about Oliver. Without Slade killing off his loved ones, Oliver has effectively lost them all anyway. Thea is no longer the person she was before, and now that she has blood on her hands, she might never be the same again. Laurel isn't even remotely a love interest for Oliver any more. And Felicity is pulling away from Oliver to the point where I don't see them reconciling anytime soon. Does that mean Slade won?


I loved all the flashback hair. We got Quentin with a full head of hair, Thea before she chopped it off, and Tommy with a new style, too.

It was nice to see Q Consolidated again, as well as the Queen house.

Walter was mentioned, and Thea even speculated that he and Moira were starting a relationship.

We finally got to hear the letter that changed Oliver's mind. Papa Queen is the one who ultimately put Oliver on the path to become the Hood and also on to the book with the list of names that have 'failed the city'.

Nice to see Roger Cross again playing Quentin's ill fated partner Lucas Hilton.

The more I see of Waller, the more I dislike this version of her. She comes across almost like an evil non-entity, and that is disappointing. We did get a bit more about her this week, like the fact that she isn't calling all the shots. Her direct supervisor is a General Matthew Shrieve (Mark Singer, V the Series).

I loved that fact that the booby trap was set by Oliver and not by Slade.


Tommy: "You shouldn't grow up too fast."
Thea: "Yeah, well, you're not my brother."
(Shades of Luke and Leia. Didn't Thea have the hots for Tommy early in Season One?)

Diggle: "Nothing like a rich kid's party to remind me what I miss about being shot at in Afghanistan."

Thea: (to Malcolm) "I will be your student, I'll be your partner. Even, if I have to, I will be your soldier. But never again will I be your daughter."

This was an awesome episode with a lot to like. Was Slade utilized as well as he could've been? No, but it's kind of irrelevant since we'll see him again if not this season, then next.

4 out of 4 Booby traps set by Oliver.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related. He reviews Arrow and Farscape and cool new movies that strike his fancy.


TJ said...

I love this show. And I love the fact that they resolve secrets rather quickly. That Thea-killed- Sara-secret needed to come out, and it did.

Loved seeing Slade again (isn't Manu Bennett the best?) It reminded me a little of Spike's return in Buffy S3 (Lover's walk). Slade was (just like Spike), the outsider looking in, and had some really interesting views about Oliver and Thea.

I am not completely buying this Thea/Malcolm fallout though. Maybe I'm just paranoid, but I can't help but thinking that Thea might have known Oliver's secrets all along, and that she and Malcolm have some kind of agenda for later on this season. Well, I am probably just paranoid:)

TJ said...

BTW, I liked that Oliver mentioned that there were two inmates on the island (the other one being Captain Boomerang?). Nice continuity!

Korlis said...

Loved seeing Manu Bennett back in action. I'm not sure he's ever been utilised as well as he was back in the first season, even with how fun the Deathstroke arc was in S2, but he's just a great actor to bring in.

Given how much potential melodrama could have ensued from Oliver telling Thea a) that he's the Arrow and b) that she killed Sara, I'm thrilled with the way that's been handled, too.

As for the flashback hair, I'm increasingly convinced that they're giving Oliver the worst possible hair they can get away with as kind of inverse fan-service.

Side note: I loved discovering that ARGUS actually mans the prison with a guard, as I was never sure how Slade was supposed to get food or whatever. And thanks to TJ for reminding me who the other inmate was!

Elfie said...

I remember there was a time when I didn't like Thea, but they've utilized her so well in these past couple episodes that I have no complaints about her character anymore. In fact, she's more strong, more badass and more likable than she has ever been. I love the way she dealt with the fact that Oliver was the Arrow, even if it is still a little difficult to believe that she never figured it out until then, and now the way she dealt with the fact that she killed Sara! Of course she was unsettled, enraged, miffed. But she didn't fall off the edge and go all bat shit crazy, which is a character arc a lot of lesser show writers pull when they want a character to go dark. I also found immense satisfaction when she mouthed off to Malcolm.

If I have any complaint with this episode it's the lack of Diggle and Felicity, but I still got all fangirly when they made their cameos. It was fun seeing all the characters back before all this happened, before they had even the slightest idea of the shitstorm that's headed their way.

Can SOMEBODY explain to me why Amanda Waller is so damn one dimensional?! She's like this annoying, lipstick-wearing killer robot. Grr. Anyway lovely episode, lovely review! Cannot wait for the next one.