Arrow delivers a flashback heavy episode as Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Thea (Willa Holland) encounter some…trouble during their time on Purgatory Isle.
Let’s bitch it out…
What is meant to be a brother/sister bonding trip turns into something considerably more dangerous when the pair discover that Malcolm (John Barrowman) has released Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) to in an effort to bring out Oliver’s killer spirit. In an amusingly unanticipated way, the threat posed by Slade does exactly what the trip is intended for. Being locked in close quarters and facing off against Slade does bring the Queen siblings closer together and, in a unexpected moment, even prompts Oliver to reveal the truth about Thea’s role in Sara’s murder. Leave it to Slade to twist the knife when they finally get him back in the cell, waxing poetically about how Oliver has lost everyone in his family now that Thea has been “touched by darkness”. Even in a reduced capacity, Slade packs an imposing punch.
The mission proper – the one that Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) assigns to Oliver and Maseo (Karl Yune) that brings them to Starling City – is the usual so-so affair. There’s action and danger courtesy of China White (Kelly Hu) and the Omega auction, but that’s not the real purpose of ‘The Return’. No, that is to provide insight into our characters and it’s where the episode shines. Despite the fun of seeing the former archvillain in action, everything in this episode hangs on the flashbacks.
Last week I derided the flashbacks (I even mentioned to a co-worker/hardcore Arrow fan that I couldn’t care less if the flashbacks were dropped). This week they’re damn near instrumental. Part of the reason is that, for the first time this season, the flashbacks are integrated into narrative proper (and yes, that statement does include Malcolm’s flashbacks a few weeks ago – don’t even get me started on those. Blech). Here the flashbacks serve a two-pronged purpose: they provide insight the present day events, while also detailing the origins of several of the series’ most fundamental components, including the first appearance of the Hood and his father’s secret video outlining his mission statement. In short, the writers have finally made good on their bracketing device, which this season have been less than insightful or engaging. If they can keep this up, they may just make a believer of me.
- That’s The Beastmaster actor Marc Singer playing Lieutenant Shrieve, who will apparently recur in flashbacks. There’s a semi-complicated Green Arrow history behind the character, so it will be interesting to see how he interacts with A.R.G.U.S. moving forward.
- Oliver asks Thea to keep the secret about Sara from Laurel (Katie Cassidy). Way to propagate the circle of lies there, Ollie.
- Brief glimpses of regular cast members include Diggle (David Ramsey) working security with his still-alive brother and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) in her former corporate lackey job. It’s amusing to see these tasters from the past, especially the fact that Felicity had bad taste in men many years before she became Oliver’s tech guru.
- Not to be petty, but Tommy’s (Colin Donnell) haircut is awfully modern and his beer gut looks a little new. Just sayin’.
- Of all the flashback elements, the Laurel (Katie Cassidy) and Lance (Paul Blackthorne) segments are the most meaningful because they have a direct tie to the present day. Seeing Lance as an angry, bitter drunk tearing into his daughter at Tommy’s party anticipates their confrontation at Sara’s grave at the end of the episode. With that said, his grief blaming is frustrating – obviously he’s lashing out at Laurel (just like he did after Sara’s first death), but his behaviour still seems childish. It’s especially annoying considering how easily Thea accepted Oliver’s difficult confession last week.
- I’m sure no one else cares, but I liked seeing the dearly departed Detective Lucas Hilton (Roger Cross) who was killed in 2×09 ‘Three Ghosts’. It’s a nice bit of continuity, even if it is brief.
- Oliver’s flashback wig is especially awful this week. Plus that ballcap looks like it is sitting about eight inches above his actual head.
- Finally, as much as I’m enjoying the new and improved Thea (holding her own against Slade, yelling at Malcolm), an evil part of me was waiting for that spiked log to swing back and impale her. That’s kind of how physics works.
- Felicity (examining a picture of Oliver in the office): “You’re cute.”
- Maseo (when Oliver defends his hoodie disguise at the party): “That disguise wouldn’t work if you had greasepaint all over your face!”
- Thea (when Malcolm insists he made her kill Sara because he loves her): “Oh god it’s sick and it’s not even true.” THANK YOU – it’s nice that someone finally calls Malcolm out on his bullshit.
Your turn: how did you feel about the mostly flashback episode? Were you glad to see Slade again? Whose flashback was most revealing? Were you intrigued by the origins of some of Oliver’s most fundamental components? Are you frustrated or okay with Lance’s present-day reaction with Laurel? And are you glad to see Thea confront Malcolm about his prior actions? Sound off below.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW