Arrow S3E14 – “The Return” Review
(Warning: Full spoilers for Arrow follow. You have been warned.)
I find it funny that what were once the center of most of the drama on Arrow, the secrets, are now being so freely and frequently revealed. Going back to season one, the secrets that Oliver kept from his friends and family and the secrets kept by other characters drove much of the character drama to be seen. Now, two seasons later, it seems that if an episode goes by without a long-standing secret being revealed, it’s been a slow day in the Arrow-verse. Such change in the tone of the show speaks wonders for Arrow’s maturation and willingness to venture outside of what it was comfortable with for so long.
“The Return” fired on all cylinders on two different fronts: secret reveals and flashbacks. While I have historically not cared about the flashbacks on Arrow, they stole the show this week. Likewise, Oliver revealing to Thea that she was the one who killed Sara was an example of one of those life-shattering secrets that the show has become synonymous with.
In terms of the flashbacks, “The Return” depicted Oliver and Maseo returning to Starling City to hunt down Chien Na Wei. From comedic moments such as Diggle dealing with protecting rich douchebags to heartbreaking reminders of the strained relationship that Laurel and Detective Lance had while Oliver was gone, the flashbacks here were some of the most emotionally effective in recent memory. One moment that stands as a stark contrast to the current state of the show is watching Oliver so willingly kill the drug dealer who sold to Thea. Scenes like this show how far Oliver has come as a character, and moments like this would be impossible in a show that did not utilize flashbacks like Arrow does. While I typically am not crazy about them, the flashbacks this week really helped to shed some light on an important, otherwise unseen time in the Arow-verse, while simultaneously reminding us of where we are now.
How Thea still trusts Oliver after everything is a mystery that is beyond me to comprehend. It seems like every time he tells her a huge secret, a little later it’s like, “well, hang on, there’s one more thing I can’t tell you…” I wouldn’t be surprised if this eventually leads to Thea losing trust in everyone and going rogue, but that may just be a simple-minded fan’s absurd theories. Regardless, huge secret reveals are always a fun thing to watch in good television, especially in a show such as Arrow where every single secret is as integral to the plot as it is. We as an audience were able to watch how the revelation that she killed Sara destroyed Thea, showing how, as Slade pointed out, “she has been touched by darkness.”
Speaking of Slade, it was great to see Manu Bennett and Colin Donnell back as Slade Wilson and Tommy Merlyn, respectively. One of the greatest things about Arrow is that even when a character leaves the show, they are never truly gone. Whether through flashbacks, bait and switches, or just straight up awesome comic book bullshit, no character is ever truly gone. Tommy felt as though he had never even left the show, while Slade has become so batshit crazy after being locked up on the island that he almost feels like a different character. It’s fun to see how the show handles the respective returns of characters such as these.
“The Return,” while having no Team Arrow scenes (hell, Roy wasn’t even in the episode at all), was still a great episode, especially in terms of the flashbacks. The flashbacks and the secret reveal had me unable to look away the entire time. It was a very bro/sis-centric episode, really exploring Oliver and Thea’s relationship as opposed to Team Arrow action. This, however, does not seem like it will be missing for long, as next week’s episode will give us our first full look at Ray Palmer in the A.T.O.M. suit. I know. I can’t contain my excitement either.