Each season of Arrow there is always one flashback-heavy episode that focuses more on the events of the past than what’s happening in the present. In previous editions, these flashbacks have taken place on the island, but this year it was different as Oliver and Thea pay the hellish island a visit, while we see Oliver, in the past, visit Starling City.
I like how “The Odyssey” (Season 1), “The Promise” (Season 2) and “The Return” is basically like a mini-trilogy of episodes and how it has become a tradition for this show to have one of those episodes every season. While the Honk-Kong flashbacks have been somewhat of a mixed to me and a lot of viewers out there, I think it’s safe to say that the flashbacks in this episode were some of the best ones the series has ever done, as Oliver got to see the damage inflected upon his loved ones when he and Robert disappeared out of their lives. Although the only downside with this was that Susanna Thompson didn’t make an appearance as Moira Queen, a character that is still greatly missed.
The most heartbreaking characters to follow in the flashbacks were Quentin, who was dealing with his alcohol problems after losing Sara the first time around, and Thea, who was also having substance abuse problems. To see it through Oliver’s eyes was gut-wrenching, which was the point, and it explains so much about his behavior when we first see him come home in the pilot. Even though there were several times when I just wanted him to run over to Tommy, Laurel or anyone for that matter and let them know he was still alive, I knew it was impossible, which made this aspect so emotionally charged for me. Seeing Colin Donnell again, but just in flashbacks, makes me sad because of how much I miss that character. Still crossing my fingers that through the magic of comic book structure, we can somehow get Tommy back, even if he has to be evil, but one can only dream I suppose.
The island-focused storyline featured the return of Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke (played by the magnificent Manu Bennett) as he had broken out of his ARGUS prison when Oliver came to pay him a visit. It was revealed that Malcolm had helped get Slade out as he wanted Oliver to get his killer instinct back for when he faces Ra’s al Ghul again. As I saw Thea, along with Oliver, going up against Slade, it made me feel even more strongly that this version of Deathstroke is someone that would easily be good for TNT’s Titans, if that show ends up happening and shares the same universe. The biggest effect that Slade’s presence had in this episode was that it pushed Oliver to finally tell Thea the truth that she, under Malcolm’s control, murdered Sara and as expected, that revelation shattered her world. The more secrets that are coming out, the better this season is becoming, because now, more than ever, do I realize how problematic all of the secrets have been this year.
When Oliver and Thea eventually returned back home to Starling City, the show gave us perhaps Malcolm Merlyn’s first stupid scene ever. Thea yells at him for what he had made her do, while he replies, “Oliver shouldn’t have told you.” While I do remember the reasons why Malcolm had Thea kill Sara, it still doesn’t excuse his actions, so what Oliver did here was the right thing because Malcolm shouldn’t have done it to her to begin with. Maybe it was just that particular line that irked me because Malcolm is always written brilliantly so for him to say that Ollie shouldn’t have told Thea the truth of the horrible action he had done felt wrong.
Overall, aside from that nitpick, “The Return” was another solid episode as Arrow is finally starting to get back to its groove that it had in the first two seasons, and as mentioned above, an episode like this, where the flashbacks get more focus, is greatly appreciated each season.
Arrow airs on Wednesday nights, 8/7c on The CW.
[Photo via The CW]