For anyone who has been missing the island or the gruff-voiced Slade Wilson, then give a cheer, because this week you get both in one episode.
Picking right back up from the last scene, we’re given an interesting story-reversal in ‘The Return’. With flashbacks set in Starling City, and a present Oliver and Thea on the island, there was something engaging in the change in format. The problem with having flashbacks to a single sub-plot is that there can be dull moments in comparison to the present drama. However, this week was a quieter, yet poignant episode which actually became one of my favourites of the season so far.
After Waller forces Oliver to break into Queen Consolidated, Oliver begins to question his place in China after seeing the wreckage he’s left behind in Starling City. We see his friends – welcome back Tommy – and family, as well as a few other favourite members of Team Arrow, all facing their own problems in the wake of Oliver’s so-called death. Poor Lance and Laurel are seen arguing and spouting harsh words after Lance catches Laurel at one of Tommy’s parties. Speaking of, can we talk about how great it was to see Tommy back on-screen? Even despite the hideous hairdo, which gives Oliver’s shaggy wig a run for its money.
After witnessing Thea’s spiral into drugs and partying, Oliver makes the decision to cut ties with Waller but his freedom is quickly dismissed after an unknown general encourages Oliver back to China. Why? To be ‘debriefed’. We obviously know that Oliver doesn’t return until much later, so here’s the question: where to next?
Onto the present and we’re given an entire twenty minutes dedicated to Thea and Oliver on the island, which was fantastic. Holland and Amell have grown incredibly strong as both actors and characters, and having an entire episode of the Queen siblings was a bold but well-received move. We get to see how far the two have come. From being a cold-hearted killer to a caring vigilante, Oliver encourages Thea to protect herself from becoming like he used to be. Or, more dangerously, becoming like Merlyn. During their training on the island, Thea is finally told that Merlyn drugged his daughter into killing Sara, and let’s just say it gets ugly pretty fast.
Due to Merlyn making the even stupider move of releasing Slade to provoke Oliver’s ‘killer’ side, Thea quickly uses her anger over her father’s manipulation to team up with Oliver and take down Slade. She even allows Oliver to dislocate her shoulder after Slade leaves them in a jail cell with no sign of returning. There’s a moment when I honestly believed that Thea would kill Slade, and you couldn’t blame her for that when you take into account the many people he’s murdered.
Oliver, however, begs his little sister to wait, and reminds her that Slade’s death will forever be on her shoulders. Though Thea does fire the gun, Slade is left with a non-fatal injury and hauled back to jail before the Queen siblings leave again. Is it wrong that I’m glad Slade is still alive? He’s a fantastically messed-up character and one who always keeps things interesting. His last remark about Felicity was enough to make my blood boil; it’s a distinct possibility that Felicity will one day be used against Oliver again, and with all this talk of a ‘sacrifice’ to defeat Ra’s al Ghul, could it be that any hope for a romance is off the table?
Back in the present, Lance falls back into the habit of downing liquor at the bar, but ultimately accepts Laurel’s request to get help. He encourages her to do the same and the two part ways, but not before Lance makes the most heart-breaking speech of the season. He tearfully tells Laurel that she has broken the bond and trust between them. Clearly broken, it seems Lance will be out of the picture for a little while. I only hope they can reconcile before the season’s end.
‘The Return’ was an episode filled with lots of drama, grit and snippets of humour to keep viewers from sinking into a severe depression. I look forward to seeing where Team Arrow go next.