It’s safe to say that the third season of Arrow, apart from a few exceptions, really hasn’t yet found the high bar that the latter half of Season 2 hit, which is a shame really given the potential that this show is capable of. I think that’s probably in part due to The Flash being so consistently excellent, and I’m always going into Arrow expecting it to be as good as The Flash, even if most of the time I’m left underwhelmed. However, this week’s The Return was a fairly good episode even if it did have a few flaws that weren’t quite perfect. It’s going to be most notable for featuring the return of one of the series’ strongest characters, Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson, who was as per usual, incredibly intimidating in his role as Slade even if there wasn’t as much of him this week as there should have been.
Like The Odyssey from Season 1 and The Promise from Season 2, The Return was very much a flashback heavy episode. However, unlike The Odyssey, which featured Slade and Oliver’s first attempt to escape from the Island and The Promise, which highlighted Slade’s fall from grace, The Return shifted focus a bit, rather than having Ollie on the Island in the Past, he was now on the Island (with Thea) in the present and the flashback took place largely on Starling City, as was teased next week.
We’ll get the flashbacks out of the way first, and for me, they were pretty impressive. It was great to see glimpses of all the cast back where they were and coping with the aftermath of the apparent death of Ollie, his father and Sara. Detective Lance (with hair) is a drunk and even Laurel is taking it pretty hard. On top of that, we also got to see Tommy, who is acting as the ‘big brother’ role for Thea even though they don’t actually know that they’re related as of yet, and these scenes were handled really well, in a way that also showcased just how far Thea had come as a character. It was also fun seeing cameos of both Diggle and Felicity in their jobs before they joined up with Ollie (even if I didn’t feel like the Felicity flashback worked as well as it could have done, feeling more tacked on than anything), with Felicity working for the Queen Company and Diggle as a bouncer at a party. Whilst it was a shame we didn’t get to see Walter and Moira as well, which would have been cool, I still liked how they worked the characters into the episode though.
The present day scenes also got some attention this week as well. We saw Thea and Oliver are on the Island alone, with Oliver still keeping secret the fact that Sara’s death came at the hand of Thea, which played a pretty crucial part in this episode and it was great to see how it was handled when the secret was inevitably spilled, especially now as the issue of telling Thea won’t be put off any longer. However, I do wish that the flashback sequences could have been reduced in order to give more attention to this development, which, along with Manu Bennett’s character (more on him later) really wasn’t given the deserved amount of screen-time.
We also got some pretty interesting material with the return of Slade Wilson this week. With him being freed by Malcolm, the development concerning the two Queen relatives being first Hunted by Slade and then going after him made an interesting transaction and really showed once again how Thea had grown as a character since Slade had encountered her last. It’s very clear that she’s not the same Thea that Slade knew, and there was some interesting material on that front, with the scenes where fought against Thea and Ollie being one of my highlights from this episode, even if we could have used more of them like I mentioned above, with the inclusion of Slade for only a short amount of time not really justifying the return of the character especially for a one-off episode.
So on the whole, The Return was a pretty good, but flawed episode of Arrow which is what we’ve come to expect from the season so far. It still isn’t quite reaching the heights of Season 2 yet but there’s still plenty of episodes of this season to come, so hopefully there will be an upswing soon.