What better way to train to face off with the man who nearly killed Oliver once before than to have Slade loose on the island? That’s Malcolm’s way of thinking in the Wednesday, Feb. 18 episode of “Arrow,” 314, “The Return,” but Malcolm doesn’t exactly get the outcome he wants. Meanwhile, the flashbacks set the stage for some of season 1.
Now that Thea knows that Oliver is the Arrow, she’s happy because it means there are no more secrets between them. Well, there’s one big one, and it’s one he’s determined to keep from her. When she wakes him as he’s dreaming about Sara, he goes to “clear his head,” a.k.a, visit Slade in his cell because what better way to do that? But Slade’s not there. Instead, a dead A.R.G.U.S. guard is on his bed, and Slade attacks Oliver and Thea just after Oliver retrieves a gun from the “cemetery.” As Malcolm explains on the one call Oliver gets, he needs to regain that killing instinct.
Slade then locks Oliver and Thea up in his cell and leaves them to discuss Oliver and his secrets, and Thea wants answers. Fortunately for Oliver, he finds a pretty good distraction when he realizes that A.R.G.U.S. built the prison to hold grown men and not tiny women like Thea, so she can reach around and open the cell door. All she has to do is press a button – oh, and let Oliver dislocate her shoulder so she can stretch those extra inches. As they run after Slade, Thea sets off a booby trap and learns that her brother is the “psycho” that put it there. After he pulls a spike out of his arm, she insists he rest for a moment, and why not use the opportunity to tell her what he’s been keeping from her?
That’s when the truth about Sara’s death comes out, as Oliver takes as long as he can to build up to telling her she killed her, going from Malcolm killed her to he used someone to she didn’t know what she was doing. He tries to get her not to blame herself, but Thea sees herself as a killer, and it pretty much secures Malcolm a place on her hate list. So when Slade attacks again, Thea doesn’t hesitate to pull the gun on him. She sees herself as a killer already, but Oliver argues that Malcolm wanted to prove that they’re killers because he wants Thea to be just like him.
Slade ends up back in his A.R.G.U.S. cell, and he tells Oliver that Thea is lost. He sees that she’s been touched by darkness, and that means Oliver has lost his father, his mother and his little sister. Before Oliver leaves, Slade asks how Felicity is and wonders how many people he can lose before there is no more Oliver Queen. Good question, Slade.
When they return to Starling City, Malcolm is waiting in the shadows of the loft to make his entrance at the right moment, but he’s in for a surprise. He didn’t expect Oliver to tell her about Sara, and Malcolm even tries to tell Thea that he cares about her. Nope. Thea’s not buying that. She’ll work with him because she has to in order to stop Ra’s, but she’ll never be his daughter again.
Fortunately, “The Return” also addresses Lance grieving for Sara a second time (which works quite well since the flashbacks show him the first time around). He may not be drinking this time, but like the past, it is driving a wedge between father and daughter, this time because Laurel broke their trust and the bond they had. She thinks it’s a good time to go to a meeting (and it is), but he’s not going to one with her.
As for the Starling City flashbacks, there’s some good and there’s some bad. Andy! Grieving for Sara (for the first time) Lance! Tommy and Laurel’s beginnings! Tommy! A cute Olicity moment! (It is a bit too expected, but it’s still like a light in the darkness given how things have been between the two as of late.) The video from his father! However, considering how great Manu Bennett is as Slade, it’s hard not to wish that there’s more of the present day scenes on the island with him, Oliver and Thea, even with “Arrow’s” tradition of a flashback episode at this time each season.
Even though Amanda Waller threatens Oliver and Maseo’s lives if Oliver lets anyone know he’s alive, Oliver can’t help but take time out of his mission to find China White and Omega before she auctions it off to spy on his friends and family. That means he sees Thea buying drugs and a drunk Lance being very vocal about how he feels about Tommy, Laurel and her association with him and Thea. That also means that when he goes after the guy selling drugs to his sister and gets recognized, he has to kill him.
Oliver wants nothing more than to return home – and not just to the city, but to his life – but when he goes to his father’s office to get on his computer (which is when he sees Felicity and smiles as she babbles – “You’re cute. It’s too bad you’re, you know, dead, which is obviously a lot worse for you than it is for me. I really need to learn to stop talking to myself.” – away to a photo of him), he finds a private folder addressed to him. On it is a message from Robert, explaining that he failed the city, but Oliver can save it. See, there’s this list…
With that, Oliver shows up just in time to save Maseo at China White’s auction, and after they deliver China White and Omega to A.R.G.U.S., Oliver is dreaming of returning to his life. Well, it’s not going to be that simple, as General Shrieve tells him he needs to be debriefed in China, and then he’ll make sure he goes anywhere in the world he wants to.
“Arrow” season 3 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 14 “The Return”?