Arrow: The Return Review

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By: Ashley Binion (@ashleybinion)

In Arrow’s short series history, there has been one episode a season that has distinguished itself as a flashback episode. This season, “The Return” gets that honor.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.


Personally, I’ve always had trouble connecting with Arrow’s flashback material. (I know, I know, judge me all you want.) This season is no different. The Hong Kong flashbacks have felt as if they are just spinning their wheels. It could be because of the lack of urgency or that Slade’s and Sara’s presences are gone. However, this hour delivered purely on fan service alone. The plot line for the flashbacks was kind of ridiculous, so it was more of a check-in with our characters.   

For the people who have been watching from the very beginning this episode was for you. It had Tommy (!), a early Queen Consolidated Felicity (and yes, I have a problem with how Arrow styles her in current-day scenes), a funny reference to wearing a hood and grease paint, Lance’s old partner Lucas Hilton aka Travis from Continuum, Tommy and Laurel going out for their first dinner, and Detective Lance hitting the bottle hard.

This time period in Starling City has been untouched. Earlier in the series, mostly in the first season, there were only references to the time while Oliver was away. As viewers, we finally get to see how the residents of Starling City were living five years ago. It was fun.

I love that the powers that be at Arrow continue to find ways to bring Colin Donnell back. He was such a bright spot in the episode with his whole playboy routine and as a protective older brother, although he didn’t know he was the older brother. He was the one person I really liked Laurel with. Their relationship always felt genuine, so to see how that came about was adorable.

This was the first time shades of a ruthless killer were shown in Oliver. He was so protective of his sister that he broke her drug dealer’s back. He still has a long way to go in becoming the vigilante, but this was a big step for his character.

Slade’s return should’ve been used better. Let’s face it: the series will never have a villain more exciting, emotional, and formidable than Slade Wilson. He will forever be the villain the rest of the villains have to measure up to. The Dark Archer was fine in season one and so far Ra’s al Ghul has been almost nonexistent, so I think Slade’s return should’ve been grander and more exciting. To be fair, anytime Slade’s on the screen it’s exciting, but I was expecting more.

In a perfect world, I would have liked to see him actually escape from the island. That way, there would always be this looming possibility of him returning to finish off Oliver’s friends and family. The statement he made when he was locked back up in his cell about “how many more people does Oliver have to lose in order for there to be no more Oliver Queen” seemed pretty ominous.

The scenes between Oliver and Thea throughout the episode were great. Throughout the course of the series, they have little interaction with each other. It’s surprising considering they are siblings, but without her knowing his secret, it left little room for her presence. Now that she’s finally in on it, they can have more contact.

Paul Blackthorne had a strong performance in the episode. It’s sad to see that five years later, the character is practically in the same spot, minus the drinking. He’s mourning the loss of his daughter yet again and has a strained relationship with Laurel.

While berating his daughter, Lance may have accidentally given Laurel her official alter ego name. I believe that this is the first actual reference to Black Canary. Up until this point, both she and Sara have been known as Canary.

Look at that: Andy Diggle made his first on screen appearance as the brother Diggle lost to Deadshot. Up until this point, he has only been referenced to and has never been seen in flashbacks.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


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