The Return brings Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson together again on the island and the Malcolm Merlyn plot gets even less comprehensible in an otherwise pretty good episode.
ARROW 3.14 “THE RETURN”
Director: Demott Downs
Writers: Marc Guggenheim and Erik Oleson
Original Air Date: Wednesday, February 18th, 2015
Starring: Stephen Amell, David Ramsey, Emily Bett Rickards
Previously on Arrow 3.13 “Canaries”: Laurel proves herself utterly useless as a heroine and a character and everyone welcomes her onto the team with open arms.
BACK TO BEGINNINGS
The Return brings back many themes and characters from the previous seasons of Arrow in a play by writers Marc Guggenheim and Erik Oleson to recapture some of the magic and bring Oliver (Stephen Amell), and Thea (Willa Holland), closer together. The gimmick almost works until the explanation for it is so contrived that a lot of the episode falls apart under this strange pretence.
Having The Return be largely set on Lian Yu means that Thea is getting glimpses back into Oliver’s life that she’s been longing for since his return and if you can forgive the fact that she became as proficient a fighter in nine months as he did in five years than the scenes Stephen Amell shares with Willa Holland’s stunt double are amusing, if doing nothing to drive the overall plot of the episode forward.
Guggenheim and Oleson have been writing plot points that surround Oliver’s deception of various characters from Arrow’s inception and it’s not always a poor choice on their behalf, but it is in the Return. The entire impetus for the sibling trip to Lian Yu (aside from the Malcolm Merlyn nonsense that it will return them to a more primal hunter state), is to bring Thea and Ollie closer so that they will serve as a more functional team and undermining this theme by having Oliver tell Thea that she killed Sara and he was hiding this fact from her and then sneaking off to find Slade leaves viewers with the feeling of having our chains yanked.
That in mind, it was great to have Slade (Manu Bennett), back on the show and I look forward to the revelation in coming episodes that he was – and maybe still is – Amanda Waller’s (Cynthia Addai-Robinson gives a middling performance in the role), boss. Unfortunately, Slade is underused by both the writing team and director Dermott Downs when it is revealed that he was let out of his cell by Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), simply in order to antagonize his daughter and her brother. Having the catalyst for The Return being Malcolm Merlyn’s whim really serves to take any drama or stakes right out of the events, even if Stephen Amell and Willa Holland play off each other very well throughout the episode.
Of course, this also begs the question: how does Merlyn get all around the world so quickly without anybody noticing? Out vigilante detectives seem less capable at their chosen professions as Arrow goes on.
The greatest moments in The Return are honestly in the episode flashbacks, which insist on being interesting despite the less-than-compelling Hong Kong storyline that’s been playing out this season. There is an utterly unearned and unnecessary cameo by Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards), appearing in a place and time she would have no access to, but she makes no other appearances this week, so it is nice to see her. Likewise, Diggle (David Ramsey, perpetually underused), gets a pretty cheap cameo. The good stuff comes from the return of Colin Donnell as Tommy Merlyn.
Admittedly, Colin Donnell looks different than he did in Arrow season one and the version of Tommy he plays in The Return doesn’t seem like he will grow into the character viewers first met two seasons ago but he commands his scenes with an ease and familiarity that other castmembers he is sharing scenes with can only wish for.
THE BOTTOM LINE: OKAY MOMENTS
The Return has some pretty solid moments throughout the episodes where we are privy to pieces of Oliver and Thea’s developing bond, Tommy’s concern and Quentin Lance’s inability to cope, but it’s been wrapped up in such a convoluted blanket headed up by Malcom Merlyn that sometimes these moments are easy to miss.
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