Arrow ‘The Return’ Recap- Episode 03.14

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Purgatory

Like most episodes, this one doesn’t waste any time getting to the action though this particular fight scene is certainly a first.  We open to Oliver and Thea having a sparring match at Lian Yu.  Oliver is visibly impressed with his sister’s skills and at one point can’t help but ask “Did you learn all this in nine months?”

Afterward, Thea begins to realize there’s something Oliver isn’t telling her, starting with him shouting Sara’s name in his sleep.  At this point, Oliver decides to stop by the island’s A.R.G.U.S. prison to pay a visit to Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett).  Unfortunately, when Oliver makes it to the cell, he is horrified to find that Slade has escaped and left a dead A.R.G.U.S. guard in his place and Oliver rushes back to Thea to warn her.  Before he fully explain the situation he suddenly gets a call from Malcolm Merlyn (pretty convenient timing), who informs Oliver that he let Slade out in an attempt to restore Oliver’s killer instinct.  Unfortunately, it isn’t long before Slade gets the drop on Oliver and Thea and knocks them both out.

When Oliver and Thea wake up, they find themselves locked up in Slade’s jail cell.  After doing a fair amount of gloating to Oliver, he leaves them both in the jail cell to die.  Luckily for them however, Thea is small enough that she can reach the door release button and the pair make their escape (though why the button was installed so close to the cell is anyone’s guess).

Oliver and Thea go after Slade but are forced to stop for a little while after a run-in with one of Oliver’s old booby traps.  Thea uses this time to finally get the truth from Oliver about what happened to Sara.  Oliver reluctantly admits that she was the one who killed Sara courtesy of some drugs from Merlyn.  Naturally, she doesn’t take this well.  Unfortunately for them, Slade picks this exact moment to attack the siblings again.  Oliver and Thea team up to successfully subdue Slade and Thea manages to hold him at gunpoint.  Oliver somehow persuades his sister not to kill Slade and they take him back to his cell.  Once he’s inside, Slade smugly notes to Oliver the obvious darkness in Thea.  On that note the Queens leave Slade to rot in his cell once more.

Back in Starling City, Oliver has Thea promise not to tell Laurel the truth about Sara because they still need Merlyn’s help.  Merlyn has been listening to this entire conversation and reveals himself by saying he agrees with Oliver.  As you might expect, Thea isn’t in the mood to listen to Merlyn’s opinion.  She says that for sake of fending off The League of Assassins, she will work with Merlyn but she’s done being his daughter.

Flashback Time

Oliver and Maseo are in Starling City of all places, being briefed by Waller over China White’s most recent activities.  As it turns out, she plans to auction off the Omega virus to the highest bidder with the help of a man named Peter Kang, whom Oliver recognizes as an employee of Queen Consolidated (and is pretty much the only reason Oliver and Maseo are still alive).  Before Oliver and Maseo begin their mission, Waller gives one last warning about what will happen if Oliver contacts anybody in the city.

While tailing Kang to Queen Consolidated. Oliver is surprised to see a teenage Thea walking out of the building.  Oliver can’t resist following his sister (with Maseo going along with him for some reason), who pays a visit to Oliver’s grave site.  Unfortunately, she’s also there to buy some drugs off a local dealer, though Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell) shows up to intervene and the dealer quickly gets lost.

After that’s over, Oliver sneaks into Queen Consolidated to hack into the company’s servers for Kang’s information about China White’s auction.  After Oliver uses his fingerprint to log into the server (seems like they should’ve taken a dead guy’s prints out of the system) he begins downloading all the available information for the auction.  While he’s doing that however, he notices something from his dad’s private server labelled “For Oliver” and secretly downloads that file as well.

While Maseo and Waller are busy combing through Kang’s files, Oliver decides to make a secret visit to Tommy’s birthday party.  While there, he notices Thea has not so secretly crashed the party and buys some drugs from the same dealer as before.  An unsurprisingly angry Oliver decides to try to scare the dealer into staying away from Thea but that plan quickly goes south when the dealer recognizes him as Oliver Queen.  Left with no other choice, Oliver kills the dealer and throws him over a balcony.

Afterwards, it doesn’t take Maseo long to find Oliver at the party.  He tells Oliver that the auction is taking place in an old steel factory but Oliver has no desire to participate in the mission after seeing how much as a mess his friends and family have been since his disappearance.  Once Maseo leaves, Oliver takes the opportunity to have a look at the file from his dad.  In it he vaguely confesses his sins and alludes to the book of names that sets Oliver on his path and served as a major plot device for season 1.

Meanwhile, Maseo and a team of A.R.G.U.S. agents go to the steel factory to stop the auction.  Sadly, the team gets made thanks to the clumsiness of a random agent and gunfire ensues.  Things are looking bleak for Maseo until Oliver barges in to save the day.  Thanks to some quick work from Oliver, the Omega virus is successfully recovered and both China White and Kang are taken into A.R.G.U.S. custody.

Oliver understandably assumes his job with A.R.G.U.S. to be done but Waller informs him it isn’t over yet and introduces him to her boss General Matthew Shrieve (his name sounds important but I’m going to need a hardcore comic fan to fill me in on this guy).  General Shrieve tells Oliver that they need to debrief him back in China but once that’s over, he can have a ticket to go anywhere he wants (I’m sure this will end well).

Laurel and Captain Lance

During this week’s unusually long flashback sequence, Captain (or in this flashback Detective) Lance has his own little subplot.  It opens with him getting plastered at a bar in the middle of a workday (while sporting a hilariously fake looking wig).  Lance is still drinking away the pain of Sara’s (fake) death and is also less than thrilled that Laurel has decided to take a job at a corporate law firm in San Francisco.

He eventually gets called to investigate the murder of Thea’s drug dealer.  Unfortunately after seeing Laurel, Tommy, and Thea at the crime scene, he has a pretty hard time staying professional and at one point even calls Laurel a gold digger for hanging out with Tommy and taking a high paying job.  Surprisingly, Lance’s drunken insults seem to partially get through to Laurel and she decides to turn the job offer down.  The bad news for her father is that she also agrees to a dinner date with Tommy shortly after.

Back in present day, the grief of finding out about Sara’s death is still pretty fresh for Captain Lance.  He’s found by Laurel visiting her grave and the two end up having a big fight.  Lance says he can deal with losing Sara but he doesn’t know if he can get past the betrayal of Laurel keeping Sara’s death a secret form him.

Analysis

I’m going to get to the point.  Despite some solid brother/sister moments from Oliver and Thea, this episode is easily one of the season’s weakest.  Some of you might have noticed my flashback section to be considerably longer than usual and the reason for that is because this one takes up about half the episode.  I don’t know if it was the writer’s intention to focus more on the flashback this week or if they were simply unable to write enough material for the main plot but whatever the scenario, it didn’t work in the episode’s favor.  This probably wouldn’t have bothered me as much if this had just been another villain of the week but this is the first time in nine months we’ve seen Slade Wilson and his return should have made a much more interesting story than it turned out to be.

The flashback had problems of it’s own.  We’re forced to take a detour from Oliver’s mission so we can see Captain Lance during his alcoholic days for no reason I can think of and that’s not even the weirdest part.  The weird part comes from being given glorified  and not to mention pointless cameos from Diggle (whose busy working as a high priced bouncer) and Felicity (who’s randomly walking around Queen Consolidated and creepily talking to a picture of Oliver whom I should remind you is a complete stranger to her at this point).

Of course, all of this pales in comparison to the biggest problem this week.  For all the fight scenes and Oliver’s revelation to Thea, I really don’t think anything got accomplished in the main story.  Oliver and Thea are no closer to gaining that killer instinct, Slade is still angry at Oliver, and The League is no closer to being defeated.  Even Thea finding out about her role in Sara’s death didn’t seem to change anything since she was already angry at Merlyn even before this episode started.

Next time, Merlyn is captured by The League of Assassins.  How will Oliver handle this new predicament?  Find out next week in ‘Nanda Parbat.’

Purgatory Like most episodes, this one doesn't waste any time getting to the action though this particular fight scene is certainly a first.  We open to Oliver and Thea having a sparring match at Lian Yu.  Oliver is visibly impressed with his sister's skills and at one point can't help but ask "Did you learn all this in nine months?" Afterward, Thea begins to realize there's something Oliver isn't telling her, starting with him shouting Sara's name in his sleep.  At this point, Oliver decides to stop by the island's A.R.G.U.S. prison to pay a visit to Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett).  Unfortunately, when Oliver makes it to the cell, he is horrified to find that Slade has escaped and left a dead A.R.G.U.S. guard in his place and Oliver rushes back to Thea to warn her.  Before he fully explain the situation he suddenly gets a call from Malcolm Merlyn (pretty convenient timing), who informs Oliver that he let Slade out in an attempt to restore Oliver's killer instinct.  Unfortunately, it isn't long before Slade gets the drop on Oliver and Thea and knocks them both out. When Oliver and Thea wake up, they find themselves locked up in Slade's jail cell.  After doing a fair amount of gloating to Oliver, he leaves them both in the jail cell to die.  Luckily for them however, Thea is small enough that she can reach the door release button and the pair make their escape (though why the button was installed so close to the cell is anyone's guess). Oliver and Thea go after Slade but are forced to stop for a little while after a run-in with one of Oliver's old booby traps.  Thea uses this time to finally get the truth from Oliver about what happened to Sara.  Oliver reluctantly admits that she was the one who killed Sara courtesy of some drugs from Merlyn.  Naturally, she doesn't take this well.  Unfortunately for them, Slade picks this exact moment to attack the siblings again.  Oliver and Thea team up to successfully subdue Slade and Thea manages to hold him at gunpoint.  Oliver somehow persuades his sister not to kill Slade and they take him back to his cell.  Once he's inside, Slade smugly notes to Oliver the obvious darkness in Thea.  On that note the Queens leave Slade to rot in his cell once more. Back in Starling City, Oliver has Thea promise not to tell Laurel the truth about Sara because they still need Merlyn's help.  Merlyn has been listening to this entire conversation and reveals himself by saying he agrees with Oliver.  As you might expect, Thea isn't in the mood to listen to Merlyn's opinion.  She says that for sake of fending off The League of Assassins, she will work with Merlyn but she's done being his daughter. Flashback Time Oliver and Maseo are in Starling City of all places, being briefed by Waller over China White's most recent activities.  As it turns out, she plans to…
Episode Score - 5.5

5.5

The long awaited return of an old enemy yields some disappointing results.

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About the Author

Derek Johns
is a native Texan who has had a love and fascination with movies as long as he can remember. He attended Sam Houston State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis on Broadcast Journalism. His love of film only grew during his college days, with seldom an hour going by without him making some kind of movie reference. He has since gone on a seemingly never-ending quest to see as many movies (old and new) that he possibly can, a task made possible by his Netflix subscription. Besides movies he enjoys television, reading, writing, video editing, listening to music, and watching Doctor Who.
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