Arrow Season 3 Ep 14 (TV Show Review)

With Brick out of the picture, and Oliver back from Nanda Parbat or wherever it was that he “fell” while fighting against Ra’s al Ghul in a duel, it was time for the show to move on to grander things yet, such as Team Arrow dealing with their central element being back in the picture, and Oliver learning how much the city and his friends have changed in his absence. And at the same time, we also got to see some really nifty stuff elsewhere as Oliver finally comes clean with Thea about his… extracurriculars, which in itself was handled maturely by the writers of the episode.

In this week’s episode, “The Return“, we have Thea and Oliver on Lian Yu, training to fight against the League of Assassins. Malcolm wants Oliver to regain his killer instinct, the one he displayed when the two of them had their big showdown in the season one finale and which Oliver did not have during the season two finale against Slade Wilson, and so the Dark Archer puts into effect a really dangerous plan that just might see both Thea and Oliver dead. With the return of the awesome Manu Bennett as Slade, this episode would have been great on its own, but we also get to see Oliver and Maseo come to Starling in the flashbacks, and those sequences expose something deep-rooted with the show.

At this point, it isn’t really a secret that Slade Wilson is back in force in this episode. Oliver imprisoned Slade Wilson in an ARGUS prison on the island back in the finale of the second season last year (significant that ARGUS has such a facility on the island, given that until Waller found Oliver in Hong Kong, ARGUS had zero presence on the island), leaving the villain to rot in a place where he never could get out of. Not without help of course. And in steps Malcolm Merlyn, who wants to force Oliver to become a killer again so that when he next faces Ra’s al Ghul, he would be able to take the Demon’s Head down, something that Malcolm cannot do himself, and something that Oliver doesn’t really want to do. But, needs must, and so Thea is involved as well since she has to toughen herself up in kind of the same way that Oliver toughened himself up in his four years on the island (with one year of his “missing” status being spent in Hong Kong).

I gotta say that I really loved this episode. It wasn’t as remarkable as some of the other episodes, partly because the flashbacks felt a bit too cheesy and gratuitous to me, but overall, this was great because half of the episode was essentially a “zero” story. In comics, issues numbered as #0 often denote stories taking place before the start of the respective series. We learn some of the background that shaped the characters into what they were when we first met them, and they can often be an eye-opener as well.

In this episode’s case, with Oliver in Starling during the period he was presumed dead and lost at sea, we see what has become of his family and his friends. Thea is fully into drugs and parties. Tommy keeps a lookout for Thea but has his own world to live in. Officer Lance is on the bottle and his family is broken further with his wife having left him and Laurel off in San Fransisco working with a prestigious law firm. Diggle and his brother provide security at posh parties and keep out crashers and malcontents. Felicity is still the kinda-weird techie at Queen Consolidated. No sign of Moira or Roy unfortunately, but that’s okay I think. What we have here are all the examples of how Oliver’s wild ways affected his family and friends, and the… devastation he left behind when he went on that yacht trip with his father and (secretly) with Sara.

And this is at the crux of the issues that Oliver faces when he returns to Starling in the flashbacks. People he interacted with on a daily basis in the old days are all hurting in one way or another, have grown more distant because of his selfish actions. And he has to make a decision about saving the city entire and perhaps the world itself from a new biological weapons arms-race or saving his friends and families from the hell he has put them under. For some people, this might be a straight choice, but if there’s one thing that Oliver is, he is a deeply conflicted hero, and that’s what this episode emphasizes at every turn.

One of the more significant things here was how Laurel herself is treated, both in the past and the present. When Sara first died, Laurel withdrew from her family and basically abandoned them. When Sara died for a second time, Laurel kept the knowledge from her father and only told him last week about it, leaving her father at a crossroads once again, one where he has to face going down the bottle again or rise up from that kind of desperation. And I loved every moment of it. She is a character who has grown immensely in this season and this is more of the same where she continues to improve. She has had to make some really tough choices of late, and they define her now, just as her decisions in the past defined who she became when we met her for the first time in the season one premiere.

Arrow Season 3 Poster 0001

More than all of that however, what I really loved in this episode was the whole thing going on with Oliver and Thea on Lian Yu with them facing an old enemy, an enemy that Thea thought was… dealt with. As I said, Malcolm wants to toughen them both up, to instill and hone their killer instincts, and hence the intense emotional and physical hardship he forces them through. And it was great to see Thea rise up from all of his bullshit and define herself on her own terms rather than living under the shadow of either her brother or her blood-father.

Thea has also grown of late and when I saw her take the news that Oliver was the Arrow in a mature manner, I was pretty impressed. Two years ago, it would have been a much different story. And this new Thea, the one who nearly fought off a League assassin on her own just last week, is the one who throws Malcolm’s lies back in his faces. It is a bed that he made for himself, and he is welcome to it. That’s the gist of what Thea tells him, and I liked that she kept her emotions under control. Her training is definitely paying off now.

All in all, this was a pretty impressive episode for sure, and it is great that unlike its fellow show The Flash, Arrow isn’t taking a month-long break between this week’s episode and the next, and since Oliver is apparently going to Nanda Parbat next week to face against Ra’s al Ghul for a second time, I’m pretty pumped. The writers have been doing some great things all season, and that looks set to continue for the “back 9” portion of the third season.

More Arrow (Season 3): Ep 1, Ep 2, Ep 3, Ep 4, Ep 5, Ep 6, Ep 7, Ep 8, Ep 9, Ep 10, Ep 11, Eps 12-13.

More Arrow (Season 2): Link.

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Posted on February 21, 2015, in Arrow, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

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