‘Arrow’ Review/Recap: “The Return”

Nora Dominick ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

Manu Bennett and Willa Holland in the Arrow episode "The Return." Photo Credit: The CW.
Manu Bennett and Willa Holland in the Arrow episode “The Return.” Photo Credit: The CW.

This episode of Arrow broke up the recent string of Canary centered episodes and was a love letter to long-time fans. In the present day, Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Thea (Willa Holland) are currently training on Lian Yu with an enraged Slade (Manu Bennett) running free. Meanwhile, in the past Maseo (Karl Yune) and Oliver are in Starling City trying to capture the vile of Omega from the Chinese Triad.

Willa Holland dominates this episode of Arrow and it was pure bliss. Out of all the characters, Thea has accomplished the biggest character arc. In season one, Thea was simply Oliver’s young, rebellious sister. By season two, she had begun to flourish when her relationship with Roy (Colton Haynes) escalated however, this season Thea has become an amazing, three-dimensional character with the ability to kick some serious butt. In this episode, she is dropped on Lian Yu to continue her training with Oliver and it couldn’t have been a better setting for the brother-sister duo to be placed where Oliver finally doesn’t hide the fact he is The Arrow.

Thea and Oliver are placed in the precarious situation of having to battle Slade Wilson after he is released from the A.R.G.U.S maximum prison by Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) as a “training exercise” for the Queen siblings. This is when Holland showcases the immense amount of training she has accomplished this past year. Thea holds her own on the island alongside Oliver. The opening sequence of the episode simply shows Oliver and Thea training in different locations on Lian Yu. This is the first time Thea appears to be on the same level both physically and mentally as Oliver as she overtakes him at one point. Holland and Amell have always had an older brother, younger sister relationship on Arrow however, this is the first time she appears to be his equal. When Thea finally confronts Slade she pummels, maneuvers and fights in one of the best fight sequences of the episode. Holland has emerged as a true star on Arrow and fans could not be happier.

Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode "The Return." Photo Credit: The CW.
Stephen Amell in the Arrow episode “The Return.” Photo Credit: The CW.

Although the fight sequences on Arrow are always the most thrilling, it’s the intimate moments between characters that often float to the surface. This episode saw two of those moments become stand outs: one in the present and one in the past. In the present, Oliver is finally confronted by Thea about Sara’s (Caity Lotz) death. In an emotional and beautifully acted scene, Oliver reveals to Thea that she indeed killed Sara while under the influence of Malcolm’s drug. With tear-filled eyes, Thea is both sad and enraged (at herself and Oliver) over the news. Holland has be transformed into one of the strongest actresses on Arrow and this small scene between her and Amell proves just how far both of them have come in terms of acting.

The other intimate and poignant moment on this episode of Arrow comes in one of the flashback scenes. This week fans see as Oliver and Maseo travel to Starling City to help capture the bio-weapon, Omega. During this trip, Oliver must break into Queen Consolidated to retrieve information. While lurking outside of his father’s office, Oliver hides and spies a young, fresh-faced Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) patrolling the halls and checking out his Dad’s office. In a small scene, fans watch as Felicity looks down on a photo of Oliver and mutters the shortest but most adorable line of the night, “You’re cute.” An onlooking Oliver smiles and looks at the woman he will later grow to love. This limited scene was perfect for the couple and shows the spark of attraction between the two characters. Rickards and Amell have grown tremendously as actors and their ability to make these small moments memorable is extremely impressive.

The other big storyline in this episode was Quentin (Paul Blackthorne) dealing with Sara’s death, both in the past and present and how his actions affect his relationship with Laurel (Katie Cassidy). In the past, Sara’s death has taken a major toll on Quentin. Fans get to see the early days of his drinking problem, his hardened exterior and his hatred for the world. Sadly all of these emotions are taken out on Laurel. Blackthorne delivers a stellar performances as he flawlessly portrays the heartache every father goes through when he loses a child. His relationship with Laurel is one of the strongest on Arrow and to see it fractured and broken was heartbreaking. Meanwhile, the pattern seems to be repeating in the present as Quentin visits Sara’s grave with flowers and some alcohol. Laurel of course stops her father and tries to comfort him but, once again that isn’t enough. He is distraught, angry and heartbroken that Sara is dead (once again) and Laurel lies to him. Blackthorne and Cassidy deliver stellar performances and help add more depth to Quentin and Laurel’s already strong but complicated father-daughter relationship.

Colin Donnell and Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode "The Return." Photo Credit: The CW.
Colin Donnell and Katie Cassidy in the Arrow episode “The Return.” Photo Credit: The CW.

Arrow also delivered some small pieces of information during the flashback scenes. Fans finally got the see Diggle (David Ramsey) and his brother, Andy (Eugene Byrd). This small scene is something longtime fans have been waiting for since Diggle revealed Andy was killed by Floyd Lawton/Deadshot (Michael Rowe) in season one. Of course Tommy (Colin Donnell), a fan-favorite, made a reappearance. He was seen taking care of Thea and Laurel while Oliver was presumed dead. These scenes were a perfect foil to the present day scenes of Laurel and Thea that show them as strong, independent women who can handle themselves.

Arrow continues to pack the punches and deliver amazing episodes centered around character development and story arcs. This episode was a huge love letter to the fans and allowed viewers to take a break from the action packed storyline involving Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), which will resume next week in the episode aptly titled “Nada Parbata.”

Arrow airs on Wednesdays at 8/9c on the CW.

Overall Episode Grade: A


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  1. I’m not sure if we really needed to see Diggle and Felicity in this episode, to be honest. Just seemed to be a wink and nod when we know fully well that these characters existed. I mean, Felicity’s scene didn’t really add much when we already knew as far back as Season One that she had feelings for Oliver.

  2. I was really happy with this episode. And, I thought the Diggle and Felicity scenes were fantastic. I think the flashback scene with Felicity really showed how drawn to her Oliver is, even when he doesn’t know her yet. He had been living in hell for two years, and this bubbly blonde made him smile. Which I would wager did not happen often then. I also loved Slade’s ending taunt to Oliver about Felicity. When Oliver stills and turns back around, it is clear that Slade has touched a nerve. I so hope that is not last time we see Slade.

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