ARROW Returns to Bad Form

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Episode 314 “The Return”

[Photos: Cate Cameron/The CW]

Lots of wigs this week. Except for Colin Donnell, who got a haircut. And we get a little bit of The Wrath of Khan and Lethal Weapon. Plus, more reveals this week, which means we’re building up to something even more important.

Unless it all gets wiped out by Barry Allen’s time travel

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Quite a bit of time spent in flashbacks this hour, with Oliver and Maseo on a mission in Starling City. Waller has them tracking China White, who apparently has a man on the inside at Queen Consolidated. And this man just happens to work out of the home office, giving us the convenience of being able to reuse locations and sets.

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China White has the Omega virus and is putting it up for auction to the highest bidder, and Oliver gets sent into the family offices to run a scrubber program to find out where exactly — and oh, look! It’s the abandoned factory where Oliver eventually sets up base. So… more re-use of sets. I get that the show’s got a budget every week, but let’s think outside the box every now and then, yeah?

Anyway, Oliver decides he’s done. He’s home. He’s witnessed his sister making deals for drugs. He’s seen his best friend and his girlfriend. He’s been inside his own house. And he just wants to stay. Never mind that he also just happens to have killed Thea’s pusher at Tommy’s party… no one will miss him, right? And it’s not like Oliver’s going to be recognized because he took precautions…

Oliver: “I pulled the hoodie down to cover my face.”

Maseo: “That disguise wouldn’t work even if you smear grease paint over your face.”

However, Oliver has a momentary attack of conscience when he stumbles across a recording from his father, telling Oliver to be the better man. This is where Ollie learns about the book, and what it means. It gives Ollie the impetus to go back and help Maseo break up the Omega sale, capture China White, and recover the virus. Mission accomplished.

And while we’re on the subject, the whole “government agency using untrained civilians instead of their own agents” part of this whole thing is just absolutely mind-bogglingly unrealistic and too comic booky even for comic books. Really. You have a super-secret special ops agency. You have highly trained specialists in the field who can infiltrate, ex-filtrate, blow things up, shoot people dead, and you get a twenty-something rich playboy party animal with no training to take on enemy military, organized crime, and other super-secret government agencies? Come on…

OK. We’ll ignore that. We have to ignore that. Because it’s stupid.

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Also in Flashback-ville: Drunk Detective Lance dealing with Sara’s death — the first one — by crawling into a bottle, with Laurel about to take a job as a lawyer at a firm in San Francisco. And when their paths cross at Tommy’s party, Lance goes off the rails, criticizing Laurel for her addiction to rich playboys who flaunt the rules. One of those rich boys got her sister killed, and she still hangs out with them?

In modern Starling City: Captain Lance wanting to get drunk after learning about Sara’s death — the final one — and dealing with a sense of betrayal from Laurel. Not that she kept from him the fact that Sara was dead, but the fact that she didn’t feel she could tell him in the first place. To him, he and Laurel always seemed to have a connection because they were two peas in a pod, cut from the same cloth, and he feels like Laurel didn’t trust him with the truth.

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Meanwhile, Oliver and Thea are on the island to train. Why they went all the way back there is … well, reasons. The in-show logic is that coming back to the island is supposed to re-awaken some skills in Oliver, maybe. Even more so because Malcolm just happened to jog out to the island before the kids get there, in order to let Slade free. Because Malcolm’s got this twisted notion that The Most Dangerous Game with Slade hunting Oliver and Thea would be enough to re-ignite Oliver’s “killer instinct” — let’s ignore that Oliver’s decision to stop killing actually is a conscious decision on his part and not an indicator of any kind of loss of skill or anything — and just how does Malcolm get to and from the island so quickly?

The Most Dangerous Game would have been a good model for this episode, but instead we got way too much flashback and not enough modern-day story. Especially since this is all building up to Thea as Speedy by the end of the season. Although her bugging Oliver about his secret got a little irritating after a bit, it did set up the reveal that Thea killed Sara. (Kudos to Willa Holland for selling the reaction.)

And how about that bit where Thea just sighs and resigns herself to a dislocated shoulder so she can reach the big shiny button that opens the cells in the SuperMAX prison? She was channeling Martin Riggs there…

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Slade was poorly utilized, quoting Khan Noonien Singh with his “I’ll leave you as you left me” line and serving only as a functionary character to provide closure for the whole “Thea killed Sara” plot thread. Now, Thea and Oliver are united in their opposition to Malcolm, and thus begins Thea’s journey to full sidekick status. She’ll be wearing a mask by the end of the season finale.

And I’m still waiting for Oliver to punch Malcolm, but it’s starting to look like Thea might be the one who actually does it.

[Show web site at CW]     [Previous Recap: “Canaries”]

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella “The Hero At the End Of His Rope”. His short film “Species Felis Dominarus” was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel’s 2007 Exposure competition.

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