The Arrow world flipped this episode, as the main story was almost entirely set on the island and the flashback was entirely in Starling City. It made for a lot of intriguing Arrow moments and callbacks, as we got to see a lot of people in one episode. Some moments were hits, and others were misses.
The flashbacks served little grand-scheme importance, even if they made for an enjoyable sightseeing trip through the city. We got yet another dose of China White not actually doing much, but we got to see some classics, like drunk Lance, deeply missed Tommy, druggy Thea, working Felicity, and the teamed-up Diggle brothers! Plus we saw the fabled message Oliver found from his father.
In the present, it was the Queen’s vs Wilson as Slade sought to trap the siblings on the island. Slade, however, was clearly not in top form from being in an empty cell for nearly nine months (not exactly the best place for physical fitness). The duo of Thea and Oliver was able to take him down, even with Thea’s new knowledge that she killed Sara.
After last week’s awesome showing by Laurel, this week’s Arrow was really about Thea. The added brilliance was giving us pre-show Thea at the same time. Willa Holland showed off her chops by playing both era’s of Thea’s life excellently, especially her shock at learning she killed Sara.
I personally praise the handling of Slade. One, they finally addressed who was feeding him, which many had been wondering. Two, they were real about his physical capability. The man is off mirakuru and hasn’t been able to train or really workout for months. He should not be able to beat a man who already topped him and a girl who has been essentially trained by the League.
The flashback was a lot more fun than usual this week. I loved finally getting to meet Andy Diggle, if only for a second. The best one, however was the Lances. The pairing of Lance’s previous alcoholism and Laurel’s attempts paired with their new drama is some of the best well, “drama” Arrow has had in a while. They took some very stupid drama and turned it into something real with some intense depth.
Some of the things in the flashback were a bit too on the nose. The grease paint joke was funny, but a bit too much of a fourth wall breaker. Including Felicity was more of an annoyance than anything. Both her and Diggle stood out awkwardly in the past, but John’s presence is slightly redeemed by adding Andy to the equation. If you’re really going to show all of them, why couldn’t they squeeze a few Roy seconds in somewhere? If you’re going to force all of Team Arrow in there, force all of Team Arrow in there.
The last dramatic statement to Merlyn kind of fell flat. Arrow has had about three straight weeks of fairly flat endings. Though, this was not the worst offender of the three. Also, I would have loved a bit more insight into Boomerang being on the island, or even a tad more detail on the layout of the island supermax.
Arrow had another great week in “The Return.” Some fans may be disappointed by the handling of Slade, but this episode stood on its own merits, not his.