Arrow: “The Return” – Looking Ahead

arrowAs the title suggests, this week’s episode of Arrow was all about ‘The Return’; but the return of what? From Angry Lance to Slade, this episode brought back many instances of both Season 1 and 2. So let’s take a closer look at this week’s episode to see what returned and what’s to come on Arrow.

The Return To Lian Yu – ‘Welcome Home Kid’:

As we foretold last week, Laurel faced her fears so now it’s Oliver’s turn to remember where he came from and face his greatest fear besides Ras – Slade Wilson. In many ways, Lian Yu is the perfect place for Oliver and Thea to train because it truly lets Thea into his world and see who he’s become. After all, Lian Yu has offered more of a home for this new Oliver than Starling does sometimes. Though when Oliver realizes that Malcolm has set Slade free, the bonding time is over as both fight for their life.

Slade’s mirakuru blood might be gone; but he is still upset about what happened with Shado. This time around it’s not a vengeful hallucination of Shado that is driving Slade forward; but the rage that Oliver hid the truth from him, a friend. If we remember correctly in Season 2 Oliver did go to some lengths not to tell Slade and even tried to kill Ivo to keep the secret hidden. Oliver never pulled the trigger – and Slade knows that now – but the fact that his former friend would keep such a dire secret from him is what sewed all the seeds of hatred and betrayal.

The Return To Starling City – Flashback:

Oliver Queen might be back in Starling City; but he’s still under ARGUS’s control. With Waller making it clear on multiple occasions that any contact with his family will result in his and their murder, Oliver can only look on from a distance as life goes on without him and his sister Thea succumbs to drug use. Despite killing the drug pushers – and starting the notion of a hooded vigilante in Starling – Oliver’s mission lies back with his family’s company as one of the employees has connections to Chien Na Wei’s weapon sale.

Arrow the Return

Though it’s not just the continuation of his ARGUS mission that makes this flashback important for Oliver Queen; but it also signifies the beginning of his crusade to ‘save his city’ as he finds a message left for him and Thea. Additionally we see Oliver and Maseo still working together so it appears whatever ‘happened’ to his family has yet to happen.

The Return To Season 1:

When the ‘previously on Arrow’ segment began the episode with a flashback all the way to Season 1, Episode 11 (Oliver speaking to Diggle about the list), we knew we knew this episode would make us revisit the humble days of Season 1 and remind us of how this grand crusade all started. In fact, it’s actually quite fitting that an episode about Oliver being back on Lian Yu would have its flashbacks all about him ‘returning’ to Starling for a brief mission during his 5 years of hell – basically the exact opposite of Season 1.

With Oliver returning to the place that made him into the man he is today, the flashbacks should also parallel this by exploring the moment Oliver’s focus became getting home to save his city. Though Oliver’s mission and ‘return to Lian Yu’ weren’t the only things in this episode that harkened back to season 1. Tommy’s promise, Lance’s anger, Thea’s darkness and the overarching theme of secrets driving people apart were all revisited in this episode.

The Return of Tommy Merlyn:

It’s always great seeing Colin Donnell back as Tommy, though his role was intended as much more than just nostalgic purposes. Sure we got to see the start of Tommy and Laurel’s relationship; but it’s his relation to the Arrow that is most important here. Even though it’s never explicitly spelled out, Tommy’s team merganser is to serve as juxtaposition with his father.


The entire episode pretense is Malcolm sending Oliver to Lian Yu and releasing Slade so that Oliver can learn that it’s kill or be killed. By placing Tommy in the episode – for any purpose – it immediately reminds us of Tommy’s final moments with Oliver at the end of Season 1. It is because of Tommy that Oliver refuses to kill now; and this why he won’t become the killer Malcolm wants him to be.

The Return Of Angry Lance:

Similarly to how a couple weeks ago we got flashbacks exclusive to Malcolm Merlyn, this week with had certain Quentin & Laurel moments that would have been unbeknownst to Oliver during his trip home. So what was the purpose of these? Well remember, despite Quentin and the Arrow being all buddy buddy now, Quentin used to be a very different man. Laurel might be the one that keeps getting her former alcoholism thrown in her face; but it is her father who was there first.

During the flashbacks we see Quentin responding to Sarah’s death the first time; and it was not pretty. Between the excessive drinking and biting comments towards his daughter, this is the Angry Lance we haven’t seen in quite a while; but could he be returning. As we see back in the present, Quentin is dealing with the news that his daughter Sarah is indeed dead this time. Though while he is a much different man than he was all those years ago, the anger and isolation has returned. He will get through this – without the bottle – but unlike last time, he doesn’t want anything to do with Laurel because she kept this news from him for so long, which brings us to our final topic.

Secrets & Revelations:

The whole idea of “Secrets driving people apart” has been a focal point of these series from Day 1. We saw how Thea was driven further and further away from her family due to all their secrets. Though while the past few seasons saw ‘the revelations of secrets’ sending Thea away, this seasons has begun showing how Oliver’s admittance that he is the Arrow has only brought him and Thea closer together. Rather than storm off for all the past lies, Thea saw the selflessness in what Oliver did and accepted it. Sadly, the same can’t be true of Malcolm and the Lance family.


As you can imagine, Malcolm is going to be pretty pissed at Oliver for telling Thea – even though that was TOTALLY something Oliver had the right to ‘tell’ Thea about – but with Thea walking away from Malcolm, he might have just lost that chance at redemption. His love for Thea did humanize him -even if he had an awful way of showing it. Honestly, I feel like this will all end with either Malcolm returning to his villainous ways or with him sacrificing himself to save Thea – and thus earning redemption in death. Though while Thea’s anger is directed at her father, Quentin’s is towards his daughter – and perhaps more.

Whereas Laurel kept Sarah’s death a secret from her father for fear of his weak heart, he wants his distance from his daughter. He doesn’t understand how she could let her mother know; but not him. Weak heart or not, Quentin still feels slighted and walks away from Laurel. Though you have to remember: Laurel wasn’t the only one to keep the secret.

The Continued Repercussions Of Sarah’s Death:

Quentin knows the Arrow knew about Sarah’s identity and will soon begin to wonder why he kept him in the dark too. Of course if Laurel herself won’t give this news, then it isn’t the Arrow’s news to give – but Quentin won’t see it that way. This could lead to some less than friendly conversations in the future until he’s fully gotten over his daughter’s death. Though with much of the season still remaining, we can be sure that there will be even more repercussions from Sarah’s death.

Now that Thea knows that she is responsible for Sarah’s death, she’s already turned away from Malcolm; and judging by the preview for next episode, it seems like she rats Malcolm out to the League. Though now that she knows, she might soon collapse under the pressure of hiding this secret from Laurel. Will Laurel forgive her? Will all this news and revelations continue to push Thea down a darker path as Slade warned? It’s incredible that one action at the very start of this season could still be causing such ripples half a season in. The shadow of Sarah’s death might always lurk by those connected to Team Arrow; but will it unite them or divide them further and further apart?


Rapid Fire – Easter Eggs, Quotes & More:

  • While locked in the ARGUS cell, Thea asked Oliver is there was anyone else locked up on the island that could help. To which he responded that there IS one other; but “he not going to be helpful”. This is a reference to Captain Boomerang, whom Oliver and The Flash faced in the first half of this season during the crossover event.
  • General Matthew Shrieve – or Lieutenant as his ranking goes in the comics – is the lead of a group of monsters called the Creature Commandos. Whether or not the Arrowverse is about to introduce a bunch of … ‘creatures’ remains to be seen.
  • Since General Shrieve promised to take Oliver “anywhere he wants to go” after this next mission we can assume 1 of 2 things judging by the fact that he was originally rescued from the island: Shrieve dies or Oliver chooses to return to Lian Yu
  • Quentin is the first to refer to Laurel as ‘The Black Canary’ – though to be fair, this seemed more of a sarcastic nickname than an actual codename she came up with.
  • As Quentin walks away from Laurel at the cemetery, we see Laurel pause to look at the bottle before dumping it out. This pause truly drives home the point that YES Laurel did have a drinking problem for a while; but no matter how bad things are now, she won’t turn to it again.
  • We not only got to see a pre-Arrow Diggle and Felicity; but also got to see Diggle’s late brother Andy. This means Andy will die sometime in the next 2 years at the hands of Deathstroke on orders by H.I.V.E. Looks like we still have some flashback stories to explore after all.
  • Oliver’s father left a file for Oliver and Thea. What could be on Thea’s? Was it a confession of her true parenthood or another call to arms like Oliver’s?
  • In the flashback, Quentin asked Thea if she was going to following in her brother’s footsteps (dead) or his daughters (dating a rich douchebag). As we know now, the answer is both as Thea will eventually join Team Arrow as a vigilante. WHICH Vigilante still remains to be seen.
  • Slade might be crazy; but even he admits that what Malcolm did to his own daughter is pretty messed up
  • “How many people can Oliver Queen lose before there is no more Oliver Queen?” Does this foretell another major death this season? Considering how the season started, I wouldn’t be surprised.
  • “That disguise wouldnt work even if u smeared grease paint all over your face” – Maseo mocking Oliver’s hood disguise during the flashback and a comment on Oliver’s ‘disguise’ from Season 1 (pre meeting Barry Allen).

Unlike The Flash, Arrow has one more episode next week before it takes another brief hiatus until March 17th. Though with Ras Al Ghul’s return and Malcolm’s capture, you can be sure there’ll be a powerful close next week to keep us hooked. So be sure Follow Me On Facebook and stay tuned here for the next ‘Looking Ahead’.

*Special Thanks to Panda Fan Danny and Jean for reminding me of Captain Boomerang’s presence on Lian Yu and Maseo’s grease comment respectively.

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