‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 14: ‘The Return’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson is back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: A major villain comes back for an appearance, Flashback Ollie goes back home, and all the dirty laundry about a character's death gets aired out.
Most of this week's episode takes place in flashback, because Amanda Waller has brought Past-Ollie and his partner in crime, Maseo, to Starling City to break up an auction that China White has set up to sell off her mega-powerful and expensive bio-weapon.
Waller briefs the two of them about the sale, and tells Ollie that the only reason he's alive is that the man who's brokering the deal, Peter Kang, is an executive at Queen Consilidated. She says it's up to Maseo and Ollie and find out where the deal is happening, but if Ollie tells any of his friends or family he's alive, she'll yank those two knuckleheads off the case.
Maseo puts a tracker on Kang's car (it doesn't really lead to anything; it's just something to do) and meets up with Ollie, who has decided to disguise himself with the same super-identity-obscuring baseball cap that a woman who turned out not to be Sara wore back in season one. And somehow no one immediately recognizes him. One of the most famous, richest people in the city. Outside his own family's company.
Maseo tells Ollie that the computers at QC are encrypted and can't be accessed externally, so it's up to Ollie to go into the building at night and hack the Gibson. Just as he's explaining that, Ollie catches a look at Thea in her school uniform walking out of QC, and things get a little... creepy.
"Who's that?" Maseo creeps. "My sister," Ollie creeps back.
And then they follow her back to Casa Queen, which is even more mega-creepy. How is Maseo okay with doing that? They see Thea standing over the graves of Ollie and Papa Queen, and then watch her buy some drugs from her skeezy dealer.
Just when it looks like Ollie's about to step in, Tommy Merlyn runs up and shoos the dealer away. He gives Thea an Ollie talk about how she's wasting her life, and about how he misses her brother. He also disinvites her from his birthday party, saying that attendance is only for people 21 and up. It's as if he's setting up a dumb joke for later.
Ollie, still in his magical baseball cap, apparently teleports into Queen Consolidated, because he just shows up in his dad's office. The power of editing!
What happens next is... well, it's the silliest thing this show has done since the first season. Maseo tells Ollie to access the computer system by using the fingerprint reader. Ollie asks why they would have left him in the system, since he technically doesn't work at QC anymore. Maseo scoffs and says nobody in security would care because Ollie is dead. Then Ollie scans his finger and gets in the system.
First: Why wouldn't security take someone who was dead out of the system? It's another name to have to scroll through in employee logs. Second: How did no one notice that a dead man logged into the QC network? Yes, it's night time, but surely someone would have spotted that login the next day, wouldn't they? Wouldn't this at least raise some questions? Wasn't Amanda Waller's one big worry that people would find out Ollie was alive?
Look what you've done, Arrow. You've brought season-one recapper Matt back.
So yeah, none of that stuff that should have mattered matters, Ollie collects all of Kang's data (Peter Kang, not The Conqueror) and also downloads two video files he finds on his dad's computer labeled "for Ollie" and "for Thea."
Maseo warns Ollie that he's running out of time and that someone's coming, so Ollie hides just in time for us to get our requisite Smoak cameo, in which she talks to a photograph of Ollie for what feels like 20 minutes. Then she acknowledges that she's talking to herself. It's torture.
Maseo, who is now a computer hacker whiz, checks out the stolen data and finds that the auction for the bio-weapon is that night at a QC warehouse (turns out it's the warehouse that would become Verdant, because they already had that set built). Waller notices that Ollie is gone, and Maseo makes an excuse for him.
Of course, Ollie went to Tommy's birthday party. He has swapped out his baseball cap for a green hoodie, because of course he has.
The first thing Ollie sees there is Tommy trying to pull some kind of PUA move on a girl who isn't having it, and good for her. Then Laurel walks up and they have a conversation that might as well just be them saying "dramatic irony" to each other a dozen times.
Tommy notices that "a Queen" has arrived at the party, and Ollie momentarily thinks Tommy has seen him (and really, how hasn't he), but instead he's talking about Thea, who has shown up with a fake ID. Setup, payoff.
Thea immediately finds her dealer and buys more drugs, even though she just bought some that afternoon. Is she buying just like, single doses? Buy in bulk, Thea! It's cheaper!
Ollie tails the dealer upstairs and tells him to stay away from Thea. The dealer immediately recognizes that he's Oliver Queen, because he's apparently the only person on the show with the gift of sight.
Ollie reacts to this by pretending it didn't happen and again telling the guy to stay away from Thea. Then the dude pulls out a knife and Ollie hucks him over the railing to his untimely death. I start having season one flashbacks and get into a fetal position.
Detective Lance and his then-partner Detective Hilton (RIP) arrive on the scene and talk about who could have killed this guy, and Hilton, as if clairvoyant, jokes that maybe it was a vigilante.
They're not clearing this one, I guess.
Maseo finds Ollie and holds him at gunpoint. He tells them they have to leave immediately. Back at Maseo's car, Ollie says he's done with the ARGUS operation because his family is disappointed in him or some silly reason. Maseo is understandably like, "China White's going to sell this weapon and thousands of people are going to die." Ollie says he doesn't care, and Maseo leaves.
Ollie goes to an empty Casa Queen and plugs a flash drive into a tablet. He watches that video his dad made for him, which is full of a lot of season-one rhetoric about how he wasn't the man Ollie thinks he was, he made "alliances with terrible people," and how Ollie can save the city. He also mentions that list he made --- the entire basis for the first season, which also turned out to be complete BS. But Ollie doesn't know that yet.
Meanwhile, Maseo and some other ARGUS agents are on some scaffolding watching the auction go down at not-yet-Verdant. One of the clumsy old agents makes a sound and China's guards begin blasting. Every agent except Maseo dies. A guard grabs Maseo and brings him to China very slowly. Just as China gives the kill order, Ollie jumps out and causes some confusion. He and Maseo regroup. China tries to get away, but Ollie shoots at the car and kills her driver. Ollie knocks her out and Maseo captures Kang.
Later, Ollie tells Waller that his work is clearly done now, and that she can let him stay in Starling, but she's got other plans. She calls in Gen. Matthew Shrieve, yes of the Creature Commandos (!), to tell Ollie he's got to go back to China to be debriefed, but after that, he can go anywhere in the world he wants.
Here's the kicker about Shrieve: He's played by Marc Singer, the Beastmaster himself. That almost makes up for all your season-one nonsense this episode, show.
While Ollie is having kooky murder adventures in the past, Laurel and Detective Lance are having a little family spat.
We first see the detective and his terrible Flashback Wig in a bar, getting super hammered. Laurel comes in and finds him, and there's some talk about how Laurel has moved out of town to take a big-firm job in San Francisco (which is surprisingly called San Francisco and not, I dunno, Coast City). Laurel hammers home that her dad is drunk, and the bartender refuses to continue serving him.
Later, after the drug dealer gets killed at the party, Detective Lance berates Laurel for being there at some rich jerk's party, especially since, for all he knows, Sara died because of a rich jerk. That escalates into him saying Laurel is "a sellout" for taking that big-firm job, and that he thought she went to law school to help people, and instead she's only helping fat cats get fatter.
He has a point, though on-duty, in the middle of a murder investigation, may not be the best place to make it.
Later, Tommy asks Laurel out on a date and Laurel explains that she's giving up the big-firm job. Finally, that great mystery of how they started dating is solved!
Then we flash to the present, and Captain Lance is mourning at Sara's grave. He's also got a bottle of liquor in his hand. Laurel approaches, and he asks her how they're going to break this to Dinah, Laurel's mom.
Laurel says Dinah already knows, and that sets off some passive aggressiveness that only family can inspire about Laurel being the new Canary. Laurel brings up that whole thing about him wanting her to do good for people, and that her whole life was leading up to above-the-law vigilantism.
Lance lays it down and says Laurel broke his trust by keeping Sara's death from him, and he is not wrong. Laurel says they should both go to an AA meeting, and Lance agrees, but he suggests they go to separate meetings. He hands Laurel the bottle and walks away. For a second it looks like Laurel's going to drink, but she pours it out.
At the end of last week's episode, Thea and Ollie had traveled to Flashback Island (but in the present) to train for their big confrontation with Ra's al Ghul.
This week opens with them training on the fakest-looking landing overlooking the ocean that I have ever seen. Ollie comments on how quickly Thea has learned to fight, she says "there's only survival and death" like she's a Klingon.
Later, they sit around a campfire and eat. Thea asks what they're eating and Ollie says she wouldn't eat it if she knew, so I guess it's poop. They ate poop.
They talk about how it's great that they don't have secrets from each other anymore, and a loud dramatic irony bell goes off in the distance. It makes the same sound Ollie does in his sleep that night: "Sara! Sara!"
That sets off Thea asking a question she will several times throughout the episode: Why didn't Ollie tell her Sara died? Ollie dodges it this time and goes for a walk.
While on his walk, Ollie pops into the prison where he put Slade at the end of last season, you know, just to ask him how he is, talk about movies, toss the pigskin, whatever. Instead of Slade, he finds a dead ARGUS guard.
How much must that guard have been paid? Actually, who would take that job?
Ollie rushes out to find Slade, but instead finds Thea, who has no idea what's happening. Before Ollie can explain, Malcolm calls and tells Ollie he set Slade free so that Ollie can get his "killer instinct" back.
Dude, if Ollie lost his Killer Instinct cartridge, it's 18 bucks used on Amazon. (Takes a bow.)
Malcolm also says Ollie's cell phone won't work anymore after he hangs up, so Ollie just heaves his phone into the woods like it's a grenade that's about to go off. Thea asks what's up and Ollie explains.
The Queen siblings got to Robert Queen's real grave and dig up a gun so that Thea can protect herself, as if she hasn't been proving that she's pretty capable of that anyway. Pretty soon, Slade leaps in and knocks them both out with little effort.
Thea and Ollie wake up in Slade's cell, with Slade waiting outside. Slade says he doesn't want to kill them; instead he's going to fake their deaths and leave them in captivity on the island. Last season, it seemed pretty clear that he wanted to kill them, at least eventually, but I digress.
Slade goes on a rant about Shado, and asks Thea if Ollie ever mentioned her. Thea kind of shrugs, and Slade says it figures, because Ollie loves to keep secrets. Then he leaves.
Thea asks Ollie if there are any other prisoners or guards who could help; Ollie says there's only one other prisoner, and he wouldn't do any good. (I can't recall if we've seen who it is, but I don't think so. Fingers crossed for The Rainbow Archer.)
Since they've got time, Thea again asks why Ollie won't talk to her about Sara's death. Ollie dodges again, and Thea says he's treating her like she's "little" and "fragile." That leads Ollie to remember that the prison was built to house "men...full grown men!" instead of petite little women, and that maybe they can break out because Thea has small arms.
That's what really happens. On Arrow, there is no such thing as a short, thin man. These facts go into prison design.
And it's not over. They get out when Thea presses a giant button just outside their cell door. They have to separate her shoulder to do it, but she's totally fine immediately after that, so, no big.
Some super-secluded Purgatory prison, huh?
Anyway, they rush out and head off to find Slade, who they assume is headed off to steal the plane they flew in on. In their haste, Thea trips a booby trap Ollie set. Ollie knocks her out of the way, injuring his arm in the process.
They take a rest break, and Thea asks again about Sara. This time, Ollie relents and first insinuates, then outright says, that Thea killed her under the influence of Malcolm's mind-control drug. Thea reacts like she just found out she's being audited.
Ollie tells her not to blame herself, and she doesn't. She immediately blames Malcolm. She says he never loved her. Just then, Slade, who wasn't too interested in the plane, it seems, rolls up and puts a gun to Thea's temple.
Thea knocks the crap out of him and Slade seems genuinely impressed. The Ollie spears him and starts a three-way fight that doesn't look half bad.
By the end of the fight, Thea has Slade at gunpoint, which kicks off a debate about whether Thea is a killer. Eventually, Thea shoots, but only to injure Slade, who helpfully tells us in the next scene, in which he is back in the underground prison, that he has a flesh wound.
Once Slade and Ollie are alone, Slade tells him that Thea is "lost," because he can see it in her eyes. He asks about Smoak, then asks how many other people Ollie will lose.
Ollie stays silent instead of saying, "Not that many if you choose not to kill them when you have ample opportunity."
Thea and Ollie return to Theapartment in Starling City, and guess who's there? Guess!? It's Malcolm!
Thea immediately tears into him about letting Slade loose and also that whole thing about him drugging her to make her kill a friend. Malcolm's only response is that Ollie wasn't supposed to tell her that, which seems pretty limp.
Thea then grits her teeth and tells Malcolm that she'll help him fight Ra's al Ghul, but she won't be his daughter anymore. It's a nice performance by Willa Holland.
- One thing that makes Thea's final speech a little less compelling is that she pronounces "Ra's" as "Ross," like she, Ollie and Malcolm are preparing to go fight David Schwimmer or a grossly unkempt discount clothing store.
- There's a neat scene transition from Robert Queen's fake grave in Starling to his real one on Flashback Island. That, I liked.
- Did Colin Donnell always play Tommy Merlyn like he was trying to do some kind of weird Jim Carrey shtick? Did I just not notice it until now?
- Maseo yells at Ollie for thinking that just a hood would cover his face. He says that disguise wouldn't work even if he covered his face with grease paint. It's pretty funny, but also so, so on-the-nose.
On-the-nose is sort of the name of the game in this episode. It's loaded with explanations of things that didn't need explaining, winks to viewers about stuff they know that they characters don't and reminders of the first season that make me want to run outside and howl at the moon.
Not only that, but last season's mostly cool big bad came back mostly to serve as a plot device. Quick: What's Slade's actual motivation here? It's tough to say, because he's really just here to get Thea and Ollie's relationship from one point to another. It's kind of a waste.
And sadly, so was this episode.