Arrow Season 3, Episode 14, ‘The Return’ Review

[This is a review for Arrow season 3, episode 14: Uprising. There will be spoilers.]

Oliver’s return to Starling is fairly short-lived, as he almost immediately takes off again—this time with Thea—to do some training back on Lian Yu.  The two siblings don’t get much time in before it’s discovered that Slade Wilson has escaped from his inescapable prison, and is free on the island, setting up another showdown with Deathstroke.

Unfortunately, the arrow misses the mark in almost every way possible in this episode.  Most things that happen almost completely lack justification, and the episode plays out more like a piece of fan fiction than the show we grew to appreciate last season (and moments in season 3).

First of all, the flashbacks need to stop.  The flashback story has progressed so close to the start of the show that many points are starting to conflict.  This flashback places Oliver Queen in Starling City to attempt to stop Chien Na Wei from selling the Omega at an auction.  This entire flashback sequence has been more problematic than anything else, especially this episode.

We know the fate of Oliver, Chien Na Wei, Maseo, Tatsu, and etc., so there’s very little to be gained from this subplot.  The flashbacks used to be useful when there was a lot we didn’t know yet about Oliver and his backstory, but now that we’re 3 seasons in, additional backstory is more filler than anything else.

The telling is also getting more contrived, complete with attempts to shoe in every major character from the present day story, down to Oliver eavesdropping on Felicity (whom he didn’t even know yet) talking to him about how cute he was in a picture on a desk.  After this, Oliver goes to Tommy’s birthday party where everyone is conveniently referencing events that are parallel to the current day plot, yet somehow not adding any information of value.

This is followed by the third joke in as many weeks about poor of a disguise a hood is.  It was funny the first couple times, but at this point the joke is breaking my suspension of disbelief.  Everyone seems to see through that disguise, except for when they don’t.  Drawing attention to it through repeated jokes isn’t helping.

The worst part of the flashbacks is when Oliver finds a video his dad had recorded for him explaining his involvement ins Starlings corruption and asks Oliver to use his little book to save the city, but we already got a more powerful version of this moment in the first season.  It would have been better to do a flashback within a flashback, but that’s just crazy talk.  I think we’re all played out on flashbacks.  Fortunately, it sounds like they’re about to wrap up the flashback plot in the coming weeks.

Then there’s Oliver and Thea back on the island, where it turns out Slade Wilson has escaped.  Oliver and Thea are on the island for some time before Oliver discovers that Slade is missing, then Slade is almost immediately on top of them and captures them.  Slade then locks them up and monologues about revenge.  Oliver proclaims that it is impossible to escape from the prison (the same one that a non mirakuru powered Slade already got out of), before finding out that Thea can reach the button to open the door, provided her shoulder is dislocated.

Oliver and Thea then leave the prison, and run into a trap.  They take this time to have an emotional conversation where Oliver reveals that it was a brainwashed Thea that killed Sara.  Obviously she doesn’t handle it well, but Slade is on top of them again before she can fully process the news.  After a brief brawl, Thea manages to pull a gun (given to her by Oliver moments ago “just in case”) and points it at Slade.  Oliver then proceeds to argue with her about how she shouldn’t use the gun that he gave her for this explicit scenario.  It’s understandable why this conversation is in here, because they’re trying to show her struggling with this new information that she’s a killer, but there are other ways to do this to more effect.

At the end of the day, there is just too much going on, but not enough happening.  “Killing” off Oliver going into the midseason presented many great opportunities for the show to hit it out of the park with some characters and events, but most of those opportunities have been squandered with innocuous, convoluted, and drawn out episodes.

Fortunately, the show has bounced back from a slump before, and there is still opportunity for some amazing things to happen.  Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim are still doing some amazing things with The Flash on Tuesday nights, so it’s not like they lost their touch, they just need to put a little more of that ju-ju into Arrow.

 The next episode of Arrow ‘Nada Parbat’ will air next Wednesday, February 25th, at 8/7c on The CW.

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