What an odd (uneven?) hour of television.
Instead of a well-woven story, Arrow Season 3 Episode 14 consisted of moments in time and they were quite scattered. There were moments in present day Starling City, present day Lian Yu, flashbacks in Starling City from Oliver's perspective and, most oddly, stray flashbacks from apparently no perspective at all.
Place all of those moments together with a couple of two dimensional bad guys and it left for an installment propelling us into the next, but otherwise causing some head scratching.
Oliver and Thea on the island was a setup by Malcolm to try to turn them into killers, as was evidenced by his releasing Slade as if he was playing with their lives like one big video game. Poor Slade couldn't have come upon the siblings at a worse time, right after Oliver revealed to Thea she was Sara's killer, thanks to dear old dad.
Considering the weight of the news, Thea took it rather well. Oliver kept her from falling further down the rabbit hole and instinctively killing Slade so we'll get to see him another day. Slade hasn't shown much progress while he's been imprisoned, still muttering about Shado, but even he could see the tragedy resident in Oliver's life. It doesn't seem he'll ever be a big, bad scary foe again, though.
Speaking of scary men, it's difficult to be truly frightened of a complete psycho like Malcolm. Witness this exchange he had with Thea as an example:
Thea: How could you make me kill a friend?
Malcolm: He should not have told you that.
Thea: I trusted you. I let you into my life. How could you have done this to me?
Malcolm: Because you are my daughter, Thea, and I care about you.
Somehow, Malcolm still equates using Thea to kill Sara as caring for her and the biggest sin in his eyes was the audacity of Oliver telling Thea what actually happened. There really are no words. It's almost hard to watch John Barrowman play this there isn't any spin that can paint Malcolm's actions in a rational light. Judging from the promo for Arrow Season 3 Episode 15, Thea doesn't stand by her decision to remain a dutiful soldier for long, either.
The flashbacks didn't necessarily add anything to the story, at least not those we saw from Oliver's point of view. Yes, it was a giggle hearing Maseo tell him his hoodie wouldn't be a good disguise even if his face were covered in grease paint (and it wasn't, judging by the Jordan the drug guy who recognized him straight away), and seeing Felicity in the conference room calling him cute, but why would he remember those things all these years later when he was under so much pressure at the time?
The flashbacks of Tommy and Laurel, as well as Laurel and Det. Lance weren't witnessed by Oliver, so my assumption is we were to understand they were from Laurel's perspective, but they never really matched up. Nonetheless, one of them lead to a confrontation between Laurel and her father that I didn't see coming.
The reason why I want to open up this bottle and crawl inside is because of what you did to us. I loved your sister. I love your mom. So much like each other, you know, these wild spirits. But, you and I, we had something more than that, because we were the ones that were alike. And we had a trust, and we had a bond, and you broke it. And, I don't know how you could do that to us. But I'm gonna survive this. I mean, I got to. It's my baby girl. But what you've done, I don't know how I'm going to live through this.Capt. Lance
After they fell together and cried in Arrow Season 3 Episode 13, I hoped things would be alright, but Lance isn't letting it go that easily. He saw in his Laurel a kindred spirit who, essentially, just stabbed him in the back. It's a shame he doesn't remember she was the person who stood by his side and metaphorically held his hair back while he threw up into the toilet after a bender time and again.
Laurel saw what it did to her father to lose his baby girl once, and to imagine it again was too much for her to take, just losing her sister and with Lance's fragile heart. If they're as alike as he believes them to be, he'll eventually come around, but he was kicking pretty hard. It's not that I blame him, either. It wasn't too long ago, however, that he was keeping the secret of Sara's return from the grave from his alter ego Laurel. If he digs deep enough, he should see they really are as alike as he thought, and they react in much the same way to similar situations.
Paul Blackthorne's scenes have been fantastic, as always. The time for him being relegated to answering a call or reaching out to Arrow should be over. Get him back in the game, already.
Someday in the future I hope there is more of a flashback episode surrounding Diggle and Andy. This was the first time I recalled seeing Diggle and his brother and it made me a little mushy.
What did you think of the "The Return"? Did it hit all the right notes or fall flat? Out of this world or what in the world? Hit the comments and return later this week for the Arrow round table.
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Carissa Pavlica is the managing editor and a staff writer for TV Fanatic. She's a member of the Critic's Choice Association, enjoys mentoring writers, cats, and passionately discussing the nuances of television and film. Follow her on Twitter and email her here at TV Fanatic.