Malcolm has Oliver and Thea face their fears when they return to Lian Yu. However, their training becomes dangerous when Slade Wilson breaks out of his ARGUS prison cell. Spoilers ahead.
Oliver continues to come clear to Thea regarding his experiences on the island, yet he still keeps the fact that she was brainwashed to kill Sara a secret from her. His secrets continue to come out when Slade tells Thea that his brother keeps more secrets, which leads Ollie to reveal the truth to her. The reveal is well-handled, having the angst and suffering than last week’s did not. Thea’s contempt of Malcolm is well-earned, and it brings a new dynamic to their training.
Manu Bennett returns as Slade, and despite his limited role in terms of the season, he has more of a life and presence than the supposed main villain of the season, Ra’s al Ghul. This is a testament to both Bennett’s acting and the season’s lack of focus and use of their villains. His continued obsession with Shado, however, is disappointing, a remander of his weak motivation.
The flashbacks in this episode feature Oliver and Maseo’s return to Starling City in order to retrieve the bio-weapon from Chien Na Wei/China White. This is an intriguing reversal of the show’s usual formula, with the flashbacks on Starling and the present day sequences on Lian Yu. Unfortunately, the flashbacks do not bring anything new beyond Oliver finding out about the book. The only redeeming factor was actually seeing Diggle’s brother, Andy, in person, and even then, that is tainted by the contrivances that allow Ollie to run into Felicity and Diggle.
Quentin Lance tells off Laurel about her lies, and it is the most satisfying moment of the episode. While Laurel has grown as Black Canary and gone through a lot of painful moments, her web of deceit a few weeks ago was too much. The consequences from it were needed, and this episode showcases it well.
“The Return” brings back Slade and changes a few dynamics. While it has an interesting idea for the episode’s structure, the execution is weaker on the flashback side, and Slade’s brief inclusion only makes it obvious how lacking Ra’s has been as a threat.