Arrow 3-14 – The Return (aka Malcolm Merlyn continues to play everyone like a fiddle)

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Tonight’s episode feature many a return tonight:

Oliver, in the present, returning to Lian Yu.

Oliver in the Hong Kong flashbacks returning to Starling City after over 2 years away and having changed from his adventures on the Island, the freighter, and now with Waller.

Slade, in the present, making an appearance to remind Oliver that not all his transgressions are laid to rest.

And my favorite return, Tommy Merlyn in flashback, to remind us that as big a party boy as he was, he still had Oliver, Thea, and Laurel’s backs. Still miss ya buddy!

And we open on….

Lian Yu! Oliver and Thea have arrived and while the scenery is great, Thea’s already over it and ready to leave. Oliver doesn’t relent, reminding Thea of why they are there: to train and get focused on beating Ra’s Al Ghul. The two quickly transition into a training sequence with Oliver not pulling any punches on his little sister.

Flashback! Starling City! Waller briefs Oliver and Maseo on their mission: make contact with China Wei’s contact who just so happens to work at Queen Consolidated. Waller warns Oliver that his reprieve from being eliminated is only as good as he’s useful to her and does not compromise her operation: If he tries to flee or make contact with his family, she will neutralize them all (neutralize being the nice way of saying she’ll wipe out his family tree). It’s times like these I wonder how Waller isn’t dead at the hand of her own operatives as she always chooses to motivate with a stick rather than a carrot.

Oliver and Maseo forgo telling Waller where to shove it and set out to do their work staking outQueen Consolidated HQ when Oliver sees Thea, long haired and in her school uniform, and he gets a little teary at the site of his innocent little sister.

Still in Flashback! Random Bar! Quentin Lance is not looking good, even with a full head of hair. He’s post Sara death No. 1 and in full-blown alcoholism and trying to start his day with a nice hit of booze. Laurel (still squeaky clean and pre-addiction) comes in to appeal to her father, but Quentin is hostile to Laurel having found out that his pride and joy is planning to leave town to start her law career as a (spits) defense attorney.

Present Day. Lian Yu. Night. Thea wakes Oliver from a nightmare as he repeats Sara’s name,. Thea asks why he didn’t tell her that Sara died. Oliver ducks answering and follow up questions since he refuses to tell Thea the whopper secret that she killed Sara. Instead he goes for a walk…straight to the ARGUS holding cell to check up on an old friend –Slade.

Except Slade isn’t the one curled up in his bunk. Instead a poor ARGUS guard is slumped on the cot and he is DEAD. Before Oliver can move, Slade’s voice rings out reminding Oliver that he keeps his promises. Oliver sprints from the cell, mind on Thea as we cut to-

Title Cards!

Lian Yu. Still night. Oliver finds Thea and tells her they need to book – Slade is lose on the island. Just HOW he got lose is explained by Malcolm Merlyn who informs Oliver via SAT phone that HE freed Slade so that Oliver and Thea would be forced to work together and regain their killer instinct needed to face Ra’s by taking down Slade. Permanently. Malcolm hangs up and Oliver swallows a curse as he grabs his gear and leads Thea away from their campsite.

Flashback! Starling City! Oliver follows Thea home touched that she’s visiting his grave marker until he realizes that she’s there to meet her dealer to get a hit. Fortunately her other unknown at that time brother, Tommy (yay!), appears on the scene and does his best to drive home that she’s embarrassing herself and that Oliver wouldn’t want this for her. She’s a general snot to him except when she wants an invite to his birthday party so she can drink and find more drugs to score. Tommy tries to be firm with her but Thea laughs it off. Oliver, skulking in the bushes, realizes that his little sister needs him.

In the present, Oliver weapons up Thea and realizes that Slade is tracking them. Slade attacks! Both Thea and Oliver are dropped like bricks.

The two wake up locked up in Slade’s old ARGUS prison cell (he was nice enough to take out the rotting corpse he placed there earlier). Slade informs them that he’s leaving them there to rot and be presumed dead by the outside world. Thea talks a good game, but Slade plants a nice seed of doubt that Oliver still have many devastating secrets about him that his little sister wouldn’t like. Done ranting, Slade leaves, Oliver calling after him to at least spare Thea.

Flashback! Starling City! Oliver breaks into Queen Consolidated to get info on the auction (and some secret files from his father) for the virus nearly getting caught by Felicity as she drops off a file. Of course she notes a picture of Oliver on Moira’s desk and says he’s cute, but seriously, the picture looks like Oliver’s a serial killer. Oliver escapes and delivers the info to Maseo before leaving him to cover his absence with Waller.

Where does Oliver take off to? Crashing Tommy’s birthday party. Which is also crashed by Thea looking to score. Laurel also shows up to say Happy Birthday and we even have Diggle and his late brother on the scene as party security (although with Oliver, a trained assassin, crashing they are NOT earning their money). If only Diggle knew what his future held in a mere 3 years.

Anyway, Oliver skulks inside and in a wee bit of overprotective brotherness he snaps the neck of the drug dealer who approached Thea and brings Tommy’s party to a screeching halt when he drops the body over the staircase and causes everyone to flee in panic.

Later, poor Tommy has to deal with the fallout of all this crap which comes to a head when mean drunk Quentin rips into him to the point that Laurel finally has to pull Quentin away. Maseo has also slipped onto the scene and pulls Oliver away but Oliver wants to stay and help his family. Maseo appeals to his sense of honor to save the people the bioweapon could kill (funny how Maseo wasn’t thinking that when he was willing to hand the bioweapon over to China White for Tatsu’s life), but Oliver is focused on saving the people he knows and tells Maseo good-bye. Oliver goes to Queen Manor (nice to see that set again!) and opens one of the secret computer files – the one with his name on it – to see a video from his father who is basically reiterating the mission statement from Season 1 and asking Oliver to help redeem him of his crimes and save the city.

Maseo attends the auction to stop China White but gets caught. Fortunately, Oliver, motivated by his late father’s video, arrives in time to save Maseo. The two break up the auction and take down China White and recover the bioweapon. Later, with the mission complete, Oliver wants to Waller to let him walk away but she says she can’t let him go; instead the army in the form of General Shrieve needs to debrief him back in China. Once he’s debriefed he can go anywhere he wants in the world – even home. Oliver sadly, believes this and leaves.

Elsewhere in Flashback, Tommy finds Laurel and checks up on her after the scene with her dad. He asks her out to dinner and Laurel is skeptical but agrees to dinner and Tommy pushes for drinks (so cute). It’s nice to see this couple during what they could not have known would be happier times.

Present Day. Lien Yu. Oliver is pondering out to get out while Thea is pondering Slade’s words: what else are you keeping from me, Oliver? He manages to deflect the question having stumbled on how to escape: dislocating Thea’s should so she has enough reach to unlock the jail cell. It works and they’re on the go again to get off the island. Of course Oliver pops Thea’s shoulder back in first.

Oliver and Thea are sprinting through the woods when she activates one of Oliver’s old traps and nearly gets taken out. Luckily, Oliver is quick and knocks Thea to the ground. Thea thanks her brother but wants to know what it is that’s eating him and he finally comes out with it: Malcolm brainwashed her into killing Sara. Bad choice of revelation like that, Oliver. Slade uses the confusion to pop up and take Thea hostage. Or try to. Between the two of them Thea and Oliver get the drop on Slade and Thea has him at gunpoint, ready to avenge her mother. Of course Oliver talks her down and they put Slade back in his cell. Slade still gives Oliver a little food for thought about Thea now being touched by darkness and how his sister losing herself is a loss for Oliver…and just how is HE going to endure yet another loss of a loved one?

Back in Starling Quentin puts flowers on Sara’s grave and Laurel tentatively approaches hoping to mend some fences. Unfortunately, learning that even Dinah knew the truth before he did doesn’t win Laurel any more points. What it comes down to is that losing Sara is tough, but he lost her before and eventually came through it and he will again. It’s that Laurel betrayed his trust and broke their bond beyond repair. That’s what he’ll never get over.

Later at Thea’s loft, Thea and Oliver return home exhausted, stinky, but alive. Thea worries about telling Laurel about Thea being the one to kill Sara and Oliver tells her that it’s best to keep it under wraps for now. Malcolm slipping in to see how their visit to the island worked out breaks up Thea’s retort. Instead to confronts Malcolm on his manipulation of her to make her kill Sara. Thea agrees she’ll work with Malcolm but she’ll never again be his daughter. Malcolm glares at Oliver as if HE’S the one who made Malcolm do what he did. Oliver meets Malcolm’s deadly look completely unfazed, proud of his sister’s stand.

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