It’s a great time to be a DC fan; not only do we get these things called comic books on a weekly basis, but we also have a fantastic lineup of shows that take us through the week. On Tuesday nights we have “The Flash” and on Wednesday nights we have “Arrow.” What makes these two CW series particularly standout is the connectedness of the shows. Much like the integrated story lines that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe, our first proper DC Comics universe (or multiverse as they like to call it) on film isn’t 2013’s “Man of Steel”, but CW’s “Arrow” and “The Flash.” They both work extremely well and it’s thrilling to have two very fine, but very different representations of DC Comics characters on t.v. for two straight nights. Tonight was “Arrow” and much like “The Flash” is a show that we love, but really never speak of too much. I hope that changes with tonight’s episode entitled “The Return.”
“Arrow” has an interesting format as the story telling isn’t quite linear. Very much in the tradition of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins” (a film which celebrates its 10th Anniversary this June) switches back and forth from past to present. During this third season, we have seen the toll it has taken on Team Oliver to save his city while witnessing his early days with Amanda Waller and A.R.G.U.S. following his harrowing escape off the island he was stranded on. Right before the winter break, we watched Oliver make the climb to League of Assassins hallowed ground so he could duel with Ra’s Al Ghul. Ultimately, Ra’s Al Ghul defeated Oliver and it seemed as if our hero died. During Oliver’s absence for several weeks, Starling City nearly fell apart at the hands of a mob boss referred to as Brick. (You may remember him from DC Comics and might recognize the actor playing him – it’s Vinnie Jones.) Eventually, Oliver returned to his city, stopped Brick’s crime siege, and partnered with his nemesis Malcolm Merlyn (The Dark Archer or Merlyn The Magician depending on how familiar you are with the comics) in order to defeat Ra’s Al Ghul for good.
Tonight’s episode picked up with Oliver and his “sister” Thea on the island he was stranded on. Under the tutelage of Merlyn, an ex member of the League of Assassins, he wants to remind Oliver of who he is and to regain his killing instinct. In order for him to regain the primal instinct to survive, he set free Slade Wilson a.k.a. Deathstroke from an A.R.G.U.S. prison hidden deep underground. Slade has a hatred for Oliver and during the events of last season, killed his mother and nearly destroyed Starling City. “I keep my promises, kid” Slade tells Oliver as he reminds him of his promise to kill everything that he holds dear.
Oliver and Thea then return to where Oliver’s father is buried on the island and find a gun that was hidden. Oliver hands it to Thea, but before they can ready themselves for the dangerous Slade Wilson, they are attacked and incarcerated in the very same cell that held Slade. Instead of killing them, Slade decides to strand them in the “purgatory” of sorts while also hinting at Oliver’s secrets that he keeps from people. Oliver and Thea figure out that the cell was never meant to hold someone “tiny”, so Oliver dislocates her shoulder so she can reach the button to release them. It works and they head out after Slade before he could leave the island. While they make their way to Slade, Thea continually badgers Oliver over the secrets he keeps to which he finally decides to tell her a massive secret that has permeated season three since the beginning – Thea was the one who killed Sara Lance a.k.a. The Canary. However, she wasn’t completely at fault as her father, Malcolm Merlyn had her under the influence of a mind controlling substance. Slade then returns to fight them, but they manage to overpower him and get him back to his cell.
After Thea leaves, Slade manages to leave Oliver with a very haunting thought – “How many people can Oliver Queen lose before there is no more Oliver Queen?” They return to Starling City and Oliver asks Thea to never tell Laurel Lance that she was the one who killed her sister as that would cause a rift between the two and would be too hurtful for her to process. She obliges and has an intense exchange of words with Merlyn that finds her renouncing herself as his daughter. Thea promises that she will continue to be his student and “soldier” only until they are collectively able to defeat Ra’s Al Ghul once and for all.
“The Return” was a very Thea Queen/Merlyn centric episode as it not only dealt with Oliver’s strained relationship with his sister/not sister in the past and present. To clear up any confusion, Thea was Oliver’s sister since the first season, but at the end of season two we found out that Malcolm Merlyn is really her father. Hence, she isn’t his biological sister. In the flashback sequences, we saw how Oliver returned to Starling City for a short period of time in the years he was believed to be dead. Amanda Waller brought him and Maseo Yamashiro (the husband to Tatsu a.k.a. Katana) to spy on someone working with China White. The reason Waller needed Oliver was that the man named Kang was secretly embedded within Queen Consolidated. Through Oliver, they’d be able to stop the auction and sale of a dangerous biological weapon referred to as Armageddon. While Oliver isn’t spying for A.R.G.U.S. he’s watching over Thea, now a drug addict. While he’s unable to fully protect her as a brother should, his best friend Tommy Merlyn is taking care of her. (Interestingly enough, Tommy is actually Thea’s sister. I promise this isn’t confusing if you watch the series.) We also witness the beginning of Tommy’s relationship with Laurel Lance.
“Arrow” is an exciting and action packed series that works as the perfect counter part to the decidedly lighter in tone “The Flash.” The best way to put it is that if “The Flash” was the closest to watching Superman on television then “Arrow” is essentially Batman. And if you watch from season one you will see just how accurate that statement is. So go on… Yes, go on and start watching “Arrow” if you haven’t already!
“Arrow” airs on The CW, Wednesday nights at 8 pm. Check your local listings.