Full Spoilers To Follow:
Ollie and Thea are in Purgatory – or more specifically Lian Yu, the Pacific Island that served as Oliver’s “home” in his time away from Starling City. Sent there by Malcolm Merlyn in order to train for their inevitable battle with Ra’s Al Ghul, the siblings are doing just that. Thea seems happy, as she explains to Ollie that “there are no more secrets between us.”
Oh how wrong she is, as Ollie flashes back to Amanda Waller bringing him and Maseo to Oliver’s hometown of Starling City to stop China White from auctioning off the Omega weapon to the highest bidder. Ollie’s skeptical, as Omega is inert without the Alpha catalyst, but Waller says that it would only be a matter of time before Omega could be reverse engineered by a terrorist with the right resources. Worse, one of the potential buyers is Peter Kang, a man who works for Oliver’s father at Queen Industries.
Waller sends the duo out to find Kang, but warns them that if anyone finds out Ollie is alive, she’ll kill him and anyone he reveals himself to. Maseo finds Kang’s car and plants a tracking device to determine where the auction is being held, and the plan is set into motion.
Across town, Detective Lance (with that wacky hair we saw in season one) is tying a hell of a lot more than one on when Laurel enters the bar. Lance resists, snapping at Laurel for taking a job with a corporate law firm in California as opposed to helping people in Starling City.
Maseo and Ollie find out that in order to access the files on Kang’s computer, they’ll have to directly tap into the Queen Industries network, which means Ollie will have to go into the corporate offices undetected. However, Ollie is taken aback when he sees Thea coming down the front steps of the building…
Back in the present, Ollie is dreaming about Sara, mumbling her name in his sleep. Thea wakes him from his dream and asks him what happened to her. Ollie brushes it off, claiming that “she had her own secrets, and those weren’t mine to share.” Shaken by the request, Ollie goes on a walk when he decides to check in on Slade Wilson (Deathstroke) in his subterranean prison where Amanda Waller left him at the end of season two. Unfortunately, Slade is nowhere to be found, and the ARGUS guard tasked with watching over him is dead in Slade’s cell. Ollie races back to Thea, explaining that they need to leave Lian Yu because of Slade’s escape when Merlyn calls. Merlyn let Slade out of his cell so that Ollie could “regain his killer instinct” before he faces off against Ra’s.
Flashing back again, Ollie watches as Thea visits the two graves placed for him and his father. He’s taken aback by the gesture (and I’m taken aback by his wig and hat…it’s like a novelty costume headpiece) until a drug deal shows up to give Thea some nondescript drugs. Tommy Merlyn shows up and angrily chases the dealer off before telling Thea that he’s glad that Ollie is gone, as seeing her spiral into addiction would break his heart. I suddenly realize that I miss Tommy on the show.
Back in the present, Ollie ransacks the crude grave of stones he buried his father under in order to collect the gun he used to kill himself. It’s ghoulish, but he tells Thea they’ll need all the help they can get against Slade. Seemingly summoned by his name being uttered aloud (like Candyman or Beetlejuice, I guess) comes out of nowhere and cold-cocks both Ollie and Thea. They both wake up in Slade’s cell, where he explains his plan for revenge. He will send a pair of mutilated corpses to Starling City with enough forensic evidence to have them identified as the Queens, but he will leave Ollie and Thea to rot on Lian Yu instead. Except…won’t ARGUS wonder why the guard hasn’t checked in and send in reinforcements? I dunno, I guess Slade isn’t thinking that far ahead.
Back in the past, Ollie sneaks into the Queen Industries offices to hack into the server using his father’s abandoned computer. While he’s downloading files, he spots a folder containing documents addressed to him and Thea, which add 6 minutes to his download time (how big are these goddamn files???). Felicity enters, and Ollie watches her talking to the various photos on the desk, especially Ollie’s, whom she secretly pines after.
Waller and Maseo analyze the network traffic on the Queen Industries server and determine where the auction is taking place, but Ollie is suddenly MIA…or he’s really at a party at Tommy Merlyn’s house. We see Diggle and his little brother (the one that was killed by Deadshot), and Thea shows up. Tommy tries to get her to leave, but she ignores him and buys drugs from the same dealer we saw earlier. Ollie confronts the dealer, who recognizes him, and Oliver has no choice but to snap the dealer’s neck and throw him over a balcony. Whoops!
Back on Lian Yu, Ollie realizes that Thea’s arm may be thin enough to squeeze between the bars and hit the cell release button. She fits, but doesn’t have the reach to hit the button. She laments not having longer arms, and Ollie accommodates her request by dislocating her shoulder and guiding her now-noodly appendage to the button. What a guy!
Back in the past, the police show up at Tommy’s party, led by the always-pickled Detective Lance. He throws a fit on Laurel, reminding her that hanging out with billionaire bad-boys is what got her sister killed. Ouch. Maseo collects Ollie, who’s watching from the sidelines, chastising him for almost getting caught. Ollie claims that he pulled his hooded sweatshirt over his face as a disguise, but Maseo retorts “that disguise wouldn’t work if you smeared grease paint all over your face.” Heh. I see what you did there, Maseo. Ollie explains that he wants out, and he won’t help Maseo and Waller deal with China White or the Omega auction.
Back on Lian Yu, Ollie and Thea are on the move, trying to prevent Slade from getting to their plane and getting off of the island. Thea hits a tripwire and is nearly crushed by a swinging log, which Ollie saves her from.
“What kind of psycho would put that thing there?” she shrieks.
“Me,” Ollie replies.
Thea once again asks Ollie why he didn’t tell her about Sara, and Ollie finally tells her the truth: that Merlyn drugged her, made her open to suggestion, and had Thea assassinate Sara. Thea is understandably upset, but doesn’t have time to process it before Slade grabs her from behind. However, Thea quickly disarms him and joins her brother in beating Slade mercilessly. Thea grabs the gun that Ollie took from his father’s grave and levels it at Slade’s head.
Flashing back once again, Ollie enters his family’s mansion, ready to come home. Curious about the document his father left for him, he plugs the USB drive into a tablet and finds a video from his father, explaining “the list” of men he’d done business with and how it had ruined the city. However, Robert Queen has one last request of his son…”you can save this city.”
The Omega auction is taking place at an abandoned factory owned by Queen Industries, where China White has gathered a sizable group of ne’er-do-wells to bid on the chemical weapon. Maseo tries to get a bead on China White from the rafters, but is spotted and a gunfight erupts (although the auction goes on without much of a hitch). Maseo’s held at gunpoint and ready to die when Ollie comes in at the last minute and saves him. In the confusion, China White escapes with Kang (who has the Omega handcuffed to his arm) and demands a hit be put out on Maseo’s family. Ollie races outside and fires on the getaway vehicle, forcing it to crash. China White is disabled and Ollie tells Kang that he has a choice: whether or not he keeps his hand.
Back in the present, Ollie is pleading with Thea to spare Slade’s life, but she’s unable to listen to reason. The screen smashes to black and a shot rings out…but then we see Slade back in his cell, claiming that Thea only gave him a “flesh wound.” Nice one, guys. It’s not over, though, and Slade reminds Oliver that he’s lost almost everyone in his life, and how many more people he can lose before he stops being Oliver Queen.
One last flashback and Oliver is demanding that he be released by Amanda Waller. She claims that the decision is out of her hands, and that someone else is calling the shots. Enter General Shrieve (played by Marc Singer, a.k.a. Dar the Beastmaster!) who tells Ollie that he needs to be debriefed in China, and that he can then go “anywhere he wants.” It’s worth noting that in the comics, General Shrieve commanded a unit called the Creature Commandos, which was a military group of literal monsters…the plot thickens!
Thea brings a bouquet of flowers to the two graves behind the house, which acts as a perfect segue to the present, where Detective Lance is bringing flowers to Sara’s grave. Laurel meets him there, where he rips into her for not telling him the truth. He calls her “black canary,” and gives her a bottle of booze that he couldn’t bring himself to drink. He tells her that he no longer wants to speak to her and leaves. Laurel opens the bottle and pours it out, not wanting to succumb to her own alcohol addiction.
Ollie and Thea are back at her apartment when Merlyn shows up, explaining that what he did to them was necessary for the coming battle, but Thea calls him out, telling him that she will be his student, she will be his ally, but never again will she be his daughter. Ouch.
While not the best episode of the season, The Return had a lot of great nods to Ollie’s past that were greatly appreciated. Seeing how far Ollie would go to protect himself and his loved ones was sobering, especially in light of the recent “no killing” mantra he has adopted over the past two seasons. It also filled in the mystery as to how he figured out what the true purpose of The List was, as well as gave us a neat contrast of Thea then (drug-chuggin party girl) and now (determined, empowered warrior). The rather lean dose of Slade was bittersweet, as it reminded me just how great of a villain he is, and just how absent Ra’s Al Ghul has been this season. Also, the General Shrieve reveal could lead to some over-the-top moments in the future.
Finally, there’s the oddly realistic reaction of Detective Lance to Laurel’s betrayal. He’s not telling her that everything is okay; he’s pissed and rightfully so. It’s sad that Laurel’s attempts to protect her father backfired, but it’s being handled in a way that’s unexpected and appreciated.