Review by Logan
If at any point season three of Arrow has lost its appeal on you and you’ve stopped watching the show, now is a very good time to reconsider your decision.
Why, you ask? Because Slade Wilson just dropped back in for a visit.
Well, it’s more like Oliver dropped in on him. Although not intentionally. He and Thea have been brought back to the deserted island that hardly seems deserted anymore so that Merlyn can turn them into the cold-blooded killers that they need to be in order to confront Ra’s al Ghul. The catch? He decided to do that by releasing Slade Wilson, then watch them fight it out, with the anticipation that Oliver will be forced to kill him in order to save himself and his sister.
That premise alone packs a punch that last week’s episode in particular lacked. It’s high emotion and high stakes with the villain that was the series’ best by far, and some of this season’s best hand-to-hand fight sequences. In fact, what seems most impressive about the episode is that it grabs your attention despite not showing Oliver in the Arrow suit at all. But with the same praising stroke of the keyboard, I must also offer a note of criticism, because the theme that this entire exchange relies on, while a praiseworthy notion, has become repetitive far beyond the description of trite.
Merlyn tells Oliver and Thea that they have to be willing to be killers in order to stop Ra’s al Ghul. The show’s primary message for the past two seasons has been that a crucial part of Oliver’s being a hero is his newfound dedication (though hardly newfound by the tail end of season three) to refrain from killing. That dominates the discussion in this episode, especially as Oliver attempts to bring Thea to his side of the debate.
It’s a battle for Thea’s soul, to a certain extent, but it’s already been established in the previous episode that Oliver has won that battle. Additionally, the battle for the sanctity of human life is laudable, to be sure, but when will the show decide to move on to deeper things? It was a new and challenging thing when Slade showed up last season, because Deathstroke’s strength brought up an apparent conflict, where Oliver may have had to decide between following his ethics and saving the city. The time for that conflict, however, is gone. I love the appearance of Slade, and the fight that ensues, but the repetition of the same old battle makes this feel more like a regurgitation than a brilliant guest appearance.
That’s not to say that the episode has nothing to offer. As I’ve already said, the fight scenes are magnificent, and the flashbacks in this episode remind us of the virtue of Tommy, as well as the original motivation for Oliver’s crusade. That’s fitting, since Tommy is the very reason that Oliver created his no-kill rule. While I stand my ground that it’s time for the show to move on to more interesting conflicts, if they have to continue with this theme, this was certainly the best way to do it.
So there’s plenty to criticize in this episode. My suspension of disbelief is growing weary when it comes to Oliver’s time off the island before he comes home, and I also find it hard to believe that the League of Assassins would really wait this long before coming to strike Oliver with vengeance. But if you’re willing to look past those things and enjoy it simply for its entertainment value, it’s a pretty great hour. I simply maintain that Arrow, with its depth of character and wealth of comic history to draw from, is capable of better than just an hour of fun.