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ARROW Review “Deathstroke Returns”

By on November 10, 2017

Arrow — “Deathstroke Returns” — Image AR605b_0186b.jpg — Pictured: Manu Bennett as Slade Wilson/Deathstroke — Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW — © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.






Whenever a show takes an infamous villain and makes an attempt to turn them into a good guy, it can go one of two ways. They could go the route of Fate of the Furious from earlier this year, which saw Jason Statham’s character take a bizarre turn towards heroism that flat out ignores all the evil things he did in prior films. Or they could go the route of Captain Cold on Legends, someone who genuinely does have a heart of gold, but got severely corrupted in life and is trying to find their back.

It’d be easy to lump Slade Wilson in either category. After all, while he was genuine friend to Oliver on Lian Yu, and saved his life on several occasions, there’s no denying that Slade’s also been responsible for some of the truly worst moments of Oliver’s life, directly or not. The Mirakuru may have messed with his brain and drove him mad, but that sort of reasoning only goes so far. I don’t blame anyone who saw Slade’s heel turn at the end of last season to be a massive stretch; cured or no, Slade was still a pretty dickish guy when Oliver first met him, just one with two eyes. Even Diggle and Felicity don’t think it’s a good idea, especially since Slade left them on Lian Yu to get nearly blown up.

Still, Oliver does technically owe Slade a favor after those events, so of course he helps Wilson try to find his long lost son, Joey, in Kasnia after being imprisoned. Instead of spending half the episode having Oliver debate whether or not he should help, it’s resolved almost immediately: Slade doesn’t want Oliver to go around killing people, he just needs his political power to speed things along for a quick and painless process. To his and the show’s credit, he never tries to tempt Oliver or remind him of the glory days, even when the former archer is completely ready to throw down. Like Felicity says, this truly is Oliver helping out a friend…just one who has, on three separate occasions, tried to kill him. (Which, to be fair, is how he’s become friends with Kara, Barry, the Legends, and Roy, so it’s not that much of a stretch.)

The real trouble is just how long Oliver can go without Slade finally snapping and doing what he does best, and it’s there where the episode shines. Despite the episode’s title, we’ve mostly got Slade to deal with, and he’s much more subdued than we’re used to. Even though he’s trying his best to keep his head level, all this is clearly making him uncomfortable that he can’t just go in guns blazing like he subconsciously wishes to. Manu Bennett does good work showing a Slade that never really could turn the killer side of his life off. Much as Oliver was before taking a hiatus — I hesitate to say he’s fully retired, because he’ll have to come back eventually — old Slade was caught between two worlds. It comes as no surprise that he wasn’t the best father around, taking the camping opportunity with his son years ago to really complete a contract. Even before the deal is complete, the strained talk between father and son shows that his excuses are transparent and didn’t endear him to his son at all growing up.

“Returns” has a very John Wick feel to its story in that Slade is trying very desperately hard to rein it in and not go back to his violent ways. Even being called “the Terminator” fills him with disgust at what he used to be. But once he learns that Joey has died, he reverts, commenting that Joey’s killers didn’t count on who his father was. Seeing Slade put the Deathstroke armor back on and do what he’s known for is pretty great, showing that he hasn’t lost a step with his powers gone and reminding us once again why he was dubbed “the Terminator” in the first place. It’s at that moment that Deathstroke truly does return, and it’s a welcome one at that.

And speaking of returns, we finally get the return of Vigilante after he just randomly up and disappeared after Chase was revealed as Prometheus during the end of last season. He’s back to shooting at government officials again, this time the councilwoman responsible for Star City’s anti-vigilante act. After the big mystery of who he was last year turned out to be a smokescreen, the episode makes the smartest move it can with the character by revealing he’s actually Dinah’s old partner/boyfriend, Vince, in a twist that’s actually pretty well concealed.

Turns out he’s got superpowers of his own thanks to dark matter; getting shot in the head left him blind in one eye and possessing the ability to heal from everything, but he’s still very clearly not well. A few weeks ago, I groused about how Diggle and Dinah’s relationship felt very one sided, with her often playing the role of therapist. With Vigilante now in play, things are thankfully reversed as Diggle has to try and convince Dinah to not lose hope over Vince. Whether he can be truly “saved” is up for debate, since he’s determined to finish his mission and wipe out corruption in the city. But he’s clearly not that far gone, since he refuses to shoot her and sends her a calling card from their time together.

There is, frankly, a lot going on in “Deathstroke Returns,” so it comes as no surprise that it’s something of a two-parter. By episode’s end, Slade realizes that Joey faked his death and is actually the leader of the people who “killed” him, Oliver’s now got another problem to deal with, and the Vigilante plot clearly isn’t over. This is all a great episode that sets up the dominos–now it’s time for next week to watch them all fall.

Additional Notes

  • Sydelle Noel is back as Agent Watson, and she’s expanding her net to include the rest of Team Arrow. She’s already talked to Felicity, Diggle, and Rene by the end of the episode, and Curtis’ talk is sure to come next week. If she’s not dirty, this can all only end with her dead or as some sort of liaison for the team.
  • The editing for the episode was mostly good, though there’s this very weird moment where a suited up Rene gives a quick “sorry” to Dinah, and it doesn’t sound like him at all.
  • Diggle’s “ah, shit” face when Felicity gets the call from Watson is now one of my favorite reactions the show has ever given us.
  • Someone saw Slade kill that guy in the flashbacks. If it isn’t Joey, I don’t know who else it could be.
  • There are very obvious parallels between Vigilante and season one Oliver; I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if Vigilante becomes a fixture of the Team, either on a trial basis or full time. If he does, I can’t help but wonder what role he’ll play since Wild Dog already has guns and body armor of his own.

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