Warning: As usual, spoilers ahead! If you are not caught up on Arrow and don't want to be surprised, look away.
Still with me? Awesome. That means that you are all up to date on the insane amount of action that has happened in the last four episodes. Arrow is back, Laurel is Black Canary, Thea knows about Ollie (and knows that Ollie knows about her) and our pretty blonde DJ friend is not only working for the League, but has now departed this earth. Whew! That's a lot to squeeze into four episodes, and that's just the big stuff.
Well, as we saw in this week's episode "Canaries", now that Thea and Ollie are being honest with each other, Malcolm Merlyn is sending them away for some brother-sister bonding time. I mean, get-rid-of-fear training. Either way, he's sent them back to the island (you knew we weren't done with that island, right?), providing us with a whole new range of possible death and dishonor.
Check out this new extended promo showing us what the Queen children are getting up to on Lian Yu, and re-introducing us to some old favorites.
Big surprise - it looks like we'll be having an Ollie-centric episode. Which makes perfect sense. Since the mid-season break, we have seen a lot of Starling City, of Diggle, Roy, Laurel and Felicity struggling, and since Arrow's return, it's all been about balancing this new team. All of which needed to happen, and which made great viewing, but I am absolutely ecstatic to get back to fighting and training scenes and some good ol' fashioned good vs evil.
Speaking of evil, guess who's back? Deathstroke!
In the promo, we hear that distinctive voice welcoming Oliver "home", and as Oliver heads down to check out the holding cell, he does not look happy.
My guess? Well, it's not a stretch to figure out that the danger he and Thea will be facing is Slade Wilson back on the loose. While that pretty much guarantees us some epic fight scenes (even Mirakuru-cured, Wilson is well-trained and angry) along with all the booby-traps on the island (does anyone else get a wonderful wave of Prince of Thieves nostalgia during those?), the big question is, how did he get out?
He's in a maximum security cell owned by ARGUS. This should, theoretically be difficult or impossible to escape from, which means that Deathstroke had help. Moreover, someone intentionally loosed him while the two people that he hates most in the world are roaming the island. Hmmmmm..
Amanda Waller is a possibility. We're still figuring out exactly what happened between her and Oliver, and it's probable that she is less-than-thrilled to see him in his new life as the Arrow. However, I don't know if she hates him enough to try and have him killed, and more to the point, if she is willing to let Slade loose to achieve that end. This doesn't seem like an ARGUS move - it's just not her style, and her past with Oliver isn't developed enough to introduce the audience to the situation now. No, I think that Ms Waller will be appearing only in flashbacks during this episode.
Malcolm Merlyn, on the other hand, has all kinds of reasons to release the beast. First of all, he knows that they will be on the island, which presumably no one else does. (Perhaps Team Arrow were told where he was going, but they're not about to pull a stunt like this.) His league training would make it possible for him to help Slade escape, and seeing as Slade went away believing that Merlyn was very much an enemy of Arrow, it would be easy to trust him.
As to why Merlyn would do this, I believe that the promo reveals that in Merlyn's only line.
At this point, Merlyn believes that Oliver is too soft, that both he and Thea are his students, and he's shown in Corto Maltese that he's not afraid to use danger as a lesson. If he wants the two of them to move past fear and to become willing to kill again, who better to pit them against than the man who murdered their mother?
I don't think that the truly believes that Thea and Oliver are in danger, instead, I think that this is a terrifying training exercise designed to remind Ollie of how the island changed him, and teach Thea the same thing.
It will also have a huge impact on their relationship - up until now, they have fought separately and against each other, but never on the same team. This could either bring them closer together or drive a wedge between them, and either outcome works for Malcolm. If he truly is hoping to work with Oliver to take down Ra's Al Ghul, he will want the two of them working well together and trusting each other completely. However, given their history, he may want to ensure that the two don't rebuild their trust completely, as that could lead to him losing his daughter.
While on the subject of Merlyn's children, the promo reveals a tiny glimpse of another exciting possibility.
Is this Tommy Merlyn? Since his death at the end of Season One, Tommy has re-appeared in the odd flashback, but fans remain hopeful that, like so many comic book characters, he could still return. With the wild speculation about the Lazarus Pit after Oliver's battle with Ra's, many wondered if Malcolm could have used the waters on his son, who has since been waiting in the curtains to re-appear. It may be far-fetched, but given that we know that Oliver, Thea and Malcolm will be headed to Nanda Parbat very soon, could this actually be Malcolm staging a rescue mission in disguise? Has Tommy been held in the mountain stronghold all this time?
It's possible that this little shot is just a flash of a flashback (and he is clearly in Starling at the gravesite in this image), but why include it in this promo? I can't shake the feeling that they are building up to something with Tommy, and that we haven't seen the last of him yet!
Whatever happens with "The Return", I know that we will not be disappointed. I'm so excited to get back to basics, with Oliver doing lots of running and jumping and hitting stuff. I can't wait to see a returning big bad, and a storyline that can balance out the recent emotional overload. (Don't get me wrong, I've been loving the high-tension group dynamic, but it's all about balance.) I'm also excited to see Thea really start to come into her own, and re-claim the Speedy nickname as she works with Oliver.
I'm not sure how much more they can pack into this show before season end in April, but I cannot wait to find out!
"The Return" airs on Wed, Feb 18th on the CW.