‘Arrow’ Recap: “Deathstroke Returns” – A Vigilante Unmasked and a Kid in Kasnia
Your regularly scheduled recapper Kayti Burt will be back next week!
The latest hour of The CW’s Arrow felt much more like a Part One than a standalone episode. Now you couldn’t tell that from the titles alone since “Deathstroke Returns” will be followed by “Promises Kept” next week, and in fact you couldn’t even tell it was going to essentially be a two-parter until the closing moments of this episode. That’s not a bad thing at all considering that characters like Dinah Drake, Slade Wilson himself, and even FBI Agent Samandra Watson (Sydelle Noel) got a good share of screen time. But that storytelling decision certainly messes with the pacing of the show and makes something like, I dunno, the reveal of a multi-season masked assailant have less impact than it should.
Yes, after introducing the vigilante known as … Vigilante in Season 5, the masked mercenary’s identity has at long last been revealed. And it kind of just happened. There was no real build-up to it, no obvious reminder of who this character is and why viewers should remember/care about him … there was even a commercial break baked into the reveal so that viewers could Google, Tweet, and talk amongst themselves to figure it out before Dinah inevitably laid out the exposition needed to put the pieces together. Vigilante fell a little flat (though with an interesting twist going forward), but Manu Bennett‘s Slade/Deathstroke is just getting started.
Let’s get the Dinah Drake drama out of the way, shall we? The cold open sets the whole thing up for us: Dinah just happens to be near councilwoman Pollard, the lead proponent of the anti-vigilante referendum, when Vigilante attempts to snipe the lawmaker. This near-fatal attack puts Dinah and Team Arrow on the offensive tracking down the masked assassin, and it doesn’t take long for Dinah to confront him. One Canary Cry to the face later and Vigilante is unmasked as Vincent Sobel! Wait, who? Oh yeah, it’s Dinah’s former partner in law enforcement and in romance. Yep.
So despite the fact that he was shot point-blank in the head on the night that Dinah gained her meta-human powers, Vincent is back (in black) as Vigilante. Dinah wrestled with her roiling emotions concerning her former partner throughout the hour, but ultimately decided to let him continue with his vigilantism instead of bringing him in to face justice. Part of the reason probably had to do with Vincent taking a literal bullet for her, one fired by a trigger-happy young cop that struck Vinnie dead in the forehead. Pretty gnarly stuff, but our bullet-boy is fine; it turns out that he’s a meta and can heal insanely fast. That’s something! So while the reveal of Vigilante was quite clunky, it was nice to spend a little time in Dinah’s head. I’m curious to see how this drama will play out in the future.
Related to all this action, however, was FBI agent Samandra Watson’s dogged pursuit of the truth surrounding Mayor Oliver Queen’s own rumored vigilante activities. But while Ollie avoided Agent Watson this episode by taking a sudden trip to Kasnia (more on that in a minute), pretty much everyone in his proximity ended up being called in by the Fed. Other than quick convos between Watson and Diggle, and a mention by Rene, we only get to see a brief back and forth between Watson and Felicity in a spartan government office, but Noel makes the most of her screentime. It’s clear that she’s a sharp, no-nonsense character who strongly suspects Mayor Queen’s crew of being a team of vigilantes, but she’s also smart enough to wait until she has solid evidence to take them to task. While I fully expect Team Arrow to somehow have to save Agent Watson’s life later on this season, thus earning her respect and her silence, it’s at least adding a little tension on the back end of their usual crime-fighting activities.
Now, for the bulk of this week’s storytelling, we get to spend a little time with Oliver Queen and Slade Wilson. These two are fast friends once again, despite the liters of blood and many lives lost between them. So we’ll just pretend that’s all in the past, yeah? Well, maybe not if next week’s episode is any indication. But speaking of the past, viewers got to enjoy a mini-flashback in this episode, one that focused on Slade Wilson and his real kid, Joe, 13 years earlier. While the father/son camping trip was decent enough to show the loving but dysfunctional relationship between the two, it really served to reveal Slade’s true nature. Turns out that Slade planned this particular trip in order to interrogate (and ultimately kill) another man who was taking his own family camping; the target in question had intel on the location of Yao Fei, which eventually leads Slade to Purgatory.
The flashback wasn’t super effective, but it does its best to establish two things: 1) Slade loves his son, and 2) He was a terrible father who put his mercenary job first, despite the love for his son. This is meant to strengthen the FEELS when we learn that Slade’s son Joe–now going by the totally chill name of Kane Wolfman–has been imprisoned while on assignment working for Australian Intelligence. You know that Slade is going after him, and if things get hairy, Deathstroke is going to come out to handle business, but to keep things from getting to that point, Slade also invites Oliver Queen along merely to provide a diplomatic solution.
But despite offering $50,000 in a briefcase to the warden in Kasnia, they soon learn that Joe has been captured a group of ne’er-do-wells calling themselves the Jackals, who have already taken Joe off to their torture chamber. So you’d imagine that the Arrow and Deathstroke could take care of these guys no problem and get Joe out of there, but that’s not the way it goes down. After drugging Oliver to knock him out (only to wake up and take a conveniently timed phone call from his own worried son, William), Slade suits up as Deathstroke and goes absolutely HAM on the Jackals. It’s easily the best sequence of the episode and a more brutal bit of fighting than we’re used to getting. Deathstroke has the most distinctive fighting style of the bunch and it’s a rare treat to get to see him in action these days, so enjoy it!
However, even The Terminator is in over his head at this point. Slade’s Kasnian contact Nylander comes out of the shadows to taunt the heavily armed mercenary. But we all know that this guy isn’t the boss, just as Oliver knows that Slade’s in big trouble thanks to his Arrow-sense. However, it turns out that Slade’s own son Joe is actually the boss of the Jackals! (Raise your hand if you saw that coming.) Though Oliver looks on from the shadows, this puts Slade in a very tough position, a position that’s about to get a lot rougher next week. Hopefully the conclusion of this two-parter makes the somewhat slow pacing worth the wait, but will either Slade or Oliver come out of it whole?
Rating: ★★★ Good
Oliver: “Be the Mayor.” Rene: “For real?” Oliver: “Just don’t make any laws while I’m out of the office, okay?”
“The Terminator” is a fun Easter egg for a Deathstroke alias.
Nylander: “Truth be told, I’m glad you got your marbles back.”
Slade: “My son wouldn’t be in this mess if anyone else was his father.”
Felicity: “You’re not so big into decoration, are you?” Samandra Watson: “I’m also not a fan of people wasting my time.”
Slade: “You got your second chance, kid, and I’m happy for you. Some fathers aren’t that lucky.”
Kane. Wolfman. Sounds silly on its own, but when you consider DC Comics veterans Gil Kane and Marv Wolfman, it makes a lot more sense. (Adeline Kane was, in fact, the maiden name of Slade’s wife, too.)
Slade: “When the Jackals took my son, they didn’t count on who his father was.”
The Jackals are likely a nod to William Walsh, a former soldier who served with Slade Wilson in the comics. He too became a mercenary known as the Jackal, and later, the Ravager.
So Thea’s still in the hospital in a coma, FYI.
Dinah/Black Canary: “How?” Vincent/Vigilante: “You’re not the only one dark matter did something to. Everything heals now.” Except yo face!
Dinah/Black Canary: “You’ve lost your mind.” Vincent/Vigilante: “I’m not the only one wearing a mask.”
Nylander: “We need your son. After all, he’s our boss.”