We already knew Slade Wilson would be a recurring player this season, and he made his long-awaited return in the appropriately titled “Deathstroke Returns” — and brought a juicy new story along with him.
Spoilers ahead for “Deathstroke Returns,” the latest episode of The CW’s Arrow, which aired Thursday, November 9, 2017.
“You got your second chance, kid. And I’m happy for you. Some fathers aren’t that lucky.” - Slade
It’s no secret that this season of Arrow is about Fatherhood with a capital “F,” and that theme took on a new twist as Slade resurfaced asking Oliver to help him track down his estranged son. Slade recruits Oliver for a recovery mission, but not for his prowess with a bow and arrow. He needs minor celebrity and rising politician Oliver Queen, who will give them a decent excuse to make contact with a foreign prison and request the release of Slade’s son. It reflects the changes we’ve already seen this year that Oliver is more useful to Slade outside of his mask than in it.
As Oliver looks at Slade’s broken relationship with his son, he sees a possible path of what he could become. It’s the reason he handed over the Green Arrow mantle to Diggle, and the reason he apparently didn’t bring any tactical garb with him on this overseas trip. Oliver really is trying to keep his promise to his son to live a safer life that actually has him home for dinner and video games most nights. Slade has been a quasi-father father (albeit a very, very disturbing one, all things considered) to Oliver for most of the series, and we got a nice play on that dynamic this week. In 99/100 cases, Oliver is typically the smartest guy in the room, with a full handle on pretty much any situation.
But not so much when Slade is around. Slade knows Oliver will want to help once the mission goes sideways and it's revealed a shady group called the Jackals apparently have Slade’s son Joe (aka Kane, the new moniker he’s using). So he drugs Oliver’s drink to knock him out, effectively sidelining Oliver before he even has the chance to brood over the decision. Deathstroke knows best, and he knows Oliver a little too well.
This being an action show, though, Oliver does wake up and decides to go after Slade. But only after a chat with his own son William. William asks if Oliver has done everything he can to help, and it seems Oliver has come to realize that sometimes promises aren’t all that easily kept when a friend — and more specifically a family (even one as messed up as Slade’s) — is in need.
Of course, they can’t take all the cues from Oliver’s story this season, so Slade’s fatherhood tale gets a fresh twist all its own — Kane hasn’t been kidnapped by the Jackals. He’s their leader. A shady scoundrel who has set out to seemingly make Papa Deathstroke proud. It’s a clever twist, and with the tease for next week setting up a potential faceoff between a well-meaning Oliver and Kane, Slade may be forced to decide between his surrogate son and his real one. A real Deathstroke’s choice, if you will.
*They’ve been dancing around it for two seasons now, but Vigilante has finally been revealed: He’s Dinah’s old partner, and he was apparently given healing powers and some minor scaring during the particle accelerator explosion that scored Dinah her Canary Cry. So he’s basically a very serious Deadpool, with less scars and quips? For more intel on that reveal, check out our set report with comments from the cast on what it means, and what happens next.
*The flashbacks return this week, but instead of focusing on Oliver, it’s Slade’s story to tell. We flash back to some of Slade’s less-than-great parenting when Kane was a teenager. Slade took him camping, but the entire trip turned out to be a cover for a covert intel mission. Yeah, even Slade’s family camping trips had ulterior motives. Regardless, it was a good C-story that actually shined some light on how this family got so messed up in the first place.
*The anti-vigilante legislation subplot continues to move forward, as well as the lingering FBI investigation into Oliver. The net is getting wider, and she seems to be aiming to take down all of Team Arrow by the time this is over. That said, did she not even notice Oliver completely disappeared to another country this episode?
*They called Slade the Terminator. Great nod for comic fans.
*With Deathstroke back, you knew Slade would get a killer action scene. And this did not disappoint. His assault on the Jackals base was a sequence that would make the Punisher blush. Epic.
Next week: The Deathstroke family drama continues as Oliver gets caught in the crossfire.