Arrow: 6.05 Deathstroke Returns
I'm so glad Manu Bennett is back on Arrow; his Slade Wilson was a strong presence in the first two seasons, serving as an ally to Oliver in the flashbacks before emerging as the vengeful villain in the second year (still the show's strongest). After a brief return in season three his shady alliance with Oliver to take down Prometheus at the end of last season could have easily been a heroic final encore performance, going out as a hero as he sought redemption. But of all the characters to have 'survived' Lian Yu, his survival was the one I was most pleased with.
And thankfully, it doesn't seem this is the last we have seen of him. This week, he asked Oliver to help him track down his missing son in Kasnia. Stephen Amell and Bennett have a great tempestuously brotherly chemistry and it's great to see this explored here as Slade asked Oliver to help him use his diplomatic ties to get Joseph, now a secret agent for Australian Intelligence freed from prison. It was nice to see that Slade respected Oliver's decision to walk away from being a vigilante and not ask him to join the fight when it was revealed that Joseph had been abducted by a rogue criminal organisation, the Jackals.
No, that was up to Slade Wilson himself, and in this episode audiences got to see Deathstroke unleashed in another spectacular action sequence as he invaded their base and slaughtered his way through the enemy. There was more excellent use of sweeping tracking shots as he gunned down and hacked apart soldiers with his sword; if there is any chance of a Deathstroke spin-off series (maybe after Arrow ends), this episode showed how it would be done.
But it was also an episode about father and sons; we got to see Oliver and William build their relationship even when he was across the globe, while flashbacks explored how a young Joseph struggled with an absent father; Slade used a camping trip as a guise to hunt down the enemy for information about Yao Fei (thus setting up his trip to Lian Yu in the season one flashbacks). It was hard not to feel sorry for Joseph but Bennett imbues a lot of integrity in Slade and you could still feel sympathetic for his plight to save his estranged son. It also set up the final twist as Slade, surrounded by Jackals and betrayed by his former ally Nylander (Kris Holden-Ried) discovered that the grown up Joseph was not a prisoner but a leader of the Jackals.
The rest of the team back in Star City had plenty to get their teeth into, as FBI Special Agent Samanda Watson continued to ramp up her investigations, interrogating Felicity and then continuing to act as a thorn in Dinah's side - eventually cluing onto the fact that she was probably Black Canary. But it was the return of season five recurring bad guy Vigilante that provided the most drama as he continually attempted to assassinate 'corrupt' Councilwoman Pollard (Laara Sadiq) and destroy her anti-vigilante legislation.
I'm fairly certain that the writers had no idea who Vigilante really was when he was introduced last season and that certainly rang true when he was finally revealed in a confrontation between the bad guy and Black Canary; her sonic scream smashing his visor and forcing him to reveal his helmet and identity. It turns out it was her former partner (on the force and romantically) Vincent Sobel (Johann Urb). He was briefly seen during her debut last year, shot at the moment of the Central City Star Labs explosion that also gave her her scream. At first, this left a huh? moment, certainly not the big reveal that Adrian Chase was Prometheus last season (Chase of course being Vigilante in the comics).
But as the episode progressed - and the more I came to think about it - this reveal worked. There was no obvious character it could be and now that his identity is revealed, it adds some drama and moral angst to Dinah's character. Juliana Harkavy has certainly been the best new addition to the cast, and the conflict as she was forced to take down her former lover added some depth to her character and story that could see her through the rest of the season. The fact that she let him go (after it was revealed he had regenerative capabilities) and then elicited a smile when she discovered the red rose in her car at the end, suggests that this will not be an easy path for her.
Deathstroke Returns was the best episode of season six yet; it was great to see Stephen Amell and Manu Bennett working together and seeing Deathstroke unleashed was spectacular. The reveal of Vigilante's identity started a little flat but provided a great foil for Black Canary. This season is still demonstrating the confidence shown in season five and the various story threads are bubbling along nicely...