Deathstroke The Terminator makes a splash on the small screen, both in name and practice.
Early on, on The CW’s Arrow, Manu Bennett’s Slade Wilson joined the cast to quite effectively become an instant fan-favorite. Although he first appeared solely as part of Oliver Queen’s journey in the flashback portions of the series as the future Green Arrow’s mentor and trainer, it didn’t take long before he surfaced in the present, as a fully-fledged supervillain. Taking on the mantle of Deathstroke, Slade made Oliver’s life a miserable hell.
But, under the effects of an experimental super-soldier serum known as Mirakuru, Slade had quite a few differences from his lethal and level-headed comic book counterpart, in that this version of the character was suffering from psychological side-effects of the serum — something that made him see things that weren’t there. Slade would later lose his super-powers and be imprisoned on Lian Yu, reduced to a character that couldn’t even hold a candle to Oliver Queen’s sister Thea in a fistfight. But, after being freed by Oliver and reclaiming the mantle of Deathstroke to help his former enemy defeat Prometheus, Slade was given a bit of a new lease on life, and a clean slate that would allow the character a fresh start on the show.
After more than six years of appearing on Arrow as Slade Wilson in a recurring capacity, the series finally went all in with the character in last week’s episode, the aptly titled “Deathstroke Returns.” The episode was almost entirely devoted to the character, giving us both flashbacks to Slade’s past with his young son as he attempted to save him from a grim fate in the present.
This is where the series really seemed to dive into comic book territory to give longtime fans of the character everything they could have ever wanted from Deathstroke in live-action. Not only did the flashbacks of Slade and Joe out in the wilderness on a camping trip look greatly inspired by writer Christopher Priest’s current Deathstroke comic book series under DC’s Rebirth banner, it also gave us a surname that has long been associated with the character in the source material, ever since his first appearance in The New Teen Titans #2: “The Terminator.”
The name is uttered by an old aquaintace of Slade’s, a man named Nylander. When they meet, Nylander calls his old friend “The Terminator,” to which Salde answers that this is a name he hasn’t heard in a long time — something that would indicate that Slade’s past, before the events of Arrow, was quite lethal, and worthy of legend. However, the episode wouldn’t stop there. In fact, it would allow Slade to live up to this name of old when, in an attempt to save his son, Deathstroke would storm a warehouse filled with criminals and thugs of a gang known as The Jackals.
The action scene was not only one of the most amazing in the show’s long history of delivering exciting fight sequences, it was also one of the bloodiest. Armed with both his trademark guns and swords, Slade didn’t leave a single Jackal standing as he shot and sliced his way through them all. While we had seen Deathstroke in action before, we had never seen him unleashed in this way — desperate, angry, and most of all, devoted. As he fought to save his son, Slade left a trail of blood the likes of which Arrow had never seen before.
Manu Bennett has always been a welcomed addition on the series, a sign of Arrow always at its best. And, with its most recent episode, the series reaffirmed that statement a thousandfold. “Deathstroke Returns” was a very literal title for the episode — Slade not only returned to the series, he also claimed the name in a way he never had before.
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