The reveal that's been a year in the making on Arrow finally paid off, and the twist couldn't be more heartbreaking for one of the main members of Team Arrow. After introducing the killer Vigilante back in Season 5 of The CW's superhero drama, the mysterious cold-blooded assassin finally took off his mask in tonight's episode, "Deathstroke Returns," and while his face wasn't familiar, the look of recognition on Dinah Drake aka Black Canary (Juliana Harkavy) was more than enough to signal that this was none other than her ex-partner (and ex-lover) Vincent "Vinny" Sobel (now played by Johann Urb in a recast from last season).
Why is this twist so jaw-droppingly huge? Dinah got her canary cry powers during the particle accelerator explosion four years ago, tied up and tortured by the criminal she was undercover trying to bust. Right as the particle accelerator exploded, she screamed as Vinny was shot and presumably killed in front of her eyes. Clearly, he didn't die like she thought all those years ago.
This episode revealed that Dinah wasn't the only one changed by that dark matter explosion, as Vinny also became a metahuman, one who could heal from a literal gunshot to the head. In all the years since that fateful night, however, he didn't contact his ex at all, instead choosing to suit up and kill people he thought deserved to die, much like Oliver Queen aka Green Arrow's (Stephen Amell) original, bloodthirsty and brutal code. So not only does she have to reconcile her ex returning from the dead, but he's also not revealed himself to her and even has tried to kill her friends and fellow team members multiple times. Yikes.
But in a subversive move for Arrow's usual M.O., by the end of the game-changing hour, Dinah told everyone on Team Arrow about Vigilante's identity and connection to her instead of keeping it a secret — unlike a certain other member named Diggle (David Ramsey). But what she did keep to herself was the fact that she let Vigilante go and couldn't bring herself to kill or capture him, and he later sent her a token of love with a small matchbox full of little roses (something he used to leave her back when they were together).
"It’s definitely been a glitch in her path, because now not only is she dealing with her past but she also has her own little secret that she has to decide whether she’s going to keep from the team," Harkavy says, sitting in the middle of the Team Arrow bunker set on a late night earlier this week. "It definitely throws a wrench in her life and game plan."
Going forward, Harkavy believes that Dinah is "definitely" communicating with Vinny behind the team's back. "As she decides what she wants to do with him and about that, she wants to feel it out," she says. "But she's also very cautious."
While Diggle, currently holding up the mantle of Green Arrow in Oliver's absence from the team, is hiding his illicit drug use from everyone, Dinah won't be able to keep her secret for long. That makes sense, given how much shade she threw at Diggle for hiding his injury and going out in the field compromised.
"I don't think it's really in her nature to keep it for long, but she's going to keep it as long as she feels that she is protecting herself," Harkavy explains. "She wants to figure out really what's going on before she says anything. She's going to take her time with it."
Producer James Bamford was the one to finally clue in Harkavy about Vigilante's identity and what it means for Dinah moving forward on Arrow (airing Thursdays at 9 p.m. on The CW). And Amell had "no idea" who Vigilante could be before the showrunners finally revealed it to him, although it was planned to be Dinah's partner "for quite some time now."
"It just didn’t work to get it revealed last year," Amell says of the delayed payoff. "There was too much stuff going on." But he always held out hope that the identity of Vigilante was going to be one of Oliver's exes instead of Dinah's.
"I was upset that it wasn’t McKenna," Amell says of Janina Gavankar's former SCPD officer from Season 1. "I always thought that it was a really cool fan theory."
But now he's "excited" about what this means for Dinah and the rest of Team Arrow, teasing that he's just recently "been doing some work with the Vigilante character."
"This year, we are starting to see everyone with their villainous counterparts," Amell says, relaxing during one of the very few breaks he had on set. "I was excited that there was someone for Juliana’s character. I thought it was interesting and I like the idea of another metahuman on the show."
And Echo Kellum, who plays Curtis Holt aka Mister Terrific on Team Arrow, was just relieved that Vigilante wasn't secretly his ex-husband Paul (Chenier Hundal) this whole time. "I didn't want to have to go after my ex-husband in any particular way," he says with a laugh. "It made me feel much better about hitting him in the head with a ball last year, too, that he wasn't my husband."
Tonight's action-packed episode also featured Slade Wilson aka Deathstroke's (Manu Bennett) return, as he enlisted Oliver in help finding his son. After a ton of intense, brutal action, Slade killed his way through an elite team of fighters only to discover they weren't keeping his son hostage; he was actually their leader. The two-part Deathstroke arc concludes next week, and no matter how it ends, things will never go back to the way they used to be for the former friends.
"Certain things can not be undone. Ever," Amell says with a smirk. "Do I trust him when he is of his right mind? Yes. Do I rely on him? Sure. Are we going for a beer after our road trip to go find his son? Probably not. There are certain things that I cannot forgive."
Like killing Oliver's mother while under the influence of the mirakuru drug, for instance. "I think that at his core, Oliver thinks that Slade is a good person [while not on mirakuru]," Amell says. "We leave this two-part episode fairly open ended."
Amell calls the Oliver-Slade dynamic one of his favorites to portray on Arrow, and it's clear why: watching these two reformed killers band together for something good is a true creative bullseye.