By Rich Epstein
This week's Arrow opens with Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable) soaking in the tub (Lazarus Pit?) In walks Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) with news that Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is still alive. Ra's knows, in fact, he knows that Oliver did not kill Sara. Nyssa thinks that Ra's isn't so keen to go after Sara's killer because he disapproved of their relationship. He tells Nyssa that he did disapprove, because he knew Sara would eventually leave them, he knew that she would leave Nyssa, not for any other reason. Well, good to know the League of Assassins is progressive about such things. Nyssa tells her father that "whether Queen killed Sara or not, he challenged you. He defied you. For that alone, he must die."
Switch to our titular hero, and he is training in the Arrowcave with Thea Queen (Willa Holland) and Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrownman). Barrowman beats them both, telling them that they need a lot more work. Especially Oliver who "spent years preparing to bring a bow and arrow to a sword fight." John Diggle (David Ramsey) walks in, saying he had Verdant outfitted with A.R.G.U.S. tech to keep them safe. I'm not really sure if they should be happy about that or not. Last week's episode didn't give me a lot of faith in A.R.G.U.S. Merlyn suggests that Oliver and Thea move into the Arrowcave, but Thea doesn't want to leave the loft.
I suppose she doesn't want to live in fear, but she should focus on the living part right now. Lets face it, people close to Oliver don't have very long life spans, and we are talking about something called the "League of Assassins." Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) is there, and she comments on how much Malcolm taught Thea in such a short time. The talk turns to Sara, at which point Thea gets uncomfortable and leaves. Diggle is eventually left alone with Oliver. Diggle's starting to get worried, Oliver is pushing himself too hard. Oliver shrugs him off, promising to rest when Ra's is dealt with.
Flashback time. Oliver is being debriefed. General Shrieve (Marc Singer) tells Oliver that he and Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune) are being released. They will be let go in Japan, and from there they will be free to go wherever they wish. Oliver and Shrieve shake hands, but I get the feeling it won't be so easy.
Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) stops by to have a talk with Thea. She tells him that she killed Sara, which of course he already knew. He tells her about the time he killed someone while hopped up on mirakuru.
Meanwhile, Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) is working on the A.T.O.M. suit when Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) stops by. Apparently, Palmer has been locked away fiddling with the suit and hasn't been to work in a week. Felicity was worried, which doesn't change when she sees how obsessed he has become, to the point where he attempts to use a subsonic ionizer on a quadband circuitry, which as we all know could cause a catalytic reaction that would destroy the entire building. C'mon Ray, we all learned that in like third grade. He is obviously too focused on the task at hand (didn't Oliver just have this conversation with Diggle?) and won't listen to Felicity's pleas that he take a break.
Laurel is leaving a message for her dad, when in walks Thea to tell the truth about Sara. Laurel tells Thea that she doesn't blame her for what she did when drugged, but asks how Thea can stand next to Malcolm Merlyn when he drugged her and forced her to kill her friend. Thea tells Laurel that she doesn't have a choice because of the threat of the League, to which Laurel tells her that she does have a choice. Killing Sara wasn't her fault, but whatever she decides to do now is. Wait, Laurel is giving advice? I'm sure this is going to go really well. Anyway, I'm glad Thea defies Oliver here. She's right, there are too many secrets, and they too often they have gotten people killed. It's better to just say it then to deal with Laurel finding out and knowing that you hid it from her.
Laurel goes to see Oliver. She tells him she can't remember Sara's smile, the way she used to laugh. The only thing she can picture is the way Sara looked when she found her. She tells Oliver that the only thing that keeps her going is the hope that one day they will find the killer. Oliver tells her that one day, they will. Oops. Laurel asks him how he can lie like that right to her face. She knows this is a man who runs around in a mask, right? Laurel comments on how it seems like Oliver is always letting Malcolm off the hook. Wow, I actually agree with Laurel. Oliver tells Laurel that they need Merlyn, he may have killed Laurel's sister, but he the only chance they have to save Oliver's. Laurel tells Oliver that she "can't believe there was once a time when I was in love with you." I'm sure he feels the same way.
Oliver is pretty pissed that Thea told Laurel. When he confronts Thea, she tells him "I guess I'm just not as good at keeping secrets as you are." Like about Merlyn being alive and back in Starling City with her? Or did she forget about keeping that secret for a long time? Oliver tells her that only Merlyn knows the danger the three of them are in, when Thea says that she and Oliver are no longer in danger. Instead, Merlyn is going to face justice.
Cut to Merlyn walking along when he hears something behind him. "You're clearly not League of Assassins, they wouldn't be this sloppy." It's Laurel, dressed as the Black Canary. She tries to fight him but he pretty much toys with her when she pulls a gun on him. Malcolm tells her "I guess we'll see if being a killer runs in the family." In steps the League of Assassins. They disarm Laurel tell her they are taking Merlyn. Nyssa and Merlyn fight, and she kicks the crap out of him. The League takes him away as Nyssa tells Laurel that her sister is avenged.
Back at the Arrowcave, Oliver scolds Laurel for going after Merlyn. Diggle tells Oliver that Thea gave up Merlyn. How she knew how to contact the League of Assassins I don't know. I can't imagine that was part of her training. Can you just Google them or something? Anyway, Oliver wants to go and rescue Merlyn. He doesn't want Thea to have to live with killing her father. Laurel is kind of right. Oliver does seem to be going out of his way to get Merlyn out of trouble. Thea traded Merlyn for their safety, so he doesn't really need Merlyn anymore. But he's going to risk his life trying to save the most evil man in the Arrowverse?
More flashbacks. Tatsu Yamashiro (Rila Fukushima), Maseo, their son and Oliver are about to get on a boat, but it's an ambush. Yeah, it couldn't be that easy. He still has two years until he gets home.
Nyssa and the League have Merlyn at the airport. They have a quick back and forth when Oliver shows up. He is able to best Nyssa but while he does the League gets Merlyn onto a helicopter and away. If Oliver can beat Nyssa, who beat Merlyn, why exactly does Oliver need Merlyn's help? And maybe Oliver should have brought Diggle or Roy with him? Might have helped get Merlyn while Oliver was distracted with Nyssa.
Oliver brings his captive back to the Arrowcave. He knows that Ra's will not trade Merlyn for her, even if she is his daughter. Oliver kicks everyone out so that he can get the information. Before he goes, Diggle has some words of wisdom for Oliver… "I know what you're doing, and I know why you're doing it. But you can't save Thea's soul at the cost of your own." Damn Diggle always has the good lines. I really hope he doesn't get killed off, which I am a little afraid of (more below). Oliver wants to know where Nanda Parbat is. Nyssa is very happy to tell him, since she knows he will die there.
Oliver tells the group that he is on his way. Nobody wants him to go since they think it's suicide. Oliver asks Diggle for his opinion, and Diggle asks everyone to leave. Diggle thinks there is something going on besides Thea, but Oliver assures him that it is just Thea. Of course, Oliver does lie. A lot.
Meanwhile, Felicity locks Ray out of the servers so that he will be forced to stop working and rest. He agrees, and I get the feeling that he will be done with the suit pretty soon.
Hey, Diggle at home with his family. How about that. Lyla asks him if he spoke to Oliver yet, but Diggle says Oliver has other things on his mind. Lyla asks if he's going to Nanda Parbat with Oliver. Diggle tells her that Oliver has to do right by his family, so does Diggle. Lyla reminds Diggle of the hell he put himself through when he thought Oliver was dead and asks if he can live with that again. She tells him to go, he's still a soldier and he can't stand down while his friend goes to battle. A couple of things. What is it that Diggle needs to ask? Is he going to quit to be with his family? I really hope not, as he might be the best character on the show (sorry Felicity). Also, I get that Lyla is trying to be understanding, but shouldn't she at least be a bit conflicted. Nanda Parbat is an impenetrable fortress. People who go there don't come back. Isn't Lyla a little worried?
Thea tries to stop Oliver. He tells her why he is doing it, and she tells him that she can live with Malcolm's death, but she can't live with Oliver getting killed. Oliver reminds Thea that both of their parents are dead because of him, and that is something that he has to live with. Of course, he leaves out the part where his parents weren't psychopathic killers. And that they were Thea's parents too. And that if he dies, she will have nobody left. But, hey, tell us again how you're doing this for Thea.
Merlyn is bought before Ra's, who relates a story of a man he met in the nineteenth century. We get it, you're old. Merlyn attempts to bribe his way to forgiveness, offering to hunt for al Ghul again. Merlyn then begs for his life. Ra's assures Merlyn that he will take no pleasure in killing him, but he must pay for his crimes. Of course, he doesn't have to pay right this minute so he orders Merlyn taken away.
Felicity is hanging out in Palmer's apartment and is dutifully impressed by the art. Palmer steps out of the shower, shirtless, and, after some flirting, she gives him the password then kisses him. She apologizes, and he kisses her back.
Oliver and Diggle are looking at Nanda Parbat when Diggle again asks why they are doing this. Oliver doesn't answer, but says if they see any guards, they need to take them out right away. They need to keep the element of surprise, at which point flaming arrows are shot all around them. They manage to get through the sentries, but one gets away and runs towards the castle. Oliver goes after him. Good thing that the League of Assassins isn't big on modern technology like cameras or walkie talkies.
Laurel stops by to talk to Nyssa. The fact of Merlyn's imminent demise doesn't make her as happy as it should. Hating Merlyn is like a part of Sara staying with her. Nyssa shares a nice memory with her. This episode added a lot more depth to Nyssa's character. She not only cared about Sara, she cares about Laurel because she was Sara's sister. That's twice now in this episode that she went out of her way to try and make Laurel feel better.
Oliver and Diggle get into the castle and take out a bunch more League members. A whole bunch of League members. The League of Assassins is really looking a whole lot less impressive. Luckily, the tracker that Oliver placed on Merlyn months ago is still active so they can find him. They do, as he is hung over red-hot coals. He has obviously been beaten. He tells them it's a trap as the door shuts behind them.
Oliver and Diggle are chained and locked in a cell together. Oliver promises that he won't let Diggle die down there, Diggle tells him that it probably isn't up to Oliver at this point in time. Have I mentioned how awesome Diggle is recently? Oliver tells Diggle he doesn't understand, to which Diggle replies "I think I do Oliver. You forget I know you better than you know yourself." Oliver tells Diggle that every time he closes his eyes, all he can see is the fall. He couldn't live knowing that there was someone out there who beat him. He knows it was egotistical and insane, but Diggle understands. Oliver asks what the favor Diggle wanted to ask, he wants Oliver to be his best man. He mentions that he wanted his brother to do it, but… Maseo comes in and tells Oliver it's time. That's twice in two weeks that we have gotten a reminder of Diggle's brother. Will we be getting resolution soon?
In flashback world, they are in a shootout. Oliver is with the boy, and Maseo orders him to take the boy to safety. Please don't let the boy die in Oliver's arms. Please don't let the boy die in Oliver's arms.
In Starling City, Roy is showing Thea how he deals with his guilt. He is watching the widow and son of the police officer that he killed. He gives them money, groceries, Christmas presents. They don't know it's him, but it helps with the guilt. Thea tells him it isn't the same thing. She let Merlyn into her life, let him teach her how to kill. Maybe she is a killer, she tried to have her own father murdered.
Ray wakes up in bed with Felicity when he has a brainstorm. He writes down an equation, then heads to the computer to get to work. The password Felicity gave him was "password". Cute, Felicity. He does his thing, then tries on the suit. The first glimpse within the show. It looks a little Judge Dredd like, I like it. He takes off, flying around the city.
Thea goes to see Nyssa and tells her that she killed Sara.She says that she promised Nyssa vengeance, and opens the cell and gives her a sword to take it. First of all, how did she just open the cell? She didn't unlock anything. Second of all, she's a friggin idiot. I mean, I'll cut her some slack for the guilt she is obviously feeling right now. But come on. Don't just try to get killed.
Ra's is about to kill Oliver, who asks that Diggle be spared. Instead of killing Oliver, Ra's tells Oliver that he has "shown tremendous strength, fortitude, power. No Mr. Queen, I don't want to kill you. I want you to take my place. I want you to become the next Ra's al Ghul." Ok, seriously unexpected, and really great, not just because it reminds me of Batman: The Animated Series. And anything that reminds me of TAS is good in my book.
This was an okay episode, with a pretty so-so first half followed by a great last ten minutes or so. I really like that Oliver's stupid motive wasn't really his stupid motive.The problem is, for most of the episode, that was what we thought was going on, which was frustrating.
I am getting seriously concerned that we are going to lose Diggle or Felicity at the end of the season. Here's the thing, Diggle isn't going out in the field much anymore. Instead, he is staying in the Arrowcave and helping to coordinate. At the same time, he is increasingly becoming Oliver's moral center. Sound familiar? You can't have two characters filling the same role. Add in Diggle's new family and impending nuptials, with Oliver as best man, and you have all the makings of a tragic finale.
On the other hand, we did get news this week of a new spinoff with Brandon Routh. (Side note…a superhero teamup with a billionaire in a superpowered flying suit of armor, a woman who is a former assassin and a brilliant scientist who becomes another person? Somehow, I think it can work. Besides, anything to give us more Caity Lotz.) And hey, who from the Arrowteam has been getting increasingly close to Ray Palmer? And who may have to choose between Ray and Oliver?
I hope I'm wrong, but I am starting to doubt that we will have both Diggle and Felicity next season.
Rich Epstein writes for Bleeding Cool. He can be found on twitter at @kaspe_r11.