Arrow – Season 3 Episode 20
A very strange episode of Arrow that throws a lot of different concepts at the audience and definitely has a lot to keep up with.
Turns out I was 100% right about what Oliver’s next step would be. Of course I’d have had that spoiled if I watched trailers but I prefer to find out things when I watch the episodes. It enhances the experience for me. Anyway, after Ra’s Al Ghul’s attack on Thea it turns out she is still alive but barely. Oliver has a difficult choice to make. He can either leave her on live support which is arguably no life at all or he can let her go.
Stephen Amell plays the whole opening sequence perfectly. Oliver’s pain and distress as he watches his sister dying in front of his eyes is plainly evident and looks raw. Amell has always been good at showing vulnerability to Oliver when the occasion calls for it. The choice he is given is an impossible one for sure because either way he loses that last piece of his life as Oliver Queen.
Maseo gives him the third alternative he desperately needs by reminding him of the Lazarus Pit and how it can bring people back from the dead. All he has to do is accept the deal and become the new Ra’s Al Ghul. As I said last week this was going to be the only way that Oliver would even consider that deal since he never does anything for himself and only seeks to benefit others.
Naturally Team Arrow are very against this and really don’t want him to carry it out. Everything has consequences and there’s no telling what the consequences of becoming the new Ra’s Al Ghul will be.
Even Malcolm Merlin, a man tirelessly devoted to his daughter’s safety warns Oliver against this. The resurrection powers of the Lazarus Pit have a price. The person that comes back isn’t the same that died as it does something vague to the soul that makes them different. It’s generic poetic mystical crap but it puts the point across that doing this is dangerous and will probably change her for the worst. This is part of the reason I really wish the pit had been used on Oliver earlier in the season when he appeared to die. It would have been really cool to see him changed by such an experience and how that feeds into the rest of the season.
The end result of Thea’s resurrection is sadly very disappointing. Thea leaps out confused and starts attacking people and then she’s confused about her own life causing her to think that Moira is alive but by the end of the episode she seems to be back to her old self again. I hope that’s not the end of that because what a waste if so. John Barrowman plays the distress of seeing her back from the dead and waiting for the consequences to hit perfectly.
Felicity and Diggle are having real trouble accepting Oliver’s decision and Felicity takes charge of the situation. The scene where she threatens Ra’s Al Ghul with War before she’ll let Oliver go was pretty ballsy for her and I like how Ra’s Al Ghul practically laughed it off but did so with sentimentality. He relates the story about what caused him to take on the role now being offered to Oliver and there’s a certain emotional heaviness to the way he tells it. There’s a lot of regret in his voice and it’s clear that he’s had a very long time to think about it. Matt Nable definitely has the gravitas to pull off this complex role and he carries the world weariness well.
Having him urge Felicity to tell Oliver how she feels is a little on the nose but I can see what they were going for. Through his tenure as Ra’s Al Ghul he has learned what’s important in life and being with who you love is definitely one of those things. As far as he’s concerned he’s stuck in the role he’s chosen and knows Oliver is about to follow the same path so he sees it important that there are no unresolved issues tethering him to his old life. Of course Felicity declaring her love to him is only going to make life more complicated but the sentiment is genuine enough.
As for Felicity declaring her love to Oliver, it’s very over the top and the dialogue is a little sickening. It feels like a speech rather than something that would actually be said. I also have to question the fact that she literally just broke up with Ray and seemed to show no remorse over the end of that relationship. I’m not really a “shipper” one way or another but I think Ray deserved better than that. Felicity’s actions in this episode more or less prove that she didn’t really care about him. Poor guy.
Felicity’s plan the morning after involving knocking Oliver unconscious and carrying him out of there was a nice touch. She’s not willing to let him throw his life away like that when there’s something she can do about it and seeing her boss Malcolm around was really fun. Even more so that he pretty much happily listened to her.
It’s only a delay measure as Oliver points out that it’s something has has to do because Ra’s Al Ghul won’t leave them alone if he doesn’t stay. Again, he’s doing everything for them and nothing for himself. Having Oliver accept in this way makes perfect sense given his character but I do wonder where the show will go from here. Obviously we can’t have Oliver off somewhere else while his team crack on. They don’t even have Roy any more to take over the mantle of the Arrow so they’re sort of stuck really. Unless Malcolm takes on that role but I can’t see that happening, he’s just not the hero type.
Oliver’s goodbye to his friends is incredibly well written and resonates emotionally. In particular when he tells Diggle that he’s best man he’s ever known and is a brother as far as he’s concerned really gets me where I live. His farewell to Felicity was nicely appropriate as well. It really felt like the end of something.
Oliver’s acceptance into the League of Assassin’s and his renaming to “Al Sah-him” which basically means “The Arrow”. I like how this name seems to define him as one of the major themes this season has been Oliver’s loss of identity. Slowly but surely Oliver Queen has been chipped away until there’s really nothing left but this seems to solidify the fact that the Arrow is all that is left of him and his acceptance of the deal could represent his acceptance of this being who he is now. I’m sure him leading the League of Assassins won’t be that simple because if it was then why doesn’t he just get them all doing some sort of charity work and put their talents to good use?
I thought that Maseo was used really well in this episode. He’s mostly been sitting on the sidelines following orders but feels a sense of loyalty to Oliver in some ways as shown when he helped nurse him back to health. The flashbacks are showing us where that connection comes from but they are taking too long to get there. At least there was some cool action in those scenes this week to make up for the more sedate atmosphere in the present day.
One of the strongest scenes in the episode was when Diggle talked to Maseo about the choices he had made. Diggle’s perspective on League of Assassins members being cowards who were running from their lives and hiding behind a new name so they don’t have to face their past. This angers Maseo who tells Diggle that his son died and that’s what led him here. It’s as I suspected and seems to be where the flashbacks are going so that makes sense. I love how Diggle asked what Maseo’s son’s name was just so that he could throw it in his face and make him think about how his son would see him if her were alive.
This causes Maseo to reconsider things and he tries to help them escape. When that’s over and he has to face punishment from Ra’s Al Ghul for what he’s done I was actually surprised at how that played out. Ra’s Al Ghul has been seen to be totally uncompromising before but sparing Maseo because he had a lapse and his old life took hold for a time is an interesting development. Perhaps it is due to his talk with Felicity dredging up memories of those he loved in the past. He can see Maseo’s point of view and sort of relate to it.
A very strange yet somewhat compelling episode that seems to change the fundamental dynamics within the show in some really profound ways.
Oliver taking Thea to Nanda Parbat to save her and therefore accepting Ra’s Al Ghul’s offer makes a lot of sense given that he has been singularly focused on keeping those close to him safe by any means necessary so this is merely another extension of that.
Thea’s resurrection proved to be somewhat disappointing in the end as it doesn’t seem to have all that profound an effect on her beyond some initial disorientation. It’s a shame as Malcolm built it up to be a really significant deal and made Oliver aware that the person who comes back isn’t the same as the one who died. Maybe it’ll play out in the coming episodes but it’s somewhat disappointing so far.
Felicity is a mixed bag in this episode. While I appreciated how ballsy she was when she threatened Ra’s Al Ghul with War to save Oliver I was a little annoyed at how little she appears to care about Ray. They had just broken up and she moves onto declaring her love for Oliver without so much as a second thought. She doesn’t come across in the best light in this case. The scene where she declared her love for Oliver was awkward as well because it doesn’t feel like the way people really talk.
Ra’s Al Ghul proved interesting here as he told a morbid story about what he had lost in his life through accepting the role he currently has. It’s clear that revisiting this dredges up some painful memories for him and causes him to show compassion when Maseo betrays him later in the episode. He can understand how leaving everything behind can be painful so lets him off just this once.
Maseo was handled really well here with a dressing down from Diggle who calls him -and the rest of the League of Assassins- a coward who runs away from his life rather than dealing with the problems that he would face. He even learns the name of his son just to throw it back into his face.
Oliver’s acceptance of the deal creates some interesting possibilities and his acceptance of the loss of the Oliver Queen part of his identity to fully become the Arrow ties into the theme of identity that has been developed all through the season. I look forward to seeing what changes this brings to the show.