Arrow – Season 3 Episode 22
“This Is Your Sword”
Team Arrow continue to struggle on knowing that the Oliver Queen they knew and trusted has been forever lost as they try to stop the destruction of Starling City.
What were the Arrow writers thinking by showing us that Oliver’s Al Sah-Him persona was a trick to get close to the League of Assassins? The early reveal robbed the episode of any real tension and made all of the shocking moments completely toothless.
If this entire episode had played out pretty much as it did without showing the audience what Oliver was really up to then it would have been a really tense experience to watch. One thing the last episode did really well was showing Oliver Queen completely under the control of Ra’s Al Ghul and made it believable that his old self had been completely stripped away. Even the moment of hesitation when Thea attacked him suggested that there was one small piece of humanity within him struggling to get out. There was subtlety and nuance to it that was completely undone this week.
I do like the idea that he’s putting on an act to get closer to Ra’s Al Ghul and bring the whole League of Assassins crashing down around him but didn’t need it to be spelled out so soon. Having him work with Malcolm Merlyn on this plan while keeping his friends shut out is all good as well but it didn’t need to be explicitly stated at this point. Another episode with evil Oliver would have worked really well.
Team Arrow have all but given up on Oliver at this point with the exception of Felicity who still believes he can be saved but the personification of the apparent betrayal comes from Diggle who refuses to forgive Oliver for putting his wife and child in danger. I can see Oliver’s point that he had to make the whole thing believable but as far as Diggle is concerned he has crossed a line. Their friendship has been forever altered by what Oliver has done and I hope that plays out in some significant way next season.
Using Malcolm as the catalyst to get Team Arrow into action is a good idea because it creates the necessary conflict right away. Everyone on the team hates him so the default position is to assume that he is lying to them. It’s a fair position to adopt but in this case he appears to be sincere. He lets them in on Oliver’s plan and tasks them with stopping the virus from being deployed. Regardless of how they feel about him this is something that cannot be allowed to happen and that belief unites them in their mission to stop it.
Bringing in Tatsu was both effective and confusing. Given the way the flashbacks have been building featuring Maseo and Tatsu’s relationship the present would need a resolution to that as well in order to have it make dramatic sense. Oliver’s request to bring her in so that Team Arrow would trust her rather than him doesn’t make any sense. As Felicity points out they don’t know her so why would they trust her?
This did lead us to a really cool desert action sequence where Team Arrow take on the League of Assassins. It looked great and the desert location was refreshing visually but the League didn’t really seem all that threatening. Even Laurel was kicking their ass and her skills have only slightly improved since she started this whole thing. It’s the whole Stormtrooper problem. The League ninjas seemed pretty useless as they just lined up to be impaled with arrows or stabbed. Still, a cool sequence is a cool sequence and everyone got a moment to shine. I loved Felicity throwing her tablet like a ninja star that seemed to take out her opponent before revealing that Malcolm shot him with an arrow. It was a hilarious moment and handled really well.
I absolutely loved the Atom vs. fighter jet aerial battle. It’s been a strong week for effects work on both The Flash and Arrow as this sequence seemed entirely convincing. It’s always good to see Ray Palmer interact with the rest of the cast as well especially since he’s soon to leave for his own spinoff show. I’m not sure I buy the fact that he’s signing over his company to Felicity. I hope this is explained because it just made me think “wait, what?”.
I got a massive kick out of seeing Tatsu in full Katana costume and her fight with Maseo was nicely done. It brought Maseo’s arc to a tragic yet fitting conclusion. He doesn’t regret his death and is happy that he’s finally free. Tatsu singing to him as he died like she did with Akio in the past was a decent bit of symmetry.
The early revelation of Akio’s death is a bit of a double edged sword as it lent itself to a great moment where Diggle called Maseo out on how much of a coward he was two episodes ago but also made seeing it lack the necessary impact. It was still handled well but the inevitability of it robbed the whole thing of a sense of shock. It didn’t help that the episode played it as if he might be saved at the last second when the audience knew that it was futile the whole time.
That’s sort of a description of this episode as a whole. We know that any evil act that Oliver performs won’t actually be what it seems because we know that he hasn’t actually succumbed to Ra’s Al Ghul. This makes the cliffhanger a really laughable waste of time. Not for a second did I believe that Oliver has left Team Arrow in a room with an incurable virus to let it slowly kill them as he marries Nyssa and ascends to the position of Ra’s Al Ghul. If we had been left in the dark about Oliver’s true plan then it would have been a solid cliffhanger. Malcolm’s apparent betrayal of Oliver’s plan to Ra’s Al Ghul could even have been left in and leave the audience thinking he was up to his old tricks. So many possibilities completely thrown out of the window. The show has lost so much momentum that can never be regained in the finale next week. I can’t see them pulling off as satisfying a conclusion as the season 2 ending.
It all reminded me of the closing arc to Angel season 5 where Angel pretended to have been corrupted into a taste of real power so that he could get close to a similar organisation and bring them down. In Angel it was done far better with his team and the audience being in the dark until the exact second they needed to be in on the plan. I suspect that was the inspiration here but it didn’t really work.
I was equally disappointed with Nyssa who always seemed like a dynamic and independent character with her own sense of agency. She is all but robbed of it here when she sits around Nanda Parbat and complains about the situation without trying to do anything about it. I really can’t believe that she wouldn’t try to escape or at least kick some ninja ass to make it more difficult for her father in some way.
Ra’s Al Ghul really confused me here. I don’t understand his motivations at all. He seems to move between the title being a curse and a blessing. He has said before that the possibilities are endless but now it comes with all of these limitations. Oliver must do certain things to ascend and once he has then he has to have a child with Nyssa to continue the bloodline of Ra’s Al Ghul. I don’t get it at all. I understand that the title should come with lots of key sacrifices but there should be a benefit to it as well. It just doesn’t seem like the sacrifices are going to be worth it at this point. The writers are definitely relying on the “mysterious guy is mysterious” crutch in order to come up with new scenarios to up the stakes.
Thea had a really good plot this week as she reunited with Roy who gets a much better exit than he got a few episodes back. At the very least these characters should have been allowed a proper goodbye and they certainly got that here. Roy seems at ease with himself and the fresh start seems to agree with him. His letter was very affecting and passing on the costume to Thea was a nice piece of symbolism. I’m going to miss Roy but he definitely got the exit he deserved here.
An episode full of missed opportunities starting with the early reveal that Oliver was actually pretending to have been corrupted by Ra’s Al Ghul this whole time.
Revealing this so early on robbed the episode of any dramatic tension pretty much right away. Since it removed the possibility that Oliver could do anything to hurt his team it makes the cliffhanger where he leaves them to die of the virus completely bereft of any weight. It’s so frustrating that one thing derails the episode so heavily as if the secret had simply been kept then all of the shocks would have worked. I feel that the story has been robbed of too much momentum to end in a satisfying way.
At least it’s had a profound consequence for Diggle and Oliver’s friendship. Diggle is not up for forgiving him for putting his wife and child in danger. It’s easy to see why he feels that way and that Oliver has crossed a line that he should never have crossed. Hopefully this will play out in the next season.
Using Malcolm to get Team Arrow in on the plan was a good idea as it immediately creates conflict since nobody on the team trusts him but they are on board because of their mission to protect Starling City. Tatsu’s inclusion as someone they can trust doesn’t really make any sense as they have no reason to trust her but it helps give a dramatic conclusion to her relationship with Maseo.
The Team Arrow vs. the League of Assassins action sequence in the desert was awesome. Visually it looked refreshing from the dark city based stuff and I was really impressed by Ray’s aerial battle with a fighter jet. It also allows Maseo’s arc to come to a close in a satisfying way.
Ra’s Al Ghul as a villain makes less sense as time goes on. He seems to pull new rules and challenges out of thin air simply because he’s a mysterious guy. There’s no real visible motivation behind anything he does and it just makes it all a bit of a jumbled mess.
Thea’s reunion with Roy and giving him a chance to properly say goodbye to her as well as the audience was great. These characters have always been a joy to watch together and they deserved to have this goodbye. Having him pass on the mantle of Arsenal or Speedy or whatever she might be called is sure to be interesting.