On the D/L – Arrow
Season 3 Episode 15 – “Nanda Parbat”
Arrow goes back to Nanda Parbat and prepares for another hiatus as Oliver prepares to challenge Ra’s Al Ghul for a second time.
The majority of the episode was character focused with all of the current characters given some really strong material to play with. Of course Oliver’s journey is given the focus as he makes some tough personal decisions. Ra’s Al Ghul has Malcolm Merlyn captures after he decides to make Malcolm pay for Sara’s death therefore absolving Oliver and Thea of any wrongdoing as far as he’s concerned.
It’s a decision that solves pretty much everyone’s problems as the League of Assassin’s will no longer attack Starling City or Oliver and it gets Malcolm out of their hair to boot but that’s not really good enough for Oliver who feels bound by a sense of duty to protect Malcolm because of the promise he made to do so. That and not wanting to let Thea consciously condemn her biological father to death. It’s a noble sentiment not wanting that level of guilt to destroy her sister and a very Oliver decision to make. Nearly everything he does is to the benefit of others so it makes sense that he would want to risk being killed -again- to make sure his sister never has to live with anything that she will undoubtedly regret.
I was less willing to accept that he was also doing this out of a misguided sense of pride. Oliver’s not the kind of guy to let his ego over losing a fight to someone better skilled make him feel revenge driven so something about this reveal felt a little insincere. Diggle should know him better than that too.
Speaking of Diggle there was some good stuff with him this week as well. Last time Oliver went to Nanda Parbat he didn’t let Diggle come with him but this time it wasn’t acceptable. Diggle didn’t give Oliver a choice this time and wouldn’t let him go on his crazy mission without backup. It’s something we see a lot but it’s great to have their strong bond of friendship continually reinforced by stuff like that. It also fed into the scene they shared together where they faced certain death but Diggle still had enough faith in their survival to ask Oliver to be his best man. It was a touching moment that shows how genuine their friendship is.
Thea went through a really interesting character arc this episode. She’s had a lot to accept over the past few episodes from Oliver’s secret to the knowledge that Malcolm used her to kill Sara and it’s clearly taking a toll on her in some really significant ways. Her decision to contact the League of Assassin’s and turn Malcolm into them makes sense given how full of rage she is currently. Thea has always been someone ruled by her emotions but eventually comes to rationalise things so this is perfectly in character for her. I’m not sure she’s ready for that level of guilt though so it’s probably a good thing that Oliver set out to put things right.
She is dealing with a lot of guilt already over being the cause of Sara’s death. She doesn’t actually remember it and wasn’t in control of her actions but that’s still blood on her hands and it has psychological consequences. Knowing this about herself is pushing her to breaking point so it’s no surprise that she feels that Laurel has the right to know. In some ways Thea seems like she has a death wish and really wants someone to put her out of her misery. She might not really feel like that but for now it’s what she thinks she deserves.
The scene where she told Laurel was great and I liked that Laurel’s reaction was not to blame her but to turn her attention to the one truly responsible for it. It really shows how far Laurel has come in the grieving process as a few episodes ago she was ready to exact revenge on whoever she felt was guilty. It’s interesting how knowing the truth seems to have freed Laurel from much of her anger and she is now fixated on what she misses about Sara. First she talks to Oliver about her smile and later a discussion with Nyssa is about her laugh. It’s little touches like that we notice about people subconsciously and seem insignificant but become the most significant when you’ll never see them again.
I also liked that Laurel gave Oliver the opportunity to tell the truth about what happened to Sara and how upset she got when he chose not to take it. Oliver has his reasons however misguided they might seem but I can understand why he felt that he needed to conceal it from her. Again, everything is about protecting Thea for him at this point. Laurel calling him out on his lies is fantastically done as Katie Cassidy plays it with a nice level of disgust. Laurel genuinely can’t believe that she ever loved Oliver and appears to be losing all respect for him at an alarming rate.
When Laurel decided to take on Malcolm it nicely illustrates how far she has still to go in her journey towards being Black Canary. As in previous episodes she was pretty well outclassed by her opponent and really didn’t stand a chance. The only reason that she didn’t die was because Malcolm wasn’t looking to kill someone so close to Oliver. I am enjoying the slow development and it’ll be interesting to see the growth in that.
I mentioned above that Laurel spoke to Nyssa about Sara’s laugh and how they bonded over how much they miss Sara albeit on different levels. Laurel misses a sister and Nyssa misses a lover but ultimately it’s the same pain that they’re both experiencing and the sense of loss unites them on a very basic level. Nyssa and Laurel have a very genuine connection and I wonder if Nyssa will end up training Laurel. I think that would be an interesting place to take it.
A lot has been said by me about how little Roy has been utilised this season and how disappointing this was but this episode gave him some great material. Roy and Thea are dealing with similar pain in that they were both responsible for the death of a human being when they had no control over it. This is something that has been eating away at Roy but I was fascinated to find out how he’s dealing with it. He has been quietly supporting the dead cop’s wife and son with money and even toys for the kid. They have no idea he’s doing this but it makes him feel better and lets him work through his issues. This was an important revelation as it gives Roy some of the depth he has been sorely lacking this season as well as the common ground doing some work towards repairing the bond he used to share with Thea.
I really liked that this episode was very much about getting everything that people were being dishonest about out in the open. The number of secrets and keeping track of who is lying to who about what was getting a little tiresome so it’s good to have it all out in the open to let things move on. If it had dragged on for much longer it might have seemd repetitive but I liked that the show was brave enough to let the characters do this and clear the air for the rest of the season.
On the subject of secrets it seems like the only 2 regular characters who don’t know Oliver’s identity are Quentin Lance and Ray Palmer (I suppose Diggle’s daughter counts there too but she’s been around and has seen everything so even she probably knows). A line from Ray Palmer suggests that he might have worked it out and considering how quickly Quentin sussed Roy’s secret I’m guessing he’s choosing not to connect the dots where Oliver’s concerned.
Assuming for a moment that neither of those characters know the truth when everyone else does it has changed the show for the better. I’m old fashioned when it comes to my superheroes and I really like the secret identity story right down to the ridiculous excuses and the issues that come with absent boyfriends, friends or whatever who live a secret life as a masked hero but here it’s proving to work really well.
In the case of Laurel and Thea it allows them to develop in some really satisfying ways and gives them opportunities that weren’t open to them when they didn’t know the truth. Thea is allowed to become a strong and tortured character who has really been forced to grow up and Laurel has become a damaged individual who feels an obligation to help others.
When the show started Oliver’s crusade was a solo one until Diggle and later Felicity were brought into the fold to make a functioning team who were essential to help Oliver in his mission. Since then the team has grown in various ways and the mission is no longer exclusive to Oliver. Everyone around him has a personal stake in it and feels a sense of belonging to their city as well as a desire to protect it.
This shifting dynamic has proven to be a fascinating thing for this show as Oliver is slowly losing his grip as a leader due to his constant desire to protect those around him by lying to them. It’s almost as if lying is something he does without thinking and certainly suggests a lack of awareness of the consequences of lying to those he claims to trust. For others it feels like a one way street and he’s starting to lose the respect of those he leads. The only person who still seems to respect him is Diggle but even he is arguing with him a lot more.
Having everyone -pretty much- in on the secret means that a given episode can have Oliver pair with the character that has the emotional angle necessary for that type of problem. In this case he needed someone who was all business so Diggle was the obvious choice. Next time he might need someone to challenge his assumptions so Felicity will be able to fulfill that role. The possibilities are fairly endless now and that will make for some fascinating storytelling.
Anyway, that was a significant digression. I really liked Oliver and Diggle’s attack on Nanda Parbat where they took on several members of the League of Assassin’s in an impressive display of teamwork. It makes sense that they would wind up in prison but they had a good run at their attack.
This brings us to the ending here Ra’s Al Ghul dropped a bombshell to Oliver by offering him the keys to the kingdom and succeed him as the next Ra’s Al Ghul. I’m not sure what I think of this cliffhanger as it entirely depends what they do with it but I’d actually like Oliver to accept. I wonder what the show would be like if he had those sorts of resources at his disposal as well as the conflict it will undoubtedly create with Nyssa who was next in line. I can’t imagine she’ll be happy with Oliver getting what is essentially her birthright. The possibilities here are numerous and I hope they capitalise on it.
I haven’t talked about the flashbacks but I thought they were really strong as well. It all seems perfect for Oliver in the past getting to go home but the apparent attack on him by A.R.G.U.S creates complications there. I suspect the military have more plans for him and perhaps Amanda Waller won’t be the one forcing him to do missions in the next season. What was going on here paled in comparison to the rest of the episode so I have less to say about it.
Lastly there was some development on Ray Palmer’s story with most of Felicity’s time being spent here. Ray has been working flat out to make his ATOM suit operational at the expense of personal hygiene and sleep which causes Felicity to be concerned. There’s nothing she can do about Oliver wanting to go into a situation that risks death but she can still convince Ray at least. This subplot was pretty good but didn’t quite match what was going on elsewhere. Felicity’s inspiration came from Oliver deciding to take Ra’s Al Ghul on again but she could be annoyed by his risk taking any week. It felt a bit at odds with the tone of the rest of the episode but it was still good. Plus we finally get to see Ray try out his new toy which seems a bit like Iron Man for now but there’s more work to be done.
Also, many watching will want this mentioned so I’ll address the elephant in the room. Ray and Felicity sleeping together made sense as far as I’m concerned. Both of them are trying to get over their feelings for another so they can move on with their lives so latching onto each other makes sense for them. Whether it’ll be any more than a fling remains to be seen but for now it’s what they both needed. It helps that they have amazing chemistry together as well.
A fantastic episode that moves the plot forward for all of the characters in some really interesting ways.
Having much of the episode focus on all of the lies and secrets being out in the open was a clever idea and really let some long standing plot threads be put to rest at last. Having Oliver be called on on his compulsive need to lie to those around him by Laurel was a great moment both for her and gives Ollie something of a wake up call should he choose to take advantage of it.
Laurel’s grief over Sara’s death is treated differently here with her having moved to the stage of missing lots of the little things she will never experience again. This leads to a really genuine moment of understanding between her and Nyssa that is sure to develop into something interesting as time goes on.
Thea and Roy are also done really well here as they have something of a shared pain that is born of a similar situation. Roy shows her how he has chosen to deal with it but Thea is still at the anger stage so does things that she might later regret.
I like that Thea informed Oliver’s decision to rescue Malcolm despite the fact that Ra’s Al Ghul targeting him solves pretty much all of their problems. He can’t let his sister live with that kind of guilt because he knows it’ll destroy her so it’s nicely in keeping with Oliver’s characterisation as he does everything for the benefit of others.
We finally get to see Ray in the ATOM suit which is awesome and it’s interesting to see Felicity get together with him as it suggests an attempt for both of them to move on with their lives and sort out their feelings that are lingering.
It was all about progress this week and that’s great plus that ending is sure to give birth to some fantastic story potential. It’s going to be a long hiatus.