Warning: This contains spoilers.
With the season-long Damien Darhk plot still on hold, Arrow scrambles around for some other storylines this week and decides to bring back a few old friends. For the most part, this is largely successful, although two of the four returning characters get relatively short shrift.
First and foremost, Roy Harper is back (for a week, anyway), busting out his awesome parkour skills in an enjoyably action-packed introduction that ends with the reveal of his face. His presence in Star City is down to him being manipulated by the Villain of the Week, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Aside from it being a treat to see him back in the old red leathers (and doing cool stuff like zip-lining away from an explosion), Roy’s reappearance serves two key plot purposes: first, he forces Oliver to allow him to take responsibility for his own sacrifice (thereby establishing the theme of this episode); and second, he gets some much-needed closure with a possibly-dying Thea, whose refusal to slake her continuing bloodlust leads to her passing out and ending up in hospital. Roy still has to leave at the end of the episode, but not before he and Thea share a touching moment where they reaffirm their love for one another and speculate on the life they might have had together if things had been different. Awwww. Roy, you old softie!
Also back for the returning guest star bonanza is Nyssa, who stages a thrilling jail break in Nanda Parbat with the aid of a cool-looking, previously unseen sidekick and heads off to find an elixir called Lotus, which is capable of restoring humanity after a dip in the Lazarus Pit, or something. In doing so, she encounters the third of this week’s returning guest stars, Tatsu, who’s tasked with guarding the Lotus solution in full Katana costume. There’s an exciting fight between Tatsu and Nyssa and you worry that Tatsu isn’t going to make it out of the episode alive, before Nyssa takes the decidedly level-headed step of suggesting they put down their weapons and have a bit of a chat instead.
Ultimately, Nyssa’s goal is to get Oliver to kill Malcolm Merlyn (not sure why she can’t do it herself – probably something to do with League of Assassin protocol) in exchange for the Lotus elixir that will cure Thea’s bloodlust issues. Nyssa making that proposition is basically the episode’s cliff-hanger ending, so we’ll have to wait until next week to find out if Oliver takes her up on it or not. Place your bets now, etc. I’ve never been too fond of Nyssa as a character in the past, largely because Katrina Law was always rather cold and stiff in the part, but she’s relaxed into it quite a bit now and this is possibly Nyssa’s best episode to date.
As for Oliver, he doesn’t get much of a story this week, beyond torturing himself with responsibility for both Thea and Felicity and belatedly reaching the conclusion (partly thanks to Roy) that he needs to let go and allow others to make their own life choices. Oh, and Mrs Darhk (aka Darhk Wife) announces her candidacy for Mayor, so that should make things a bit more interesting in the campaign scenes.
The main plot this week revolves around The Calculator, the afore-mentioned Villain of the Week and a major cyber-criminal aiming to bring down all of Star City with a “web nuke”. So dastardly is The Calculator that he’s even blackmailed poor old Roy into helping him steal things, which is how Oliver came to be chasing Roy in the first place. Naturally, the only Team Arrow member who’s really capable of playing The Calculator at his own game is Felicity and there’s some enjoyable back-and-forth between them, as they hack into each other’s computers and so on, but the real point of The Calculator’s appearance is that he turns out to be – gasp! – Felicity’s father, a character the show has been teasing for a while now. Admittedly, the clues were all there (they’re very alike, as his comment about the internet and cat videos indicates), but I confess I didn’t see it coming. Still, it’s an intriguing development that promises yet more solo stuff for Felicity and that can only be a good thing. (Speaking of which, it’s good to see Curtis back again this week, however briefly. More Curtis please, Arrow).
Meanwhile, on Flashback Island, the last of this week’s returning guest stars shows up, with a hallucinatory version of Shado making an appearance to force Oliver to embrace his darker side, or something. All this really leads to this week is Oliver finally confessing to, um, the woman he’s been trying to save (and whose brother he killed) that he killed her brother because reasons.
The flashbacks have become an increasingly problematic element for the show at this point, only rarely commenting on what’s going on in the present day and hardly ever yielding anything worthwhile. As nice as it is to see Celina Jade again, this episode is no exception. One of the main problems is that the flashbacks can only end at the beginning of Season 1, where Oliver was a much darker, meaner, more ruthless character, so it’s not a journey we’re particularly invested in, given where he is now and how far he’s come over the past four seasons. Hopefully, the fifth season will address the fifth and final year of Oliver being away from Star City and then the flashbacks will be over. Either that or they can have a bit more fun with them, as in the Diggle Brothers flashbacks last week.
Still, the whole episode ends on a very promising cliff-hanger. Is Malcolm Merlyn’s tenure as Ra’s al-Ghul coming to an end? Tune in next week to find out!
Arrow: Season 4 is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.