Darth Oliver? Really? That’s what we’re calling him? Well, okay then.
After last week’s cliff-hanger of Oliver in full Heir To The Demon get-up, this episode doesn’t mess around. We get an opening montage of Oliver training and apparently being locked up for some reason and then they wheel out Diggle and ask Oliver to kill him, which – gasp! – Oliver does. Except it isn’t Diggle, it’s some random minion that Oliver only thought was Diggle because of the brain-washing drugs Ra’s has secretly been giving him. Either way, Oliver’s facial reactions give nothing away, which pretty much sets up the tense core of this episode: just how much of Oliver’s soul has he really lost?
Ra’s main task for Oliver this episode is to hunt down Nyssa and either kill her or bring her back to Nanda Parbat. Before he gives Oliver this mission, Ra’s lays out an intriguing bit of backstory that’s meant to illustrate why you should always kill your rival when you have a chance, but has the side effect not just of setting up a potential villain for Season Four, but also sort of pre-establishing him, as Ra’s reveals that his former rival Damian Dark (who stole some Lazarus Pit water, so he’s obviously still alive) has been behind various crimes in previous episodes. Place your bets as to who’s going to be playing Damian Dark now. Personally, we’re hoping it’s Alan “Evil In Everything” Dale. Also, what are the odds that he’ll turn out to be Felicity’s father?
Back in Starling City, Laurel’s training with Nyssa apparently involves field work, whereby Laurel gets her ass kicked by a random mugger and then Nyssa gives her notes afterwards over milkshakes. We’ve not been a fan of Nyssa as a character or of Katrina Law’s acting in the past, but it’s nice to see her soften in Laurel’s company and bond over dipping fries in milkshakes (“And so the student becomes the master”). That is, until Laurel ruins it by informing Nyssa that Oliver is now Ra’s-in-training, which understandably upsets her.
As for the rest of Team Arrow, Felicity and Thea have apparently taken to having mopey dinners at Diggle’s house with him and Lyla. Thankfully, despite all the warnings from Malcolm last week, Thea seems fine with the whole resurrection thing and doesn’t appear to be suffering from any after-effects. The show doesn’t even hint at such a thing, so maybe she’s in the clear? At any rate, the upshot is that they’re all sad about Oliver, but they’re beginning to accept the situation. Diggle makes a toast that he learned in the military: “Gone, but never forgotten.” Pretty sure that’s not just a military thing, Diggle, but you’re in pain, so we’ll let that slide.
Nyssa, of course, realises that if Oliver’s the new Demon’s Head, then her life is in serious danger, so she tells Laurel, who brings her to the rest of Team Arrow. They’re a little bit conflicted about it, but they agree to help her, despite Nyssa’s protests. (We particularly like the bit where Nyssa leaves and Laurel says “It’s okay – I put a tracking device on her”, which earns her an incredulous look from Felicity, to which Laurel replies “This is not my first day”.)
This is actually a pretty great episode for Laurel / Katie Cassidy. She gets lots to do and now that her fighting skills have improved, she’s emerging as a credible leadership voice within Team Arrow. We even get to see her bust out the new, improved Canary Cry that Cisco tricked out in a recent episode of The Flash, as she uses it to stop Oliver killing Nyssa when they fight on the rooftop where Sara died.
This is also a great episode for Thea. She’s at something of a loose end, what with recently coming back from the dead and losing both her brother and her boyfriend, so she comes to Felicity to see if she can officially join Team Arrow in some sort of vigilante capacity, pointing out that it runs in the family and she has a particular set of skills. Felicity lets her down gently, reminding her that Oliver sacrificed himself so that she could live her own life. One important piece of information comes from this exchange, namely that the Arrow Cave is now located on a floor of Ray Palmer Industries, although it’s not that hard to find, because Thea just wanders in when Felicity leaves the door open. (“How did you get in here?” “My Dad’s a supervillain and you left your doors unlocked.”)
Seeing Oliver about to plunge a sword into Nyssa brings home to everyone just how much Oliver has changed. As Felicity says, stating the episode’s theme: “We thought he was just giving up his life, but he gave up his soul.” Although, as Malcolm points out to Thea (and props to John Barrowman for his superb line delivery), “Well, what did you think he would be doing in the League of Assassins?” He kind of has a point.
Oliver quickly demonstrates just how little of his former life remains by kidnapping Lyla and leaving poor baby Sara all alone in Diggle Towers. Diggle is understandably incensed, but they realise they have no choice but to hand Nyssa over to the League. Leave it to Team Arrow to have one more trick up their sleeve though and, sure enough, they bust out some guns during the handover, thanks to banking on Felicity being able to persuade Oliver and Maseo not to search her.
This leads to a pretty great fight between Team Arrow, Oliver, Maseo and a boatload of ninjas, during which Nyssa is captured (because her concern for Laurel distracts her) and Oliver nearly plunges a sword into the real Diggle, just as he did in the opening fake-out. Fortunately, he’s saved at the last moment by Thea, who, never being one to listen to orders, has kitted herself out in an archer’s outfit courtesy of Malcolm and makes it clear that she’ll happily put an arrow through Oliver’s eye if he doesn’t let Diggle go. Given that in the comics Oliver had a sidekick named Speedy and that Speedy is Thea’s nickname, I think we can officially count this as the superhero debut of Speedy. Hurrah for Speedy!
At any rate, Thea now gets to hang out in the Arrow Cave with the rest of them, while they lament the loss of both Nyssa and Oliver’s soul and wonder what to do next. Later, Felicity goes to see Thea (in a neat reversal of the earlier scene, right down to the unlocked front door) and it turns out that, despite the fact that it’s been several weeks, NO-ONE TOLD THEA THAT ROY WAS STILL ALIVE. That’s cold, Team Arrow. Real cold. Still, Felicity gives Thea Roy’s address, which means we’ll get to see Roy (Roy!) next week.
Happily, the show still has not one, but two excellent cliff-hanger cards to play. When Oliver brings Nyssa to Ra’s, he orders him to kill her, but in an echo of the moment last week when he spared Maseo, Ra’s stays Oliver’s hand just as he’s about to do the sword-plunging, saying he’s already proved himself. That’s in direct contradiction to what he told him at the top of the episode about not letting your rivals live, but never mind. Anyway, Ra’s has a better idea and he announces that Oliver and Nyssa will be married, uniting their bloodlines and solving all their problems. Brilliant. Who doesn’t love a forced wedding? We know we do. Either way, the shot of Oliver’s non-reacting face and Nyssa’s look of horror is priceless.
That’s not enough for Ra’s, though, as he takes Oliver aside once more and explains that in order to truly kill off the past, he has to take out his entire city, so here’s a vial of the virus from the flashbacks that he wants him to unleash on Starling City next week. D’oh!
Part of the fun of this episode lies in waiting for some hint in Oliver’s voice or facial reactions that Oliver Queen is still in there, that he’s somehow just biding his time and faking it (perhaps after coaching from Malcolm) until the moment comes when he can execute some sort of plan. The closest we get to that hint is Oliver acceding to Felicity’s request not to be searched, but it’s an ambiguous moment at best. We guess we’ll have to wait till next week, what with his beloved Starling City under threat and all.
No Ray or Detective Captain Lance this week, which is probably just as well, as their sub-plots would have slowed down what was an enjoyably pacey episode.
Meanwhile in Flashback City, Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu try to escape the virus-infected city and – horror of horrors – the cliff-hanger is that Akio has indeed been affected.
All in all, this was an emotionally tense episode with exciting action sequences and great character moments for pretty much everyone, leaving us in a gripping position for the final two episodes of the season.
Season 1, 2 and 3 of Arrow are available on Amazon Prime, as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription – or, for free next day UK delivery on Amazon items, as part of a £79 annual Prime membership.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.