In tonight’s opening scene, we get a glimpse of Ra’s al Ghul taking a dip in the presumed Lazarus Pit (more of a day at the spa, really) as his daughter questions him over the revelation that Oliver Queen still lives. Ra’s knows that Oliver never killed Sara, as he claimed, but the fact that he challenged the Demon’s Head and still breathes is an oversight that must be remedied.
Since we’re traveling around the world, why not take a brief trip back in time while we’re at it? Oliver is busy debriefing his military superiors, and when he’s finished, he returns to Japan with the Yamashiros, along with a ticket to anywhere he wants … supposedly. He offers to send the Queen family jet to bring the family to America, but the good mood is soon spoiled by the reveal of assassins all along the docks. Oliver covers the Yamashiros as they attempt to run to safety. Maseo and Tatsu get pinned down, so Oliver spirits their son away instead. And that’s about all we get from the flashback.
Hopping back to present-day Starling City, we drop in on the Arrow Cave. Rather than a brother-sister sparring match, or a father-daughter training bout, we get a brother-sister team-up against swordmaster Malcolm. He’s handling their double-team quite easily. They have a long way to go to be able to take on Ra’s al Ghul again, but time is short. Diggle is reinforcing the club’s defenses, while Thea is confiding in Roy, and vice versa. Though Oliver warned Thea not to reveal her true hand in Sara’s murder (especially to Laurel), she does just that. Laurel immediately forgives Thea for her sister’s murder, but doesn’t understand how she could continue to work with someone as twisted as Merlyn. Laurel then tests Oliver about the truth behind Sara’s murderer, catching him in his lie. She’s out to get Merlyn, but Oliver stands in her way, for the time being at least.
In an unwise move, Laurel/Canary tries to take on Merlyn alone, with only the help of a stick (and eventually a gun). Before we find out whether or not she’s got the stones to take Merlyn down for good, Nyssa and the League show up to kidnap Merlyn and take him back to Ra’s. Oliver finds out that Laurel interceded, and that Thea was the one who contacted the League to hand Malcolm over. Oliver has to convince the team to save Merlyn, thereby saving Thea’s soul from having the stain of facilitating her father’s murder.
Arrow races to stop the League from spiriting Merlyn away to his certain death, but Nyssa interferes. She puts up a good fight, long enough to stall Oliver and allow the rest of the assassins to escape with their query. Ollie imprisons Nyssa in order to find out the location of Nanda Parbat, and she’s willing to divulge since she knows he’ll find his death there. She might have a point. The rest of the team reminds him just how his last trip to visit Ra’s al Ghul panned out. Diggle questions Oliver’s motives: Is he really doing this for Thea, or is there something more?
Now in Ra’s al Ghul’s clutches, Merlyn tries to worm back into the leader’s good graces by becoming his soldier once more. Ra’s isn’t having it. Instead, he has Malcolm dragged away to who knows what horrors. Meanwhile, Oliver and Diggle storm the fortress of Nanda Parbat, taking out the advance team but narrowly missing one of the alerted soldiers. They fight their way through the fortress’ corridors, knocking out guards left and right. Oliver soon finds Merlyn in a torture chamber of sorts, where Malcolm whispers, “Trap.” An iron gates descends and Ra’s welcomes Oliver to Nanda Parbat. More on their poor choice of vacation spots in a moment.
Arrow’s away, so Canary will play. She and Nyssa share memories of Sara which are quite different in their context, but sweetly similar in their details, such as Sara’s laughter. Thea and Roy also deal with their grief in another way. Roy shows Thea that he’s been stalking/taking care of the family of the cop he killed. Thea doesn’t see the similarity in their behavior because she knew that Malcolm was a killer when she agreed to work with him. Thea returns to confess to Nyssa that she was really the one who killed Sara, and lets her out of her prison cell in order to offer the assassin her chance at vengeance. We’re left with this cliffhanger moment for the next few weeks…
While Team Arrow is struggling to get trained up and keep their wits, Ray Palmer is suffering through his own difficulties. Apparently he’s been working on his supersuit for at least the past week straight. Felicity intervenes with his best interests at heart, not only as his assistant in the company, but as a supporting scientist in his research. Palmer’s already too obsessed with his not-yet-functional creation to be dissuaded. Felicity goes over his head and cuts him off from the Palmer Technologies server, which gets his attention. Once Palmer cleans himself up (and walks around without a shirt on), he gets Felicity’s attention with a kiss (and much more, apparently). The momentary reprieve allows Palmer to get back to work with a renewed vigor, and we get out first look at the A.T.O.M. suit in action as he zooms across the Starling City skyline. Pretty heroic moment!
Now, from heroes to hostages: Diggle and Oliver get a few quiet moments to share their deepest fears, such as Oliver’s true motive. It seems that he keeps reliving his fall during his fight with Ra’s al Ghul, so this fight is not entirely about saving Thea. Diggle, after reminding us just how much he misses his brother, asks Oliver to be his best man. Ollie agrees, a nice moment between two men marked for death. Oliver is soon brought to his knees in front of Ra’s, and begs for Diggle’s life. Ra’s reveals that he doesn’t want to kill Oliver at all, but rather that he wants him to take his place.
Should Oliver Queen become the new Ra’s al Ghul? Not only will he command the deadly (and decidedly useful) League of Assassins to help clean up Starling City (and the rest of the world, while he’s at it), but he’ll gain access to the healing powers of the Lazarus Pit. He could certainly do a lot of good with this kind of power, and he could do a lot worse without it, but what’s the cost? It looks like we’ll find out when Arrow returns on March 18th. That being said, this hour was startlingly short on action and tension, and its plot points felt a bit muddled and confused. It might have something to do with the wonky scheduling that’s been plaguing The CW shows this season, so let’s hope it returns to finish strong.
Rating: ★★★ Good — Proceed with cautious optimism
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
Malcolm: “You’ve spent years training how to bring a bow and arrow to a sword fight.”
Diggle: “My friends call me Dig; you shouldn’t even speak to me.”
Laurel to Oliver: “You know, it’s hard to remember a time when I was actually in love with you.”
Nyssa: “Vengeance is justice!”
Diggle: “You can’t save Thea’s soul at the cost of your own.”
Felicity: “This whole situation has gone from endearingly eccentric to creepily not okay.”
I love the random check-ins on Diggle’s family.
Palmer: “I’m really into the Dutch masters this month for some reason.”