If you forgot that Ra’s al Ghul offered Oliver Queen his very title as the Demon’s Head on the last episode, tonight’s hour quickly reminds you of this hour’s promised offer. Ra’s soon shows Oliver what it means to be part of the League, and the responsibility and power that come with leading it. He also walks him through what his life will be like if he continues down the vigilante path, to eventually lose his friends, be betrayed by those who manage to survive, and to end up dying alone. Food for thought, Ollie. More importantly for fans, we get our first look at the famed Lazarus Pit! It seems that the magical waters are losing their effect on Ra’s al Ghul, who sees that Oliver’s will was strong enough to defy death, so surely he’ll benefit most from the healing waters.
Tonight’s episode takes the opportunity to slow down and engage in a philosophical debate between Ra’s al Ghul and Oliver Queen. It’s a great sequence to start the show, so let’s hope that the decision to pursue either the honorable path or the powerful one is one that occupies Ollie’s thoughts (and Arrow’s plot) for at least a little bit longer. (This show’s normally so fast-paced that I’m loving this relative slow-down. It’s something that can certainly be done more often to really drive home these character moments.)
Meanwhile, Thea is practically begging Nyssa to kill her as payback for Sara’s death. Nyssa refuses, saying the blood debt will end with Malcolm’s demise. Before Thea can press the issue, the rest of Team Arrow attacks the skilled assassin and barely manages to take her down. Soon, the team is reunited with Malcolm, Diggle, and Oliver, who opted to walk out on Ra’s al Ghul instead of taking him up on his incredibly enticing offer. They need something to take their minds off of the recent chaos; a good old-fashioned robbery should do the trick, right?
Some heavily armed thugs are inquiring of some less-heavily armed thugs about a supposed “katoka shipment” for their boss. One of the gun-wielding crooks is a creepy-looking fellow with his lips sewn shut. While they’re busy hauling in the loot (crates of what appear to be diamonds), Arsenal, Arrow, and Black Canary attempt to stop the baddies but let the leader slip through their fingers. Arrow drops off the bad guys he rounded up at the police station in the hopes of trading them in for some street-level intel. Too bad that Captain Lance is done helping the vigilante, now that he knows that Sara’s dead, and that her death is due, in part, to Arrow’s antics. Their professional relationship has gotten nearly as complicated as some of the romantic relationships on this show.
Speaking of romances, Felicity and Ray get to share in a little steamy screentime tonight, though it’s interrupted by Oliver, of course. And though it’s not romantic in the least, there’s plenty of father-daughter drama between both Thea and Malcolm, and Nyssa and Ra’s. The assassin finds out that her father has offered her legacy to the outsider, Oliver Queen, and is understandably slighted, seeing it as punishment for her relationship with Sara; Ra’s admits that it’s because she has allowed weakness into her life. Nyssa doesn’t do much to counteract her father’s view of her as she fails to strike him down with her sword and then stalks away.
In Starling City, Oliver is talking over the offer with Diggle after Ra’s warnings appear to be coming true: Lance betrays him, Felicity spurns him, and the city is just as troubled with crime as it has ever been, maybe moreso. Oliver appears to come to the conclusion that living his dual-life is no longer possible, and being the vigilante is not enough, so his only option is to become Ra’s al Ghul. Malcolm clears the offer up a little bit, saying that there is a prophecy about the one who survives Ra’s al Ghul’s blade becoming Ra’s himself, so perhaps it’s all a matter of destiny. Felicity tries to talk Oliver out of it, and to remind him that he might already be on the right path; at this point, he doesn’t think the costs outweigh the gains.
Back to the case at hand, Roy and Diggle figure out that Murmur and his crew are using the industrial diamonds to churn out diamond-tipped ammo that will shred the police’s body armor. Laurel chooses the worst possible time to pay a visit to her father and patch things up since the armed thugs advance on the station and begin mowing down cops. (The Starling City Police Department really needs better security. This is like the sixth time it’s been overrun in the last year.) Luckily a bevy of archers arrive (including Nyssa, who must have hopped the red-eye back from daddy’s house) to help the boys in blue. Oliver momentarily gets taken down by Murmur but quickly knocks the mute cold and leaves him for an ungrateful Captain Lance to clean up.
The fight at the police station has given Oliver some clarity. After the melee, he realizes that he was fighting to protect the cops, not to kill the criminals, a subtle difference but one that gets him to lean away from Ra’s’ offer. He tells Maseo as much, but the assassin reminds Oliver that Ra’s’ decision has already been made, and to resist it invites retribution.
Back in Hong Kong, Ollie’s in charge of little Akio Yamashiro, who briefly disappears in a crowded market, but reunites with his guardian. He reveals that his parents once told him to go to the botanical gardens if they ever became separated. Apparently Akio and Oliver are not the only ones who knew about the meeting place as a bunch of Waller’s people appear to be waiting for them. Oliver spirits Akio away, but runs into Shado in the market. (I’m going to assume this is some sort of soap-opera switcheroo, but it’s the only interesting thing that happened in this episode’s flashbacks.)
In a side plot that continues Laurel’s progression as the Black Canary, Nyssa stops by to talk to her about Sara, and offers to train her up and sharpen her combat skills. Elsewhere, Thea seeks solace in the arms of Roy (who was busy reading a textbook in his studio apartment?), thus throwing some fuel on their sputtering romance.
Tonight’s stinger sees Arrow executing the remaining members of Murmur’s gang. As he tells the lone survivor to spread the word that the hooded vigilante is now a cold-blooded killer, the camera zooms in to reveal the archer’s true identity: Ra’s al Ghul.
Arrow’s brother series The Flash continues to zoom full speed ahead (so fast, in fact, that Barry – spoiler if you haven’t seen this week’s episode – goes back in time), so it’s nice to see Arrow slowing down their own pace a little bit. The archer can’t keep up with the speedster and he shouldn’t be trying to. Arrow’s done well to carve out its own niche on The CW, and though The Flash has the hot hand at the moment, Arrow does well to rely on its developed characters and relatively grounded comicbook mythology. (The Lazarus Pit was a nice touch, and Murmur was a surprising yet underwhelming villain.) This season’s other benefit to slowing things down is the increased tension building up to Ra’s al Ghul and Oliver Queen’s (presumably) final showdown. The crazy part is that there are still seven episodes to sort it all out!
Rating: ★★★★ Very good — Damn fine television
(An explanation of our ratings system follows here.)
Ra’s al Ghul: “The tale to be told begins thus…”
Ra’s al Ghul: “All men seek guidance, a purpose, the means to live without pain. Those who journey here are given such in exchange for their fealty.” Oliver: “You mean they have to kill for you.” Ra’s: “No, Mr. Queen. They have to die for me.”
Oh, hello Lazarus Pit!
Oliver: “I didn’t defy death just to become an instrument of it.”
Ladies and gentlemen, meet Michael Amar, aka Murmur, played by Adrian Glynn McMorran. I wonder if we’ll see him on a crossover episode in the future… #Rogues
Oliver: “If I can’t be me, and the Arrow isn’t enough, then maybe I should be Ra’s al Ghul.”
Oliver: “Where are you going?” Thea: “To buy my evil father some soup.”
Felicity: “They’re the ‘League of Assassins.’ That’s not the name of a nice group.”
Felicity: “Way to ruin the victory dance.” Oliver: “You know me. I don’t dance. But I should say, ‘Thank you.'”
Thug: “Cops think they won, but we still got, what, how many rounds of those armor-piercing diamond bullets?”