Not sure if it’s been the string of so-so episodes since the series returned from hiatus or that “Heir to the Demon” really is Arrow‘s strongest offering to date, but last night’s episode rocked! It hit all the notes – action-oriented and dramatically – and did so superbly. Where do I even start?
How about with the heir, who we already knew would be Ra’s al Ghul’s lesser known daughter, Nyssa (Katrina Law). In the opening moments of the episode she deftly takes out airport security in the blink of an eye. The sequence is one of Arrow‘s best choreographed fight scenes–and it’s only the beginning! As Nyssa, Law exudes confidence. She’s exotic and oh-so-cool. And damn, can she make an entrance! “No need for a grappling line, I’ve brought my aerial silk which I’ll use to slowly and acrobatically unfurl myself to the ground.” Such a badass.
Nyssa has come to Starling City in search of the League of Assassin’s wayward Canary, Sara Lance (Caity Lotz). Conveniently enough, Sara has just cruised back in to town because her sister needs help. At least that’s her story, but unless someone’s been keeping her up to date with Laurel’s (Katie Cassidy) spiraling addiction problem, I don’t buy it. Sara repeatedly says her being away from her family is all that’s keeping them safe – cue her family no longer being safe – so why risk coming back just to check up on Laurel?
Anyway, it’s a good thing Sara was on the scene because it turns out Laurel didn’t blackout at the end of last episode from too much booze, but because she was poisoned. While in the hospital recovering Laurel’s paid a visit by her dad (Paul Blackthorne)… and her mom–that’s right, Alex Kingston is back, baby! All four Lances in Starling City at once? Surely it’s about time for a family reunion.
And in fact, family is easily the running theme throughout “Heir to the Demon.” For the Lances, things have been disastrous ever since Sara disappeared six years ago. Her disappearance fractured their family and her coming back won’t be enough to fix it. Especially when she’s being hunted by the best assassins on the planet. And Sara must be awfully important if Ra’s would send his own daughter to retrieve her, right?
Well, Sara is awfully important, but not to Ra’s. To Nyssa! Former lovers, Nyssa (who we learned rescued Sara sometime after the island) was distraught when she up and left Nanda Parbat without saying goodbye, so when Sara appears in Startling City it’s Nyssa who comes to bring her home. It’s only the first of a few twists this episode throws our way and in a completely un-Arrow like fashion, they don’t feel forced or contrived. Sara refuses to return with Nyssa as she can’t handle the killing anymore and in the hope of forcing her to return, Nyssa kidnaps Dinah. Why jilted lovers resort to kidnapping, I’ll never know. It has the total opposite effect and Sara teams up with The Arrow (Stephen Amell) to rescue her. Nyssa eventually gives Sara an ultimatum – return with her to the League or her mother dies. Sadly, we don’t get the chance to see Dinah fight back, but hey, River Song she is not.
Sara also enlists her father to help in tracking down and then rescuing Dinah, and their scenes together – either kicking assassin butt or sharing in a short respite – are heartbreaking. Lotz and Blackthorne bring a lot of pain to their performances and you can’t help but feel for them. Quentin deserves to be award father of the fucking year for how much shit his daughter’s thrown his way and for how readily he is to help and comfort them. Plus, how beautiful was the scene where he dismisses Sara having once been with a woman because he was just happy she wasn’t totally alone?
Anyway, instead of fighting Nyssa like everyone expected and feared Sara chooses a different route–she poisons herself. Using the same Tibetan Pit Viper venom the League poisoned Laurel with, Sara chooses what she believes to be the only option for keeping her family safe. Her selflessness strikes a huge contrast with Laurel’s continued whining, and it’s quickly turned Sara into the show’s most sympathetic character.
As Sara lies there dying, The Arrow swoops in and he and Nyssa have it out, archer style, in what’s easily the best fight between two archers since Merlyn last faced The Arrow. Nyssa is formidable and I question whether or not The Arrow would actually be able to defeat her had the plot not required it. And defeat even isn’t really the right word because Nyssa basically stops fighting once she realizes The Arrow has brought a cure for Sara’s poison. Afterwards, Nyssa releases Sara from the League making her only the second person allowed to leave the League, alive. (The first being Malcolm Merlyn.)
Sara lives, is no longer pursued by vengeful assassins, and is able to reunite with her family. Everything’s hunky-dory, right? Wrong. Laurel isn’t at all happy to see Sara welcomed back with open arms. To her, everything terrible that’s happened to their family was Sara’s fault to begin with, and technically, she has a point. But where Sara has been changed and has grown from her experiences, Laurel has only become spiteful. And believe me, she isn’t winning over any sympathy taking that route.
Man, so that’s all the Lance family drama, what about the Queens? As Moira’s (Susanna Thompson) campaign for mayor begins to kick off Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) notices a suspicious transaction from Moira’s shady company, Tempest. It turns out to be money given to the doctor who delivered Thea (Willa Holland) to keep him quiet about her true parentage. Felicity, being the clever girl she is, puts it together that Malcolm must be Thea’s true father and confronts Moira with the truth. And the scene that follows is one of the best in the episode. Since being cleared of murder charges Moira’s been playing the dutiful mother, but while facing down Felicity she kicks it into gear and becomes the sly manipulator we remembered from Season 1. It’s chilling and we see it again when Sebastian Blood (Kevin Alejandro) pays Moira a visit at Queen Consolidated. Moira is clearly not a woman to be underestimated, something Oliver, unfortunately, soon realizes.
Moira warned Felicity not to tell Oliver about Malcolm being Thea’s true father because not only would it turn him against her, he’d end up hating the messenger, too. We don’t really see any anger towards Felicity from Oliver, at least not yet. (And in fact, we actually get a more compassionate Oliver asking after Felicity since she’s acting all weird.) But when Oliver learns that his mother is still full of lies and deception he ends his relationship with her–entirely. The Queen family is again fractured, possibly forever, right as the Lance family is beginning to mend.
“Heir to the Demon” is a game-changer of an episode. The League will be back as Ra’s surely won’t remain only a whispered name for long. Sara is now a permanent resident of Starling City and seeing as her and Oliver have been reunited – cue end of episode make out session! – it will soon be The Arrow and Canary defending the streets. And as Queen and Blood get ready for an ugly and intense campaign, Slade Wilson (Manu Bennet) is about to enter the game to make sure Blood comes out on top.
Again, before going away on hiatus – it’ll be three weeks before a new episode airs on February 26th – Arrow delivers what’s possibly it’s strongest episode, yet.
Arrow airs Wednesday nights on the CW at 8pm.