Arrow‘s nonsensical, “What the hell’s going on?” season continues, picking up where we left off about a month ago with an offer, or make that “The Offer,” of Ra’s al Ghul to Oliver Queen to lead the League of Assassins. By the end of the hour it becomes very clear that this is an offer that Oliver can’t refuse, or rather he’s being manipulated into a position where he can’t refuse it. “The Offer” itself was an interesting hour, dramatically compelling with top-notch action, but the episode, like much of the overarching plotting this season feels both rushed and sudden, as if character is serving plot and not vice versa.
Looking back on the season so far, it’s understandable that the writers thought that they had to play out the mystery of who killed Sara, but in the end, what did those first nine episodes serve other than to delay the inevitable? It seems weird to leap from Ra’s “killing” Oliver, to Oliver recovering and returning to Starling, and then going back to Nanda Parbat to rescue Merlyn and then be offered the leadership of the League in the space of a couple of weeks. Now, the assimilation is being rushed. Already Capt. Lance has been turned against Team Arrow, and with Ra’s wearing a green hood and telling random crooks to spread the word, we’re about 60 minutes away from Starling turning on the Arrow too.
But “The Offer” did phrase an interesting question for Oliver Queen, as Felicity pointed out he’s the only that didn’t go through a crisis of faith in regards to the mission lately, and that question was “What am I in this for?” Is the point to eliminate crime? Good luck because there’s a reason Superman calls it “the never-ending battle.” The operation started with Robert Queen’s list of ne’er-do-wells, but once the Undertaking was sorta averted, Team Arrow threw themselves into resolving the crisis of the moment. Success has occasionally been achieved, but what’s the endgame?
That’s why Ra’s al Ghul’s offer is so intriguing: unlimited resources and an army more loyal and dedicated than any other. And guess what? You can define Assassin however you wish! You want them to follow your example and not kill? You’ve got it! The only thing that can’t be done as the head of the League is beat time, and Ra’s is running out of that. We’re introduced to the Lazarus Pit, although it’s not called that. The healing waters that are more or less a sub for the Lazarus Pits in the comics do not have the same effect they once did on Ra’s. His time’s almost done, hence the need for an heir.
Wait though, doesn’t Ra’s al Ghul already have an heir? Ah yes, poor Nyssa. Not only is she confounded by her father not killing peeps he should be killing, but she’s unceremoniously written out of her father’s will because she let weakness into her heart, which is one way to phrase Nyssa falling in love with Sara. On the bright side, it seems to take no time at all to travel between Starling City and the remote Nanda Parbat. At least Nyssa makes a new friend from the experience, and they’re both having father issues. All that was missing in the end was Laurel saying, “Nyssa, this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
As per Ra’s prediction, Oliver starts to lose allies. Capt. Lance feels betrayed by the Arrow for knowing that Sara had been killed and kept it from him. Paul Blackthorne delivered a really powerful performance in his monologue to the Arrow, summing up his hurt at the hands of this person he trusted despite not knowing his name and face. He accepted a certain amount of dishonesty, but not knowing about Sara till long after the fact was a violation. Blackthorne hasn’t been particularly well-serviced this season, being about as useful as Chief O’Hara in the old 60s Batman show. Now though, he’s got some of that dramatic tension back.
The case of the week had to do with a group of criminals led by Murmur, a Flash villain who sewed his own mouth shut, in this instance because a couple of members of the SCPD beat a confession out of him. Freed on a technicality, he’s out for revenge, first stealing industrial diamonds and then turning those diamonds into bullets that can shred Kevlar and shooting up the police station. Adrian Glynn McMorran gave Murmur a good creepy vibe, but I don’t think he’s going to go down in the annals of Arrow’s mightiest foes, nor do I think we was supposed to.
Elsewhere, Thea dealt with not knowing who she is and what she’s supposed to do now that she’s learned that trying to have Malcolm killed was as vaguely unsatisfying as everyone warned her, not to mention her attempt to sacrifice herself to Nyssa failed. It could be read as a meta-commentary having Thea sit around not knowing who she is anymore since the death of her mother, which is too bad because having Thea become ensnared in Malcolm’s web had so much more promise that just making her the patsy for killing Sara. In the end, Thea falls on old habits and visits Roy with romantic intention. If I didn’t have a suspicion before that Roy is as good as dead by season’s end, I do now.
Speaking of Starling City’s other heroes, Ray Palmer was there, but only as a reminder of how Oliver blew it with Felicity. No more adventures of the A.T.O.M. yet, but there was plenty of being cute together as Felicity and Ray – or should that be FeliciRay – worked on developing the armor further. Oliver and Ray’s pleasant, though brief, exchange is somewhat shaded by the recent trailer featuring a scene where Ray learns the truth about the Arrow and Oliver, but on thinking about it though, that future scene might carry more weight if Oliver and Ray had more than two interactions.
The final detail involved the flashback as Oliver and the younger Yamashiro run from goons trying to kill them. I’m not entirely convinced that the boy ends up dead given something Maseo says in the present day, but that doesn’t make me anymore interested in what happened in the past. Even the sudden appearance by a woman that looks suspiciously like Shado can’t be believed on face value because in a season where death seems to have no permanence (and likely will again given Caity Lotz imminent return), does it really make sense to undo a death that was as impacting as Shado’s?
Not that a lot that’s happened on Arrow this year has made a lot of sense…