So that happened. After weeks of beating around the bush, Ra’s al Ghul finally was able to paint Oliver into a tight enough corner that he accepted being Ra’s al Ghul Jr. and being preparing to take over the League of Assassins. In a way, this is the episode of Arrow that the whole season’s been building up to, but in another way it seems like the writers worked backwards from the moment when Oliver suits up as the new League master right after he was branded with an arrow sign and told that everything else about Oliver Queen was dead and gone. Frankly, I thought my interest in the League of Assassins storyline was dead and gone, but maybe there’s something to this idea. Maybe.
Firstly, there was something compelling about getting everyone in the same room. Or at least the same mountain fortress. Diggle, Felicity and Merlyn join Oliver and Thea on the journey back to Nanda Parbat, and traveling there still seems ridiculously easy all things considered. We get a nice mix and match of characters in the process, Diggle talked out the cowardice of not facing your pain and grief with Oliver’s former partner Maseo, while Felicity confronted Ra’s about his diabolical ruthlessness in stealing her would-be boyfriend. Ra’s surprises by encouraging Felicity to express her feelings for Oliver in order to gain closure, while Maseo also surprises in another unexpected way.
Yes, it turns out that Ra’s is an Olicity ‘shipper. Well, one time only anyway. I feel like Oliver and Felicity’s tryst might have had more weight if the writers hadn’t been jerking us around with it all year, a one step forward-three steps back process of false starts and dramatic upsets meant to make the exact moment they express their love physically the most impactful. Bravo Arrow, you made it. Actually, it’s what comes next that offered real insight and surprise into the characters. Felicity dopes Oliver, knocks, him out, and tries to kidnap him to escape with the others.
Maseo’s surprise is that he helps the others try and get away, the powerful words of John Diggle apparently jarring the real Maseo from underneath the layer of League produced scar tissue to act in the best interest of his friend. When Oliver recovers though, he’s adamant, he intends to hold up his end of his deal with Ra’s, but he does appreciate Felicity’s attempt to save him. A lot of Arrow is built on the idea of accepting your fate as much as trying to make you’re own fate, but rarely do the characters admit that. Oliver, although usually pragmatic, is rarely accepting of the cards he’s dealt. He either gets defiant, or he gets depressed, but here Oliver intends to move on down the path he didn’t want or anticipated.
So how does he get out of it? Where is this season going now that Oliver Queen is “dead?” Admittedly, I’m racking my brain but I’ve got nothing. The suggestion in next week’s tease is that Oliver’s first test as the Heir to the Demon will be to track down that other Heir to the Demon, Nyssa. I think I’ve wondered before if this was some kind of long con to get test Nyssa and see if she’s worthy of becoming the Demon’s Head. Felicity makes a good point, I think, does Ra’s al Ghul seem like the kind of guy to put stock in prophecy? Doesn’t he strike you as more of a “I make my own fate” kind of guy?
Fans will surely have noted the comic nerdgasm in the details of Ra’s al Ghul and the mysteries of the “magic hot tub” this week. Merlyn name drops the Lazarus Pit and talks about its legendary properties in bringing people back from the dead, but, you know, different. “Different” is the watch word, because the long-term affect of the Lazarus Pit on Thea are still very unknown. Ra’s also reveals to Felicity that he once had a life with a wife and two children, a boy and a girl. (Reference to Dusan and Talia perhaps?)
The majority of the action in “The Fallen” comes from the flashbacks, as Oliver and the Yamashiros attempt to stop General Schrieve from releasing the Alpha and Omega virus. Oliver gets to do some Fast & Furious style stunt work as they chase a military vehicle through the city only to come up snakes eyes in recovering the virus. Still, the real mystery of the flashbacks, the question of what happened to Maseo and Tatsu’s son, is in part resolved. Maseo tells Diggle that Akio died, and although he don’t give any details, I think we already knew that this was the thing that made Maseo turn to the League. Still, the confirmation does now undercut whatever dramatic tension there was in the flashbacks.
The Lances mostly get the week off. Presumably, Quentin was helping Joe and Cisco make their startling discovery about Doctor Wells while Oliver and Company was in Nanda Parbat. Laurel puts in a small appearance in the end, she’s the one that Felicity turns to when overcome with emotion about Oliver’s conversion to the League. It’s another nice moment for their burgeoning friendship that Felicity goes to Laurel for comfort and that Laurel gives it without a moment’s hesitation. The Laurel/Felicity interaction was one of the best things about the Brick trilogy, and it would be nice if that gets a little more play going forward. As for Laurel’s new Cisco-invented Canary Cry, I guess that’ll keep for next week.
At least The Flash has an easy to see trajectory for its last few episodes of the season, the eventual clash between Barry and Wells that’s been built up since we first learned that a man in yellow killed Barry’s mom. But where is Arrow going? Will Oliver and Ra’s dual? Will Oliver just disband the League once he’s given the reins? Can Team Arrow even come back after all secret identities have been laid bare and all the betrayals seemingly coming in next week’s episode have passed through? For much of this year, Arrow’s had my curiosity, but now it has my attention.
One more thing, in case you haven’t already, read my interview with the man known as John Diggle, Arrow co-star David Ramsey, here.