Arrow has suffered from a distinct lack of both energy and direction this season. It meandered from one decision on the part of the characters in one episode, like Oliver’s refusal to indulge in his romantic feelings for Felicity, only to have them regret that decision in the next. Then starts the backpedaling, a primary feature in this one step forward, three steps back journey to the climactic showdown between Arrow and the gang versus Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins. Yet, in this penultimate episode of Arrow’s third season, the series shows a little fire in its belly, a little urgency. But is it too little, too late?
First of all, psyche! Oliver was running a long con on Ra’s by make believing that he was surrendering to his destiny as head of the League as part of a scheme with Malcolm to subvert the League from the inside. But Ra’s al Ghul’s plan to wipe out Starling City with a bio-weapon changes all that, prompting Oliver to ask Malcolm to get Tatsu and reach out to Team Arrow. The plan is to take out the plane Ra’s will use to deliver the Alpha/Omega virus by throwing Diggle, Felicity, Black Canary, Malcom, Tatsu and Ray Palmer at Nanda Parbat. And they fail.
Obviously the mission was going to fail because there’s one more episode to go before the end of the season, but it provided an opportunity for a great action scene featuring all the gang working in unison to take on the League and come pretty damn close to winning if it weren’t for, you know, Ra’s leading them on. From Diggle packing some serious heat, to Canary actually holding her own, to Felicity using her busted tablet as a throwing star, not even the stretched credulity of the A.T.O.M.’s CGI flight (or the fact that his weapon failed again) ruined the action.
The centerpiece though was Tatsu finally putting on her Katana mask and facing off against Maseo. Although I’ve made no secret my disdain for this year’s flashbacks, the work of Karl Yune and Rila Fukushima all year added serious dramatic heft to the married couple’s epic sword fight. The flashback itself dealt with Aiko’s death from the virus, which is the pivotal moment when Tatsu essentially lost her husband anyway, one final marital fight was all they had left, swords saying the things they never could. Tatsu was angry because her husband left her right when he need her the most; all Maseo had left was his anger and the League gave him someplace to direct that. It made for a very heartfelt and emotional moment when Tatsu kills Maseo. Only she could free him from his real prison, his own life.
In other family matters, Ra’s proceeded with the ridiculous marrying off of his daughter to his heir, and admitted that he was doing it to basically, you know, seal the deal. Get an heir to the heir in other words. Ick. I remember Tony Stark’s line in Avengers: Age of Ultron about reinstating “prima nocta” getting a few nervous laughs from the audience, so I can only imagine what the reaction was to Ra’s’ approving of his daughter skipping a pre-wedding meal. You know, like a lot of brides do. So they don’t get fat and can’t fit in the dress you see.
Matt Nable‘s tenure as Ra’s al Ghul hasn’t marked the best of the character, but pushing him to pimp his daughter like so much chattel yanked those scenes with Nyssa this week into campy cartoonishness that dangled perilously close to misogynistic. Ah screw it, it was completely misogynistic. It was a bit disconcerting that Nyssa seemed to be taking the matter lying down, but palming a blade to cut her would-be husband was a nice move of defiance. I feel bad though that the typically strong and honorable (in her own way) Nyssa al Ghul has had her spirit broken. Something tells me though that when it comes to her father’s fate, she’s going to have the last laugh.
Another character suffering from a lack of insightful direction is Malcolm Merlyn. It’s nice that they finally found a way to make Malcolm useful because he’s only seemed to intersect with the rest of the drama this season when necessitated by the story. He’s had no animus of his own, in other words no motivation, and tonight, he went from Oliver’s secret partner to a guy willing to sell out the whole team in a mission to save his own ass. That didn’t work, by the way. I hate to say it, but Malcolm’s kind of becoming the Dr. Smith of Team Arrow, a character made solely to get his suffering colleagues into trouble and forever flounce on everyone’s reasonable quest to get un-Lost in Space. The 60s TV show not the 90s movie remake.
As the shiznit hit the fizan in Nanda Parbat, Thea went in search of Roy who’s now working in a garage and going by the name of Jason (Todd?). Thea’s mission is unclear, does she want closure? Does she want to genuinely give Roy his Arsenal gear back? Did she want one last roll in the hay with that reformed bad boy from the Glades? As a final, official send-off for Colton Haynes it seemed oddly disengaged, or to put it another way, Roy’s goodbye in “Broken Arrow” was better. But if the point was to make a passing of the Arsenal torch to Thea official then it makes a heck of a lot more sense.
In a final hint at things to come, Ray Palmer had Felicity unknowingly sign transfer papers for the ownership of Palmer Technology from himself to his ex-girlfriend who he’ll always be on friendly terms with. Oliver Queen maybe gone, but perhaps Queen Consolidated is due for a comeback. What is Ray’s plan though? What’s he doing and where is he going that he’s giving up the company he owns? Obviously, Brandon Routh‘s got a bright future on the spin-off show that rumor has it has been already approved for a midseason debut next year, but under what context does Ray leave, and why?
That’s one of many questions that will have to be answered in next week’s jam-packed season finale. The final showdown between Team Arrow and Ra’s al Ghul, Oliver’s fate in Hong Kong five years earlier, and whether or not Al Sah-him can reclaim the mantle of Oliver Queen. All that, and I feel as though they also have to deal with the return of Caity Lotz in whatever capacity that ends up being. Let her and Routh ride into the sunset together, and let’s look forward to a new season of Arrow that looks more like the very best of season two and less like the fleeting glimpses of greatness we’ve seen in season thee.