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And you thought Captain Cold appearing on The Flash last night was a huge deal. Tonight’s Arrow follows up last week’s adventure in Corto Matese, and while that one was notable for bringing Thea back into the fold, this week’s entry, “The Magician,” is notable for so much, much more. From important returns, to important reunions to important introductions, if you missed this week’s episode of Arrow (like Felicity, who was too busy teaching team work and smooching in Central City this week), then you picked a less than ideal time to drop out for the week. “The Magician” seems to set up this season’s battle lines, or to put it another way, the show is courting war.

Picking up from where last week left off, Nyssa al Ghul is back in town, and back to find out what happened to Sara. Also Nyssa’s not exactly forthcoming with information on her side of things, after an uncharacteristic show of emotion in Sara’s Starling City “safe house,” Nyssa tells Oliver that Sara was in town on League of Assassins business, tracking LoA persona non grata Malcolm Merlyn, AKA: “The Magician.” Nyssa, Laurel and everyone on Team Arrow has their reasons for hating Merlyn, but the accusation of him being Sara’s murderer all but assures a death sentence for the Dark Archer. A real death this time.

Of course, it would be too easy if Merlyn were the murderer, and John Barrowman is so oily, relishing every bite of the scenery he takes as full bloom big bad Merlyn, it’s very hard to believe him when he says he didn’t kill Sara. Oliver and Malcolm’s much teased reunion was remarkably free of costumes and arrows, but it still stinged with tension and subtext. Unless I’m mistaken, this was the first real conversation the two men have had in full understanding of who the other was, and, of course, this is the first time that Malcolm and Oliver have met since the latter took his vow to not kill, a fact that the elder Merlyn throws in Oliver’s face with a mix of contempt and amusement. It’s cute that Oliver doesn’t want to kill, in other words, and so Malcolm gives him a reason to believe he didn’t kill Sara: Malcolm swear on Thea’s life.

The Magician

Speaking of Speedy, she seems to be having an easier time getting back on her feet money-wise speaking than Oliver by securing investors to re-open the club. Really, it’s probably only the one investor, but I believe that was implied. Oliver makes good on his promise to stop with the lies, and tells Thea that Malcolm is back in down, but it’s now Thea’s turn to do the lying as she plays dumb about knowing about her birth father’s proximity. I wondered just how much Thea was in on Malcolm’s schemes, and is she aware that her brother’s the Arrow, even as she compliments Roy for it seeming that all his training with masked hero is paying off? There’s a clue at the end of the episode that Thea is at least a willing participant in her father’s plan, even if she’s not aware of every facet. But then again, why offer Roy a job at the club? Is it about trying to become friends with her ex, or is it about keeping tabs on one of her brother’s allies?

As for Malcolm, Oliver’s the only that believes him, or maybe Oliver’s just unsure about following through on his reasonable suspicions, not wanting to break his vow to not kill. Even Diggle, typically Team Arrow’s voices of reason, tells Oliver that Malcolm’s built up enough bad karma points to warrant Nyssa implementing a death sentence on him. Oliver is torn naturally, but he’s taking a higher path, not only because killing Merlyn before knowing he’s guilty of the crime is unjust, but because he’s his sister’s father. True, Malcolm’s committed other crimes, including creating an earthquake that killed his own son, but Oliver was painted into a corner: Malcolm’s got the skills to escape from any prison, and Oliver’s not going to sanction a hit on him, so the best of all bad options is to keep him in check. Obviously, Nyssa does not take Oliver’s declaration that Merlyn’s protected while he’s in the Starling City limits well.

Issues of being a killer are front of mind this week. Oliver’s flashback to Hong Kong features the first time he had to actually murder for Waller. It was hard to suss out where this was going, but it seems that the writers are looking at drawing two graphs going in the opposition direction. In the flashbacks, we’ll see Oliver struggle as he comes to accept his role as an executioner, a role he was able to play all too well in season one. Meanwhile, in the present, Oliver must struggle with the consequences of not being a killer. I could buy that thematically, but because we have to connect everything, it turns out that the Ferris Air flight Oliver saved on the island in season one’s flashback was a hit job set up by A.R.G.U.S. to get China White. I guess we’ll be seeing her again soon.

The Magician

Speaking of people we’ll be seeing again soon, we’re introduced this week to The Demon himself, Ra’s al Ghul. Matt Noble doesn’t get a huge scene to make his first impression in, but he definitely makes an impression. Nyssa reports back to him that Oliver Queen is protecting Malcolm, who’s wanted by the League for breaking their code of conduct. Interesting that the League of Assassin is run like a Fortune 500 company complete with a code of conduct, which, if broken is grounds for termination. Of course, when the League promises termination they mean, you know, permanently. “Oliver Queen courts war with us,” says Ra’s al Ghul. Yet still, considering how quickly he dismisses his daughter’s concern about avenging her lover’s murderer you’ve got to start wondering who the real bad guy here is, Ra’s al Ghul or Malcolm Merlyn.

In other points of consideration, how long will Quentin be kept in the dark regarding Sara’s death. He’s got Laurel doing leg work – supposedly – for Sara, and he’s got Nyssa al Ghul back in town, both things prompt Quentin to give his youngest daughter a call, during which he tells her on the voice mail message that he doesn’t need  her to call him back. Come on, Quentin, you’re a cop, you know something’s wrong! And isn’t it kind of shortsighted for Team Arrow to not have a plan to tell Captain Lance about Sara, because the longer they keep it to themselves, the harder it’s going to be on him and his heart.

That’s a lot of plot for a single week’s episode of Arrow, a lot of developments and a lot of furniture moving for the battles to come throughout the third season. For now, it’s safe to say that Ra’s al Ghul probably knows more about Sara’s death than Nyssa would care to know, that Malcolm has his own plan and Thea’s a part of it, and the Arrow’s conviction of conscience may come back to bite him and all his allies before this year’s adventures are through. The real test of one’s convictions is whether they can stand up in the face of all doubt, and something tells me that Oliver Queen’s going to have some big doubts very soon.

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