NOC Recaps Arrow: The Weight of Expectation

In which I attempt to be fair, yet critical of this episode of Arrow, while remaining hopeful about the road ahead.

I came away from “The Fallen” feeling conflicted. I spent a week trying to figure out how to discuss my conflictions, but I ran out of time and energy. But I will say that the big theme of this episode (not the plot itself, but watching it) is the weight of expectation. All of the things that happen in this episode were things we knew were going to happen. Either because the episodes prior were driving it there, or because the promos basically told us everything. We came into the episode knowing that Thea would be resurrected, Oliver and Felicity would get together, and Oliver would officially join the League. With these expectations met exactly in the way we imagined, it may have led to disappointment.

So we’ll discuss the plot as usual and we’ll open up the comments for what went right and wrong in this episode and how it might affect the rest of the season.

SO: The plot itself. Thea, having been savagely attacked by Ra’s himself last week (Thea vs. the Table, in which neither won), lies on the floor bleeding and whimpering. Oliver comes home and immediately gets her to the hospital. One of my favorite parts about this episode was Oliver’s big brothering. Stephen Amell’s despair as he watches his sister cede and then come back to life was palpable and very well done. His quiet, “I’m sorry” feels weighty after everything his family has been through, everything he feels is his fault, from his father’s suicide at sea to his mother’s death at the hands of Deathstroke. Stephen Amell can be really wonderful.

Thea’s condition doesn’t change however, when the doctors are through with her, she’s in a medically induced coma. Oliver should look into other options. Malcolm arrives (making you wonder WHERE HE WAS THIS WHOLE TIME?! Last time Thea was attacked, he was right down the hall…)

Maseo summons Oliver and gets punched right in the face for what he’s done to Thea. What he’s allowed Ra’s to do to Thea. After what he tells us later about Akio, it’s horrible to think of what Maseo has become. He’s constantly flipping back and forth between his “old” self and his League self, perhaps foreshadowing what Oliver will go through in the coming episodes. Anyway, Maseo tells Oliver that the only way to get Thea back is to join the League like Ra’s wants. Oliver prepares to go and the whole gang goes with him, but Malcolm warns caution:

“In rare instances, those waters have been used to restore the dead to life. […] The waters change a person. In the soul. The Thea you get back will not be the one you lost.”

Felicity doesn’t trust the “magic hot tub,” but insists on going with so that someone can bring Thea home (and so she can think of a way on the ground to get Oliver out of this. We’ll talk about Felicity’s terrible plans later).

Since Lyla doesn’t exactly work for A.R.G.U.S. anymore (subtext, or else it would have been an option), Felicity petitions Ray to borrow his jet again. For her other boyfriend. “What? No, I don’t love Oliver. Oh, you noticed that I do? Okay. Yeah, I do. Thanks for the jet!” Ray breaks things off with Felicity because he realized that she doesn’t love him like she loves Oliver and gives her the keys anyway. I’m surprised there weren’t already cardboard boxes around the lab as Ray packed his things to leave Starling… Felicity runs off, unable to muster words beyond “I’m sorry. You’re the last person I meant to hurt.”

Team Arrow piles into the Palmer Jet and flies off to Nanda Parbat. Malcolm once again cautions against this: “I would rather lose her forever than subject her to the pit.” While on the jet, Oliver tells Felicity about returning to Starling and killing Thea’s drug dealer. “All I ever wanted to do was protect her […] I failed.”

(Interestingly, he leaves out seeing Felicity at QC…)

When they finally get to Nanda Parbat, Maseo takes Thea’s body and they place her in the pit. Before that, however, Maseo vows to “treat her as my own family.” There’s a bit of a mini staring contest where Oliver looks doubtful and Maseo looks confused then remorseful. Of course the whole situation warrants those looks, but after we learn that Akio died in Maseo’s arms, the moment seems more layered than before. As Maseo holds Thea in what could be her final moments, Oliver clearly doesn’t want the same thing as whatever happened to Akio. Diggle picks at Maseo’s armor even more: Maseo mentions what happened to Akio and his grief, but Diggle comments that they’re cowards, running from their lives.

This was definitely Sara’s induction into the League and what little we know of Maseo’s conversion matches as well. Maseo talks about the weight of grief, which Diggle doesn’t yet understand (and makes us all nervous for Lyla and baby Sara), but Diggle counters back asking if Akio would be proud of Maseo.

(Arrow fans who watch Game of Thrones cheered a little as Maseo said “You know nothing.” The League is very Night’s Watch-y, but with more sinister, assassin-y goals. But a low key society where poor souls are inducted to follow an oath that you can’t ever get out of?)

Thea is baptized in the pit with an elaborate ceremony. (Who is the woman who performs the ceremony? We haven’t seen any women but Nyssa, so where did she suddenly come from?) [Ed note: In my head canon, that was Talia. Unless otherwise stated, I’m sticking with that. —KC]

The ropes begin to shake and Thea drops to the bottom…

…before leaping out of the water and attacking Oliver. She’s primal and animalistic. It’s unsettling. When she is sedated and put to bed calms down, her mind is all confused. She doesn’t know Oliver, recognizes Malcolm as her father, and doesn’t know that Moira is dead. Certainly Malcolm takes full advantage of this and reassures her before urging her to get some more rest. Smarmy jerk. Apparently Oliver was warned there could be some confusion after the ceremony and it should subside soon. Malcolm berates him for a final time that this was a bad idea, but the full repercussions of this decision have yet to be seen.

With Thea on the mend, it’s time to leave Oliver there, but Felicity flips out. Remember, we were gonna talk about Felicity’s bad decision making? She storms to Ra’s and rails on why this is wrong and unfair. Ra’s takes a look at this puny girl who can only wield a computer keyboard and takes pity on her. Why? Because of his transformation into Ra’s in the past. This does two things:

It makes the title of Ra’s an appointed position (lessening but not at all extinguishing fan ire of his whitewashing. Presumably a Ra’s in the past was Middle Eastern and eventually white people were appointed).

It attempts to make Ra’s sympathetic because he was once a human man? I don’t know that it succeeds — many saw this as a weakening tool — and why do we need to humanize Ra’s? I know humanization is a way to create a compelling villain, but perhaps a different method should have been used. Here it was a convenient way to get Olicity sexytimes to happen.

And boy do they. The sexy times. They happen. Oliver and Felicity share a moment where she finally tells him she loves him, and he stares into her beautiful blue eyes and they nearly cause a fire on top of all of those candles (it felt like a Catholic church in there).

Y’all know that I am a big Olicity shipper and I enjoyed their scenes surrounding the sexytimes (this is all I will call it. Sorry, not sorry), but I felt like this was the wrong time to do it. We all know he’s staying and she’s leaving. I can see why it happened: it bolsters their goodbye, gives her added reason to fight for him afterwards, gives him something extra to fight to come home to later, but it still felt like the wrong time. But it happened, as Felicity states. I think that the morning after moment could have had more personal interaction between them. Something more intimate than a general “to us” toast and a drugging. I think that’s what made the moment fall for me. The moments afterward.

So here’s Felicity’s terrible plan part two. She drugs Oliver and gets Diggle, Malcolm, and eventually Maseo to carry him out the catacombs to fly him home. What was the long term plan here? Ra’s is an all powerful demon who was in Starling City YESTERDAY to attack Thea. There’s nowhere you can take him that wouldn’t bring him RIGHT BACK.

Where most of my episode confliction comes from is that I understand the character motivations, but not the writers. I get why FELICITY tried to get Oliver out, but from a writing standpoint, it left us nowhere. It didn’t add much but another time when Maseo betrayed the League. It didn’t do anything when we knew he’d be inducted (both because of spoiler trailers and because that’s where everything has been leading the last few episodes).

And Oliver staying with the League repeats what happened at Christmas. Oliver and the Arrow are gone, so the team must pick up the pieces in Starling City without him. We’ve already done this before. Oliver being “evil” (as the promos seem to show) is new, sure, but it’s the only compelling thing about the rest of this arc. Why are we focusing so much on Oliver being in the League when we know he can’t possibly stay there?

When Oliver died during the hiatus, we didn’t know for sure it was going to happen. It seemed to lead that way, but we weren’t sure until the end of the episode. And then the compelling dramatic questions were multitudinous: how will Oliver return? Who will help him? How will the team survive? Will they continue his mission? And here we are asking these same questions again but we know the answers: Oliver will train under Ra’s and defeat him (bringing back the “only the student can overcome the teacher” theme from the middle of the season). Maseo will eventually help him (and probably sacrifice his life for it). Yes the team will survive, they will continue his mission because they did it before. The only unclear factor is Thea and what her baptism did to her soul, her psyche.

Also Nyssa is a floating player that may add to the situation. But as of this episode (the next may change the presumed trajectory of the next few episodes), we’ve run out of questions that pull us into the story. We already know the answers. Even going into the episode we knew that Oliver would have to join the league and that he and Felicity would get together.

But at the same time I appreciate what the writers are doing. They are expanding the show, they are taking the characters to new places (there are few ways to successfully explore the villainous hero trope), they are exploring their characters’ identities. Oliver has been struggling with who he is all season, and while I thought he would add back his Oliver Queen persona to his one as the Arrow, instead, they’ve taken both away. Burning Oliver to the core human being that he is in order for him to finally figure out who he is and who he wants to be.

The title of the season three finale is “My Name is Oliver Queen.” I love this title and what it means for whatever it is that Oliver will go through in these final few episodes. He will go to some dark places and finally come out knowing what he wants. An assured hero of Starling City is most of what I want for season four (along with: more Diggle, more Diggle/Felicity interaction, an Olicity relationship that is comfortable enough in itself that it’s not the dramatic annoyance some thought it was this season [not me, but I see why people were annoyed]), more light moments of Team bonding, more Diggle). So I appreciate what the writers want, but maybe not the way they executed it. Hopefully the rest of this season provides some genuinely good and shocking twists that defy these strong expectations that we have but doesn’t take the characters away from who they are that we already love.

Flashback plot: Who cares? No, okay. I have to keep hoping it will be important or compelling later, but with the stakes all about Thea/The League and Olicity, this was the LEAST anyone has cared about the flashbacks. But here’s what went down: The Hong Kong Trio (Oliver, Maseo, Tatsu) track down the Alpha-Omega virus. They fight some military dudes for it and Oliver goes after it in a busy Hong Kong marketplace. The vial breaks before Oliver or his enemies can grab hold of it.

[Ed. note: If they were really in Hong Kong, then the driver’s side in the car Ollie stole was totally on the wrong side. Verisimilitude only gets you so far Arrow writers! –KC]


  • Felicity wears pants for a major portion of the episode (except the beginning and the very important scene where she wears nothing at all). I think this hasn’t been the case since season one!
  • “I wanted you to think you had grown a little as a person.” So that means he hasn’t yet, right? Because Oliver has not changed his M.O. of not consulting his team, of making really big unilateral decisions that affect people other than himself. I hope next season shows more of a concentrated effort for him to include the others.
  • If “Al-Sa-Him” means “Arrow,” then what does “Sarab” mean?
  • Please, oh please, do not let there be any Arrow babies. It is wayyy too soon. I hope the rooms in Nanda Parbat and all those candles can magically act as contraception.
  • However you felt about the Olicity moment and Ra’s actually encouraging Felicity to go to him, it was definitely his downfall. Without being with Felicity and being sure of her love, Oliver could have stayed away. He could have let her be with Ray and been assured that she was happy without him (even if from her end, she wasn’t). But with them consummating their love (blegh, sorry I said that), it gives him more to fight for when the time comes. Ra’s was ripped away from his family, but if he’d been given one more moment with them, it would have been harder for him to leave, and harder for him to stay in the League. This move was Ra’s downfall.

  • Another part of why this Ra’s plot won’t work is because Oliver doesn’t do well under the direction of others. He never has. He never really had a job before running QC, doesn’t like people telling him what to do, was a spoiled prince who was able to tell everyone what to do, doesn’t listen to Amanda Waller or like what she does so he defies her every chance he gets, and has quickly taken the lead of the HKT. He’s never been a subordinate and doesn’t thrive under the control of someone else. This is going to rub him the wrong way and will eventually lead to Ra’s downfall as well.
  • As I said, Maseo has been flip-flopping all season and Ra’s gives him a pass for it, saying it’s the fault of his dual natures. Oliver is about to have a triple nature, how much more will he defy Ra’s?
  • I really need more Oliver/Diggle moments. Oliver’s reassurance that they are brothers made my heart squeeze, especially knowing they are in for some rough times ahead. “Whatever happens, you’re my brother.”
  • Thea awakens, remembering her anger at Malcolm. I can’t wait to see what the pit did to her. Does she have powers? Some sort of paranormal PTSD? Conflicting memories or dreams? Will Thea become a Team Arrow sidekick next season? And will Malcolm survive the finale? Or will he sacrifice himself for Thea? He speaks as though he loves her but his actions are still rooted in self-interest even at her expense. A sacrifice would finally prove he loved her once and for all…

  • Felicity going to Laurel was very sweet. I hope they get to interact more. Both being on The Flash and her interactions with Felicity soften Laurel in ways that make me believe we can grow to like her someday. But I am Team “Give Laurel a Chance.” I’m okay with her sucking at being Black Canary now because this show is all about the journey and growing into who you are meant to be, especially for our heroes.
  • Oliver’s newest scar is the show’s title card symbol! Did they forge that just for Al-Sa-Him? What do Ra’s’ scars look like? Or Maseo/Sarab’s? Did Nyssa get one or was she simply born into the League? What about Sara?! I want to see everyone’s League scars!
  • In our next episode, Oliver is evil, possibly under the influence of League drugs, and might be ordered to extinguish bits of Team Arrow. Yikes!

Okay, that’s enough out of me. If you had trouble with this episode, what exactly triggered it? If you would like to defend this episode, also do that in the comments.