I fell upon two possible choices for subtitle this week. The first was “The Portrait of Darth Oliver” (Darth Oliver was going to be used in some form or fashion). This came from the idea that Oliver sold his soul for immortal life. Well, he sold it for Thea, but he gains immortal life and the remnants of his soul: Thea, Felicity, and Diggle, are the “portraits” who age and suffer as Oliver continues to sin and live immorally.
The title I chose comes from the idea that Oliver is now in Hell. The Wiki description of the circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno says that each ring is a “contrapasso,” a “symbolic instance of poetic justice.” Oliver being charged with the destruction of a city he vowed to protect is the evil version of poetic justice.
“The narrator, Dante himself, is thirty-five years old, and thus “halfway along our life’s path” (we’re halfway through the five year journey). […] Unable to find the “right way” to salvation, he is conscious that he is ruining himself and falling into a “deep place” where the sun is silent.”
Oliver was struggling a lot, trying to figure out his path and identity. Then he falls into a deep place where the sun is silent — is there even a sun in Nanda Parbat? I definitely put too much thought into this, but never forget that the “Nerd” in “Nerds of Color” also means bookish types who read too much into things.
(Also the inscription upon the gate to hell reads the infamous: “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” Sometimes, this is how I feel about venturing into the rest of this arc.)
I am trying to fight for you, show. I really am. I watch the episodes and feel “fine” about the plotting, then I scroll the #DemBows tag on twitter and I see how much people are disliking this arc. Nearly all aspects of it have been called into question. And when you drop a bomb like this wedding business, it’s hard for me to defend you. Because really? We’re doing this? There’d BETTER be a good escape plan.
Everything is reverse for me this week. Where as last week I let the recap fester, this week I am getting it out of the way. Where as last week I didn’t like where we were but like where we were going, this week I liked where we are and don’t like where we’re going. There were many things I enjoyed about this episode, but the end had my heart sinking. We’re doing what now…? A wedding? Al Sah-him is going DESTROY THE VERY CIT– Ahem. We’ll get into that later. Also, the flashbacks make a 20 episode late connection to the present and I don’t care. Sigh. Let’s dive in shall we?
We start with a new intro. “My name was Oliver Queen. To save my sister…” I like it when Arrow and The Flash change their intros. It keeps the storytelling fluid and not static.
The beginning of the episode does a great job of showing how alone Oliver is. Clearly they don’t trust him to not escape if they have him chained to the floor (so much for that luxurious sex suite from last episode), but also it’s clearly a torture and indoctrination technique. Keep him alone, in shock, cold, barely fed, and looking to Ra’s as his sole savior from all of this. They train in the daytime and after three weeks, Ra’s seems to think Al Sah-him is ready for the next step.
(And I will try to do the same.)
But before that, Al Sah-him must prove himself. They bring Diggle out from… somewhere. He’s been held there for weeks and Al Sah-him must kill him to “prove [his] fealty.” “Remember when you brought me into your crusade? I said I would remind you of Oliver if you ever became something else! I haven’t given up on that promise.” Al Sah-him arms Diggle and they fight. Al Sah-him delivers the final stab to Diggle’s chest (in what appears to be developing into a signature move) and millions of fans nearly turned off their TV. Thankfully, it was a drug induced vision. A poor soul is in fact, dead, but it isn’t Diggle.
Ra’s is appeased and shows Al Sah-Him where he and his League brother “Damian Darhk” were trained1. (You can’t just throw around the name Damian in a Batman-themed superhero show. You just can’t!) He and Damian were both groomed to be the next Ra’s, but this Ra’s chosen. Damian fought him for it and escaped with water from the pit when Ra’s hesitated. Ra’s is trying to get that hesitation out of al Sa-Him. Damian runs H.I.V.E. now (and is obviously Felicity’s father. Because let’s be real, that’s where this is heading.) and we will probably meet him in the last few moments of the finale or the beginning of season four. Ra’s gives Al Sah-him his next mission: He must kill Nyssa al Ghul.
Meanwhile, Nyssa is still trying to train Laurel, who would rather eat fries and milkshakes (that is SO not a heroes diet).
Turns out, LAUREL HASN’T LEARNED HER LESSON. She kept Oliver’s ascension to Al Sah-him from her when it means her life is now on the line. She is marked for death.
At least they’re compensating weak storytelling with Team Arrow bonding time. #DinnerwiththeDiggles is happening and it’s beautiful. Felicity and Thea feed baby Sara, while Lyla scolds Diggle for trying to come to the dinner table with his glock. With Oliver and Roy gone, he’s trying to be the one man hero team that we all know he can be, but Felicity wants what all the fans want. For Diggle to wear a COST– “don’t say costume.” “Okay. Identity concealment device.” Diggle scratches his head, clearly hesitant, but doesn’t fight against it. (Because he and we know that the distractions of the story will prevent this from ever becoming a thing.) They toast Oliver’s life and the image of Diggle and Oliver at Diggle’s wedding both makes me smile and breaks my heart into tiny pieces.
Nyssa breaks the news that Oliver would be brainwashed into Al Sah-him and that they should think of him as dead. In fact, she should have never destroyed their memory of him, but Laurel wants to save her. She runs off to face her destiny. Nyssa is pretty awesome. She refuses to be cowed into hiding. She faces certain death head on, with the boldness of someone who’s been in the League of Assassins since she was a baby Assassin. Laurel puts a tracker on her (either Nyssa didn’t notice or my preferred theory that she allowed them to follow her) and they follow her to the rooftop where Sara died.
Al Sah-him and Nyssa fight, but Nyssa is ready to go. If she’s going to die, let it be where her beloved died. But before Al Sah-him can slice her head off the roof, Laurel comes in with the new and improved Canary Cry!
Instead of fighting his friends, Al Sah-him pulls a Thea and jumps off the roof with the quickness. It was actually funny how quickly he dipped out of there.
Nyssa is still resigned to her fate. “Happiness is not something that was ever meant for me.” It breaks my heart because even if she lives, she won’t be happy again without Sara, though Laurel was filling some of that void.
Over at Palmer Tech (he’s out of town BTW. Hopefully he’s hanging with Cisco for Christelle’s sake), Felicity and Diggle have some bonding time! I need more of this PLEASE. More bonding when Oliver is around and alive and not brainwashed! Them sharing snarky looks at each other and then talking about Oliver behind his back! File this under “Wishes for Season Four.” Diggle and Felicity hug, both rocked by the fact that Oliver is gone and Al Sah-him has taken his place. Diggle takes Felicity home so they can all stay together, but Sara is crying and Lyla is gone. AL SAH-HIM KIDNAPPED LYLA AND LEFT SARA THERE FOR AT LEAST AN HOUR (because that’s gotta be how long it takes to get a resistant Lyla from her home to their hideout and tie her up and wait for John to notice).
Diggle reams into Nyssa for the kidnapping, but it’s displaced anger that he can’t direct at Al Sah-him or even acknowledge is responsible. Diggle wants to give Nyssa up — and Nyssa isn’t exactly putting up a fight, again, she’s ready to face her fate — but Laurel complains that this isn’t what they do. If Diggle gives up Nyssa to Ra’s, he and Oliver will have both lost their souls.
Lyla is tough though. She knows how to bait Al Sah-him. She calls back Andy’s death and how nothing could heal John from that lost but Oliver. How Oliver filled Andy’s void and gave him “hope and purpose again.” Am I crying? No, I’m not crying. You’re crying.
I really liked how this could have easily been all about Felicity’s loss. Or Thea’s loss. And that’s a major focus, of course.
When Oliver died before the hiatus, it was about his absence from the city, from the team as a whole, but here it’s about them as individuals. And Diggle is included strongly in that. Diggle has now lost a brother twice and while Oliver is still alive, he can’t get a grasp on how to save him. Just like he spent years wandering trying to avenge Andy’s death not knowing how to do it (and grappling with the morality of doing so). Then Oliver came along and gave him a project, quite honestly. Gave him someone to look after. Am I about to write an entire essay on big brother John Diggle? Almost. But I’ll refrain. For now.
Team Arrow meets Al Sah-him and pretend to trade Lyla for Nyssa. But this team is never one to actually leave a man behind (as last week proved). Diggle warns Lyla that this is the Jakarta job (like the Budapest noodle incident from Avengers…!)
Lyla hugs Felicity and pulls out DOUBLE GUNS to start the Team Arrow vs League fight that ends with Team Arrow on the ground, Al Sah-him’s arm pierced with one of SPEEDY THEA’S ARROWS, and Nyssa kidnapped.
Signs Oliver is still within: He allows for Felicity’s lack of search. He hesitates to kill John. He could have killed Thea as well (and would have been in the right to do so in the moment as Al Sah-him), but doesn’t. He can’t even look at Felicity. His conversion is not yet complete, but he does his job well enough for Ra’s to believe he means it. Back in Nanda Parbat, Al Sah-him continues to live up to the name “Darth Oliver” and aims to kill Nyssa (and to be fair, while he hesitated on his loved ones before, while Oliver may have tolerated Nyssa, she doesn’t hold the place in his heart that inspires hesitance. She is expendable and a true warrior for facing it head on), but this was merely a test.
Like the Biblical story of Abraham, Isaac and the Ram’s bush, Ra’s was merely seeing if Al Sah-him was loyal to him. He stops Al Sah-him from killing Nyssa. While many fans see this as weakness, it IS his daughter. He never meant to kill her. Just to stomp on the remains of her heart. He orders the two to be wed, to unite the families and solidify the Ra’s dynasty. Both of their faces are priceless with how awful that sounds to each one of them.
And I mean, YEAH. It’s awful. For so many reasons. Nyssa is a lesbian. Nyssa has no choice. Nyssa has no agency. Notice how I put Nyssa here first. Because her choice is being robbed from her. Also, what a DEMEANING DEMOTION. From Heir to the Demon to BRIDE of the Demon? And we know it’s merely so she can be MOTHER of the NEXT demon. I really hope that the person who defeats Ra’s once and for all is Nyssa. And that she becomes the true Head of the Demon. As is her rightful place. But I’ve lost hope that anything like that will happen.
And of course there is Al Sah-him. He doesn’t want Nyssa. He loves another woman. And then there’s the WHY ARE WE DOING THIS? Just like Oliver’s ascension to League, we are once again focusing on a plot that will not last. Even if, by some awful chance, Al Sah-him gets married to Nyssa in the next episode, it will be undone either by one of their permanent defection from the League, death, or Ra’s death. We KNOW this. There is no mystery about this. There’s no ‘maybe this is the new direction of the show.’ An Oliver/Felicity wedding would be a permanent new direction for the show (though it is WAY TOO SOON FOR THAT and I say that as a huge Olicity shipper), but that merely turns the show down a different road going in the same direction. This turns the show completely left, down a path we don’t want to go down. We’re just going in half circles, never getting to where they want to take us.
I was enjoying the episode until this moment. They’re driving us deeper and deeper into the League. leaving little hope in getting out. And that’s what we like about this show and other superhero shows: the hope of getting out of a bad situation. At least, that’s what I like. I shouldn’t be anxious to get to the next SEASON so that we can have a restart button. But this arc is causing so much division of the fandom and has our characters all over the place. I miss their unity. I really hope we head back to that once this storyline is finished once and for all.
Felicity and Thea share a really nice (and beautifully shot/composed) scene together where they sit like sisters, mourning the loss of their mutual loved one. Thea realizes how out of the loop she’s been when she didn’t know about Olicity and learns that Roy is in fact alive (so they really didn’t get a chance to tell her about their plan). Thea is clearly going to go off to find him (and why am I once again concerned for Roy? Did they save him just to kill him off later…!?)
Lyla and Sara go into hiding, while Diggle stares at his best man photo. I also hope Diggle comes up with an awesome plan and is instrumental in ending this
arc once and for all.
And finally, what probably seemed really awesome and clever to the writers, but tastes bad in our mouths: Ra’s reveals that he has the Alpha and Omega virus (did Ra’s obtain this from Maseo…?!). It is al Ghul tradition to destroy the place where you come from before ascending to the head of the League and now al Sah-Him must do the same. “You will unleash this on Starling City.” Couple things:
WE SPENT ALL THIS TIME SAVING THE CITY ONLY FOR OLIVER TO (under easy brainwashing) DESTROY IT?
Side/counter bullet: I suppose this is akin to soldiers being indoctrinated by the enemy and being told to destroy America or their home country. But still.
THIS REVEAL WAS NOT WORTH 20 EPISODES OF FLASHBACKS. IT WAS NOT. I’ll be annoyed over the flashbacks in a few paragraphs, but this reveal does not suddenly make all the boring bits suddenly make sense and become relevant. While I applaud them for actually making the virus in the present day come into play in a significant manner, this could have been handled in two flashbacks.
And now a proper flashbacks recap/rant: In the past, the HKT find a truck full of virus and blow it up, but there’s virus out there in the streets. So they head back to Akio and his babysitter/not-grandma? And she’s already sick. They get ready to leave the city and Akio calmly bleeds from the mouth. HE CALMLY BLEEDS FROM THE MOUTH. DOES HE NOT TASTE IRON IN HIS MOUTH? What exactly are the symptoms of this virus? I thought they got inoculated? I remember there being only three, but I thought they gave one to Akio. Again, this all did not need 20 episodes of flashback. It could have been handled in two. Honestly. The back and forth with that darn vial has been so annoying. I would prefer they tell someone else’s flashback story in all of those episodes. Anyone else. We did not need to see all 14 times Oliver almost had the virus and lost it. And we already know that Akio dies in Maseo’s arms. We now know it’s from the virus. It took way too long for us to get here. Way too long. The flashbacks make me more upset than anything about the present day storyline does. While watching on my DVR, I literally ached to skip past the flashbacks. It killed me at the end of the episode when I realized that I really could have.
Either the flashbacks for next season need to be better constructed to avoid filler flashbacks, or we need to include more alternative flashbacks (like, what was Ra’s doing five years ago? Sara and Nyssa? Diggle? Lyla?) All of these characters could have been doing something compelling and future Arrow related that could have been explored over the season, giving us insight into their characters. Alternatively, we could have Oliver based flashbacks, but less of them. We don’t need a flashback every act. Beginning and end, like most shows do it!
I touched on it last week, but she put its much more precisely. We’re STEPS ahead of our characters. We have been for most of the season. Even the Wedding Wrench (as I will now call it), doesn’t feel like an authentic twist to pull us back, they dumped it in the road behind us, but we’re still ahead. As I said earlier, we know it’s not going to last. And THAT’s been the problem with this arc.
- I still really enjoy the new beginning.
- Felicity wore pants again!!
- Let’s never see Diggle die again, thanks.
- DAMIAN DARHK. Once again, he’s 99% Felicity’s dad. Just read his description here. All about computers and wi-fi and hacking FBI and CIA databases. And if he is, he’s ultimately responsible for Andy Diggle’s death. Can I just say that I am ALL ABOUT this being the plot to season 4? It focuses more on Diggle and Felicity, gets us Andy Diggle backstory, H.I.V.E.(!), more Mama Smoak, and finally gets us out of the League and on to something new. ALL ABOUT IT.
- “I was alone and adrift and you have shown me kindness” “I am only returning the favor. After what you did for Sara.”
- Laurel was so close to having my support 100% and then she lied to Nyssa having clearly not learned her lesson form her father. SMH. But getting Laurel away from both Oliver and her father softens her.
- Trying to imagine what children do on the assassin farm that is Nanda Parbat. Nyssa stole food, but what else did she do? Did she have any fun? Did she have any friends? Seems like a no, but perhaps there was someone she bonded with early on and they died on a mission or something. Then Sara came along and changed her life.
- “Howd you get in here?” “My dads a super villain and you left your doors unlocked.”
- Thea still calls John “Mr. Diggle.” Aww.
- “You’re an awful liar.” “That is true.”
- Canary Cry!! But how does it work?
- Love how Lyla will call Diggle “Johnny” even when their lives are in danger. Even when she’s kidnapped and provoking an angry vigilante. Love Lyla.
- WHAT HAPPENED IN JAKARTA?
- I REALLY hope not! I hope she gets a job working at HIVE and adds to that storyline.
Evil Oliver is a good arc and I was enjoying where they were taking the characters until the wedding bombshell.
Which works well with what one of the writing staff tweeted about structuring the episode:
But, enough of that. Two episodes left of this arc. We can do this guys. We can survive this arc. I believe it! But it’s rare that my nerves for a season finale are focused on whether the writing will make sense rather than if the characters will live/die/save the world.
I am trying to fight for you, show. Don’t fail me.
Let’s lighten things up with a comment game: Leave a comment (in addition to your thoughts about this episode/the arc/favorite moments/etc) stating what you think is on Al Sah-him and Nyssa’s Wedding Registry. And maybe what character it’s from. #OlyssaRegistry
- If he’s Ra’s’ age, so like over 100 years old, does Felicity have siblings somewhere? Could home Bee from The Flash actually be related? Just tossing out theories. I am so ready to be in theory tossing land of season four rather than the “here’s where we’re heading. Hopefully they won’t go there” season three territory. ↩