Season three of Arrow has had a more philosophical bent than previous seasons. Who am I? What am I doing here? While Oliver Queen flirted with those questions in seasons one and two, Oliver’s internal struggles have all but dominated his character’s arc this year. And it’s not only Oliver indulging in introspection — what does it mean for Team Arrow to continue without Oliver, or for Thea to have taken a life?
Yes, these are big, interesting, character-driven questions that undoubtedly have yielded powerful scenes. (Oliver and Thea’s interactions in particular have benefited from all the pondering.) That said, coming into this episode, my patience for navel-gazing was wearing thin, so, I was disappointed that the first half of “The Offer” started to retread the same paths of self-doubt that were explored in the last six episodes. But luckily, the second half of “The Offer” had enough twists and turns to make up for it.
“The Offer” opens up right where the last episode left off before the hiatus — in Nanda Parbat, with Ra’s Al Ghul asking Oliver to replace Ra’s as the head of the League of Assassins. Ra’s pulls out all the assassin-poaching stops: He treats Oliver to a torch-lit dinner, brags about the League’s unlimited resources, shows him the Lazarus Pit hot tub that magically extends life … Sensing Oliver’s doubts, Ra’s warns him that Starling City and its police force will eventually turn on the Arrow, and that Oliver, unable to be with the woman he loves, will die alone. (Yeesh, Ra’s plays hardball.) Before Oliver gives an official response to Ra’s offer, in a sign of good faith, Ra’s lets Oliver, Diggle, and a very beat-up Malcolm Merlyn all return to Starling City without harm.
The first of Ra’s predictions, however, soon comes to fruition. Back in Starling City, Oliver suits up as the Arrow and is back to business as usual, tracking down a robbery in progress. When he gift-wraps a few perps for Captain Lance in the alley behind the police station, Captain Lance is all, thanks, but no thanks. Lance then chews the Arrow out for hiding Sara’s death from him for so long. I love how stunned the Arrow/Oliver is in this scene; it’s rare that the Arrow is caught off guard and rendered speechless out in the field. Lance tells the Arrow, who is standing above Lance on a fire-escape landing, that he can’t trust the Arrow anymore and that Lance “see[s] the man under the hood now.” (You should see the man under the hood! It’s Oliver Queen! How can you not see him in that light and from that angle? YOU ARE A DETECTIVE!)
Captain Lance also has no desire to make amends with Laurel for her role in hiding her sister’s death, despite Laurel’s heartfelt plea that she won’t give up on the two of them. Daddy-daughter issues abound in this episode. Nyssa is (rightfully) ticked that Ra’s has offered her birthright to an outsider like Oliver Queen. Nyssa abandons Nanda Parbat for Starling City, where she strikes up a friendship with Laurel, who asks Nyssa to train her. I am very supportive of a Nyssa-Laurel mentor-mentee relationship. Nyssa has legitimate personal=training chops (Even flashback Li’l Nyssa could knock Laurel on her ass), plus there’s the added emotional connection of Nyssa having been Sara’s great love. Not to mention that this keeps Laurel from poaching more of Team Arrow’s time.
Thea is also having father troubles, as she struggles with her desire to kill Malcolm for all of the pain he’s caused her. Although Malcolm offers to let Thea slit his throat, she thinks better of it. Thea later tells Oliver (looking very dashing in his peacoat) that she couldn’t bear to think of what their mother would think of Thea if she did kill Malcolm, who’s overhearing this whole conversation. After Thea leaves “to buy [her] evil dad some soup,” Malcolm tells Oliver that there’s a prophecy that the man who does not perish at the blade of Ra’s Al Ghul becomes Ra’s Al Ghul. “Ra’s doesn’t offer, he orders,” Malcolm warns.
Speaking of Ra’s offer, Ra’s second prediction — about Oliver dying alone, without his love — also appears to be within the realm of possibility. Oliver (in that same handsome peacoat) awkwardly interrupts a flirt session between Felicity and Ray and learns that while Oliver’s been brooding, she’s been moving on. Despite Oliver’s initial discomfort at seeing the two of them together, Oliver opens up to Felicity about his earlier confrontation with Lance.
It’s about time that these two leaned on each other in a meaningful way. It’s no coincidence that Oliver’s been wandering around lost these last few episodes at the same time his and Felicity’s friendship has been strained. Perhaps recognizing his reliance on her, Oliver later connects with Felicity again at the foundry and questions what he’s accomplished as the Arrow. “I don’t believe you’re the Arrow so that people can say ‘Thank you,’” she tells him. Felicity notes that when Oliver was missing and presumed dead, the rest of the team had to figure out their motivation for hunting criminals every night; Felicity wisely suggests that it’s time for Oliver to answer that question for himself.
And as if two Oliver/Felicity scenes were not generous enough, there’s a third scene where Oliver thanks Felicity for her advice and — finally — they seem comfortable and relaxed around each other. Maybe more than comfortable: Felicity is straight-up flirting with Oliver, purring like a kitten in a way she hasn’t done in the past. Case in point: When Oliver tells Felicity he’s going to reject Ra’s offer, she says, “So that means a pass on being the most handsome Demon’s Head ever?” While Felicity has certainly gawked at Oliver from afar and made some slip-of-the-tongue comments, I don’t think she’s ever been so direct about how she feels about Oliver. (Maybe it was the peacoat?) A longing look between them is interrupted only by a ringing cell phone. Uh-oh … it’s Ray. Remember him, Felicity?
Feeling more confident in his purpose as the Arrow, Oliver informs Maseo that Oliver will be rejecting Ra’s offer. (Dude, Felicity said I was handsome. I’m not going ANYWHERE.) Maseo’s like, hahahaha, yeah, you don’t really have a choice.
Maseo’s point about Ra’s getting his way hits home in the last scene. A group of criminals are gathered in a hideout when the Arrow attacks, killing all but one of them and seemingly breaking the Arrow’s long-standing no-kill rule. The twist, of course, is that man under the hood is not Oliver; it’s Ra’s. And he tells the lone remaining criminal to go and tell everyone what he has seen. Looks like the Arrow is going to have some explaining to do next week.
HONG KONG FLASHBACKS:
While Oliver is on the run with Maseo and Tatsu’s son, Akio, Oliver runs into a woman that looks exactly like Shado.
• Shado’s alive?!? Has a twin sister? Government clone? What do you think?
• Thea and Roy lock lips! I approve.
• “If only I had known I’d had that option.” —when Felicity learns that the villain of the week voluntarily had his mouth sewn shut
• “They’re the League of Assassins. That’s not the name of a nice group.” —Felicity, trying to talk Oliver out of accepting Ra’s offer
• “We have to stop having these ‘thank-God-you’re-not-dead’ reunions.” —Thea to Oliver, when he returns safely from Nanda Parbat
• It’s refreshing that neither Ray nor Oliver ever seem threatened or turned off by Felicity’s superior intelligence.
MISSING THE MARK
• Hmmm, not sure how Ra’s knows that Oliver can’t be with the woman he loves.
• Again, a pretty slow first half that could have benefited from more action and less talk.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (Eh, “peacoat” is the new “shirtless.”)
NUMBER OF EPISODES SINCE STEPHEN AMELL WAS LAST SHIRTLESS: 5
If you have any Shado theories or Oliver peacoat GIFs you want to share, find me on Twitter: @rafteryish.