Like any decent comic book, the past few Arrow episodes have ended with some pretty thrilling cliffhangers. Last week’s final scene — with Maseo about to assassinate Felicity — was no exception. That thrill, of course, didn’t come from the physical threat to Felicity (precious unicorns can’t be killed!), but from the emotional punch of Maseo’s betrayal. The beginning of this episode quickly answers the question of whether Maseo would do something as heinous to Oliver as kill Felicity: Oh yeah, Maseo would totally do it. He takes the shot, and it becomes clear that the alliances and friendships we spent so much time rooting for are about to quickly unravel.
Of course the main relationship in tatters this week is Captain Lance and the Arrow’s. Soon after Maseo ambushes the mayor’s office, Captain Lance holds the first of many press conferences this episode, announcing that the Arrow is wanted for first-degree murder. Oliver surmises that Maseo is the one playing Arrow copycat and figures that, if he can stop Maseo, the Arrow can avoid becoming Lance’s scapegoat.
To find Maseo, Oliver tracks down Nyssa, who explains to Oliver that his plan is futile, because if Oliver defeats Maseo, a virtual clown car of assassins will take Maseo’s place. But after Oliver invokes Sara’s name, Nyssa is open to helping Oliver and tells Team Arrow where Maseo is hiding out. Katrina Law’s Nyssa is such a fun mix of badass killer instinct, vulnerability, and subtle snark. I’m hoping Nyssa continues to assist Oliver and Team Arrow in their fight against Ra’s Al Ghul, because who else knows her dad better than her?
Nyssa’s tip works out. The Arrow, Black Canary, and Arsenal come face-to-face with Maseo, who orders his minions to “Kill them all.” (Um, Maseo, what is wrong with you? Seriously. You already betrayed Ra’s to save Oliver. What’s a little more betrayal? Help out a flashback bro.) The three vigilantes engage in some intense hand-to-hand combat with Maseo & Co., before Ra's steps in to tell the Arrow that he is going to spend the rest of his life in a cage. Cue police helicopters!
Arrow’s action sequences often get critical short shrift. It’s understandable, as Oliver’s long-term emotional journey has more staying power than a deadly drop kick. Plus, fans are spoiled by the fact that intricate, well-choreographed stunts appear in each episode; it’s easy to forget that Arrow is a weekly television series with serious time and budget constraints. Despite those limitations, this episode delivered several noteworthy fight and chase scenes. In particular, the extended sequence — beginning with the rooftop confrontation with Maseo, followed by the manhunt through the creepy laundry labyrinth, and ending with the high-speed police car chase — was executed better than most feature-length films that don’t star Vin Diesel.
At the end of the police chase, Team Arrow gets away. But Ra’s has a plan B. First, Maseo kidnaps Lance in the alley behind the police station, which, by the way, should be renamed Kidnap Alley because I’m pretty sure there have been at least two kidnappings there this year. Then, Maseo brings Lance to some undisclosed Starling City location to meet Ra’s himself. (I love how whenever the League of Assassins comes to town, they bring their Nanda Parbat aesthetic with them; pity the League intern who is in charge of tracking down rental torches.) Ra’s calm, quiet demeanor in this scene is unsettling and serves as a great contrast to Lance’s emotional outbursts. Lance is full of fire and fight, until Ra’s reveals the truth about Oliver Queen and the Arrow. Then, Lance can only look away, defeated, in stunned silence. Paul Blackthorne nails Lance’s pain and disappointment.
Meanwhile, Felicity is in the hospital visiting Ray, who stepped in to protect Felicity from Maseo’s arrow. They learn that the arrow created a blood clot, which can kill Ray, but the surgery needed to correct it could cause brain damage. Ray concocts the idea of using his nanotechnology to defeat the blood clot. Felicity is distraught over Ray’s predicament, but, thankfully, Mama Smoak arrives, fresh off a jet from Vegas, to give her daughter some much-needed support. Charlotte Ross’s Mama Smoak adds a welcome levity to an otherwise tense episode. While Ross’s performance can borderline on cartoonish (e.g., faking a back spasm to distract the doctor), she deftly pulls back when the situation gets serious.
Speaking of serious, after Felicity saves Ray’s life by injecting him with the nanotechnology, Ray tells Felicity that he loves her. Felicity, in return … offers him hospital Jell-O, and practically runs from his room. Oof. If she doesn’t love Ray after he saves Felicity’s life and almost dies himself, then you know it’s a doomed relationship. (Besides, Oliver has saved her life, like, sooo many times. Nice try, Ray.) Even Mama Smoak is onto Felicity’s true feelings. When Mama Smoak guesses out of nowhere that Felicity loves Oliver, I’m skeptical, since she barely saw Oliver last time she was in Starling City. Felicity is there with me: “You met him, for like, ten seconds,” to which her mom replies, “I knew it in five.” Mic drop! Okay, I’m a believer, Mama Smoak. Felicity has to make a choice between Ray, “a Disney prince” who knows every episode of all 34 seasons of Dr. Who, and Oliver, who is not only unavailable, but about to get arrested. There is, of course, no choice to make.
In the series so far, I’ve seen Oliver experience fear, but that fear was still always cloaked in control. When Lance reveals at a press conference that Oliver Queen is the Arrow, Oliver goes into full-on panic mode, dashing out of Verdant when the police arrive. He makes his way to Diggle’s apartment, as does the rest of Team Arrow. Felicity begs Oliver to tell her that he has a brilliant plan for getting out of this. Oliver doesn’t: “I don’t even have a regular plan.” But then he gets one. He decides to take away Ra’s power by offering himself to the Starling City Police. Nobody on Team Arrow likes this plan, especially as Oliver has struck a deal to give everyone else immunity. He begs them to let this happen: “All of you have followed me this far, but I need you to follow me just a little further … until it’s over.” (This could very well be what some Arrow fans need to hear after the admittedly uneven second half of season three.)
At the end, there’s an emotionally wrought scene where Lance and Oliver are riding in a police van, presumably to Iron Heights Prison. (Don’t worry, Oliver, everyone escapes from there.) It’s a nice parallel to the scene with Lance and Ra’s, only here, Oliver is playing the calm and collected card. Not Lance. He’s out to hurt, both physically, as he punches Oliver’s face(!), and mentally: “You, Mr. Queen, you’re not a hero. You’re a villain.” This intense exchange is interrupted by a commotion outside the police van: It’s Roy, who’s quickly surrounded by police; Roy, dressed in Oliver’s green hood, “confesses” that he is the real Arrow.
HONG KONG FLASHBACKS
Thank God, it’s Shado’s twin sister. A little soapy? Sure, but so is everyone coming back from the dead. Shado’s sister helps Oliver and Akio hide from Amanda Waller’s goons, and, in return, Oliver gives her closure on Shado and, their father, Yao Fei. Plus: Maseo and Tatsu reunite with Akio!
• Nyssa’s head snap to Roy, when he questions how she had information on Maseo’s whereabouts.
• Diggle watching over Team Arrow with a sniper gun — see, there’s room for everyone out in the field!
• Although Felicity clearly has issues with her mom’s lack of boundaries, I like that their relationship is progressing into a more meaningful one.
• Super sweet that the first thing Oliver asks Felicity, when he’s being hunted by police, is how Ray was doing. I don’t know how she just didn’t kick everyone else out of Dig’s apartment at that moment and make sweet now-or-never fugitive love with Oliver.
• Sounds like Felicity’s dad was up to no good. Excited to see how that story line develops.
• When Oliver almost kills Maseo during the rooftop fight, Maseo gives him the most puppy dog look.
• Making amends with Thea + absolving his guilt over the policeman’s death by taking Oliver’s place = redemptive arc = It’s been nice knowing you, Roy.
MISSING THE MARK
• Not sure why, but one of the newscast scrolls said: “Oliver Queen return to Starling City to Disapproving Crowds.” Huh? Sounds like a leftover graphic from season two.
• Nothing annoys me in this world more than Laurel’s “trying not to get caught in a lie” face. Nothing else in this world. Not taxes, not dirty dishes, not traffic jams. Nothing.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: ½ (even Shado’s sister knows what’s up)
Arrow is on hiatus for one week, returning April 15. In the meantime, share your theories about Ra’s, Roy, and Ray — say that three times — with me on Twitter.