This week, after a long drought, Diggle and Oliver finally share bro-on-bro bonding time out in the field. Well, bondage time, too, as the two end up chained together in the custody of Ra’s Al Ghul. Wait, what? Let’s recap.
In the opening scene, Ra’s Al Ghul is trying to get a little “me time” in his Lazarus Pit hot tub, when Nyssa barges in to inform her father that Oliver Queen managed to cheat Ra’s death sentence. (The hot tub is a nice touch, as Nanda Parbat’s decor has always reminded me of a fancy spa. Ra’s clearly has some divalike aesthetic demands: Neutral tones only. Torches. Lots and lots of torches.). Because Nyssa is the paragon of loyalty, both to her father and Sara, Nyssa insists that Oliver must die, only for reals this time.
But Nyssa’s got the wrong man — or, rather, woman: Thea can’t keep living with the guilt of her part in Sara’s death, so Thea confesses to Laurel that not only did Malcolm make Thea kill Sara, but Oliver has been hiding that fact from Laurel. Thea’s confession leads to a great scene between Laurel and Oliver in the foundry, where Oliver straight-up lies to Laurel (again) about not knowing who killed Sara. Laurel realizes she doesn’t really know Oliver at all. With a mix of confusion and pain, Laurel asks, “How do you do it? Lie to my face?” Katie Cassidy’s delivery of those lines was gut-wrenching and, for once, understated. I thought those lines were more powerful than when Laurel tells Oliver she can’t remember a time when she used to love him.
Laurel learning the truth about Malcolm leads to one of the most entertaining scenes of the episode: when Laurel-as–Black Canary attacks Malcolm. Actual recap note: “Gurl, don’t be so dumb.” Malcolm obviously bests her without breaking a sweat and speaks for the entire Arrow audience when he says, “You’re just embarrassing yourself.” Malcolm, though, has less to say when Laurel pulls a gun on him. Before she can pull the trigger, Nyssa and the League of Assassins show up and kidnap Malcolm. Turns out Thea ratted him out as Sara’s killer.
Oliver thinks Thea turning Malcolm over to the League is a bad idea, as he’s afraid Thea will one day regret leading her father to his death. In a slick fight sequence on a helicopter landing-pad, Oliver tries to stop the League from taking Malcolm, but Nyssa sacrifices herself in order to ensure that Malcolm makes it onto the helicopter headed to Nanda Parbat. At this point, I am thinking that Nyssa is the hardest-working, most badass assassin ever. Nyssa’s sacrifice leaves her locked in a cage in the foundry. Oliver insists that Team Arrow leave him alone with Nyssa so that he can interrogate Nyssa on the secret whereabouts of Nanda Parbat. But no interrogation is necessary: Nyssa offers up the information easily because, as she tells Oliver, sending him to Nanda Parbat guarantees his death.
By now it’s pretty obvious to everyone on Team Arrow that Oliver has a renewed death wish. His reasoning for heading to Nanda Parbat — rescuing Malcolm so Thea won’t bear responsibility for her father’s death — is thin and only made sillier by the fact that, as Roy points out, saving Malcolm will likely lead to her brother’s death. Felicity and Laurel also make clear that Oliver’s idea is full of a whole lot of suck. Oliver’s face as these two strong women voice their opinions is priceless. “You’re unusually quiet,” he says to Dig, eyes begging for backup. Dig does more than save Oliver from an uncomfortable conversation — he decides he’s not going to let Oliver go to Nanda Parbat alone.
You know who else is not going to be alone? Felicity. She’s still processing that the unrequited love of her life is actively choosing to go to his death again, when she visits Ray’s apartment to make sure he’s not going all Dr. Frankenstein with his Atom project. When Ray comes out of his bedroom shirtless (your move, Amell!), I know that the Felicity-Ray hookup is inevitable. Sigh.
I take some comfort in the fact that the dialogue leading up to them sleeping together makes it clear that Felicity is still very much not over Oliver. (Case in point: When Ray confesses that when he’s with Felicity, he doesn’t think about his mission as Atom, she practically jumps him. Projection, much?) But the mission doesn’t stay out of Ray’s mind long: Inspiration hits him, and he figures out how to render his Atom suit operative. Ray gives it a test run on the roof and shoots himself into the night sky. While Atom is enjoying a postcoital flight, Thea heads to the foundry, where Nyssa is still imprisoned. Thea confesses that it was her, not Malcolm, who shot the arrows into Sara. Thea opens the cell, hands Nyssa a sword, and offers Nyssa the chance to take her vengeance out on Thea.
Speaking of queens with suicidal tendencies, Oliver and Diggle attempt to break Malcolm out of his cell at Nanda Parbat, but only end up in chains themselves. Oliver, looking defeated, admits that Thea is not the reason he came to Nanda Parbat. Turns out Oliver can’t stand the fact that Ra’s defeated him when they last faced off. Dig reassures Oliver that his desire to best Ra’s is a natural reaction: “Every solider on the battlefield has to believe he’s coming home, or he’s paralyzed.” And as if the Oliggle feels were not enough, Dig then asks Oliver to be his best man: “When I lost my brother, I never thought I’d get another one.” Uh-oh, Dig. You might lose this brother, too. Ra’s has Oliver brought before him. But Ra’s has no interest in killing Oliver: He wants Oliver to take Ra’s place as the head of the League of Assassins.
That sound you hear? That’s Nyssa’s head hitting the assassin glass ceiling.
HONG KONG FLASHBACKS:
Ollie is being debriefed in China when General Shrieve comes in to tell Ollie that Shrieve’s called off Amanda Waller’s inquiries into the Alpha/Omega debacle: Ollie is free to go and join the Yamashiros, who are headed to Japan on a boat. At the dock, Ollie and the Yamashiros couldn’t be happier to be free of Waller, so that means, of course, bad news is coming. The boat deckhands start shooting at them. Maseo suspects it’s Waller’s doing. Ultimately, the shoot-out leads to Tatsu and Maseo being separated from their son, Akio.
I’ve speculated before that Waller was more likely to be this season’s big bad than Ra’s Al Ghul. The recent appearance of General Shrieve makes me more certain that some iteration of the government (whether A.R.G.U.S. or the U.S. Army) is going to drive the present-day conflict in the last half of the season. In a way, aren’t A.R.G.U.S. agents cut from the same assassin cloth as Ra’s Al Ghul? Both take out those they deem a threat to their principles. Plus, a government agency that undertakes detestable actions does so under a veil of bureaucratic legitimacy. In this sense, if played right, an omnipresent government group can be a formidable foe (i.e., The Americans’ Directorate S). If not executed well, however, it can be campy and nonthreatening (i.e., Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Initiative in season four). Let’s hope for the former.
- “I am the prisoner, yet you look the more tortured,” Nyssa says to Laurel. Katrina Law’s Nyssa really stole the episode this week.
- How cute are Dig and Lyla? I love that she encourages him to go to Nanda Parbat with Oliver.
- After Malcolm Merlyn refers to Dig as John, Dig says, “My friends call me Dig. You shouldn’t even speak to me.”
- Controversial opinion: Felicity deserved to get a little action. Discuss.
MISSING THE MARK
- How did Thea know how to contact the League of Assassins?
- I struggled with Oliver’s motivation in returning to Nanda Parbat, i.e. that he couldn’t let go of the fact that Ra’s beat him. To be sure, Oliver has always had a lot of Alpha male tendencies, but he’s rarely let it cloud his judgment to such a degree. This was a rare episode where I found Oliver sort of unlikeable. I’m hoping it’s all just part of his journey to some better headspace.
NUMBER OF SHIRTLESS STEPHEN AMELL SCENES: 0 (whywhywhywhy)
NUMBER OF EPISODES SINCE STEPHEN AMELL WAS LAST SHIRTLESS: 4
Arrow is going on hiatus until March 18, so there will be no new recaps for the next two weeks. In the meantime, if you have any big bad theories or shirtless Oliver GIFs you want to share, find me on Twitter @rafteryish.