Oliver Queen is alive only in the past. He is forgotten. And boy, did that idea work well this week? Al Sah-Him has arrived and it was, arguably in a warped sense, a pretty good spectacle.
Perhaps the best way to describe this episode is ‘balanced’, that ‘balance’ has been sorely lacking at time this season but tonight’s instalment was much improved. It wasn’t perfect, there was still good and bad but in the main, it was much better than last week.
The star of the show, both in the opening credits and in terms of the episode was Stephen Amell this week. He was excellent as Al Sah-Him, wonderfully cold and managed to really convey the look of someone who has had his personality dismantled. It was even the most subtle things, like the harsher, more gravelly voice to the blank, cold looks. Oliver Queen is dead, for now at least. Al Sah-Him lives. I don’t know what it says about me but this episode really made me wish we’d had more of Oliver in the League. There’s just something compelling about the idea, the scenes between Ra’s and Al Sah-Him were engaging and the whole thing felt like a spark that’s been sorely lacking for much of this season.
In the opening sequence, which I’m saw would have a few people a little stunned – if only momentarily, we saw how twisted Ra’s has managed to make his new heir as he willingly put a sword through someone he believed to be Diggle. Obviously it panned out it wasn’t, though nonetheless it shows that Oliver Queen has gone and Al Sah-Him is what remains. There were a few times things felt a little convenient, where he didn’t kill Nyssa with the presence of Laurel (the Canary Cry rises, by the way) and Diggle nearby. There was also in the latter stages where he didn’t actually put a sword through the real Diggle. Before Ra’s stopped him killing Nyssa.
Obviously, they’re not going to kill off key players. By no means am I advocating the deaths of Diggle and Nyssa, I actually quite like the pair of them but in some ways it would have been strangely refreshing for things to take such a dark turn. Though, I’m aware the counter argument would be – does this stop Oliver becoming redeemable?
Onto Nyssa, I suppose this episode was the former Heir versus the current Heir. She’s carved out a nice friendship with Laurel and the scenes between them were a good watch. It’s a shame we haven’t had more in recent weeks, as with more of the League. A training scene here or there would have been a nice touch. Nonetheless, what we did get was decent. Obviously, her blood wasn’t all over the floor by the end of the episode but Ra’s is doing his utmost to rival Malcolm Merlyn for father of the year.
He wants to marry Al Sah-Him with Nyssa. Now, there’s been an understandable frustration at this turn of events due to Nyssa’s sexuality and how this is another black mark against the Arrow writers and their treatment of women. I think it’s a fair argument to make. I mean, looking at both LGBT representations in Arrow – Sara got pelted full of arrows and fell off a building and Nyssa is being forced to marry a man. At the very least, it establishes just how cold Ra’s can be…
Another thing we learned was that Nyssa took a vial of Alpha Omega to Starling City. Hurrah! The flashbacks and the present day have a real, solid link. Then, it went a step further with Ra’s wishing for Al Sah-Him to unleash the virus on Starling City. “The final act of ascension, the transformation to Demon’s Head, the erase of one’s former life, former home…” Ra’s told his Heir. Which brought about a look of blank indifference from Al Sah-Him. It’s intriguing to ponder how he’s going to handle that, exactly. I would hope they steer clear of having mass destruction in Starling City for the third season running at the very least.
The other thing we should bring up is the introduction of the supposed season 4 big bad, Damian/Damien Dark/Darkh – I’ve seen different combinations, so excuse me on that. But he was Ra’s rival for Heir and he hesitated, allowing him to escape and he’s now heading up HIVE. I’m actually really pleased he has a link with the League and Ra’s. I don’t think the writers have made the most of the League this season and I wasn’t really all that looking forward to HIVE next year, but my expectations have arisen somewhat with that revelation.
One of the other elements of this episode that was pleasing as Thea. It especially felt as if they were hinting that she could be the one to salvage his soul from Ra’s and the League. “I can get through to him,” she told Felicity. I really hope that’s the angle they take, should someone be the key to waking him. There’s a terrific symmetry that could come into play between Oliver surrendering his soul for Thea’s life and Thea then being the one to save her brother’s soul. It remains to be seen if that’s the angle they take. Also, we had her suit up for the first time where she wasn’t afraid to put an arrow through the artist formerly known as Oliver’s eye. She also discovered the truth about Roy, which felt right. There’s a lot of rain in Thea’s life right now, so to know there’s something good out there was probably earned.
The fight scenes were also stronger than they have been in a bit, Al Sah-Him against the real Diggle was a highlight and near brutal in its execution.
The flashbacks are edging towards a near satisfying conclusion now. It appears Akio’s death, which we’ve known was coming almost all season long, is edging ever nearer too. Tatsu’s “It’s okay, you’re safe now,” was the biggest of nails hammered into the coffin. Poor kid. It’s going to be interesting to see just how much of a link they establish with the present day now. Could Shrieve’s men have more of a link to HIVE than we think? Could this be the work of Ra’s’ old foe?
Overall, much, much improved. Whereas last week I felt faltered on many levels, this week felt as if Arrow had got back in the groove. Amell was very good as Al Sah-Him, it was great to have more of Thea and more of Laurel involved, as well as Nyssa and just more League action in general. Arrow seems to be at its strongest when nearing towards its finales, when telling a consistent, over arching story rather than using filler episodes. Everything is starting to fall into place now, hopefully we now have a very good final two episodes looming on the horizon.