When CW’s Arrow went on break back in February, the final minutes of the 15th episode of the 3rd season provided us with one of the biggest twists to date on the show: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head and leader of the League of Assassins, wanted to make Oliver Queen his successor, the next Ra’s al Ghul. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Hold your horses there! What!? Yep, pretty damn big twist and something that needed a lot of clarification from a story perspective. Which is where the returning episode from last week, “The Offer“, came in.
The episode last week laid out exactly why Ra’s al Ghul chose Oliver as his successor instead of his own daughter, Nyssa al Ghul, who has been quite the force on the show ever since her debut in the middle of the second season. In a war of dual identities where much of the good he has done has been twisted and rendered ineffective, Oliver seriously considers the offer, and the journey to get to that point speaks volumes about how he and his friends and allies have developed over the last three years, and the long road that lies ahead of them all.
Ever since the show premiered, Oliver’s core struggle has always been with himself and his core mission. Initially he was out for vengeance and retribution in a city rife with corruption. Then he wanted to become a symbol of hope and inspiration in a city of heroes. Now he is fighting to reconcile the two different halves of his identity, Oliver Queen vs the Arrow. That’s what season three has been all about and nothing puts that into a better perspective than Ra’s al Ghul’s offer to him to succeed him as the leader of the League of Assassins and then do with that power as he saw fit.
That’s a pretty big thing you know. Sure, the League is called the League of Assassins for a reason. But under Oliver, the League could become so much more, could even redefine itself completely, and that’s the decision that Oliver has to make. Should he remold something inherently detrimental to society or should he fight against it and continue to oppose it at every turn? I loved that internal drama that the character struggled with and I think that Beth Schwartz & Brian Ford Sullivan did a good job on the story front, to bring that about and give the viewers something real and “tangible” to sink their teeth into. Sure, a lot of the credit undoubtedly goes to the executive producers as well, but Beth and Brian have particularly been with the show a long time and they have helped shape the Arrow-verse as well as any one else.
Another major thing that happened in this episode was the clearing of the air between Nyssa and Thea. We saw in the finale of the previous episode that the latter told the former the truth about Sara’s death, and we all fully expected Nyssa to do something violent I bet. At least, I did. But that’s not what happens because, at first, Nyssa has trouble believing any of it, that someone like Thea could take down someone like Sara. But the truth is the truth and Nyssa has to then contend against the other big twist of not being the Heir to the Demon. That’s a pretty major blow to her, and we see some really great scenes between her and the rest of the main cast, especially towards the end when there’s this excellent bonding moment between her and Laurel. It was a scene that kind of echoed the dynamic between Slade Wilson and Oliver from the first season, way back before the former went nuts on mirakuru and became a die-hard villain.
Then we also had some more progress on the “suiting up Ray” front with Ray Palmer and Felicity making another bit of progress on the project. It is kind of cute to see that Felicity is solving so many of Ray’s problems, adding further to the dynamic between the two of them and also showing that their relationship is as much of one based on equality of skill as is (maybe was?) the one between Felicity and Oliver. She’s got the brains to do all the awesome stuff with technology, no matter what it is, and she always puts it to good use. Gives her yet another outlet for her skills, preventing her from being “just” the tech-support to Team Oliver and I find that this is something I can well get behind.
But of course, given that the central thing in this episode is The Offer, we spend a lot of time exploring the in-effect and probable consequences of this offer. Such as the fact that as a gesture of goodwill to convince Oliver, Ra’s lets Malcolm Merlyn go free, and cancels all debts on his name for the League. That’s a big, big moment in the show, for the first major villain to essentially walk away scot-free like this, going back to his estranged daughter and stepson a free man. Sure, Thea hates that Malcolm survived, and so does Laurel, but the two of them do come to realize that this was just as well since otherwise Thea would have had to bear the guilt otherwise of having been a part of her dad’s death.
There’s this one line that Oliver says to Felicity that really struck with me, as regards Thea’s situation: (paraphrase) “My sister is in ten different kinds of pain right now”. I think that really encapsulates Thea’s own struggles, and given how things go between her and Malcolm, this is a good assessment of the facts and events. She just wanted to become someone who could not get hurt by all the things around her. But she only ended up getting hurt even more. There are no more secrets between her and Oliver now, but there’s this huge wall of disappointment and mistrust that has sprung up between her and Malcolm and it really makes me feel for both of them, after all that they have been through.
And if there’s one thing that you really have to respect above all else, it is that Malcolm is still as ruthless as it gets. No “major” scenes with him this time around, but I think that the character had a much better emotional arc in this episode than he has had before, and that’s also largely due to the fact that Malcolm has to rank himself along Oliver and his beliefs, which make him see himself in a whole new light.
Then there’s the ending of the episode, which just goes to show the lengths that Ra’s al Ghul can go to bring about what he has ordered. Before, we never really see saw him in action in the way that we’ve been seeing Oliver since the start of the show. But now, the Demon’s Head comes to Starling. And it is awesome!
So once again, a great episode. It had a lot of emotional maturity to it, and I really liked that. I remarked in my review of The Flash episode 15 how different things are over there when you compare it to Arrow, and that definitely seems to be the core thing here as well. Arrow is the older brother, so to speak, and for the producers and writers to experiment and deliver as they have been, well, that’s a good sign for things to come!
More Arrow (Season 2): Link.