“Bones heal and chicks dig scars” goes the old advocate of pain; and though my ever so impressive hamster bitten pinkie remains criminally underappreciated by the fairer sex the point remains that all pain can fade over time.... or can it? The physical may heal but the mind remains as no splint or suture make the emotional trauma go away. While it’s quite easy is fixate on the battered and bloody side of things in the moment; once they depart the real tormentor takes up the reigns. This where many of Team arrow find themselves this week; driven by the pain of overwhelming into reckless and downright idiotic courses of action. Though where it all ends is far for unexpected.
Nanda Parbat – After coming clean to Laurel about killing Sara, Thea is moved to betray her father to his death by handing him over to the League of Assassins. To save Thea from the eternal guilt of killing her own father Oliver and Diggle launch a mad rescue attempt of the League’s infamous sanctuary, Nanda Parbat. Meanwhile Ray Palmer, following Brick’s hostile takeover of The Glades, is pushing himself to dangerous extremes to finish his ATOM suit much to Felicity’s concern.
In a recent interview Greg Berlanti (Arrow show runner) stated that the big revelations so far in the show’s 2015 return were nothing. That from episode 14 onwards it would be getting crazier and crazier each week. Two weeks in and already you can see his point. Arrow is going big and if the aim is to top itself week after week until the then we have a hell of a ride in store! This week the main focus swings back to Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins as in a surprising change up to last week’s training pledge, Oliver and The Demons Head come face to face much sooner than expected. Tying into the central guilt themes it approaches this in a fascinating manor with Oliver’s character. That while he claims his motives are for Thea he’s ultimately revealed with a less heroic agenda; “I couldn’t live knowing that there was someone out there that beat me”. He doesn’t feel safe while he knows he can be defeated and even admits to himself how vain and egomaniacal this is. It’s a good reflection of heroic imperfection. That being a hero is not being without flaws but to embrace and accept those you have in the hope of conquering them. Oliver rushing into a Ra’s rematch is also echoed well throughout the rest of the team as it becomes such a divisive subject as Oliver takes liberties with his life for the sake of Merlyn. The Magician even creates a clear rift in their ranks as Laurel openly defies him for want of revenge for Sara “I told you and Merlyn was off limits... I know, and then I realised that I don’t give a dam”. In fact for all focus on the big men it’s the ladies that bring the powerful emotional journeys throughout the episode as a captured Nyssa al Ghul is able to converse with Thea and Laurel. Nyssa and Laurel’s exchange over remembering Sara is quite heartfelt as the Demons daughter describes falling in love with Sara the first time she heard her laugh. It links back nicely to the pair’s mutual understanding during Nyssa’s last visit. Though its Thea who gets the award for most distance covered as pained with guilt after giving up her father she comes back around full circle and not only confesses the truth to Nyssa but gives her the chance to take her vengeance/justice from where it truly lies.
This is also a great action episode delivering plenty of good and varied sequences. Right from the start with a fast and swirling Merlyn Vs The Queens sword training sequence in the Arrow cave the episode gives plenty to enjoy. Laurel’s ill advised vengeance driven attack on Merlyn is an unusual highlight as he ducks and dodges her attacks in an almost unconcerned and amused manner at her amateur by comparison fighting style. It’s also great to see Nyssa back in the ring as we see her adept agility pitted against both Merlyn and Oliver. The Oliver fight in particular is gorgeously shot at airport with the background cityscape. Though the best results come from Oliver & Dig’s assault on Nanda Parbat; from the flaming arrow announcement that surprise will not be an option to the pair minion despatching their way through the lavish corridors and catacombs (Arrow is open about not having the biggest set making budget for comparable shows but does really well here). The Hong Kong (though now in China) flashback sequences also chip in a good gun fight as it appears Argus are less willing to let their assets go. Although the first thought is that their attackers are actually at least under China White’s pay if not organisation; though she was captured she did get the kill order out first by phone. Also you can’t really see the motive is for Amanda Waller and ARGUS to want them killed like this as Oliver and Maseo have proven they’re more valuable alive.he key is undoubtedly General Shrieve in his reappearance to say goodbye that screamed of a deeper meaning. In the best case he’s genuine in appearing to owe Oliver which could become a favour to cash in. In the worst he’s secretly behind their attack as he states the military are in charge of “clean up” on the operation. Either way we’ve definitely not seen the last of Mr Creature Comforts.
It’s great to finally return to the Ray Palmer/ATOM story and the Iron Man referencing continues as Palmer appears to be experiencing Stark’s Iron man 3 level of work obsession to get the suit finished. Though completion is a clearly signposted (and confirmed many weeks back) this not does not in any way prevent it from being awesome. As the hero music cues up to a newly inspired Ray finding the finishing touch and the 360 degree sweeping shot atop the Palmer Technologies announces there’s a new hero in town. Then just to make sure we don’t have any drool still caught up behind our bottom lips he starts clocking up the air miles. This may seem a strange point to bring the finished ATOM suit into the game but when combined with the concluding bombshell revelation for Oliver it immediately finds ground within the wider story; that Oliver knowing there’s another (hopefully capable) hero in town now may sway the decision about his future. Then of course there’s Felicity’s involvement in proceedings. Though it’s been teased at many points this season now it’s official.... Raylicity is a thing. As usual Emily Bett Rickards excels in these awkward comedy scenes as the accidental double entendres achieve perpetual motion. It appears the bromance doesn’t want to be upstaged either as Oliver and Diggle get some nice moments both with and without the chain bondage. “When I lost my brother I never thought that I’d get another one” as he asks Oliver to be his best man in what I believe (feel free to fact check) will be Arrow’s first ever wedding. Rather than a throwaway moment it actually serves well as motivation in their time of despair; a reminder that they still have things worth fighting for.
It’s an excellent episode delivering great results in action, drama and humour while still making big story strides. While the end bombshell will not be dropped here for spoiler sake it packs the mega tonnes and confirms (along with some previous hints) that the show is adapting arguably the greatest of all Ra’s al Ghul storylines. We also confirm Ra’s is immortal by hearing him speak of encounter in 1854 and the episode actually opening with Ra’s in the show’s Lazarus Pit set (which requires mandatory Hot Tub Time Machine jokes according to the show’s crew). With endings this good it will be an oh so painful two week gap until the season resumes. Let’s just hope its pain that will eventually heal.