Ra’s Al Ghul is relaxing in a strange pool (a Lazarus pit, maybe?) when his daughter Nyssa enters. She explains to her father that Oliver Queen is still alive, and the indignity that he visited upon Ra’s by surviving will not go unpunished…
We then cut to Arrow HQ, where both Ollie and Thea are training with Malcolm Merlyn to face off against Ra’s when the time comes. Diggle informs the team that HQ and Club Verdant upstairs have had their security beefed up with ARGUS tech (courtesy of Diggle’s baby-mama). Laurel pulls Thea aside to tell her that her fighting style reminds her of Sara…awk-ward!
Flashback time! We see Ollie being grilled by a soldier about his involvement with the Alpha/Omega incident, when General Shrieve enters and tells him to stand down. He informs Ollie that he is no longer working for Amanda Waller and ARGUS, and that he can go with the Yamashiros back to Japan, and from there he can go anywhere in the world he pleases, even home.
Back in the present, Roy and Thea talk about the guilt she feels over killing Sara. Roy sympathizes with Thea, as he killed a cop when he was under the influence of Mirakuru last season. He gives her hope in saying that while the guilt doesn’t go away, it does get easier.
We cut to Ray Palmer in his apartment, still working on the A.T.O.M. armor. Felicity enters, furious that he’s been MIA for weeks (just like real life!) and that the Palmer Tech stock has plummeted as a result of his absence. She tells him that he needs sleep, but he refuses, explaining that he felt helpless when his wife was killed, he felt helpless when Brick took over the Glades, and he would never feel that way again.
Laurel tries to call her father (who’s still pissed that Laurel hid Sara’s death from him) when Thea enters the office. Thea confesses that she was under the influence of drugs and suggestion dosed by Merlyn and that she killed Sara. Laurel completely flips her…wait…Laurel forgives Thea, explaining that she wasn’t responsible for her actions when under the influence. Man, I should have Laurel represent me in traffic court. All kidding aside, Laurel tells Thea that she’s responsible for her actions going forward, and that she needs to leave Malcolm Merlyn and his influence behind.
We then cut to Ollie training when Laurel enters, still seemingly grieving over Sara’s death. She tells Ollie that she can’t remember Sara’s smile, and Ollie tells her that they’ll find Sara’s killer. Laurel knows Thea was the culprit, and she calls Ollie out on his lie, and tells him she’s disgusted that he’s working with the man that got them in this mess in the first place. Ollie retorts that he needs Merlyn in order to face off against Ra’s and win, which only makes Laurel more upset. She leaves, but not before telling him that she can’t believe that there was a time that she was ever in love with him. Ouch.
Ollie confronts Thea about talking to Laurel about killing Sara, but Thea is unrepentant, explaining that one way or another, Malcolm is going to face justice. Lo and behold, Merlyn is lured to a warehouse where Laurel attacks him. He wipes the floor with her, but she responds by pulling a gun on him. Before she can take the shot, Nyssa enters with a group of League assassins to take Merlyn. As she leaves, Nyssa tells Laurel that she honors her sister by wearing the Canary costume, but that her work is done.
Ollie is once again yelling at Laurel (seriously, half this season is Ollie yelling at Laurel. It’s like 23 weeks of domestic disturbances.), this time for trying to kill Merlyn and getting him captured. He then tells the team that they have to rescue Merlyn, because if he’s killed by Ra’s, the guilt will haunt Thea forever. Felicity scans the airfields in the area, and finds one where all of the cameras were suddenly disabled, meaning that Nyssa is leaving with Merlyn in tow for Nanda Parbat.
Flashing back once again, and Ollie and the Yamashiros are trying to find their own ways home. Akio, the Yamashiros’ son, begs Ollie to come and live with them in Japan. Ollie responds that he could send a Queen Industries jet to bring his family out to America for a vacation. The moment is interrupted by Maseo noticing that one of the dockworkers seems suspicious just before he pulls a gun. Maseo kills the gunmen, but several others come out of hiding and swarm around the group…
Ollie shows up at the airfield where Nyssa is trying to extract Merlyn, and the two of them fight. Merlyn tries to escape, but he gets recaptured by the League who then take off in their helicopter, leaving Nyssa behind. Ollie cages her up in HQ (a dark-haired woman with a strong jawline in a cage…oh CW, you know what I like!), and then tells the rest of the team to leave. The team thinks that he’ll torture her for the location of Nanda Parbat, but she tells him willingly, as she knows that Ollie will die there. Nobody on the team seems to be too pleased with this development, as Ollie didn’t do so hot last time he faced off against Ra’s.
Ray is still working on his suit when his access to the Palmer Tech servers is suddenly cut off. Felicity explains to him that she locked him out of the server, and that he has two options: either take 6 and a half hours to strongarm her encryption, or use that time to shower, eat a hot meal, and sleep, after which she will give him the password.
Diggle talks to his ex-wife about the situation with Ollie, and she tells him to go, knowing that he’s an “old soldier” and he needs to see action in order to feel alive. Thea confronts Ollie about his mission to rescue Merlyn. Ollie tells her that he’s doing this in order to “save her soul,” as the guilt she’d feel over serving her father up on a silver platter to Ra’s Al Ghul would consume her. Diggle enters and collects Ollie so that they can depart for Nanda Parbat.
Merlyn is dragged in front of Ra’s Al Ghul, where Merlyn begs for forgiveness for his part in the Undertaking (when he tried to level the Glades way back in season 1). Ra’s recounts a story when he met an amazing magician in Austria in ’54, and saw the same man 50 years later, dying. “A magician can cheat many things,” he muses, “except one.” Merlyn begs even harder, but Ra’s tells him to face his death with dignity and honor.
Felicity is admiring Palmer’s art collection when he enters, fresh from his shower. Apparently Ray’s technological advances include a towel that can somehow stay up despite being way too damn low. She finally gives Ray the password, but Ray swoops in for a kiss instead.
Diggle and Ollie arrive at Nanda Parbat. They try and formulate a plan, but are cut short by a volley of flaming arrows…
Back in the past, Ollie and the Yamashiros are under heavy fire from the gunmen. Maseo realizes that they’re ARGUS goons, and that Waller must not be happy with losing two of her agents. Ollie tells Maseo to take his family and run while he provides cover fire.
Back at HQ, Laurel visits Nyssa meditating in her cage, distraught that she can no longer remember Sara’s laughter. Nyssa also laments the loss of Sara, explaining that Sara’s laughter in the face of her father was the thing that made her fall in love with her. Laurel thanks Nyssa for their shared memory, seemingly soothed by Nyssa’s recount.
Ollie and Diggle manage to get inside Ra’s temple, where Ollie is tracking Malcolm Merlyn with the nanites he tagged him with earlier in the season. They find Merlyn, bloodied and hanging over a heap of smoldering coals, but Merlyn warns them that it’s a trap. With perfect dramatic timing, Ra’s shuts the gate to the room behind them, capturing the duo. Ollie comes to in a cell, where he and Diggle are chained together. Ollie confesses to Diggle that he’s been unable to cope with his defeat at the hand of Ra’s, and that defeating the man who almost killed him will bring him peace. Diggle, not really able to keep things relevant, asks Oliver if he’d be his best man when he remarries his ex-wife, and Ollie agrees. Maseo enters, telling them that Ra’s has demanded to speak to Oliver.
In one final flashback, Ollie and the Yamashiros are still pinned down by the ARGUS goons. Unable to escape, Maseo tells Ollie that he needs to take Akio and escape, and Ollie hesitantly agrees, hauling the screaming child away from danger.
Roy brings Thea to a family’s house that he visits often, and Thea realizes it’s the family of the cop that Roy killed. Roy explains that he brings food, toys, and money to the family without them realizing that it’s him. Thea tells Roy that he’s torturing himself, but Roy counters that it’s helping him. He tells Thea that she could move past her guilt, but Thea wonders if she’s actually a killer by nature, and that Merlyn simply awoke her killer instinct.
We then cut to a post-coital Ray and Felicity, when Ray suddenly has a post-orgasmic brainstorm about the A.T.O.M. suit (me, I usually think about snacks), prompting him to sneak out from under the sleeping Felicity to finish his work. He dons the A.T.O.M. suit, and in a burst of jet exhaust takes off from the roof, meaning that months of leading up to this moment led to an oddly Iron Man-esque moment.
Back at HQ, Thea confesses to the caged Nyssa that she lied about Malcolm Merlyn killing Sara, and that she in fact was the killer. She says that she’s tired of running, and unlocks Nyssa’s cage before handing her a scimitar…
Finally, Ollie is brought before Ra’s, where Ollie begs Ra’s to spare Diggle’s life even if he kills Ollie. Ra’s chuckles, explaining that he doesn’t want to kill Oliver, he wants him to be Ra’s successor, to become the next Ra’s Al Ghul…and now we have to wait until March 18th for the next episode. God damn it, CW!
OK, so where do we begin? Well, there were some really, really interesting developments in this episode. The idea that Ra’s would pass up Nyssa as his successor is interesting (possibly hinting that he disapproved of her sexuality), and even more interesting that he would offer it up to Oliver. There are some obvious Batman parallels being drawn here, particularly to Son of the Demon, where Ra’s wanted the Dark Knight to take over the League of Assassins after Ra’s stepped down. This season has had a lot of obvious Batman analogies (Count Vertigo becoming little more than a hammy Scarecrow being another example), and it seems that the Ra’s connection is no different. This could prove to be an interesting offer for Ollie, as he could use the League to help clean up Starling City, but it also begs the question that Slade asked him last episode: how much more can he lose before he ceases to be Oliver Queen?
Thea also has her own journey, and her friends are proving to be the rock that she needs. Laurel’s forgiveness of her actions and Roy trying to be her support group are showing that they’re both more effective than Ollie, who seems to be more interested in protecting her than helping her move past her guilt. We’ll have to wait and see if Nyssa shares the same sentiments…
Then, there’s the final A.T.O.M. reveal. I’ll be honest, it kinda fizzled after the massive buildup. Call me an old curmudgeon, but I always thought that Ray Palmer/Atom was a shrinker, not an armored warrior. Sure, that may still happen (although it might not be as useful in the more grounded Arrow universe), but what we have here is like DC’s newer version of O.M.A.C. (an acronym cited by Palmer earlier in the season), so why didn’t they just go with that? Again, time will tell…