Arrow 3.15: Nanda Parbat
Arrow took the conflict against Ra's Al Ghul in an interesting new direction as they came face to face for the first time since Ra's ran his through with a sword and left him for dead. The twist - that his mortal enemy wanted him to replace him - continued the season's theme of what makes someone good or bad. After Slade Wilson questioned if Oliver and Thea were killers last week, Oliver was offered the top seat at the villains table.
I wasn't so convinced by Oliver's passion to save Malcolm Merlyn after Thea shopped her father to a vengeful Nyssa but I totally bought Oliver's desire to save her soul, even at the cost of his own. After taking down and capturing Nyssa in one of the episode's always spectacular fight sequences, he abandoned team Arrow for the second time in as many weeks and travelled to Nanda Parbat to save Merlyn. All in order for his sister to not be overcome by the guilt of having her father killed. Oliver and Diggle's assault on the League Of Shadows was the episode's most thrilling moment, leaving them both - inevitably - prisoners and Merlyn tortured.
But even before we got to those final dramatic moments there was plenty of great character moments. Laurel taking on Merlyn as Black Canary would have been laughable if it wasn't so tragic and it was inevitable that she would fail so miserably, only to be saved by Nyssa. Interestingly, they seemed to bond over Sara as the episode progressed to the point that I wondered if she might free her.
Laurel had some great stuff with Thea too. Kudos to the show for not dragging out more secrets; Thea admitted to Laurel that she killed Sara while under her father's influence and even more surprisingly Laurel acted with reason, blaming Merlyn rather than Thea.
Thea continued to become the amazing character of recent weeks, bonding with Roy over her guilt of murdering an innocent and then revealing the truth to a caged Nyssa. If anything, opening the cage and giving Nyssa the knife was as big a cliffhanger as Oliver's offer. Just how she will get out of this alive is beyond me.
Ray Palmer returned this week too, all unshaven and obsessed as he continued to work on his Atom suit. Moving ever further away from Oliver - which seemed impossible at the start of the season - Felicity helped him complete the project, but not before they finally gave in to weeks of sexual tension. With the - pardon the pun - rousing music at the end of the episode, a suited up Atom, made his inaugural flight and I am excited to see how he joins the superhero mix in the coming weeks.
As for the flash backs, yet again they feel like an afterthought. The happy ending between Oliver and the Yamashiros was short lived as they came under fire from Amanda Waller's men. It was all a little predictable but still opened up exciting possibilities for the weeks ahead. The last two seasons have both featured a virtual flash back only episode; I assume season three will have one too, though it will need to take things up several levels to be as exciting as the last ones.
Overall, another very strong episode with all characters on fine form. The decision not to drag out secrets among characters has been very refreshing. Everyone is delivering a great performance and with some thrilling story lines, season three continues to be the strongest yet. Though you have to wonder if it is time to drop the flash backs. Perhaps Arrow should take a leaf out of Lost's book and start introducing flash forwards?