Arrow 3.20 The Fallen
Another week, another game changing episode; the third season of Arrow is heading in such a dramatic direction that it almost feels like the end game. Roy Harper left the show for good last week - and with him the idea of the Arrow as the hero of Starling City - and this week one relationship was consummated after two years of buildup while the lead hero was changed forever.
In fact things were getting so big that the flashback to Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu trying to save Hong Kong from the bioweapon felt like a frustrating distraction. I even found it hard to care about the cliffhanger - the weapon breaking and getting exposed to the public - which is a terrible shame considering how good the island-based flashbacks of seasons one and two were. I get that this year's story has been designed to show how Oliver became a hero in the real world but it really hasn't had the impact it was designed too. In fact the conversation between Diggle and Maseo in the present, where the latter recounted his son Akio dying in his arms, had far more impact than the build up to that event in the weeks to come.
Thankfully the third trip to Nanda Parbat in as many weeks had plenty to keep the audiences engaged. With Thea a human vegetable following her brutal attack by Ra's Al Ghul last week, the inevitable happened; Oliver was forced to give in to Ra's Al Ghul's demands and take on the mantle of head of the League of Assassins. The problem of hopping half way across the world by the first ad break was solved by Felicity borrowing Ray Palmer's private jet. It came with a bittersweet break-up as Ray realised that his girlfriend only had eyes for Oliver. The signs had been there for a while and he wasn't as clueless as we might have thought. I will admit I am going to miss their geeky love affair but then Atom does have his own spin-off show next season so it was never going to last.
'Olicity' has been a thing with the fans ever since Felicity started working for Oliver in season one. Laurel was probably supposed to have been the end game but the chemistry between Emily Bett Rickards' Felicity and Stephen Amell's Oliver was there from the start. Two years of teasing finally ended as they hooked up in the exotic candle-lit, Arabian-style quarters in Nanda Parbat. Of course it
was all a doomed, last chance before he gave himself over to Ra's, even if she thought differently.
If this was about Oliver's fall to the dark side, then Felicity was the hero of the episode; not only did she get the team where they needed to go, she also went head to head with Ra's himself to bargain for his life, even threatening to go to war with him and drugged Oliver to engineer his rescue through the catacombs beneath the enemy fortress. Her confrontation with Ra's was particularly gripping, with Felicity demonstrating a strength of character he respected while offering insight into his own tragic past; giving up his wife and children to save them from torture and death.
The escape attempt was particularly exciting too, Malcolm taking out three assassins with one sword while Diggle in one hilarious moment went for the Indiana Jones-style of shooting the sword-wielding baddie in the chest. Between this sequence and their arrival, greeting the army of Ra's Al Ghul amassed before the fortress, there was a definite filmic quality to the episode with the budget well spent to deliver an epic episode that could have easily come off as cheap if not done right.
Despite their valiant attempts to save him, Oliver making the decision to stay and honour his pact with Ra's was a grim turning point. He knew there was nowhere to run, no place where he could keep his family and friends safe. Stephen Amell nailed his final goodbye to Felicity. " The only way to survive this if I know you're out there, living your life, happy." They may have had that one moment of happiness but it was short lived.
The lazarus pit had been teased before, but in The Fallen we saw it in action as Thea was resurrected. Her memory might have been lost as she recovered from death but I wonder too what other effects there might be.. The way she leapt out of the pool suggested something inhuman within her.
The idea of the ritual changing Thea also applies to Oliver, finally sucumbing to Ra's Al Ghul in the episode's final moments and finding himself transformed into Al Sah-him. I wonder just what that transformation will be - apart from being branded as part of his 'trial by fire' there wasn't anything to suggest a physical or mental change. I suspect we'll find out more next week.
The Fallen was an emotional, dramatic episode that continued to twist the show in a new direction. Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards delivered some of their best work as the events took a dark turn. It certainly makes the Undertaking and the war against Slade Wilson feel like child's play in comparison but of course the success will be in the pay off in the weeks to come. I like that I don't see how Oliver and his allies can possibly find a way back to what they had before and that makes the final three episodes an exciting prospect indeed.