Arrow: 3.22 This Is Your Sword
Has Oliver really turned to the dark side? That was the question we were left with after last week's incredibly dark installment of Arrow. It didn't get any brighter this week, but we did get an answer of sorts as Al Sah-Him was revealed to be a front and the whole succumbing to the League Of Assassins was just a ploy by Oliver and Malcolm to take it down from the inside.
In fact, Malcolm turning up at Oliver's camp fire outside Nanda Parbat was a brilliant twist that gave hope to the audience that they might actually succeed. At least until the episode's closing moments. It also allowed Tatsu to enter the game, returning to Starling City with Malcolm to help galvanize Diggle, Felicity and Laurel into stopping the League unleashing the Omega Alpha against the city and save Oliver once and for all.
Despite their efforts to continue the good fight last week, Oliver / Al Sah-Him's action in kidnapping Diggle's wife certainly showed the cracks in this mission. The Diggle we saw in the opening was definitely unhinged and it was disturbing to see just how he and Laurel - making very good use of her Canary Cry - seemed thirsty for more. There was a certain amount of denial too with Felicity trying to convince herself that Oliver died that day in Nanda Parbat when he sacrificed his life for Thea's.
There was a great deal of denial in Nanda Parbat too, with the most hostile dinner in history as Al Sah-Him, Ra's Al Ghul and Nyssa sat down for a meal before their impending nuptials. Ra's relationship with his daughter continues to fascinate me; he tells her that she talks to him like a monster when all he is trying to do is be her father and then next minute he is threatening her with suffering 'a pain of a thousand deaths' if she doesn't marry Al Sah-Him. It's all a mix of high drama and moustache-twirling villainy made believable and engaging thanks to the engaging performances of Matt Nable and Katrina Law.
For what seemed the hundredth time this series, Team Arrow returned to Nanda Parbat - it feels like we spend more time there than Starling City these days - after Tatsu convinced Felicity not to make the same mistake she made with Maseo and give up on Oliver. The flashbacks this week finally had relevance with Felicity and co. watching footage of the bioterrorist attack on Hong Kong and asking "how did we not know about this?". I wonder if that was a slight in-joke at the random nature of season three's flashbacks; I certainly found it amusing. Tatsu joining the team as 'Katana' was mildly successful. I am not convinced she totally gelled with the rest of the crew but she proved to be a worthy ally none the less once they all arrived at Nanda Parbat to destroy the plane armed with the Alpha Omega before it could be unleashed at Starling City.
The fight was epic and spectacular, particularly Diggle taking out assassins with his machine gun while Atom made a surprise entrance taking on the plane and destroying it. I am not convinced that any amount of training from Nyssa could have allowed Laurel to hold her own against the League so it wasn't surprising that she was the first to find herself captured. And I LOVED Felicity flinging her tablet into the assassin's neck 'killing him' before realising Malcolm had taken him down. Her dry "That makes more sense" certainly raised a few laughs.
Of course the heart of the battle was the final confrontation between Tatsu and Maseo. In the flashbacks we saw Akio die in their arms and in the present they lost each other once and for all as she ran him through with her sword. Their final conversation was heartbreaking. His "Tell Akio I love him", her "You tell him for both of us." and his heartfelt reply of "Thank you... for releasing me... from my prison." was very bittersweet indeed.
Before we got to yet another HUGE ending, we had Thea's trip to see Roy. It was great to see them together again, though hugely disappointing to see him become a car mechanic called Jason. It was yet another bittersweet storyline in this dramatic episode; Thea brought him his red Arsenal costume, giving hope that we might see him pop up again in Arrow, The Flash or the recently announced DC's Legends Of Tomorrow when the fight was needed, over him to leave it and Thea behind. Perhaps he will find a way to become a hero again but for now we have seen him walk away from his life entirely. If anything, Thea's trip was a chance to say one last goodbye and potentially set her up as the next sidekick. I totally bought that he would leave Thea because Oliver didn't want her to live a life on the one from the police. His note suggesting that she looks better in red, also teased Thea becoming the next person to don the Arsenal costume, rather than him. It has been coming for a while...
The ending if This Is Your Sword was perhaps the darkest moment in the show's history. First we had the fallout of Oliver / Al Sah-Him kidnapping Lyla and leaving Sara in danger. "You didn't just lose my friendship." he told Oliver. "You lost my trust. You lost my respect." A powerful moment between these two former best friends. Malcolm's attempt to betray Oliver to Ra's Al Ghul may have been another ruse or a genuine turn of face but it certainly backfired. In the ultimate test of Al Sah-Him's loyalties, Ra's unleashed a vial of Alpha Omega into the prison cell holding Malcolm, Diggle, Tatsu, Laurel, Ray and Felicity. We saw from the flashbacks that there was no cure.
Oliver walking away and marrying Nyssa - even ordering the priest to continue when his bride tried to pull a knife on him - was incredibly dark. Every friend, including the woman he really loved, lay choking to death while he continued to curry favour with Ra's Al Ghul left the audience dumbfounded. There was no way out for anyone. How the series finale resolves this huge cliffhanger - and then deals with the fall out - will be the measure of success by which season three delivers or fails.