Rather than open with the usual villain of the week action, we instead open with Ra’s al Ghul (his first appearance since his duel with Oliver) whose taking a soak in what’s presumably the Lazarus Pits. His time in peace becomes interrupted however when Nyssa comes to inform him that Oliver is still alive. As it turns out though, Ra’s has been aware of this for awhile and already knows that Oliver has returned to Starling City (I’m guessing Oliver making a speech on live TV probably tipped him off). Ra’s shows no particular interest in killing Oliver since he knows Oliver isn’t the one who killed Sara despite his earlier confession. Nyssa points out to him however that Oliver still openly defied him and for that he must die.
Return of the League
Back at Arrow HQ, Oliver and Thea partake in a training exercise with Merlyn. The two siblings try to take on Merlyn but he handles them both pretty easily. He tells them the only way they can hope to defeat him (let alone Ra’s) is for them to fight in unison. Meanwhile, Diggle pops in to inform the team that the club and the headquarters’s security is being reinforced in preparation for an attack from the League of Assassins.
Back at the club, Roy notices something is off about Thea and convinces her to confide in him. She admitss to being Sara’s killer, though since Roy already knew this, this confession is mostly irrelevant (though to be fair it has become a little hard to keep track of who knows what on this show). Roy makes his own confession by telling her that during his mirakuru induced rage last year he killed a cop, so he knows a little bit about unwittingly killing someone while under the influence. He admits the guilt never really goes away but insists that it becomes easier to live with though Thea isn’t sure that’s a good thing.
Despite Oliver’s warnings last week, Thea breaks down and confesses to Laurel the truth about her role in Sara’s death and her being drugged by Merlyn. Laurel forgives Thea for killing Sara but is less understanding about her and Oliver’s willingness to work with Merlyn. Laurel later tries to get Oliver to admit the truth but he continues to lie to her face, which sets her off. She confronts Oliver with Thea’s confession and while she’s appalled with Oliver for working with Merlyn, he insists he doesn’t have a choice.
Laurel apparently doesn’t take her conversation with Oliver well since when we next see her, she’s in her Black Canary uniform and decides to attack Merlyn (Merlyn already knows who she is, what was the point of disguising herself?). Needless to say, the attack on Merlyn doesn’t go well but thankfully for Laurel, Nyssa and the League make a sudden appearance so they can bring Merlyn in themselves. As it turns out, Thea sold Merlyn out to the League to get the assassins off her and Oliver’s back.
Back at Arrow HQ, Oliver decides they need to rescue Merlyn, which rest of the team believes to be a stupid idea and personally I agree. Merlyn’s apprehension by the League seems to solve Oliver and Thea’s problem with them and not even Oliver believes Merlyn would let the video of Thea killing Sara make it back to the League so i fail to see the point of rescuing Merlyn. Nevertheless, Oliver insists he needs to do it to save Thea’s soul since he doesn’t believe she’ll be able to live with the guilt of sending her father to his death.
Oliver tries stopping the League from taking Merlyn away in a helicopter but Nyssa distracts Oliver long enough so that the other League members can make their escape. With no other options, Oliver takes Nyssa prisoner inside Arrow HQ so he can get the location of Nanda Parbat, where the League will be holding Merlyn prisoner. The rest of the team think Oliver is going to torture Nyssa for the information but that proves to be entirely unnecessary since Nyssa freely tells him the location since she figures Oliver will die there anyway. As Oliver gets ready to leave for Nanda Parbat, the rest of the team are quick to remind him of his last encounter with Ra’s al Ghul and try talking him out of leaving (again!), which unfortunately falls on deaf ears.
Back at Diggle’s apartment, he discusses Oliver’s situation with Lyla. Knowing that Diggle will blame himself if Oliver dies again, Lyla persuades him to go with Oliver to provide backup (and presumably so the writers can finally give Diggle something to do).
Welcome to Nanda Parbat
Meanwhile in Nanda Parbat, Merlyn is taken to Ra’s al Ghul. Merlyn tries talking Ra’s out of killing him but Ra’s is immune to his powers of persuasion and is visibly disgusted with his former pupil’s begging. With the conversation ended, Ra’s has Merlyn dragged quite literally kicking and screaming to a presumably painful death. Luckily for Merlyn, Oliver and Diggle storm Nanda Parbat not long after. After taking out about a dozen or so guards, the duo find a beaten Merlyn hanging from some chains. Merlyn tries warning them that they’ve walked into a trap but the warning comes too late as Oliver and Diggle become trapped inside with him. Ra’s takes this opportunity to welcome them both to Nanda Parbat.
Oliver awakens to find himself chained with Diggle. With certain death looming for both of them, they take some time for a little heart to heart. Oliver admits that he didn’t try to rescue Merlyn solely for Thea’s benefit and that he has been constantly reliving his near death experience ever since his duel with Ra’s. Diggle makes his own confession saying that he’s been wanting to ask Oliver to be his best man at his wedding with Lyla which Oliver happily accepts (provided they get out of Nanda Parbat alive of course). Maseo comes in to inform Oliver that it’s time to face the music with Ra’s.
While that’s going on, Laurel is back at Arrow HQ, talking to Nyssa. They both reminisce about Sara and briefly share their grief with each other for their loss. Meanwhile Roy takes another stab at consoling Thea. He takes her to the home of the cop he killed and tells her that he’s been looking out for him for awhile now and that it makes it easier for him to live with the guilt. Thea reasonably points out however, their situations are still considerably different because she made the mistake of trusting Merlyn despite knowing full well the guy was a killer. With this in mind she makes a visit to Nyssa at Arrow HQ. She confesses to Nyssa that she was the one responsible for Sara’s death. Thea then lets Nyssa out of her cell, returns her sword and offers to let her have her revenge. Not sure where this is going but I’ll be anxious to see how this pans out in the next episode.
Felicity shows up at Palmer’s apartment because he apparently hasn’t been showing up for work lately. She finds out it’s because Palmer has been working day and night on his A.T.O.M. suit though his progress appears to be slow. Felicity tries to get Palmer to take a break but he’s become too obsessed with his goal to stop now.
Felicity decides to take a different approach with Palmer by locking him out of his server so he can’t look at his research. She promises to give him the server password once he’s had something to eat, taken a shower and gotten a few hours sleep. Once that’s out of the way, the two end up sleeping together (kind of abrupt but okay).
Afterward, Palmer has a sudden breakthrough with his research and it now appears to kinks in the suit have finally been worked out. Palmer decides to take the Tony Stark approach by immediately suiting up and taking his new invention on a test flight. His new suit looks something like a mix between Murphy in the Robocop remake with the color scheme of Spider-Man but it’s still a cool moment.
We open the flashback to show Oliver finishing his debriefing over his and Maseo’s run-ins with China White. Once that’s over and done with, General Shrieve thanks Oliver for his services and tells him that both he and Maseo’s family are free to go.
Oliver meets up with Maseo, Tatsu and their son where they plan to board a boat. Maseo offers to let Oliver stay at their place a couple of days before he returns home and Oliver makes a similar offer to have them vacation at his home in Starling City. Their good moods are short lived however when they are all ambushed by A.R.G.U.S. agents. Oliver and Maseo put up a good fight against the goons but they’re simply out-manned and outgunned. This leads Maseo and Tatsu to get separated from their son (who’s name I’ve finally learned is Akio) and Oliver. Maseo orders Oliver to leave them behind and take Akio to safety to which Oliver reluctantly complies.
Oliver is taken to Ra’s where it looks like he will finally meet his end. Oliver is resigned to his fate but begs Ra’s to spare Diggle. Surprisingly however, Ra’s reveals he has no intention in killing Oliver and instead wants him to be his successor as the leader of The League of Assassins and become the next Ra’s al Ghul.
Well if nothing else this episode was certainly eventful. It almost feels weird leaving a section for a cliffhanger considering there were about three or four of them in this episode. There’s Palmer officially becoming the Atom, the potential fallout between Thea and Nyssa, the ambiguous way the flashback ended, and of course the offer made by Ra’s al Ghul.
I found the subplot with Palmer to be a slightly mixed bag. I’ve enjoyed his transition to becoming the Atom considerably more than I did watching Laurel become Black Canary. With Laurel we saw her take a couple of kickboxing classes and then suddenly we see her as Black Canary except the writers forgot to provide any buildup. Palmer on the other hand, we get to see working diligently on his project all season so the buildup is handled much better. The relationship between him and Felicity seemed a little forced and more than anything felt like some passive aggressive way for Felicity to get back at Oliver.
Last week I complained that too much time was spent on Oliver’s flashback and this week we got the complete opposite by seeing almost no flashback at all. This was probably caused by the overly long flashback from last week but still.
As for the offer made to Oliver, I found it to be an intriguing twist (though the comparison to Batman are rather hard to ignore). Ultimately, I don’t think Oliver takes him up on the offer but I think it’ll be interesting to watch him consider the offer in the next episode.
Overall, I found it to be solid outing, though it suffers from trying to do too much too fast (another likely side effect from last week’s directionless offering). The multiple cliffhangers however, are more than interesting enough to make me anticipate the next episode. Sadly, that won’t be for awhile since the show will be taking a break for the next couples of weeks. Arrow will be making it’s return on March 18th with ‘The Offer’.