Cliffhangers on cliffhangers (?) on cliffhang-ehs. Tonight’s Arrow, the last new one for about a month, had a lot going on and left several plot threads up in the air. Several of our favorite characters spent most of tonight’s episode going through some kind of internal (and for one, external) torture, and it seems as though the writers are intent on giving a tiny taste of torture by making us wait a month for all of this to be resolved. The most important cliffhanger of the evening definitely revealed how much the show is inspired by the Batman comics.
“Nanda Parbat” is one of those Arrow episodes that it will take several viewings for me to process because there is so much to unpack. So, you can expect me to chime in the comments section during the hiatus. That being said, there were definitely many enjoyable parts of this episode. First, the show continued its trend of calling Oliver out on some of his condescension and general asshattiness, while also making him more sympathetic than he’s been for most of this season. Furthermore, we saw Ra’s al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn share a bloody scene together—and it was such a treat. If there’s one thing this episode accomplished, it’s that it definitely made some of the iffier parts of this season make sense. Also, there was some Felicity and Ray stuff that happened and we’ll definitely talk about it.
FLASHBACK: HONG KONG
Oliver is taken back to China where Waller and the General’s men debrief him on the Omega sitch—a sitch I’m still not sure what to make of. Now that the virus has been recovered, the army has taken control of the operation and Waller is no longer involved, which pleases both General Shrive and Oliver. After thanking him for his service, General Shrive tells Oliver he can go anywhere in the world; back to Starling and/or rejoin Maseo and Tatsu in Hong Kong.
Oliver chooses the latter. But, as he and the Yamashiro family are about to board a boat, they are attacked by some of Waller’s men. Unfortunately, Maseo and Tatsu get pinned down and order Oliver to get their the son the heck out of there. We don’t know what happens next because cliffhangers.
Nyssa walks in on her father, who’s enjoying a nice relaxing bath, to inform him that Oliver Queen is still alive. No surprise here, Ra’s already knew this and doesn’t care because he knows Oliver didn’t kill Sara. Nyssa brings up the question on everyone’s mind: Does he not believe Oliver’s confession because he doubts the Arrow’s motives, or, and more likely, he doesn’t approve of his daughter’s grief? According to Ra’s, he didn’t approve of their love because he knew Sara would leave both the League and her, and that it would end in heartbreak.
With this ominous opening out of the way, we Barry Allen our way back to Starling City where Oliver, Thea, and Malcolm are training for their fight with Ra’s. And Malcolm is not happy with either of their performance, especially Thea’s. Things balance out though because no one, except maybe Oliver, is happy with having him in the Arrow cave. Eventually, Laurel shows up, which makes things hella awkward for Thea, who is still reeling from finding out Malcolm brainwashed her into killing Sara. Laurel telling Thea that her fighting style reminds her of Sara doesn’t help things.
What’s interesting about this episode is how some of the things that felt weird and didn’t work started to make sense. First off is, what was arguably the worst episode of the season, the Roy-centric episode “Guilty,” where Roy found out that Oliver and company lied to him and didn’t tell him he killed a cop while in his Mirakuru fueled rage. This revelation was definitely Arrow‘s way of foreshadowing both Thea’s role in Sara’s death. Like Roy, she had no conrol over her actions and isn’t totally at fault. This all becomes apparent when Roy finds Thea moping at Verdant’s bar, which leads to both of them bonding over Oliver deciding what was in their best interest and lying to them. As Thea is quick to point out, however, their situations are different because Roy has the luck (?) of not sharing any personal history with the cop he killed, whereas Thea has to see Sara’s family almost every day.
Thea’s conversation with Roy moves her to go against Oliver’s wishes and confess her part in Sara’s death to Laurel. Laurel—who continues to be pleasantly surprising—isn’t mad at Thea and doesn’t hold her responsible for Sara’s murder. She’s more upset about the fact that Oliver and Thea are working with him even though they know what he did and that Oliver lied to her. (I don’t think she realizes the irony of the situation given that her father is still not speaking to her because she kept Sara’s death from him.) Naturally, Laurel decides to pay Oliver a visit and it is a brutal scene as she catches him lying and is surprised by how easy it comes to him. Ever stubborn, Oliver tries to defend his decision to lie to her—which leads Laurel to this thought-provoking line: “You know, it’s actually hard to imagine a time when I was actually in love with you.”
I’ve felt as though the first season has loomed over most of this season and haven’t been sure why, but that line definitely reinforced that feeling. It briefly recalls a time when Oliver-Laurel was this show’s main ship. It hearkens back to a time when no one but Diggle knew what Oliver was doing. More importantly, it also shows how far Laurel has come, both in the show and as a character. She’s gone from being trapped in a seemingly never-ending love triangle to embracing the main tenet of being a hero/vigilante: lying to the ones you love. Similarly, it also reminds us that no matter how far Oliver has come from the murderous vigilante he was, some things, like his need to lie to everyone, haven’t changed.
NEXT: Welcome to Nanda Parbat, it’s been waiting for ya!