Throughout the course of this season, Oliver has constantly found himself at odds with his team and has almost always been cast as a quasi antagonist. Even though Arrow casts him as the “bad guy” (in the wrong) in those intra-team squabbles, he has always remained the hero of the story—until tonight. Continuing Arrow‘s current hot streak, “Al Sah-Him” sees this season-long idea become more literal as Oliver is turned into a certifiable villain who poses a threat not only to the remaining members of Team Arrow, but also to Starling City. He’s become his own worst nightmare. It’s very reminiscent of Harvey Dent’s line (delivered by Aaron Eckhart) in The Dark Knight: “You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a villain.”
There’s plenty more to love about this episode. Most importantly, Diggle is the main protagonist in tonight’s episode. Plus, Nyssa is given some welcome character development, and we finally learn the purpose of those frustrating flashbacks.
Tonight’s episode kicks off with a montage that takes us through Oliver’s three week mental reprogramming (read: brainwashing), a process all new League of Assassins recruits must undergo. It involves sensory deprivation, some light starvation, and, according to the subtitles, sword clanging, i.e. a lot of sparring against Ra’s. To understand the extent of Oliver’s transformation, the sequence ends with Oliver hallucinating, due to a drug Ra’s gave him, Maseo capturing Diggle trying to infiltrate Nanda Parbat to free him, and Ra’s instructing Oliver to kill him, which he goes for without any hesitation. Yes, Oliver Queen is indeed only alive in the past. There only remains
Darth Oliver Al Sah-Him.
Ever so proud of his heir’s progress, Ra’s takes Oliver on a stroll through “a place only the dead call home,” a.k.a. the ruins of Ra’s’ home village. Clearly, Ra’s has never listened to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off,” because he instructs Oliver that under no circumstance should his sole remaining hater (challenger to his reign) be allowed to keep hating. She, Nyssa al Ghul, must be eliminated. Ra’s insists on this because he failed to end his challenge’s life, a man named Damien Darhk, who joined the League at the same time as Ra’s, and now Damien remains a thorn in Ra’s side as he leads a group called H.I.V.E.
Back in Starling City, everyone’s still torn up about having to leave Oliver behind in Nanda Parbat. Diggle, Felicity, and Thea are leaning on each other for support, while Laurel’s friendship with Nyssa continues to grow. After taking down a mugger, Laurel takes Nyssa out for her first black and white milkshake and introduces her to the deliciousness of dipping fries in said milkshake. This lovely dinner, which features Nyssa smiling for the first time ever, is ruined when Laurel reveals she’s been lying for three weeks and tells Nyssa about Oliver accepting her father’s offer. Clearly, Laurel learned nothing from what happened with her father.
Hearing the news upsets Nyssa because not only did someone she trusts lie to her, but this development also means that Oliver and the League will try to kill her. And, that they do. They zip-line into Starling City like badasses. Refusing Team Arrow’s help, Nyssa goes to the rooftop where Sara died to face Al Sah-Him alone, and it doesn’t go well for her. Oliver disarms her and is about to deliver the final blow when Diggle and Black Canary—breaking out her new and improved Canary Cry (courtesy of Cisco)—show up to save her. Outnumbered, Oliver flees by jumping off the side of the roof (#theatricality). (Another indication of Oliver’s transformation: He primarily uses a sword throughout this whole episode.)
One of the highlights of tonight’s episode is watching how much Laurel and Nyssa’s friendship has developed. Earlier in the night, before Laurel ruined by revealing she’s been keeping secrets, Nyssa told Laurel that these past few weeks have been the happiest she’s ever been and thanks Laurel for taking her in when she was alone and adrift. Al Sah-Him’s arrival brings Nyssa back to the real world as she remembers she’s not actually normal. “But, I am Daughter of the Demon. Happiness was never something that was meant for me,” Nyssa says. Laurel is not ready to give up on her friend and tells her that if Oliver can change, then so can Nyssa.
NEXT: Matchmaker, matchmaker