We are now 50 episodes into Arrow‘s run. Given such a momentous occasion, I decided to rewatch the pilot before tonight’s episode and was surprised by the parallels between the pilot and tonight’s episode. For one, tonight’s episode does remind us of how much Arrow resembles Batman. Secondly, tonight’s episode does contain a homecoming—that of Thea’s, who, like Oliver when he returned from an island, is hiding something. Lastly, Laurel is still angry over Sara’s death. Yet, with all of these similarities, it’s still clear just how far Arrow has come; Laurel is moving away from being a problem-character, CW’s patented soap opera storylines have receded to the background, and while the presence of the League of Assassins may remind us of Batman, it doesn’t work against the show because in the past two years Arrow has really come into its own.
With strong performances for nearly the entire cast, “The Magician” is a strong episode that, through the returns of Nyssa al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn, takes advantage of the rich world Arrow has built in the past two years, while also giving this season the dramatic kick it needed.
FLASHBACKS – HONG KONG
Let’s just get the flashbacks out of the way really quickly and get to the good stuff!
Oliver is working as an operative in Hong Kong and is tasked with taking out a target, but has no idea why, which bothers him. After killing his target, he takes a flash drive from the man’s body. Maseo, Oliver’s mentor, tells him that it’s best not to burden himself with having a conscience. This doesn’t help Oliver deal with his guilt, so he decides to examine the flash drive to find out why Waller had him kill this man.
Turns out Oliver’s target was Fyers’ handler, and thus played a role in the attempted shooting down of the Ferris Air flight in the first season. Oliver’s not happy to learn about Amanda’s connection to Fyers and demands to meet with her. During their meeting, Amanda reveals that she was aware of the role he played in foiling Fyers’ plan and of the business on Ivo’s yacht. She also reveals that the purpose of shooting down the plane was not to destabilize the Chinese economy, as Fyers thought, but was an attempt to take out a high value target: China White. China White’s now in Hong Kong, and Amanda needs to know why.
Now to the main event: the returns of Nyssa al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn!
PRESENT – STARLING CITY
When we last saw Oliver, his and Roy’s conversation in the lair had been interrupted by Nyssa al Ghul’s surprise appearance. Nyssa, who’s there looking for Sara, is visibly upset when she learns that the love of her life and fellow assassin was murdered. After Oliver tells her the news, Nyssa immediately guesses that she was killed with an arrow and quickly departs without saying how she knew. Ever suspicious of anyone associated with the League, Oliver tells Roy to tail her while he meets Thea for dinner.
At dinner with Thea, Oliver can’t get over just how much his sister has changed. Like Laurel, Thea has also come a long way since the pilot; she’s gone from drug abusing rebel child to a club manager looking for investors to help her reclaim her club space. Thea tells Oliver that after everything she went through last year, it’s no surprise that she’s a different person. The show loosely draws a parallel between Oliver and Thea by framing Thea’s trials in the past year as her own crucible.
Meanwhile, Nyssa runs into Laurel at Sara’s grave. Nyssa shares her condolences, and that of her father’s, with Laurel, but Laurel has no interest in them and blames Nyssa for showing Sara her inner darkness. As someone who also loved Sara, Nyssa refuses to take the blame for Sara’s death and explain how she found Sara, took care of her, and loved her with all of her soul. It is Nyssa who gave Sara the symbolic leather jacket—the one that Laurel’s wearing right now. Nyssa coldly tells Laurel that she’s not worthy of wearing the jacket.
NEXT: A father’s love for his daughter