'Arrow' postmortem: Will Oliver become the next Ra's al Ghul?
Caution: This story contains major spoilers from Wednesday’s episode of Arrow. Read at your own risk.
Though it seemed like Oliver (Stephen Amell) was facing certain death when he traveled to Nanda Parbat to rescue Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) during Wednesday’s episode of Arrow, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) instead gave the emerald archer an intriguing offer: Become the new Ra’s al Ghul.
Suffice it to say, Oliver will be taken aback by the offer, though he may not have a choice. “[It’s] what Oliver is willing to do to end the threat of the League,” executive producer Andrew Kreisberg says. “Now it’s a different kind of threat because they’re asking him to join up, and as Malcolm tells him in a subsequent episode, he’s not really asking. That leads to all sorts of interesting conversations and new paradigms.”
“To have Ra’s presented as this giant malevolent force, but then to come up and basically offer the keys to the kingdom felt like such a different way to go and a different relationship to have with the villain,” Kreisberg continues. “What Oliver’s reaction to Ra’s’ offer, what Nyssa’s [Katrina Law] reaction to it is makes up the bulk of the next run of episodes.”
After failing to kill Ra’s in the midseason finale due to his abundance of compassion and humanity, Oliver has been training up to once again become a killer, which would allow him to take down Ra’s and protect his family. But would his humanity get in the way of being the leader of the League of Assassins? “One of the things that we reveal in [episode] 320 is where the name League of Assassins came from and what it means to be an assassin,” executive producer Marc Guggenheim says. “If you’re a historian, it has a different meaning than what it’s become in the modern day.”
Any decision Oliver makes will ultimately be born out of his love for Thea (Willa Holland), who basically sold her father Malcolm out to the League after he forced her to kill Sara (Caity Lotz). “This season is really the fight for Thea’s soul,” Kreisberg says. “A victory for Oliver this season is saving Thea.” Though that might be difficult after Thea admitted to Nyssa that she was responsible for Sara’s death. “She’s essentially attempting suicide by Nyssa,” Guggenheim says. “She looks for closure in another way, because—spoiler alert!—Nyssa is not going to kill Willa Holland’s character.”
That’s because Nyssa will have plenty of other issues to deal with as she faces her life crumbling around her. “Nyssa is the Heir to the Demon, so you can imagine how she feels when she finds out that what she would consider to be her birthright is being handed to Oliver,” Kreisberg says.
“Nyssa’s journey going forward is going to be really interesting because she was so dead set on who she was, what she was going to be, how she had laid out her future for herself, then everything has been thrown up in the air,” Law says. “She is no longer the Heir to the Demon, she no longer has her lover, who I’m sure she was thinking about keeping around forever, so she’s essentially lost everything. For the first time in her life, she’s vulnerable and feels weak, useless and doesn’t know where she stands or who she is at the moment. It’s very jarring for her because she’s never had to go through that ever in any capacity in her life before. You’re going to see Nyssa seeing who she is and what she stands for now.”
Could Nyssa’s love for Sara have been her ultimate downfall? “There’s a scene between Nyssa and Ra’s that definitely addresses that,” Guggenheim says. “From Nyssa’s perspective, it has everything to do with Sara. From Ra’s perspective, maybe or maybe not.”
Her love for Sara will help Nyssa find an ally in Laurel (Katie Cassidy) in the coming episodes. “Journey-wise, between the characters, the two of them may have more in common than Nyssa had originally thought,” Law says. “Laurel had kind of lived a semi-smooth life of going through the ins and outs of growing up, life was good and all of a sudden she lost her sister and her father and she’s trying to become something she’s not necessarily good at, which is the Black Canary, but she will be. Nyssa is going through the same journey and trying to figure out who she is. Now that she’s lost everything, she’s trying to become a softer human being with compassion and sympathy and all of these things that she didn’t have to think about before and making choices on her own without her father or the League’s guidance. Between the two of them, they may have more similarities than they think. Plus, they’re both having daddy issues right now.”
As for whether Arrow viewers will find out how Ra’s other infamous daughter will feel about Oliver succeeding her father, Kreisberg says they haven’t decided whether Talia al Ghul exists in the world of Arrow. “If we ever think of a reason to have a Talia, whoever or whatever incarnation we decide to do, it would be in service of furthering Katrina’s story,” Kreisberg says.
But dealing with the League of Assassins wasn’t the only big moment of the episode after Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) and Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) slept together—the Oliver and Felicity fans can go ahead and freak out in the comments section, but Kreisberg notes, “Part of the fun of watching couples on television is keeping them apart and watching how others come in and out of their lives.”
“There are a lot of people who believe Oliver and Laurel should be together, and people who believe Oliver and Felicity should be together,” he continues. “We’re not sure how it’s all going to end up. We just do what’s right at the time. For right now, Oliver has decided, ‘I can’t do this.’ Felicity is not just going to sit around waiting for him. She’s probably the most healthy of all of them. He’s the one shutting himself down emotionally when he has this amazing person who is basically offering him hope and guidance, friendship and love, and he doesn’t feel he deserves it and doesn’t feel that’s what’s best for her, whether she agrees with it or not. Then, you’ve got Ray, who is a real analog to Oliver. He’s had a tragedy and he’s trying to do right by it, but he’s opening his heart to her. He’s Brandon Routh, how can you blame her?”
However, the Felicity-Ray-Oliver love triangle isn’t the only thing fans have to worry about now that Ray has suited up as the Atom. “There’s a new superhero in town and he’s going to go about things in a very different way than the Arrow does,” Guggenheim says. “And he’s not apart of Team Arrow. Right now, he’s just a very smart guy in a very very powerful suit. Oliver is definitely going to have an opinion.”
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.