'Arrow' recap: 'Nanda Parbat'
Malcolm Merlyn is captured by Ra's al Ghul, and Ray Palmer works on The Atom suit.
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!
On Arrow, it seems as though once you open the secret floodgates, they can’t be shut. Oliver’s first stop following his conversation with Laurel is to Thea to scold her, albeit in vain because all of the f—s Thea gave have flown away like Michael Jackson’s hat whenever he finishes performing Billie Jean as she is more concerned about dealing with her guilt and seeking justice. Not only did Thea tell Laurel, she also informed the League of Assassins of Malcolm’s role in Sara’s murder. Unfortunately, Thea’s snitching has undesirable consequences for Laurel, who decided that after a few months of training she was ready to take on Merlyn by herself. After being beaten around a bit by Malcolm, Laurel eventually kind of gets the upperhand when she pulls a gun on him, but Nyssa and the League show up and capture Malcolm.
Once he finds out what happened, Oliver speeds off on his motorcycle to save Malcolm from being carted away by the League. He tells the rest of the team that he’s doing this because he doesn’t want Thea to live with the guilt of knowing that she sent her father to his death. “I’m trying to save Thea’s soul,” he proclaims. However, the audience, and Diggle, definitely pick up that there’s something more to this. Minutes later, Oliver catches up with Nyssa and the League at their helicopter landing. However, his fight with Nyssa distracts him and the League is able to make it away safely with Malcolm.
Recalling “The Brave and the Bold,” the rest of Team Arrow is concerned that Oliver is going to torture Nyssa, his new prisoner, for the location of Nanda Parbat. However, Nyssa, eager to see Oliver pay for not only protecting Sara’s murderer, but also for surviving his duel with her father, gives it up without hesitation. With the location in hand, Oliver decides to travel to Nanda Parbat to “save Thea’s soul.” However, Diggle doesn’t totally buy his reasoning and, after receiving some support from Lyla, decides to accompany Oliver to N.P. (making this the second time Oliver has broken the vow he made when he returned to Starling).
Borrowing an ARGUS jet, Oliver and Diggle quickly make their way to Nanda Parbat. Ra’s stronghold has never been conquered by an invading force, so their only hope of saving Malcolm is to infiltrate it unnoticed. Sadly, the Assassins notice them as soon as they reach Nanda Parbat’s perimeter. They make it inside the compound, and after Diggle has a few badass moments, the two eventually find Malcolm strung up above some burning coal in a room. Turns out the surprise is on them because it’s a trap. Ra’s and his men show up and chain the Butch and Sundance in his dungeon—which leads to a bromantic moment. All chained up with nowhere to go, the two bros take the time to contemplate Oliver’s multitude of sins, specifically his pride. He reveals to Diggle that the main and very egotistic reason he was training with Malcolm was because he couldn’t fathom that he was defeated. It feels like the first time Oliver has been reminded of his humanity. Moreover, he’s not as confident and secure in himself as we thought (which makes sense given the fact that he almost died. If Parks and Recreation‘s Tom Haverfod has taught us anything, it’s that the best successes come from your failures, so there’s hope for Oliver Queen. Turns out Oliver’s pride is just as easily damaged as everyone else’s. Diggle offers an empathetic ear and says that in war, every soldier (and hero/vigilante) needs to believe they’re the best if they hope to survive.
Oliver is eventually brought upstairs and dropped at Ra’s knees. Believing he’s about to be killed, Oliver begs the Demon, who isn’t looking too hot, to take his life, but to spare Diggle. This is that moment where Arrow reveals just how much it is borrowing from the mythology. Ra’s has not brought Oliver here to kill him. In fact, he has been impressed with his strength, power, and will, and he wants Oliver to become the next Ra’s al Ghul. It’s basically like the time in the comics when Ra’s kidnapped Robin to test if Batman was worthy to be his heir. Let’s be real for a moment: There is no way Arrow will let Oliver become the next Ra’s al Ghul.
Felicity and Ray getting giggity with it
Felicity spends most of tonight’s episode outside of the Foundry and concerned with Ray’s mental health. For the past week, Ray has been holed up in his apartment/office because he’s hit a problem with his ATOM suit that he hasn’t been able to solve. Felicity’s eventually able to blackmail him into taking a break to eat and shower after she locks him out of the company’s network. However, seeing Ray clothed in only a bath towel causes this couple’s sexual tension to bubble to the top and Felicity impulsively kisses him.
Again, Felicity is the hero whisperer, and Ray, receiving some postcoital enlightenment, leaves a sleeping Felicity in bed as he solves his problem and takes his little suit for a spin. Had it not been for the music, which sounded like someone trying while at the same time pretending not to score a scene in Smallville/any generic Superman movie, Ray’s first flight in his fancy new Iron Man-esque suit could’ve been awesome. Instead, it made me think of Superman Returns, which is never a good thing. The last thing we see of Ray tonight is him whooshing past a sleeping Felicity.
Wall of Weird:
- Tonight, both Laurel and Thea use Nyssa as their personal therapist. Nyssa comforts Laurel, who is realizing just how much vengeance was motivating her, with a story of the first time she saw Sara smile and fell in love with her. Thea, on the other hand, still feels guilty. She opens Nyssa’s cage, hands her a sword and tells her to kill her. SPOILER ALERT: Thea isn’t going to die (this is the cliffhang-eh).
- The show definitely foreshadowed Ra’s’ offer when Malcolm taunted Nyssa that she would never be Ra’s al Ghul’s heir because of her relationship with Sara.
- Felicity let slip to Laurel that Oliver has a prison on his island. Funny moment.
- We need to discuss Diggle, who definitely had a lot more to do tonight than he has in awhile. Him asking Oliver to be his man was very poignant, especially since we saw his brother Andy for the first time last week. A lot of you in the comments were lamenting how little action he’s seen this season. Did this episode make up for it?
- After tonight, who else feels that Ray Palmer will fit in really well with Team Flash when he pays them a visit later this season?
- Seeing Malcolm Merlyn terrified during his encounter with Ra’s al Ghul was amazing. More scenes between these two amazing actors please!