Arrow recap: 'The Thanatos Guild'
Nyssa returns to help say goodbye to the show's best character
Tonight, we were forced to say goodbye to a character who’s been with us since the beginning: Thea Queen. “The Thanatos Guild” was Willa Holland’s last episode on Arrow — which isn’t surprising in the slightest if you’ve been watching the series. Holland’s role was reduced in season 5, and that continued into the current season, which has been a real bummer because Thea became my favorite character on the show. For the past few seasons, there’s always been a sense that Thea is the only one who is even close to having her ish together, even if at times she felt like she didn’t.
So, how did Arrow send Thea off into the sunset? Well, quite frankly, in a very weird way: by resurrecting the League of Assassins. Sorry, I mean, the Thanatos Guild. As we learned in tonight’s episode, Malcolm Merlyn formed an offshoot of the League after Nyssa ended it. That offshoot, called the Thanatos Guild, has been led by his acolyte Athena, who has no love for Nyssa. The Thanatos Guild rears its hooded head in tonight’s episode because it’s searching for a map that leads to a treasure Malcolm discovered before dying, and the only way to find it is with Thea. And that sucks for our favorite Queen because she’s currently getting ready to ride off into the sunset with Roy. Obviously, that’s not what happens.
Nyssa arrives in Star City in time to save Thea and Roy from being attacked by the Guild. After bringing everyone up to speed, Nyssa makes it clear that Thea can’t run from her father’s legacy and needs to deal with it. That’s the last thing Thea wants to do. Thus, Thea must help Nyssa find this map before Athena gets her hands on it.
It’s all very silly, but that’s always been the case with Arrow‘s conception of the League of Assassins. Unlike in the comics or in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight trilogy, Arrow has never clearly explained the League’s purpose in its universe. Are they eco-terrorists obsessed with saving the Earth from humanity? Do they play a role in the rise and fall of empires? I honestly don’t know! In season 4, Malcolm delivered one line about the global importance of the League, but it’s still pretty vague. At this point, we just have to assume it’s just a group of people who love swords, hoods, and being ordered around by a dude with dictatorial tendencies. To be fair, though, the show’s lack of clarity about the League’s role is what makes its appearances on Arrow kind of fun — the show usually manages to take it seriously, but not too seriously (except in season 3, which suffered from the focus on this abstract, purposeless organization). Even in tonight’s episode, the reappearance of the League was made more enjoyable because Nyssa spent half of the episode cracking wise about how Oliver’s her husband. (I died when Nyssa referred to Felicity as her sister wife.)
But as I mentioned above, the use of the League in this episode is also weird because the writers try to tie it to Thea’s journey. I understand what they were trying to do. Thea’s daddy drama was a significant part of the character for a while, and it makes sense that the show would want to revisit her relationship with Malcolm’s legacy before her final bow. In fact, Nyssa was right that this was something Thea can’t ignore, and not only because it could result in her death. But using the League to do that is kind of odd when you think about the fact that Thea has been out of the game for a while, and at least as far I can remember, she hasn’t mentioned Malcolm much either since she woke up from her coma. I think this could’ve worked a bit better if the show had prepared us for this storytelling turn. But that being said, I do think the episode manages to pull it off by sheer force of will and Holland’s great performance. (Next: The Oliver of It All)
As Thea is forced to throw on the hood one more time and postpone running away with Roy, she has to come to terms with the fact that she’s still trying to find the best version of herself. Her realization that she hasn’t found it comes courtesy of her brother Oliver, who is struggling to give up the hood even though he promised Diggle he would. Ever the voice of reason, Thea helps Oliver realize that he hasn’t followed through on his word because he feels complete when he becomes the Green Arrow, and, at least partially, because he feels like he’s righting his father’s wrongs.
Even though Thea helps Oliver realize this, he still questions her decision to help Nyssa crack the map’s code. Oliver (and Roy) want Thea to go get her happy ending, but Thea feels compelled to stay behind and see this through. Nyssa confronts Oliver and tells him that Thea has earned the right to do what she wants; she suggests that Oliver support Thea’s decisions, but Oliver doesn’t take Nyssa giving him advice about his relationship with his sister well.
Eventually, Athena takes the city hostage unless Thea hands over the map. Cue more fighting. In Thea’s sword fight with Athena, they discover that Thea’s blood reveals the hidden map on the parchment. Not only that, but once the sword fighting is done, they figure out that the map leads to several Lazarus Pits that Malcolm found around the world. This presents Thea with an option: She can ignore this and run away with Roy, or she can accompany Nyssa on her quest to destroy these pits. Thea chooses both, as Roy vows to join her as she heads off with Nyssa to deal with her father’s legacy and hopefully right some his wrongs; someone needs to keep the Lazarus Pits from falling into the Thanatos Guild’s hands. Thea’s reasoning is that this might help her find the best version of herself.
If I’m being honest, I was kind of disappointed by this because I always loved the fact that Thea actually managed to leave the superhero business. With every season she came into her own, and she definitely shined working for her brother in the mayor’s office. Arrow rarely has any genuine happy endings, and it would’ve been nice to see Thea get one. She didn’t have to run away with Roy; she could’ve just moved to another city and fought for what she believed in through a new organization or something. (Remember, Thea has always shown an entrepreneurial streak, too.) But what her actual ending gives us is more story to tell with Thea. Should Holland ever be willing to return to the show, she’ll have an exciting story to bring with her.
It’ll be interesting to see how Arrow moves forward without Holland. Even though her presence has diminished in recent seasons, Oliver and Thea’s relationship has still been integral to the show. Everyone calls Oliver on his occasional broody nonsense, but it means something when it comes from the person who has known him the longest. I’ll miss the tenderness and “real talk”-ness of Oliver and Thea’s relationship going forward.
While Team Arrow handled the League of Assassin drama, Dinah and Curtis got to work on identifying the SCPD’s dirty cops. A new drug murder eventually led them to something we’ve known for a long time: Captain Hill is on Diaz’s payroll. But that wasn’t the only major revelation. Dinah and Curtis also learned that Diaz is pushing Vertigo, Star City’s favorite drug that just won’t go away.
Wall of Weird:
- Nyssa gives Oliver the ultimate wedding present: She annuls their wedding.
- Whenever Team Arrow went into the field, Roy sported a baseball cap, whch was reminiscent of the character’s New 52 redesign.
- Fun fact: Nyssa didn’t start using a computer until she was 25. LOL.
- Check out my colleague Natalie Abrams’ Q&A with Marc Guggenheim about Willa Holland’s exit here.