It takes some bollocks to effectively remove your main character from a popular series, even for a couple of episodes. Luckily in the case of Arrow, there are plenty of other characters to pick up the slack. They’ve done this twice now this season, both involving Oliver Queen going to Nanda Parbat and getting worked by Ra’s al Ghul. But very unlike the noble hero’s death at midseason, Oliver is now the episode-titular character “Al Sah Him,” and is Heir to the Demon. If you thought Ra’s al Ghul went easy on everybody last week, relatively speaking, then get ready to have you even slightly-tinted rose colored glasses totally destroyed because this week we’re getting to see some straight-up nutso League of Assassin malarkey.
If you watched this episode carefully, you probably noticed a repeated idea, that of whether or not Oliver was still Oliver “in there somewhere,” beneath the THREE WEEKS of Ra’s al Ghul mind messing. Three weeks? That’s it? Oliver Queen lasted five years “in hell,” being on an island, a freighter, and in Hong Kong living with a nice Japanese family (okay, that last one doesn’t sound so hellish), and he can’t get water poured on him for a matter of three weeks whilst constantly hearing “Oliver Queen exists only in the past”? Does that seem a LITTLE too fast for him to go the full-Sah-Him? I have a strong feeling that he’s faking somehow in an elaborate ruse to take down the League. Perhaps with Maseo’s help, perhaps with someone else’s. BUT, since that’s just a theory, I’m gonna treat the rest of this review like we all think he’s actually lost his soul. But, seriously you guys, I have a lot of doubts in that arena.
So Al Sah Him has relinquished all of his Oliver Queenliness through being tortured and “brainwashed.” To the point where they tell him he must now kill an intruder. Diggle gets dragged over and he pleads with Oliver that he wasn’t trying to rescue his friend at all, that they kept him locked up for three weeks. Oliver tells Maseo to give Diggle a sword, since he won’t kill an unarmed man. After a brief fight, Oliver stabs Diggle and then we see that it wasn’t Diggle at all; Ra’s al Ghul had slowly been giving Oliver these weird herbs that make him see things, including people he loves. It was a test to see if Oliver could, indeed, kill anyone he was told to, and it looks as though he can.
Ra’s al Ghul then takes him to a graveyard and tells him about his former friend Damien Darhk who thought HE was in line to be the Head of the Demon instead of the current Ra’s, and Ra’s should have killed him but didn’t, and now Darhk is behind all kinds of evil activities which we knew about before. It seems like they’re setting up H.I.V.E., a supervillain organization from Teen Titans, to be the bad guy in the next season. Or maybe it was just a throwaway, I don’t know. Either way, Oliver now has to go kill the only person who could challenge his ascension: Nyssa.
The rest of Team Arrow are really sad now that Oliver’s gone, though I feel like they’re sadder here, knowing he’s still alive, than they were when they thought he was dead. But, whatever, maybe that is worse. Black Canary, who is currently the only masked superhero in Starling City, goes out on patrol but she still needs help from Nyssa, her mentor and friend. She takes the Daughter of the Demon to a restaurant for a burger, fries, and a shake and we see that Nyssa is finally enjoying not being part of her father’s cadre. Or cabal. Whichever word you prefer. But things don’t remain awesome when Laurel tells Nyssa that Oliver has accepted the offer to become Heir to the Demon, because that’s like telling someone, “Oh, sorry, I forgot to mention, you’re now marked for death.”
Elsewhere, Diggle has been going out taking down bigger threats, like arms dealers, using Felicity’s intel. However, he refuses to wear a costume, even though maybe he should. (Sidebar: I’d heard a rumor that they’re going to make John Diggle into a Green Lantern. I have no way of knowing if that’s a true thing, but I can think of no better character for that to happen to.) A “family dinner” of sorts happens at the Diggle residence with him, Lila, Felicity, and Thea where they reminisce about Oliver, and John proposes a toast that they used to do with fallen comrades in the army: Gone, but never forgotten. I feel like that’s not exclusive to the military.
The dream of Oliver Queen starts to die when Laurel and Nyssa come to see Felicity and Diggle at the new base of operations, Palmer Technologies (Ray is conveniently out of town during this episode). Diggle and Felicity flatly refuse to believe Oliver would have turned so quickly to the dark side. Felicity in particular thinks the whole thing is bull pucky and thinks Nyssa is both untrustworthy and a terrible dancer (I’m assuming that second one). Laurel badly wants them to save Nyssa, but even Nyssa’s like “I will not run from this.” She goes to the rooftop where Sara died and awaits Al Sah Him and the two have a good ol’ arrow-slinging contest but Oliver ends up winning and puts his sword to Nyssa’s throat, just as Diggle and Black Canary, sporting her new scream collar, show up to see just how far gone their friend is.
Everybody’s in shock about this, and Felicity even refuses to tell Thea what happened when Thea comes to offer her help. Nyssa doesn’t like that she was saved, but Laurel reminds her that she’s entitled to some happiness also, that if Oliver can change so completely to be under Ra’s’ spell, then Nyssa could go t’other way. Thea is so confused she’s even called Malcolm for help, and it’s a rather good thing that she did, as we’ll soon see. While everybody keeps saying “Oliver wouldn’t do this,” Diggle finds out that Lila’s been kidnapped and Al Sah Him is using her as leverage for a trade-off for Nyssa.
Nyssa’s a noblewoman if nothing else and decides she will do this. The League members check everybody for weapons, but Felicity threatens him (emptily) if they touch her, and Oliver allows it. But, they’re a tricky sort, because as Lila hugs Diggle after being released, he tells her to go hug Felicity the same way and finds two pistols under her coat. A brief fight ensues with Oliver and Diggle sword fighting just as he did with the Fake-Diggle earlier. Even after Nyssa’s been apprehended, Oliver continues to fight Diggle and very nearly kills him when Thea arrives with her own bow and arrow and puts a bolt in Al Sah Him’s arm. He breaks it and walks away, with Thea threatening that if he doesn’t leave, the next one will be in her eye.
Afterwards, Felicity goes to see Thea and FINALLY tells her that Roy isn’t dead, that he went away somewhere. I guess there wasn’t really time “what with you being mostly dead.” In Nanda Parbat, Ra’s al Ghul continues to be impressed by Al Sah Him’s level of fealty (as am I…and dubious as well) as he presents Nyssa and Oliver prepares to kill her. However, Ra’s stops him and says he’s already defeated her, any more would be gluttony. Instead he proposes that Nyssa become Al Sah Him’s wife and she has no choice in the matter. Umm…that’s definitely a case of a parent not accepting their child’s lifestyle.
Oh, and the flashbacks FINALLY begin to bear some importance on the present, besides Maseo just being there, but they still don’t need to be there. Oliver and Company (ha!) failed to stop the Alpha & Omega virus from being released in Hong Kong and they decide they need to leave, but uh oh, their son’s infected.
Now, Oliver is going to be made to use that very same virus on Starling City, as a means of cleansing him once and for all, making his transformation to Ra’s al Ghul complete. Part of me really hopes this was all an elaborate plan to get the virus and stop it from being used again, making up for both Oliver and Maseo’s past failures. I know they aren’t going to really destroy Starling City AGAIN, right?
Man, people in Starling must be like “You guys ever notice how things are relatively okay, crime notwithstanding, between summer and Christmas, but it’s utterly terrible between New Years and May? I can’t be the only one who’s noticed this pattern!”
This episode did a good job of making every character doubt Oliver and believe he truly has turned evil. This will make his eventual return all the sweeter, I hope. If they end another season with a defeat-feeling victory, then they really will have gone too far. But, I guess we still have two episodes left, so we’ll see what happens.