**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.22 of Arrow, “This is Your Sword”**
I never thought I’d see the day when Thea Queen was the only one making any sense on this show, but this is that day. And I’m mostly glad that the one person everyone tries to protect and coddle is the only person not pulling her punches, so to speak. She never asked Oliver to sacrifice himself, and I’m glad she finally said it out loud. You go, Thea!
This episode of Arrow started with a particularly inelegant reveal that Oliver is not truly brainwashed — I am so surprised that six weeks of… starvation? waterboarding? didn’t make him completely forget his friends and family — by having him visibly react to the news that Maseo is the one who supplied R’as al Ghul with the same deadly virus that killed his son, Akio. I want to reiterate one more time that it does not matter that Oliver isn’t brainwashed. He’s still killing innocent people and he still endangered Lyla’s life, for the greater good doesn’t cut it anymore.
I think this show made a mistake when they tried to trend away from the gritty on-the-streets vigilantism that put them on the map. They’ve been trying to go Bigger Picture by introducing the League and getting R’as al Ghul interested in Oliver on a personal level (which still makes no sense) so that now Oliver is making decisions for everyone. He’s not Superman, and he was never supposed to be. He’s supposed to be a localized vigilante, the protector of his own city, who only gambles his own life for the greater good. We can’t even count on one hand the other lives he’s gambled this season, and for what? The characters barely mention Sara anymore, I can’t even remember the last time Oliver talked about her. Isn’t that where this all started? With Sara’s death? By Malcolm’s hand? But no one’s thinking about Sara anymore (Laurel is, of course, I know she is, so don’t attack me, Laurel fans!) and no one except Thea is holding Malcolm accountable for bringing this mess to their doorsteps.
Speaking of Malcolm, he’s the one who is sneaking to Nanda Parbat, which I guess is next door to Starling City based on how quickly everyone always gets there, to help Oliver with his infiltration of the League. Of COURSE the faux-brainwashing was Malcolm’s idea. Oliver gets the bright idea to send Tatsu, a woman none of his friends have ever met, to convince his team to come to Nanda Parbat and destroy the virus. Tatsu, who is amazing, talented, passionate, and smart… takes time out of her busy day to tell Felicity that she was Oliver’s last thought on the mountain. More and more, this is feeling like fanservice and not like authentic character moments.
I have to say that part of the reason this show is such a slog now is that Felicity is constantly. crying. She used to be the light of the show, but now the show has taken that concept in a more literal direction and they’re using her as the Optimistic Beacon of Hope that Oliver is still out there. Laurel accuses Felicity of being sanguine when really, Felicity is just telling herself that the Oliver she loves is dead now. This show was better when there was balance, when there were light moments of humor and banter in between the darkness of death and revenge, and Felicity was often the source of that sort of light. Now it’s all just constant doom and gloom all the time, much like my reviews.
Nyssa continues to treat her impending nuptials as if it’s her execution, and things only get worse when R’as decrees that she will bear Oliver’s child. *shudders* The League is so gross, and R’as is the grossest of the gross. He continues to threaten Nyssa with torture and pain if she doesn’t go through with the wedding, so really, he and Malcolm are probably in the running for the Father of the Year award on this show.
There’s a pretty good fight sequence in the field where the team successfully takes down the plane that supposedly bears the virus, but it turns out R’as still has the virus and they’re all taken into custody, where Malcolm promptly tries to turn on everyone. In a way, it’s pretty amazing. But mostly awful.
The most hilariously tone-deaf aspect of this episode — of the entire season — is how the drama hinges on Felicity finding out about Oliver’s upcoming wedding. She is crushed. Just devastated. The music swells, she looks thunderstruck and heartbroken, and you’re made to believe that this is it, this is truly the worst thing that’s ever happened to Felicity Smoak.
A wedding. A sham wedding. She’s devastated by a sham wedding, when Oliver’s been threatening and kidnapping and killing for the last few weeks. Those things are just sad, but a wedding, whoa boy, THAT is the true tragedy. (She’s gonna be hysterical when she finds out about Oliver’s secret Central City kid.)
Things get even more tone-deaf when Oliver pulls Diggle aside to try to talk to him and Diggle rips him a new one about trust and respect, and how Oliver has lost both of those things as well as his friendship. I really, truly hope Oliver’s actions from last week are long-reaching, as David Ramsey has hinted, because I’ve just about had it with everyone forgiving Oliver for these “morally grey” decisions.
And then the whole Al Sah-Him contrivance unravels even more when R’as, after Malcolm’s betrayal, finally considers the possibility that Oliver might not be totally loyal to him and the League. You know. After he spent a year bullying and torturing Oliver into joining the League. R’as makes Oliver unleash the virus on his friends, and they all cry and scream at him as he seals the room.
They all fall asleep very slowly and dramatically as Oliver weds Nyssa. We are genuinely supposed to believe they are dead, and then it’s totally ruined by the promos for the next episode, where everyone is very much alive — and angry.
There was nothing really wrong with this episode (aside from the tone-deaf scenes, which at this point are just part and parcel of the storyline) except that it’s a pretty lame climax to a very lame season-long story arc. We’re supposed to care about Malcolm’s motivations, but we don’t. We’re supposed to be cheering for Oliver, but we’re not. Felicity, the “normal” point of view for the viewer, is too wrapped up in dramatics and hysterics to really follow, and Laurel was pretty much sidelined emotionally, again, even if she did have more screentime in this episode. Digg is the only one we can really relate to, but we’re probably not, as the viewers, supposed to be so angry with Oliver.
– RIP Maseo Yamashiro, who was killed by Tatsu. He thanked her for freeing him from his prison. I feel terribly for Tatsu, but I could watch an entire episode of Katana fighting bad guys.
– Ray secretly transferred ownership of his company to Felicity. I’m not willing to suspend my disbelief long enough to buy that Felicity would sign documents without reading them, and I still distrust Ray enough that I feel like these are for nefarious reasons, even though the writers insist he’s a Nice Guy.
– Nyssa tries to stab Oliver during the vows, which makes her my new hero.
– Despite Laurel being kind of relegated to a backseat role, Katie Cassidy really held her own in this episode.
– There was a cute Felicity scene during the big battle where she tossed her broken tablet at a bad guy and momentarily grinned when she thought it worked to stop him — until he turned to reveal an arrow in the back from Malcolm Merlyn. Felicity: “Oh. That makes more sense.”
– Yes, Oliver and Nyssa are officially married, and yes, Oliver took time out of his honeymoon to go to Central City last night and help Barry with his Reverse Flash problem. I can only imagine the Flash writers sitting down to write this episode with a couple of Arrow writers and being like “Wait… WHAT did you to do your own show? How are we supposed to work with this?”
– Celebrate! The one great thing that came out of this episode is that Thea is now Arsenal! I’m gonna cling to this morsel with the hope that next season will be better than this one.