SUMMARY: Strong emotional highlights bolster an otherwise serviceable episode.
If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
After saying goodbye to Roy, Oliver returns to the loft and finds Thea assaulted and bleeding on the floor near death. He runs her to the hospital and watches helpless as they manage to revive her. Following surgery, the doctor reveals that there isn’t much for her. She’s stable but likely to die soon. Malcolm comes to grieve by his daughter’s bedside.
As the others arrive at the hospital, Oliver sees a League smoke signal set in the city. He discovers Maseo, who reveals there is a way to save Thea. Oliver plans to take her to Nanda Parbat to use the restorative waters of the Lazarus Pit, something Malcolm warns him against, saying that they could dramatically alter her. Felicity and Diggle insist on going with him and Felicity turns to Ray to use his jet to fly them there. Ray allows her to take the plane but breaks up with her because she still has feelings for Oliver.
In Nanda Parbat, Thea is put through the resurrection ritual. She emerges from the Pit momentarily insane and then lost in confusion. Oliver and Malcolm put her to bed and then Ra’s al Ghul tells Oliver to prepare for the price he paid: He will be joining the League as the heir to the Demon. Felicity can’t accept Oliver’s choice and confront’s Ra’s to change his mind. Ra’s convinces her that she needs to tell him how she feels and say goodbye to him forever.
Oliver and Felicity give into their feelings and sleep with each other. Not content to give up on him, Felicity drugs Oliver with the intent of stealing him from the temple. Maseo aids them following a conversation with Diggle that reminds him why he should help people, but they are all soon caught. Oliver willingly gives himself up to allow everyone to leave and return to Starling City.
Oliver says goodbye to his sister and friends. Ra’s informs him that he must forfeit everything about Oliver Queen to join the League. The brand him to aid in that transition, and rechristen him Al Sahm (“Al Sah-Him”), the Arrow.
Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu track down General Shrieve’s encampment and witness him combine the Alpha and Omega together to create an active bioweapon. They follow a truck carting the weapon into the city and attack. After stopping the truck, they discover that the vial is not there; it was a decoy. Tatsu learns from one of the soldiers that the vial was hidden on a food cart to be released in a populated area. They track down the cart and attack the men. During the struggle, the vial gets loose. Oliver attempts to catch it but the vial hits the ground and breaks open, releasing the weapon.
Let’s dispense with the pleasantries and get right down to business.
Only two things mattered in this episode: Thea and Olicity. Both were tied to a central theme.
This hour was quite simply about Oliver accepting a choice that had already been made for him and saying goodbye to the life that he’s known. They’d pointed out on more than one occasion that Maseo Yamashiro had given up his past and was now only known as Sarab. (Interestingly, though it’s noted on the show Sarab means “phantom,” which is one of the translations from Arabic, it more common means the slightly similar “mirage,” which actually suggests something far different.) They even use that as a plot point here to stop Ra’s al Ghul from executing him for having helped Team Arrow attempt to escape with Oliver.
There is little left of the established Oliver Queen in the world. As this season was set up to provide an existential identity crisis for our protagonist, it’s systematically stripped away every part of his life. He was unable to reclaim his family’s company. He’d lost a great love, friend, and partner in Sara Lance. Over the last few weeks, he’d seen everything he’d built in his crusade as the Arrow flushed away by the League, most specifically his credibility with the people of Starling City at large.
Even though Roy had managed to save him from going to jail, his young compatriot’s seeming sacrifice meant the death of the Arrow in the public’s eye; Lance might know the truth but the world now believes Roy Harper was the green-hooded vigilante. Such was the case that Oliver couldn’t even step out into the city as protector and take down the metahuman Deathbolt. Ultimately, Ray Palmer took on that task and might have forged his own true nature as a hero. Oliver had nearly even given his life in a duel with Ra’s to protect his sister, his survival the consequence bringing on all that is occurring now.
Thus did it make sense that Thea’s life be the final straw to break his back and give in to Ra’s’ will.
She was truly the only tangible thing he had left as Oliver Queen. His heroic legacy to those he inspired will remain, and it goes without saying that he truly did give birth to the Flash, Black Canary, the Atom, Arsenal, and the one-two punch of John Diggle and Felicity Smoak. But his family, his very blood, had been taken from him save for Thea, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for her. It’s telling that he recounts the story of killing Thea’s drug dealer to Felicity, particularly because it’s both a fairly gruesome story and an unflattering account of Oliver’s nature. It illustrates, though, that he’s willing to even trade in his soul for Thea. Even with Malcolm Merlyn’s protestations over what the Lazarus Pit could do to her, there was no decision here on Oliver’s part. The deed was done.
What we’re left with for the hour, then, is a waiting room exercise. Thea’s treatment in the waters is quick, nigh instantaneous. Kudos to the team for committing whole-hog to the concept of the Pit. In the comics, anyone to use the Lazarus Pits is subjecting to temporary raging insanity, which usually ends in violence for anyone near the Pit when the user emerges. If anything, Thea’s outburst should’ve been more violent, more prolonged, especially given the amount of concern Malcolm expressed over Oliver choosing this course of action. Sustained but dissipating confusion and amnesia are interesting side effects. Thea seems a lot more cognizant when she says goodbye to Oliver on the sands, but the long-term effects make for intriguing possibilities as the season winds down.
As with all waiting room exercises, you either get something dripping in drama or something perfunctorily passing the time. For the most part, we get the latter, as Thea rests and Oliver basically sits with his thoughts, complete with candlelit room. Even the escape attempt, which musters a few thrills, is fairly standard fare. Considering Oliver is all but turning in the keys on his life, this could generously be looked at as a calm-before-the-storm moment. Outside of the strong emotional beats, like Oliver finding Thea, the gripping moment he crumbles into the wall when they restart Thea’s heart in the hospital, or when Maseo reveals to Diggle that Akio was killed in the past, most of the episode is serviceable prelude to the ritual that finally brands Oliver Al Sahm and indoctrinates him into the League.
Yet, nothing is more emotionally charged than Olicity this time out.
Setting aside my general lack of interest in Oliver and Felicity as a romantic couple, the chemistry between Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards is on good display this chapter. Out of the overall context, the characters’ declarations for one another are stirring and appropriate. A fair argument could certainly be made that the consummation of their relationship panders to a given section of the audience of the show, but such a contention could be made at the seeming fact that Laurel’s Black Canary is about to become the dominant hero in Starling City.
The two sleeping together is a very human response to the circumstances in which they find themselves. It’s fascinating that Felicity goes to give Ra’s a tongue lashing, all but declaring war on the League to get Oliver back, and his response is to push these two together perhaps for the last time. It’s another fragment of a complex man who sort of exists in negative space. He’s not above doing things directly but most of his influence and menace tend to be his reputation more than anything. That’s a special brand of scary to be able to wield that kind of power and yet rarely raise one’s voice.
At times, it comes off as indifference and aloofness, and yet the man who bears the title of Ra’s al Ghul is quite an emotional fellow. The wistful story of longing for the family he no longer knows, the immediately family likely dead after more than a century apart from them, speaks to a deep well of feeling that he’s probably always worked to govern but has become extremely masterful at it during his time as head of the League. It’s something that truly drives home the point to Felicity. Knowing Oliver has leaned toward trying to deny himself his emotional wants and needs to devote himself to the cause of the Arrow, it’s that moment that her plan comes to mind.
It is not a great plan, and given everything that has gone on the last few weeks, Felicity had to know it was as foolhardy as could possibly be. There was nowhere to go that Ra’s’ reach wasn’t felt. Oliver, the most bullheaded guy they know, had tried all of his options short of killing himself, and this is what he determined needed to happen. This is a guy who just last year set Felicity up as bait for Slade Wilson in an effort to inject him with the Mirakuru cure. Of course, she was going to try because that’s who Felicity is. Yet, the effort was failed from the start.
One of the few reasons they even had a very slim chance at escape was because of the fortuitous help of Maseo. His struggle with the actions of the League in regard to Oliver has been consistent, going back to his rescue of Oliver on the mountain after the duel. The Hong Kong flashbacks should, at last, pay off the strength of that bond, especially learning that Akio dies, most likely as a result of the Alpha-Omega bioweapon outbreak. We know they have history but now we’re getting down to the type of events that bond people for life.
With Maseo spared to assist Oliver with his League training, this presents an interesting wildcard going forward. We know Tatsu is also still out there in the present. Could they play as big a role in the final showdown in the present as they are likely to play in the one in the flashbacks?
The bulk of “The Fallen” is a very passable, serviceable episode that primarily wades through time as Oliver prepares himself to become part of the League. It’s not exceptionally engaging stuff, aside from the conversations between Ra’s and Felicity and between Maseo and Diggle. It’s more events that needed to pass before cresting the hill above the final drop on the rollercoaster of the season. What distinguishes the hour, though, are the emotional highlights, particularly those shared between Oliver and Felicity. In the end, it’s quite okay to have a time-passing episode if you get strong character moments within it.
Odds & Ends
- Where the hell is Ted Grant? Did getting his ass handed to him by Brick mothball Wildcat permanently?
- Good of Ray to recognize a situation for what it was and not beat around the bush calling it out. I much prefer Felicity with Ray, but if she’s not fully engaged in participating, best to end things and move on. Refreshing to see someone with that kind of emotional maturity.
- The Priestess we’d seen prominently in the season ending teaser a few weeks ago turns out to be neither Talia al Ghul, nor Lady Shiva, nor any other known character. From the looks of things, her ceremonial role for the League might look to have been already completed. My apologies to actress Francoise Yip for assuming a few weeks back that Vancouver mainstay Lexa Doig (Andromeda, Stargate SG-1, Continuum) was playing the part. In my defense, they look rather similar to one another in the all the makeup and accoutrement.
- When Ra’s mentions his original family prior to becoming the Demon’s Head, it oddly mirrors the make-up of his family in the comics. Ra’s is known to have two daughters, Talia al Ghul and Nyssa Raatko, and a son named Dusan. (All from different mothers, though.) Hard to say if this was a nod to that family dynamic, as having a son and a daughter is a fairly common family structure, but it’s worth noting all the same.