SUMMARY: A taut hour of cruel gamesmanship that just keeps getting away from everyone.
If you have not seen this episode yet and do not wish to be spoiled, do not continue reading!
As plans for the wedding continue and Ra’s expects Nyssa to bear Al Sahm heirs quickly, Oliver meets with Malcolm Merlyn, revealing their plan to infiltrate the League and destroy it from within. With the pending plan to drop the Alpha Omega bioweapon on Starling City, Oliver knows he needs Team Arrow’s help and sends Tatsu with Malcolm to convince them. Reluctant to trust Oliver but believing the virus is real, the team goes to Nanda Parbat.
As they fight the League and Tatsu confronts Maseo, Felicity attempts to stop the plane that will carry the virus. The plane manages to take off, but Ray shows up as the Atom and takes it out. Tatsu is forced to kill Maseo, who felt he was trapped by letting their son die. Ra’s and Al Sahm arrive to let everyone know that the virus is safe and the plane was a decoy to test loyalty.
With everyone held prisoner and learning that Oliver will be wed to Nyssa, Oliver attempts to talk to Diggle about his plan. Diggle is furious and wants to hear nothing from his former friend. Malcolm reveals to Ra’s that Oliver is the mole, but Oliver assures him that he is Al Sahm. They seal Team Arrow, Ray, and Malcolm in the cell and unleash the bioweapon on them. Al Sahm and Nyssa are married.
Meanwhile, Thea tracks down Roy. She brings his Arsenal suit so that he can continue fighting crime, and they make love. Roy senses something wrong and Thea reveals Oliver accepted Ra’s’ offer. In the morning, Roy disappears to allow Thea to stand strong on her own, leaving her the suit.
Oliver, Maseo, and Tatsu break into a pharmacy to try to help the worsening Akio. They realize there must be a cure, and Oliver and Maseo go back to the hidden army base to try to take it from Shrieve. They wound Shrieve and find medicine, taking him with them to help administer the cure right. Back at the pharmacy, they find Tatsu cradling Akio, who has died. Shrieve reveals there is no cure and that he allowed himself to be caught to capture their little group.
“You are Warith al Ghul, heir to the Demon. Before the night is over, you will be Ibn al Ghul, Son of the Demon.”
Long con it is.
As mentioned last week, there were little tics of personality still showing from Oliver that were just subtle enough to hint at the possibility that he was deep undercover to destroy the League from within. At the same time, they were so minuscule that everything could very well have played as a straightforward turn of Oliver to the Dark Side.
Perhaps one of the things to enjoy most about this penultimate episode of Season 3 is that Oliver has to play everything so close to the vest that there are times you could still easily buy into the idea that he’d given into all Ra’s was selling. If he hadn’t broken character to talk to Malcolm, and thereby fill us in on the plan, they could’ve convincingly conned the audience for the whole of the hour, as well.
But we’ll get back to that in a moment.
Instead, let’s focus on the surprisingly, achingly emotional and poignant storyline of Maseo and Tatsu Yamashiro. Somehow, some way, these two had managed to burrow into the squishy soft underside, particularly over the last few weeks, that to see them face off with one another in battle turned out to be more heartbreaking than one would’ve thought. For as scattered as the main present-day narrative of the season felt for a good chunk of the year, the Hong Kong flashbacks went through a number of different movements that left it feeling slight for so long.
Just like the main story finding a groove with Ra’s offer to Oliver, putting the Yamashiros on the run with Oliver and then having them work together to try to save the city from General Shrieve’s heinous plan seemed to click that story in place. None of this was the fault of actors Karl Yune, Rila Fukushima, or Amell, as they all did serviceable, occasionally strong work in a story that felt too directionless for too long. Putting them into a situation that made them race into action, and stakes that could cost lives — even if we had already seen all three in the present — brought about more of a connection. Even after learning of Akio’s death through Maseo’s conversation with Diggle, to see the affects of the Alpha Omega virus on him at the close of last week really hit home.
Of course, nothing like seeing him dead in the arms of his mother after his father and friend pushed so hard to get a “cure.” To bookend that raw moment of Tatsu rocking her baby while singing a Japanese lullaby while Akio still breathed with the last moments of Maseo’s life threw a nice little spicy kick to the ol’ tear ducts. It was sad to see Maseo pushing against his League training this year to help Oliver and yet feel like he was trapped in a cage because he ultimately couldn’t save his son. It made a lot of sense, given the nature of the world they inhabit, that Maseo would cast himself off from his wife and seek numbness in a life of servitude to Ra’s al Ghul.
That makes it even more wrenching that he would be the one to steal the Alpha Omega to barter his way into the League. In essence, the thing that killed his son killed Maseo Yamashiro and left only Sarab. It’s likely he never expected to see Oliver Queen again, and the conflict must have been immense upon learning through the League that he was this new brute force working to clean up Starling City. Seeing him face to face would seem to have shaken Maseo to his core, which is why he continued to break rank with the League to aid his old friend.
One of the tough things you deal with in watching something adapted from an existing source material is that there are times when you are aware of a given character’s nature or arc or a development in a familiar story that can color your perception of what you are watching. In the comics, Maseo Yamashiro was dead, killed by his own brother because they were both in love with Tatsu. His death is what drove Tatsu to study in the ways of bushido and the samurai, eventually taking on the costumed persona of Katana. (Her sword, the “Soultaker,” was actually possessed by Maseo’s spirit for a time, and she could communicate with him.)
It was a bit surprising, then, that they chose to use Maseo so significantly in both storylines this year. In the end, I would say it worked out better than it didn’t. Still, there was a foreboding sense this hour that Maseo wasn’t long for this world, perhaps influenced by that comics knowledge. We knew they were both capable with the sword, so that one-on-one duel to hopefully save their marriage proved harrowing from the start. It’s unfortunate that Tatsu was forced to do what she did, but Maseo saw it as the only way to be free. With Tatsu crumbling into a primal cry as her estranged husband drew last breath, you could find yourself choking up and marveling that they’d managed to so sneakily give you reason to care.
So much of the hour kept one leaning forward in a chair because the moment it felt like anyone was going to get traction on what they were planning or what they truly wanted to occur, outside forces would not only curtail it but kill it dead and move in the decidedly opposite direction. Even the brief bright moments of connection between Thea and Roy were soon swallowed by the reality of her main thrust to get out of Starling, everything going on with Oliver. Roy knew he’d hold her back from where she needed to be and, convenient or not for Colton Haynes leaving the series, disappeared without her. There really was not a moment’s respite, and it’s a kind of tension that the show does so well.
We weren’t even allowed a moment of peace and understanding between Diggle and Oliver as he tries to smooth things over between them. Diggle was having none of it, and rightly so. Here’s that fool Oliver making yet another bullheaded decision on his own and forcing everyone else to play catch-up. (Though, in Oliver’s defense, everyone had just done that to him with Roy gambit.) In their hearts and cores, they’ll know that Oliver was “right” to have done this as a way to free them all, and potentially the world, from the grip of Ra’s al Ghul and the scourge of the League of Assassins. But at what point do you cross lines that can’t be unseen or walked back or forgiven, no matter the virtue of the goal? This was the very thing Laurel was trying to prevent Diggle from doing last episode by sacrificing Nyssa to get back Lyla.
There’s that old adage about the pursuit of revenge requiring someone to dig two graves, one for the prey and one for the self. At some point, a scorched earth policy kills everything you hold dear, you hold as yourself, so that in the end what you’ve fought to protect is lost in doing so. With Oliver having to so convincingly prove to Ra’s that his ruse is real, he’s basically torn asunder the last remaining bits of his supposedly former life. Even the announcement of Oliver’s marriage to Nyssa is a kick in the heart to the one he holds dearest. It’s a hell of a gamble to take, and no one gets out of this unscathed.
As a frequent poker player myself, it was hard not to be impressed by Oliver’s commitment to character, something akin to establishing a table persona to help mask any tendencies or tells from your opponents. At nearly every turn when presented with the possibility of exposing his plan in front of Ra’s, Oliver tightened the reins without tipping his hand. One had to figure for sure that walking back Malcolm’s accusation/exposure was going to prove extraordinarily difficult. At the moment, it’s hard to tell if that was a planned move to give Oliver the opportunity or another moment of Malcolm’s extreme self-interest.
Have to admit that it was a bit of a cheat involving Oliver’s allegiances with having seen previews of the next episode of The Flash. Oliver shows up in Central City in his Al Sahm gear alongside Firestorm, clearly there to aid Barry in fighting Wells/Thawne. If he’d given up everything of Oliver Queen, just what is he doing there? The same goes for next week’s season finale, of which the trailer clearly spoils this week’s “cliffhanger.”
And what about that cliffhanger? There are some who believe that with the Flash showing up to help the team in the finale that he’ll somehow speed in to rescue them. Unless Barry does another time travel run, I’m not sure he’d be in the room in enough time, given that everyone clearly breathes something in and passes out from it. Further examination of the scene between Oliver and Diggle in hopes to see another fake-out like the “I love you” scene between Oliver and Felicity in last year’s finale didn’t reveal much. In the end, either everyone is somehow inoculated, or a switch has been made without Ra’s’ knowledge and that wasn’t the Alpha Omega used on them.
In any case, the feint of killing off the majority of your cast prior to the finale is another of those enjoyable gasping moments the show has so much fun with. As was actually completing the marriage ceremony between Al Sahm and Nyssa, despite Nyssa’s vows amounting to a failed attempt to knife her betrothed at the altar.
The reveal of Oliver’s plan is much more fitting of the character we’ve come to know, but also sets up a nice conundrum with the rest of the team right before the end of the season. As “This is Your Sword” demonstrated, no matter how good the plan and the reasons behind it, breaking friendships, loyalty, and trust is going to cost you. In order for the plan to work, Oliver had to keep playing the part and denying his friends at every turn. It made for one of the stronger episodes on the season and a terrific set-up for year’s last chapter.
Odds & Ends
- Pointed out previously by our Craig Byrne, this marks the third year in a row where the penultimate episode of the season is named after a Bruce Springsteen song. We look forward to the tradition occurring again next year … and are currently taken bets on just what that title will be.
- So, Felicity’s gone from IT Girl to owner and president of the company within 3 years. That’s one hell of a career advancement.
- The bit with Felicity throwing the shattered tablet at the League assassin but Malcolm’s arrows actually taking him out was one of the funniest gags on the show in a long while.
- You gotta love how Tatsu can just put on the Katana costume and not a single person says anything about it in the world of this show now.
- So, how soon till we see Thea as Speedy in the Arsenal suit now tailored to fit her?
- Anyone else find it a bit weird that they keep undercutting the power and ability of Ray’s A.T.O.M. suit? It’s almost like they feel he’ll be too powerful if he gets to use it properly.
- Ah, the evils of promotion strike again, as the “cliffhanger” ending of the episode is all but spoiled by the trailer for next week’s season finale.
- “He’s a mass-murder who has lied to us so many times it should be a drinking game.”
- “Plus, I just had this little idea I couldn’t kick.”
- “Is it Oliver-related? It’s Oliver-related.”
- Roy’s sublet as “Jason” is a much better place than his old apartment in the Glades.