This week’s Arrow, “Nanda Parbat”, is possibly the best version of a Batman show on television although it revolves around a completely different character not named Bruce Wayne. If “The Return” was basically what Arrow does occasionally wrong “Nanda Parbat” is a consistently strong episode of television that does not pull any punches. One of the aspects that has really helped to elevate the show in this back half is that the concept of secrets is no longer a really relevant plot line as everything has been coming to light and being dealt with in the past few episodes. No matter how large that secret may have been everything is beginning to be wrapped up nicely and put into a clearer perspective with the only thing seemingly out of whack at this point is what, the big final battle will encompass. Especially in light of this weeks ending which offers some major ramifications to the overall story of Oliver and his identity.
First thing is first Oliver is basically Batman, he tackles problems logically, he values the souls of his companions more than anything else, and as of the end of this episode Ra’s want’s Oliver to become the Head of the Demon. This is a huge double edge sword from a plot perspective as Oliver has been trying to get away from being the killer he once was and for Ra’s to offer Oliver the keys to the entire kingdom is a huge step towards the side of ruthless murderer that Ollie has left behind. Add on the fact that when Ra’s makes an offer to someone it is more often than not an order, so if Ollie chooses to decline Ra’s offer it will immediately put everyone back into the crosshairs. Despite all of this I actually love this angle as it forces Oliver to confront what has been the central conflict of this entire season, who or what is Oliver Queen really: is he a loving brother, a mentor, a vigilante, a hero, or will he be the leader of the League? If anything that question is more of a Big Bad than anyone one the show this season.
Speaking of the idea of the Big Bad it is interesting that this season has entirely ebbed and flowed on who the villain truly is. If you look at the story from a purely “who is the antagonist perspective”, Malcolm has done more to screw up Oliver’s life this year than our supposed big bad by a mile. I mean at what Ra’s has done, he killed Oliver and is now seemingly giving him power over his entire operation to do with what he will, that is like polar opposite of the spectrum behavior for Ra’s. Oliver is just trying to keep to his code, the code that he has been inspired to follow for nearly two years right now and if Oliver takes this devil’s bargain it will be like an alcoholic falling off the wagon. The only real problem that I can think of for this entire lack of a real villain is how are we going to build towards a big epic finale if there is no real or viable threat challenging Oliver at this time. I mean in each of the previous seasons we had some inkling as to how the endgame was going to play out, but this year I have no idea and I can’t tell if I am excited or terrified of that.
Meanwhile back in Starling all of our supporting cast with the exclusion of Det. Lance managed to get really strong arc this week, with the clear standouts being Thea and Ray. I loved all of the Thea material this week and her character has really blossomed since finding out Oliver’s secret but two scenes really stood out to me, her interaction with Roy and her final interaction with Nyssa. The Roy and Thea pairing has been pretty much gold this season and this week was no exception as Roy told Thea about the cop he killed and how that has changed him as a person. Lazy writers would have just written off Roy’s Mirakuru rage fest last season without a second thought, but luckily for us not only has this influenced his character but also his interactions with those around him. For him to confront Thea and show her just how much her actions will change her was the latest in a series of strong moves for Roy, especially considering the outcome of that talk. Thea had convinced herself that despite the fact she killed Sara that she had done nothing wrong, so for her in the end to come clean to Nyssa creates a ton of different issues going forward. We saw how Laurel reacted to finding out, but I seriously doubt Nyssa will be as understanding, either way it will be fun to watch the outcome.
The other character who had a big step forward in their storyline was Ray “I was clearly meant to be Ted Kord” Palmer. Not only did he and Felicity finally get together but he also managed to complete his super cool ATOM suit that is now apparently functioning yet does not shrink for some reason. I understand that DC had plans for either Blue Beetle or Kord but damn if right now Ray is not one of the best possible versions of Kord possible. I like the way he has been interacting with characters and I am happy with the progression of his story, but now we have to see if Ray was just talking a big game or if he can indeed be a hero who can inspire the city in a way Ollie hasn’t. I am however left to wonder how long it will be before Ray and Ollie cross paths on the streets and what Ray’s reaction will be to our hooded hero, for some reason I fear he may be holding a grudge for not being there to save his wife.
Overall it was a really strong episode and now we wait for Oliver’s decision.
Final Grade B+
+Ollie possibly becoming the Head of The Demon
+Matt Nable great as Ra’s once again
+Great Thea/Roy material
-Laurel trying to fight Merlyn
-Seeming lack of an endgame this year
-Don’t really care about romance enough to care about Ray/Felicity
-No big Ra’s fight
-Diggle realizing Ollie has the yips and agreeing to go to Nanda Parbat in the face of certain death, best friend in the world.
-Ra’s met a magician in 1859, that bathing pool is definitely the Lazarus Pit.
-I have to say the team isn’t wrong to just let Merlyn die, I mean he is one of the worst human being in this universe.
-If/When Ray finally shrinks down and becomes The Atom I will stop calling him Ted Kord. Till then if some dude dressed in blue and gold and a young latino sidekick happen to pop up then Ray is 100% Ted Kord.
-Nyssa has literally lost all of her titles and loves this weeks, has to suck to be the former Heir to the Demon