‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 21: ‘Al Sah-him’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson is back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: Ollie appears to have fully transformed into a supervillain (his true destiny), Team Arrow does a lot of worrying, and folks enjoy some wholesome milkshakes.
The Assassin Action
Last week, we wrapped up with Ollie fully giving in to being "Al Sah-him," The Arrow, heir to Ra's al-Ghul, and giving up the identity of Ollie Queen entirely. That's a sentence I definitely didn't think I'd ever be typing back in the less-comicy days of season one, and I do appreciate it.
This episode flashes ahead to a few weeks later, and we see that Ollie has undergone some intense training and, as others call it throughout the episode, brainwashing. We see Ra's break him down with constant training, sensory deprivation and imprisonment, saying to him constantly, "Oliver Queen is alive only in the past. He is forgotten. You are Al Sah-him." Ra's observes that he no longer flinches at his new name. He also got a haircut. So changes all around.
Outside assassin HQ, Maseo and some other assassins drag Dig up to Ra's and Ollie, saying he was an intruder, possibly there to free Ollie again. Dig says they're lying and that he was never allowed to leave. Ollie orders the assassins to give Dig a sword and orders him to fight. Then he kills him full-on dead.
But, of course, it's not really Dig. Ra's reveals that he gave Ollie a drug that makes him see an important person to him. He asks who Ollie saw, and he doesn't answer. So Ra's asks him to go for a walk.
On their walk through some ruins, Ra's explains that he was one of two potential heirs picked by the last Ra's. The other one was Damien Darhk, which is full-on bananas. You know, Damien Darhk, the Titans crime boss villain who loved Wi-fi and worked for HIVE. That Damien Darhk. He was almost Ra's al-Ghul. But the last guy picked the current Ra's, and tasked him with killing Damien. Current Ra's (I really wish he had another name I could call him by) hesitated, though, and let Damien get away. He tells Ollie he needs to do what he couldn't, and "without mercy."
Now, I took this initially to mean that Ollie was going to go hunting for Damien Darhk, which would have been absolutely great. But what it actually meant is that Ollie had to go find the person he beat out to be the heir to the demon, Nyssa, and kill her. What a tease.
So Ollie and the assassins deploy to Starling City, and Nyssa is right there waiting for them. I'll get into her stuff with Laurel a little further down, but just know that Laurel took Nyssa to see Dig and Smoak at Palmer Tech to see if they could help stop Ollie from killing her. Dig and Smoak just couldn't believe Ollie would be there to kill Nyssa at all, so they kind of balk at the idea. Nyssa says, "Well, OK," and walks out to her doom. After she leaves, Laurel says, "Last time I checked, we help good people," which is...kinda true.
Laurel put a tracker on Nyssa, so she and Dig are waiting in a van when Ollie and Nyssa collide on a rooftop. After some tough talk from each (Stephen Amell chooses to make Evil Arrow sound drunk, more or less), they fight for a while. It's a pretty cool affair, with arrows and punching and smoke bombs. Evil Arrow gets Nyssa down on the edge of the rooftop and almost kills her, but Laurel stops them with a Canary cry. Dig says they can't let Ollie kill Nyssa, and he casually jumps off the roof.
Back at Palmer Tech, Team Arrow is having trouble processing what has happened to Ollie. Dig says Ollie's the strongest man he ever met, and didn't expect him to break like those highly trained soldiers he served with in Afghanistan. I know what he's trying to do there, but way to throw your band of brothers under the bus, Dig. Smoak says Ollie hasn't just given up his life, but his soul.
Meanwhile, in a hallway full of torches (the league's remote HQ), Ollie and Maseo come up with a pretty quick plan to lure Nyssa out: Kidnap Dig's wife, Harbinger.
At the same time Thea has asked Malcolm to meet her at Theapartment. She wants to challenge the League. Malcolm at first is pretty against the idea; after all, Ollie gave up his life to save hers. And if her problem is with Ollie killing people, well, he's the almost-leader of a League of Assassins. Eventually, though, he bends and asks her what she needs. He's a proud dad.
Dig and Smoak go to Dig's apartment to lay low, and when they get there, they find that Sara's crying and Harbinger is missing. Just then, Ollie calls and says he's kidnapped her. He tells Dig to bring him Nyssa in half an hour and it all ends.
Dig and Smoak go to the weird abandoned building/tent where Nyssa lives and tell Nyssa and Laurel the score. Also, Dig absolutely tears into Nyssa, blaming her for all this. Classic victim blaming. Dig, I thought you were better than that.
For her part, Nyssa says she's sorry and that she's ready to die, but Laurel won't hear it. She insists that they've got to be able to come up with a plan that doesn't involve just handing Nyssa over.
Back in the torch hallway, Harbinger asks Ollie how he's changed so much from the man who gave the just OK best man speech at her wedding. She also says nothing could really comfort Dig since his brother's death, except knowing Ollie. Ollie totally no-sells it and waits for Team Arrow to arrive.
Soon enough, they do, with Nyssa. Ollie orders that everyone be searched, and everyone is, except for Smoak, who says she doesn't want to be touched. Ollie allows it like he's Judge Wapner or something. Dig demands to see Harbinger, and the assassins bring her out.
They trade hostages. Ollie tells Nyssa to bow to him, and she refuses. Dig gives Harbinger a coded message about how Smoak wants this to be "just like Jakarta," so Harbinger goes over to the unsearched Smoak, and finds two hidden guns. Harbinger starts shooting, then everyone else does.
Things don't go well for Team Arrow in the scuffle, though. Nyssa gets dragged away by assassins, and Dig and Ollie end up fighting one another. Ollie gets the better of Dig and pulls out a sword to finish him off. Dig keeps reminding him that this isn't him, and just then Thea, in full Arrow regalia, shows up and shoots Ollie in the arm. (Yes, it's another Arrow doppelganger to go along with Proto Arrow, Dark Arrow, Lady Arrow, D'Arrow, Ra's Arrow Ghul and probably some others I'm forgetting. Let's call her Tarrow.)
Tarrow tells Ollie to get away from Dig or she'll put the next arrow in his eye. Ollie backs away and leaves.
The assassins return to Nanda Parbat with Nyssa. Ra's asks Maseo if he searched Nyssa and "found it." Maseo says he did not. So Ra's asks for her weapons.
Ollie looks confused, so Ra's explains that Nyssa used to be a really skilled thief, but she could never hide things from him. He says this as he pulls a mysterious vial out of the hilt of Nyssa's sword.
Just after that, he tells Ollie to do what he's got to do, and Ollie raises his sword to slice Nyssa's throat. Just as he's about to strike, Ra's stops him. Like God talking to Abraham, he says Ollie has proved his loyalty, so he doesn't have to kill Nyssa. He could do what Ra's couldn't, without hesitation.
In fact, he suggests, why not make this whole thing a family affair, and Ollie and Nyssa get married? Nyssa says no way; Ra's says it's not a choice. I honestly think that's the most evil thing about Ra's, that he wants to force his lesbian daughter to be straight.
Ollie and Nyssa look stunned.
A lot of this episode focuses on Laurel (who finally gets some spotlight for once) and Nyssa, who have been forming a bond.
We first see them together when Nyssa bails Canary out from an attempt to catch a mugger that isn't going too well. Boy, they really have to hammer the point home that Canary isn't a great vigilante every time she tries to do anything, don't they?
Anyway, afterward, they go out for milkshakes and French fries, as superheroes do. Nyssa isn't so sure about these American comfort foods. (She's more used to... I dunno, what do assassins eat? Clif bars? Kale?) But turns out, she really enjoys them.
Nyssa thanks Laurel for her kindness and for giving her the opportunity to live "like a normal person" for a while. It's downright sweet. Then, Laurel ruins it. Right there in the restaurant (which, I should note, is not Big Belly Burger for some totally strange reason) she says that Ollie accepted Ra's offer. Nyssa goes stiff as a board, shoots up and leaves in a huff.
Laurel goes and finds Nyssa at her weird tent-house (does she make meth in there?) to ask why she got so mad about her weird, mid-dinner comment that ruined everything. Nyssa explains that Ollie is definitely coming to kill her, and that she was never supposed to have any happiness.
Then all that stuff I mentioned above happens.
They've really been building something between Laurel and Nyssa over time this season, and I hope it continues. The seem good together!
The other big thing this episode is people trying to come to terms with what's happening to Ollie.
An early scene at Dig's house finds Harbinger eating dinner with Thea and Smoak, who are helping take care of the baby while Dig is out stopping some smugglers or some such. Dig returns and Smoak brings up the notion of some "identity concealment" for Dig, because Ollie's gone. At the mention of Ollie's name, everything goes quiet for a few seconds.
Dig asks Thea how she's holding up, and she answers that she misses Ollie, and that mornings are rough. Dig offers a toast he remembers from his Army says: "Gone, but never forgotten."
Later, Thea goes to see Smoak at Palmer Tech, and quite frankly, Smoak is pretty rude to her, telling her that Ollie is back in town and she needs to leave so she doesn't have to directly deal with it. Nobody thinks Thea can do anything.
After the actiony events of the episode, Team Arrow gathers at Palmer Tech. Dig says Harbinger and Sara are leaving town to be safe (and he doesn't go with them... for reasons). Laurel worries that Nyssa is going to die. Thea says what's happening to Ollie isn't fair. Smoak asks if Ollie is ever coming back, and Dig says that's all that's left is team Arrow. They toast again, "Gone but never forgotten."
Smoak comes back to see Thea at Theapartment, sort of to apologize, maybe. Thea says Ollie should have just let her die, and Smoak says Ollie would have never let that happen. Smoak adds that they have to remember the best things about Ollie (his abs) and live their lives happily, with the people they love. Thea says Roy's gone, though. Then Smoak pulls out her trump card: Roy's alive and starting a new life. Thea can join him.
Maybe she could have mentioned this before Thea straight-up died last episode.
In a montage, Dig looks at a picture, Laurel drinks more milkshakes and Smoak cries. It's the depression stage.
You'll remember last week that a vial full of a bioweapon burst open and its fumes began wafting into the air of Hong Kong.
Here, we confront that via a man in a truck listening to a radio broadcast about a state of emergency while helicopters fly overhead. Those first responders act quickly in Hong Kong!
What looks like dozens of people start collapsing to the ground with blood coming out of their mouths. You know, we all remember how a bio-attack killed tons of people in Hong Kong back in 2011 or whatever, right? Ollie, Maseo and Katana are okay, though, because they took that antidote. Ollie is beating himself up over the vial breaking in the same manner someone would be upset that they lost a friend's cat.
They rush off from the marketplace to go find Maseo and Katana's kid. On the way, they come across some soldiers handing out some mysterious stuff from the back of a truck. Ollie quickly deduces that it's more of the virus (How much of this stuff do they have? Before it looked like it was just one tube.), so he starts shooting into the air to disperse people. That starts a big firefight, which includes more of Katana swording dudes, so it's good.
After the soldiers are dealt with, Ollie says they should destroy the vials. They set a bomb in the truck, and it blows up. Sorry, but didn't breaking a vial of the stuff cause the outbreak to begin with? Didn't this expose more of it to the air and make it worse?
Anyway, the team finally gets to the newspaper apartment and finds the caretaker dead, but the kid alive. They decide to leave Hong Kong in the midst of the chaos. Back out in the street, they find a car to steal and start to drive away, but not before Katana notices that the kid's mouth is bleeding.
After dropping that marriage bombshell on Nyssa and Ollie, Ra's has another one for his new heir. Turns out that vial he pulled out of Nyssa's sword, which she had stolen from him, was a vial of the alpha/omega virus.
Just like his predecessor started the 1609 cholera plague in Egypt, he wants Ollie to attack Starling with this. It's the only way to erase his old life.
And look what it did to Hong Kong! We all remember!
- At one point, Smoak refers to Evil Ollie as "Darth Oliver," which is a tad forced, but I can't exactly talk there. What's weirder about it is that it's free promotion for a Disney property on a WB show!
- Also according to Smoak, Ray Palmer is "out of town," which is why he doesn't appear in this episode despite multiple scenes taking place at Palmer Tech. Maybe this is when that Flash team-up he had was supposed to happen in the timeline? I dunno.
- Ollie tells Dig that Harbinger is being held at "Fullerton and Halsted," which isn't a reference to any DC characters or creators that I know of, but is an intersection in Chicago that I am very familiar with. The Biograph Theater, where famous gangster John Dillinger was shot dead, is really close to there (on Lincoln, actually). Maybe that's the reference.
- They're trying to kill me with all these teases of Dig dying, aren't they?
This one wasn't bad. I particularly liked the Nyssa/Laurel stuff, and I even kind of like Evil Ollie, weird vocal exercises aside. He's been a total jerk the whole time. Now they're just embracing it.
I don't think it's a coincidence this one was pretty good and got by without a villain of the week. Let's just ditch those forever. Unless of course, Ollie had been going off to fight Damien Darhk. That I would have loved to have seen.
(Apparently he's going to be the major villain of season four. I hope it's absolutely crazy.)
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