[This is a review of Arrow season 3, episode 15. There will be SPOILERS.]
Even though Ra’s al Ghul’s offer to Oliver to take up the mantle of the Demon’s Head isn’t exactly surprising, the thought that Arrow has been building toward giving Oliver a reason to seriously consider his offer is. The duel between the two in the midseason finale wasn’t just a way of shaking things up on the show and giving fans something to talk about as they pondered the circumstances of Ollie’s inevitable return. That would have been too straightforward. Instead, it became the impetus for Oliver to face an enormous decision. One that was intially fueled as much by his desire to save his sister from a lifetime of guilt, as it is so that he can take another shot at beating the man who beat him.
That may seem like a shallow reason for Oliver to journey so far, and it might seem like an even flimsier reason for the show to set up the possibility of him considering Ra’s offer. But it’s important to note one thing that ‘Nanda Parbat’ makes very clear: Oliver Queen is a liar. Sure, it’s a skill that goes hand in hand with being a vigilante who wears a mask and jumps off rooftops at night. But as Oliver’s secret identity is revealed to everyone who matters on this show, his need to lie, to cover up, and to be in charge of every single situation to protect that identity tends to go out the window.
That is a big part of how Oliver sees and grounds himself. It’s what helps him and others to understand the delineation between Oliver Queen and the Arrow. And as the season continues to bring other characters into the fold (or the Arrow Cave), that line between former reckless billionaire playboy and green hooded justice seeker blurs to the point that it’s all but impossible to see it anymore. Mix that with his recent defeat at the hands of the man now offering him a new title, and you have yourself a compelling reason for Oliver to consider Ra’s’ proposition.
There is no telling where Oliver will land on the suggestion, though if saying “yes” means Diggle gets a seat on the next flight out of Nanda Parbat (they have an international airport, right?), then it makes sense for him to accept immediately and work out the consequences later. Either way, if Arrow sees fit, the conundrum Oliver faces could make for an intriguing storyline for the remainder of the season.
It would certainly change the dynamic of the Arrow family back in Starling City. The only thing is, it remains to be seen whether or not that dynamic needs to be changed, considering the many plusses that have come from no longer keeping Thea and Laurel in the dark, and allowing them the chance to take active roles in the most important part of the show. This season, Thea and Laurel have finally grown into characters with the ability to impact the storyline by making decisions. What’s more, those decisions are sometimes the incorrect ones, making them all the more compelling from both a character and a plot standpoint.
Case in point: Thea’s decision to sell Malcolm Merlyn out to the League of Assassins, and Laurel’s subsequent, unsuccessful confrontation of him. Both actions represent the shortcomings of the characters. Thea is potentially blinded by her rage at being used to kill Sara and set the season’s violent circumstances in motion. Similarly, Laurel, influenced by her emotions and need for vengeance, confronts an opponent she has no hope of beating. But in their respective failures (letting Nyssa out of her cage might also qualify as a bad decision), those flaws make Thea and Laurel far more interesting than they ever have been. And that’s because both women are now free to make those decisions with (nearly) complete knowledge of the situation in which they find themselves.
But as other characters (and the series as a whole) benefit from being drawn more completely into Oliver’s once-secret world, the identity of the series’ protagonist undergoes another transformation. And that transformation serves as the impetus for his consideration of assuming the mantle held by Ra’s al Ghul.
In a way, it makes sense. Oliver has already been many different men; namely, a spoiled billionaire playboy, a prisoner, Slade Wilson’s ally/enemy, an unwilling agent of A.R.G.U.S., and, apparently, a member of the Russian mafia. Oliver’s identity is far more fluid than anyone might have imagined. And maybe fluid doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps shattered is the more appropriate term. So, the thought of him being tempted to assume the mantle of something as concrete as the Demon’s Head isn’t necessarily a far-fetched one.
Besides, with Team Arrow proving it can function without him and with Felicity now choosing to be with another billionaire with super heroic aspirations, Starling City is less dependent on the Arrow – it doesn’t have a lone, iconic hero; it has a slew of them. And that ties into Oliver’s psyche. If he’s willing to travel all the way to Nanda Parbat to prove he can take on the guy who basically killed him the last time they met, then it stands to reason he might see Ra’s’ offer as an enticing way to distinguish himself once more. After all, he may not be into killing anymore (aside from when he and Dig are storming Nanda Parbat, apparently), but there’s nothing preventing Oliver from thinking he can’t effect change from inside the League once he’s assumed the mantle.
The League of Those Who Tie Criminals Up and Leave Them For the Authorities has a nice ring to it.
Arrow returns on Wednesday, March 18 with ‘The Offer’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below:
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