[This is a discussion of Arrow Season 3, Episode 9 – There Will Be SPOILERS!!]
Well you can't say that the showrunners of Arrow are afraid to leave their audiences stunned, confused, and possibly even infuriated. After the mid-season finale of The Flash left fans wondering what would happen next for The CW's other resident DC Comics superhero, the series that started it all took things to a new level - leaving viewers wondering if their eyes had deceived them, and if what appeared to take place really did.
Those who have yet to see the episode should know that serious SPOILERS are on the way, not just for the events of the finale, but for the possible explanation of how the series will continue on from this point (an explanation hinted at in this very episode).
The events that led Oliver to Nanda Parbat and into combat with Ra's al Ghul (Matt Nable) were outlined simply enough in "The Climb": defeat Ra's in the fight, and remove the death sentence hanging over Thea - as well as Malcolm Merlyn. Unfortunately, the battle didn't go quite as Oliver expected it to...
You'll notice we don't refer to the episode's stunning conclusion as the "death" of Oliver Queen, since the injury inflicted by Ra's al Ghul is... serious, to say the least. True, it clearly misses Oliver's heart, and the previous wound is the kind Ollie tends to shrug off back home in Starling. But this is Ra's al Ghul we're talking about: if he wanted to kill Oliver Queen - which he did - then he's not the kind of man who fails to strike a killing blow.
If the writers attempt to claim that Ollie survived, then we'll take exception (on the grounds that Ra's is skilled at ending lives coupled with Ollie's impressive fall onto boulders below). But as of now, it is safe to assume (for all intents and purposes), that Ollie truly was killed.
It was a good run.
— Stephen Amell (@amellywood) December 11, 2014
But that doesn't necessarily mean he has to stay that way. The old adage that there's no such thing as "death" in comic books is true, and DC has made a habit of rebooting or resurrecting their heroes quite often. But not every means of resurrection is out of the blue or a wave of the publisher's hand: some are in keeping with long-established elements of DC's fiction.
And one such solution to a dead Oliver Queen was alluded to - if not explicitly shown - in Arrow already.
The Lazarus Pit
Red flags should have been raised when Oliver informs Ra's that he wishes to enter a trial by combat for the death of Sara Lance/Canary, causing the 'Demon's Head' to reply that it has been "sixty-seven years" since an unlucky soul has invoked that right. Since Matt Nable is no senior citizen, it was a hint to all viewers that Ra's possesses a powerful anti-aging secret.
That secret, as comic fans know, is the Lazarus Pit (or Pits): mystical springs that not only heal the wounds of those placed within them, but can rejuvenate as well - effectively rendering Ra's al Ghul immortal. In established lore, he is still vulnerable when age catches up to him - and must undergo a bath once more to renew his strength. And when Ra's first appeared in this season of Arrow, many fans took note of the fact that he was emerging from an un-remarked-upon bath.
Is it possible that Ra's entrance into the show occurred just as the leader was realizing that a dangerous fight was on its way, and sought rejuvenation in the bath once more? It makes sense to think so, and the writers dropping an overt reference to the immortality of Ra's could be laying the foundation for a later reveal.
When asked outright by ComicBook.com - prior to the episode's airing - if a Lazarus Pit could be introduced into the more grounded world of Arrow, executive producer Marc Guggenheim stated the chances plainly:
Well, let me answer the question specifically, which is I think there's a way to do it. That's not necessarily to say that we will do it but yes, I think there's a way to do it that's in keeping with the show, but that's a far cry from me saying "Yes, we're going to do it."
We have our reservations as to just how easily audiences will accept the use of a Lazarus Pit to restore Ollie to life, but it's now the most obvious solution to the problem of reversing Oliver's death. Not to mention, with the introduction of the Flash (and metahumans) into Arrow's universe, stranger things have already happened.
What Happens Next?
The first promo for "Left Behind" teases that a member of the League may seek out Oliver's corpse (or mortally wounded body), with the most likely choice being his former ARGUS ally Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune). But Stephen Amell has stated numerous times that his workload for Arrow was lighter than it has ever been, with multiple weeks off (time usually spent filming). Now, viewers know why.
It's no coincidence that Oliver's death occurs just as Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) takes his largest step yet toward a crime-fighting crusade of his own, and Ra's al Ghul is presumably on his way to seek revenge upon the real murderer of Sara Lance. So perhaps some time out of the spotlight will allow another Justice League member - or simply the rest of Team Arrow - to take up the slack.
Eventually, someone is sure to find out what happened to Oliver, and seek out any means to find vengeance. It's then that the knowledge of the Lazarus Pit is likely to expand - again, with Maseo a likely accomplice once he sees the family Oliver left behind (hopefully paying off this season's Hong Kong flashback subplot) - although the use of the Pit carries with it some risk. Even Ra's al Ghul chooses not to use the bath regularly, since it can occasionally return human beings in an... altered state.
Add to that fact the loves and losses of Oliver Queen's life flashing before his eyes before death, and there are more than enough story threads to pick up if, and when, Ollie returns to the land of the living. Is he still the same Oliver? Has his death given him a new outlook on those around him? Or does something sinister sit beneath the surface if his resurrection has been attained - at a price?
Fans will have to wait to see these questions answered, but going on information that the writers have given, it's safe to assume Oliver will return. But how soon, and in what state, remains to be seen.
What do you think of our theory, if proven true? Do you feel like this death was a misdirection or cop-out, or does it seem a clever, unexpected way to bring even more of the comic book source material to the Arrow corner of CW's superhero universe? Share your thoughts in the comments - hopefully Ollie's absence will end sooner rather than later.
Arrow will return on Wednesday, January 21, with "Left Behind" @8pm on The CW.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce for updates on Arrow as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.
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