Arrow Review: Nanda Parbat
To anyone paying attention these last three seasons it should be very obvious that Arrow was CW’s way of doing a Batman show without having to deal with the nitpicking and pressure of actually doing Batman. If you were still doubting that, the end of this episode should end that. Ra’s Al Ghul telling Oliver he wants Oliver to be his replacement is very much like Ra’s wanting Bruce/Batman to be his. And in the world that Arrow has set up, it’s a fitting switch.
This season continues to feel like a setup/development season. Things haven’t unfolded just as we would have expected and at times it’s really hard to see where they’re going with this. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. I think what’s really been enjoyable to me about this season is seeing the maturation of several different characters beyond just Oliver. Once again we get another episode of dissent between Oliver and the rest of his team. While this might seem like unnecessary bickering on the surface, it really is helping to flesh out the characters surrounding Oliver. It’s something that the show needed. We now have characters making their voices heard even if its opposite of what Oliver wants and more importantly, they aren’t backing down from it. It used to be that only Diggle did that but we’re now seeing that from Thea, Roy, Laurel and Felicity and it’s making their characters better for it. I thought the scene with Thea and Roy outside of the house of the officer Roy killed was pretty good. The reason I liked it was that while Thea (as Oliver said she would) felt guilt for giving up Malcolm to the League, she rejects everyone telling her that this is not who she is. As she brought up with Roy, how does anyone know that this just isn’t really who she is and Malcolm just brought it out of her?
These last few episodes secrets have been revealed left and right. Thea defying Oliver and not only telling Laurel but Nyssa as well was a great decision. Once again, it brings Thea out of Oliver’s shadow by having her not just blindly doing what Oliver wants. It also drives more of a wedge between Laurel and Oliver. Oliver has not being doing Laurel any favors by trying to protect her. First he didn’t want to train her and then he did not want to tell her about Malcolm using Thea to kill Sara. In the end, neither of these things worked out well. Oliver has to learn that lying to the people close to him just isn’t going to work. Like I said at the beginning of this review, this show seems like it started because they wanted to do a Batman show without the scrutiny that Batman brings. But I think they’re working to change that. I’m currently reading Scott Snyder’s Death of the Family Batman issues and one thing that stands out to me is how much Bruce Wayne cuts himself off even from his closest allies. He does it out of some misplaced sense of protecting them that many times, ends up coming back to bite him. I honestly think Arrow recognizes this and is setting us up to finally see the split of this Oliver Queen/Bruce Wayne mash up we’re getting right now. Oliver isn’t Bruce and Oliver’s team isn’t going to put up with what Bruce’s team does. Bruce gets away with so much because he was like a father (or an actually father) to Dick, Tim, Jason, Damien, etc etc etc. Oliver’s not a father figure. He’s a friend. And his friends aren’t going to continue to put up with his bullshit. We’re seeing that with Felicity right now. Once she heard Oliver say the same thing he said the first time he was going to face Ra’s she left and went to Ray. Unlike Bruce, Oliver is going to be forced to change the way he views protecting those around him.
Nyssa is going to end up being the one that trains Laurel. I can feel it. I’m also here for it. It’s a recurring theme this season that the people that stand by Laurel the most are all women: Her mother, Felicity and in this episode, seeing Nyssa come around. Not only that, but Malcolm threw in that line about how Ra’s would never allow Nyssa to replace him because of her relationship with Sara (Could this also mean we get Talia at some point?) . That seemed to get under Nyssa’s skin a bit. Training Laurel could be her way of striking back at her father.
When I started watching this episode, one of the problems I had was that I (Like the rest of Oliver’s team) couldn’t understand why Oliver was trying to go back to Nanda Parbat to rescue Merlyn. Sure, he was saying it was because he didn’t think Thea would be able to live with the fact that she sent her biological father to his death. As Oliver pointed out, he feels responsible for the death of both of their parents and he has trouble living with that every day and didn’t want Thea to suffer like that. But even that seemed like a pretty flimsy excuse. However, when he’s talking to Diggle in the cell and admits that its also about gaining his confidence back, that’s when I bought it. Oliver was damn near killed by Ra’s. Stabbed through the chest then kicked off of a cliff. That’s a confidence breaker. It makes sense to me that Oliver would need to face Ra’s and defeat him in order to continue on the way he needs to. But I’m also glad the rest of his team wasn’t gullible enough to fall for his lies about doing this just for Thea. Because that doesn’t make any sense and I’m glad we see them calling Oliver out for it. I also liked seeing Oliver and Diggle storming Nanda Parbat. It's been a while since we've seen just the two of them in action together. Seems as though Diggle has also been living with regret for not going with Oliver the first time and he couldn't do that again. These two really have become close and have a great bond. I actually think they're using Diggle better this season than they did last season.
I did have a little bit of a problem with Malcolm Merlyn all the sudden begging for his life. I know that no one really wants to be tortured but it just seemed so out of character for Malcolm to all the sudden turn like that. Merlyn’s been so cold and fearless, I just wasn’t expecting to see this side of him all the sudden. Also, while it was great seeing Ray finally put on the ATOM suit and go for a flight (and go all the way with Felicity, something even Oliver hasn’t done), the scenes with Ray felt a little out of place. I’m actually beginning to wonder where Ray Palmer will fit into all this. Ray seems like he could be an interesting character on his own show and right now he might be too big to include as a side-character. CW has to be testing the waters for an ATOM spin-off show.
This episode didn’t go as I expected but I’m really enjoying seeing the growth of these characters. The reveal of secrets and the open defiance and questioning of Oliver is a good thing. We know that Oliver will reject Ra’s offer and that will probably bring Ra’s & the League of Assassins into Starling City and we’ll finally get that second confrontation. Also the promos for the next episode seem to indicate that the Lazarus Pit actually does exist (that might be what Ra’s was sitting in when we see him this episode) and it will be interesting to see how that plays into this.
* Oh and before in case you forgot: Amanda Waller is such a bitch