“My name was Oliver Queen…” That’s how the Wednesday, April 29 episode of “Arrow,” 321, “Al Sah-Him,” begins, as Oliver undergoes what happens next now that he’s accepted Ra’s al Ghul’s offer. What that means for him, for the team and for Starling City may be catastrophic.
The weakest part of “Arrow” season 3 has easily been the flashbacks, which have become, frankly, annoying and very ill timed. They seem to be even more chopped up as of late, and while they finally do connect to the present in a very obvious way by the end of this episode, it’s really easy to wish they would just be all in one chunk to get them out of the way. Here, they show Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu trying to save Hong Kong from the Alpha Omega bioweapon, only to find that Akio too was sick, and just like they did in “The Fallen,” they really interrupt the flow of the present-day story.
In the present, three weeks have passed since Diggle, Felicity, Thea and Malcolm left Oliver in Nanda Parbat, and he’s basically been going through hell to become Al Sah-Him, training which culminates in a test to see if he’d kill Diggle while under the influence/the League’s reprogramming – and he does. Of course, it’s not really Diggle, but that scene is just the first of many that highlight Oliver and Diggle’s brotherhood in this episode. As much as “The Fallen” was about Oliver and Felicity’s relationship and her attempt to save him from Ra’s, “Al Sah-Him” is about Oliver and Diggle’s brotherhood and the latter’s attempt to get through to Oliver, all beginning with that scene in Nanda Parbat.
After that, Ra’s tells Oliver a bit about his past, as a way of explaining just why Oliver must eliminate the threat to his own reign – Nyssa – so that the same thing doesn’t happen to him. See, the former Ra’s molded Damien Darhk alongside him into a warrior, as brothers, but Damien wanted to be heir as well, and when the current Ra’s hesitated to kill him, he took his loyalists and water from the Lazarus Pit and continued the League’s ways on his own, in an organization with a “hive” of agents, with his own agenda. (So, does anyone have any doubts about where the show is going for season 4?)
As Oliver/Al Sah-Him and the League are coming for Nyssa, the (former) heir to the demon is, thanks to Laurel, getting a chance to be “normal,” have things like fries in milkshakes, a life outside her father’s rule, and is training Laurel in a way that proves to be very useful in this episode. But once Laurel reveals that Oliver accepted Ra’s’ offer, Nyssa knows that life is over for her, and, just like Laurel should have told her father about Sara’s death sooner, she shouldn’t have waited three weeks to tell Nyssa about Oliver.
And so, though Diggle, Felicity, Thea and Lyla get a brief respite, where they can discuss things like Diggle’s “identity concealment” and check on how Thea’s doing with Oliver being gone and raise a glass to the “gone, but never forgotten,” Laurel turns to Felicity and Diggle for help, but they refuse to believe Oliver has changed, even as Nyssa explains about the reprogramming, and are hesitant to help her by getting between her and the League. However, Laurel argues that Nyssa is a good person and saved Sara’s life and they protect good people, so Diggle and Laurel do end up going as backup for Nyssa, as Oliver/Al Sah-Him finds her on the roof where Sara died. Laurel stops him with the Canary Cry – very nice job on that, Cisco – and saves Nyssa, and even then, Diggle has a hard time believing that Oliver, the strongest man he’s ever known, has changed that drastically. While they may have been prepared for Oliver to give up his life, they weren’t ready to see him give up his soul, Felicity says, and it’s nice to see Felicity and Diggle leaning on one another as the original members of the team.
Meanwhile, Thea struggles with Oliver being gone and the responsibility she feels for that, and she goes to Felicity to offer to help them since they’re short-handed, which is when she finds out that Oliver is back and under “League mind voodoo.” While Thea wants to try to talk to him, to get through to him, Felicity protests because she knows Oliver wouldn’t want her involved, and so Thea turns to Malcolm instead to confirm that Oliver is back and with the League. He too argues with her, but he also knows she’s a warrior, with a strength inside her she’s always had, and that’s something her brother knows. That’s key later on.
In order to draw Nyssa out, Oliver and the League take Lyla, and Diggle is very ready to hand Nyssa over – and Nyssa is ready to hand herself over. Laurel continues to stand up for her friend, arguing that they’re better than trading one life for anther, protesting there has to be another way and reminding Nyssa of how different the past few weeks have been for her, but Nyssa still sees happiness as something denied to her. And while held by the League, Lyla tries to get through to Oliver, reminding him of what Diggle went through when he lost his brother and what Oliver has meant for him (hope and a purpose again).
When it comes time for the exchange, Oliver orders Maseo to search them, but when Felicity refuses to let him touch her, he lets her get away with that, and just like she had the cure hidden on her to use on Slade in the season 2 finale, she has guns on her that Lyla grabs when Diggle sends her to her after Oliver sends her to him. With that, the fight begins, and this time around, Laurel does much better (but she is still obviously learning), thanks to Nyssa’s training, but even so, the League takes Nyssa. Oliver and Diggle are the last ones fighting, with Diggle trying to get through to him, to remind him he’s still Oliver, black or green hood, but it’s to no avail and Thea intervenes with an arrow through her brother’s arm and a warning that the next will be in his eye if he doesn’t get away from him. Oliver walks away.
After that, Diggle has to accept that Oliver is gone and the only thing left of him is them. “Gone, but never forgotten,” Thea says, echoing the earlier sentiment from Diggle about soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. And so the team has to figure out how to move on, with Laurel unable to enjoy fries and milkshakes with Nyssa the League’s captive and likely heading for her death, Diggle struggling with his best man being the man who took his wife and Felicity and Thea dealing with still loving Oliver despite everything.
That leads to a scene that proves that “Arrow” should not have waited so long to put Felicity and Thea in a room together and have them talk. When Felicity goes to the loft, Thea says he should’ve let her die and Felicity tells her that was never an option, which is why she loves him. When Thea remarks that she didn’t know about her and her brother, Felicity explains it was “complicated,” but she did love him and still does. All they can do is remember the best parts of him and move on, Felicity tells her, and for Thea, there is hope for that because Roy is alive. He’s starting a new life, she tells her, and it’s one that can include Thea. And so Thea has a decision to make.
Back in Nanda Parbat, Oliver impresses Ra’s when he returns with Nyssa, but when, under his order, Oliver goes to deliver the fatal blow, Ra’s stops him. Nyssa is broken, he explains, and spilling her blood is unnecessary. Instead, Ra’s says, her blood has another purpose: uniting their families, as Oliver’s bride. Yes, Oliver and Nyssa are to marry, and she is to become the bride of the demon, and Ra’s no longer cares what she wants. Oh, Nyssa has come so far, and nothing shows that more than how she responds to her father in this scene.
But there’s more. There’s one more thing Oliver must do to ascend: erase his former life by unleashing the Alpha Omega bioweapon on Starling City. It turns out Nyssa had stolen it to try to prevent his heir from doing so, but Ra’s knows his daughter and easily finds it where she had hidden it.
“Arrow” season 3 airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 21 “Al Sah-Him”?