Arrow Season 4 Episode 13 – TV Review
The conflict of this episode hinges on whether or not Malcolm cares about Thea as his daughter.
You’d think seasons’ worth of proof that he does would be enough to keep his character consistent.
But you’d be wrong.
TL;DR Malcolm values the League more than Thea’s life, but Oliver finds a workaround to get Nyssa back control; Nyssa then dissolves the League; Felicity gives her dad a chance to prove he isn’t evil, and he fails; flashback Oliver and OSG are commissioned to join Black Boss on his treasure hunt, now that the dig site has been found.
Because a horde of mercenaries can’t possibly be as good at digging as a wounded spy and a slave girl.
So the plot picks up immediately after last episode’s, with Nyssa’s offer to Oliver: kill Malcolm so Nyssa can get back control of the League of Assassins, and she’ll give Oliver The Lotus to cure Thea. Oliver isn’t keen on killing Thea’s dad, so he implores Malcolm to simply relinquish control of the League, which Nyssa says she would reluctantly accept as close enough. But even after Nyssa gives a sample of The Lotus to prove to a skeptical Malcolm that she’s legit, Malcolm backflips and says no, the League of Assassins is more important to him than Thea. Ouch. Nyssa and Malcolm engage in an assassin war that erupts into Star City’s streets, so Oliver calls a trial by combat between the two to settle it. Just as the trial is to begin, he uses his husband powers (remember that Nyssa and Oliver are married? Ew) to replace Nyssa, cuts off Malcolm’s hand, and gives Nyssa the Ra’s ring, and, thus, the League. Nyssa then promptly disbands the League because Oliver and Laurel have spent the episode convincing her that she’s better than her father. So an enraged Malcolm goes to Damien Dahrk and tells him that while shooting up Felicity was a good start, if Damien wants to really hit Oliver where it hurts, he should go after his bastard son. That’s dark. Meanwhile, Felicity’s dad outs himself to her as the Calculator, but proclaims he’s more of a hacktivist than a terrorist. Donna doesn’t buy that shit, so Felicity sets a trap to see if he’ll try to steal Palmer Tech secrets when she takes him on a tour. He does, so she gets him arrested. Satisfying. And flashback Oliver bickers with OSG. A mystical rock thing that he got from Shado last episode or something finds its way into Black Boss’ hands, and with that, he can now find the dig site, and he insists Oliver and OSG tag along.
Or you could leave the two people on this island who actively oppose you to rot in their cells while you engage in the most crucial phase of your grand scheme?
Despite some fabulous action set pieces, and a great third option from Oliver in the form of a Skywalker-esque hand severing, this episode reminds us just why we hated season 3: more League garbage.
In the episode’s defence, the League is now done and dusted. So it got there.
But Damien has been utterly out of focus for three consecutive episodes now (four if you count the Anarky episode, because Damien wasn’t even the villain in that one). I want to see what HIVE’s ridiculous underground corn maze is for.
Why I hate this episode:
Malcolm acts out of character this episode, simply to propel the plot. Since the end of season 2, we’ve seen him go to extraordinary lengths to protect and nurture (and manipulate. But still, he kept her alive) Thea. But now, when the chips are down and all he has to do is hand over a ring, he gives himself whiplash with how fast he pulls a 180. It’s bad enough that he won’t relinquish the League, but his little speech to Oliver about how important the League is and what it represents blah blah blah. What the fuck, Arrow?
Hell, all Malcolm would have had to do is give Nyssa the ring, get The Lotus to Thea, and then power challenge Nyssa again. At the very least, he could ambush her in one-on-one combat, which we’re told repeatedly she would have no chance of winning. Seriously, what the fuck?
Speaking of Nyssa acknowledging she wouldn’t win a one-on-one fight with Malcolm, which is why she tasks Oliver with killing him the first place, why did Nyssa accept Oliver’s proposal for the trial by combat? Was she just desperate?
Oliver’s refusal to kill Malcolm is unbelievable. Literally everyone tells him to just do it. Laurel, Diggle. Even Felicity. But no, he can’t kill Thea’s daddy. Even after he’s abandoned her. Well, now little bastard William is in the crosshairs because Oliver fell over himself to find a moral objection to killing the most evil man to grace this show. Well done.
Oh, and the brevity of the flashbacks finally works against them, as OSG goes through a dizzyingly fast progression this episode. She starts off angry enough at Oliver to snatch the mystical stone and try to trade it to Black Boss (he steals it and gives her nothing, natch). But then when Oliver’s like “I’ve lost people too and my dad blew his head out to save my life” she a) buys that shit from a man who up until now has been lying to her about killing her brother; and b) instantly turns around and is like “we can get out of this. Be strong.” Why is she even here?
But it’s not all bad:
With her back on side, maybe she’ll shut up about her dead brother who we can barely muster the effort to keep remembering?
The highlight of the episode is undoubtedly the trial by combat workaround. It would have been cool enough if all Oliver had done was invoke Get Back In The Kitchen to replace Nyssa. But he did not only that, but he also cut Malcolm’s goddamn hand off. I don’t condone leaving Malcolm alive, but that hand chop did look mighty fine.
And it led to Malcolm’s very dark but very exciting betrayal to Damien. I thought even Malcolm couldn’t stoop that low. Drugging Thea into murdering Sara was one thing, but siccing a supervillain on a child is pretty rough. I love it.
In contrast to Malcolm’s wild dickishness, Nyssa proves herself smart and compassionate this episode. Her concession that she wouldn’t be able to defeat Malcolm, and must therefore blackmail Oliver into doing it, is pragmatic. And she’s even willing to accept Malcolm’s resignation rather than his death. But to top it all off, she actually listens to what everyone says to her all episode and realises she doesn’t need to maintain the League and become her father, so she totally disbands it and even melts down the Ra’s ring. You go, girl. The CW isn’t exactly hurting for hot, British lesbians right now, but I think there’s room for her in the Super Friends, no?
Felicity’s trap for her dad is direct and effective. After consulting with Donna and Oliver (not fans), she gives him a chance by taking him on a pleasant tour of the Palmer Tech lab. She predictably finds that he’s used a device to steal their secrets, so she dumps Quentin and the police on him (the reason he left her and Donna back in the day was to escape arrest). Hard. Daughters are doing it for themselves.
I gotta give points to Laurel, Diggle, and Felicity for all happily agreeing that Oliver should have just killed Malcolm. Like, duh.
The stunt work for the scene where the warring League factions overflow into a Star City street are exactly the kind of practical effects I like. It feels like something you’d see on Main Street at Warner Bros Movie World. It’s perfect.
Oh, and Thea does get The Lotus, and it does heal her. So we can leave Sara over on Legends of Tomorrow to carry the Lazarus madness torch.