This Arrow review contains spoilers.
Arrow Season 8 Episode 3
First, let me just say YES I saw the same wild ending you did. I am shook. I’m getting to it! But there’s a whole episode of Arrow to get to that would have already been pretty great even if things didn’t take a hard left turn at the end, so let’s talk about that first.
As with other episodes so far this season, Nanda Parbat is leaden with imagery from Oliver’s history. The booby-trapped catacombs, the mountain he was killed on, the sheer cliff-face he climbed after it. We even got to re-live Ollie’s old over-protectiveness for Thea, although at least this time it’s with the bonus of Oliver’s personal growth, so he actually communicated to Thea 1) that he’s going to die and 2) that he’s being overprotective because he saw a world without her and it messed with his head. Stephen Amell had yet another great moment showing Ollie’s genuine heartbreak telling his sister he’s going to die, following almost immediately by his exasperation at her lack of concern. Sisters, amiright?
All things considered, Arrow waited quite a while to let the other shoe fully drop on the fact that Thea is the heir to the heir to the demon. I was even more hesitant about seeing Thea back on the show at all, since she had such a lovely sendoff back in season 6. Now that it’s here, it’s pretty damn good to see her back on the screen. With the show ending overall, it feels more like a fond farewell tour than undoing her previous character work. Seeing brother and sister fight during the cold open was fun, because it’s still too rare for Oliver to face anyone who equals him in a fight. It’s also fun to see the lineage of his fighting style and, by extension, Speedy’s, on a show that clearly puts in the time and energy to distinguish such things.
Thea becoming some version of Ra’s al Ghul is a delightful turn of events, although “League of Heroes” is hokey is all hell. While Thalia might say that two women wielding her father’s sword would drive him nuts, that’s not really how swords work and you could also argue you need to women because one woman alone wasn’t alone. I’m not so sure it’s as neat of a rah-rah girl power move as she would like it to be.
One major question lingers: where’s Nyssa? She adds a specific brand of levity, mixed with great history, both of the show and Oliver in particular. The longer she eludes us, the stranger her absence seems. Hopefully this is building to a grand purpose, not a contractual obligation or a scheduling issue. If Arrow can make time for the third Al Ghul sister I forgot about, we can make time for the one we truly love, the one I secretly think defends Felicity and Mia’s homestead, helping to train Mia.
I should have known better, though, since Zoe has been becoming a good advisor and counterbalance to Mia, that she was not long for this world. Hopefully that amazing shocking ending means Zoe can come back or be saved. For two weeks in a row, women have been stabbed in the stomach. It’s tough for the second one to be Zoe, who we care about in the here and now, to die so that Mia, who made so many bad choices can live. What will Mia, William and Connor tell Rene? What was that white light? When will Lyla come clean? Y’all there are still FOUR episodes until the Crisis on Infinite Earths!!!
A theme for this episode was making choices from a place of strength, rather than one of fear. Lyla and Zoe both tried to impart that wisdom, and those who ignored it did so (unfortunately) to someone else’s peril. Even though last season ended with Oliver going off by himself to the Monitor, presumably to die, this season he’s done nothing but turn down offers for help. Call me an optimist, but this no longer feels like a show that’s sending off its selfish, solitary hero for his noble, lonesome sacrifice at the end of his hero’s journey.
As his friends and family gather around him, across time, earths, and (soon!) television shows, it’s increasingly looking like whatever is coming, Oliver will face it from a place of strength and defiance, not fear or resignation to his burden. I fully expect that Oliver will have some Captain America-esque ending that sidelines him in an alternate earth or pocket universe along with Felicity, where he somehow gets to raise Mia but also she gets to be an adult in her normal future, and he can come back for the occasional extra special crossover but stay largely retired.
Will this feel cheap? Who knows. Arrow has promised us death before and taken it away in ways that did, yet most were grateful, like with Felicity. But the show has also pulled off surprise death well (Moira) and incredibly poorly (Laurel). It’s important to note this is only the third episode, and the crossover doesn’t hit until episode 8. Whatever they have in store for us in the meantime, this season I’m genuinely surprised by Arrow and anticipating new episodes in a way that I haven’t been in years. I can’t think of a better way to send off an old friend than to remember what made them so special in the first place.