Arrow Recap And Review – Season 3, Episode 21: Al Sah-him


If you would have told me at the beginning of Season 3 of Arrow that Oliver Queen would be getting ready to become the new Ra’s al Ghul, I would have laughed and laughed. Then I might have paused for just a second, knowing this is the kind of show that could pull that kind of stunt, before going right back to laughing.

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Of course the joke would be on me right now, because as “Al Sah-him” arrives on our TV screens tonight, that’s exactly where we’re at. Can Team Arrow save Oliver? Is there anything left to save? Not much time left to find out.

On-the-Mark Recap: What does the training for becoming the new Ra’s al Ghul entail? By the looks of it, a lot of late night swordfighting practice and several things considered torture under the Geneva Conventions. Also, killing John Diggle … except it appears to be a vision brought on by some ancient herb.

Ra’s tells Al Sah-him about his own training at the hands of the previous League of Assassins head. While being trained, there was another man also in competition to be heir, and Ra’s hesitated when he was supposed to kill him. As a result, that dude escaped with some followers and water from the Lazarus Pit. The parallel here is clear: Oliver has to kill his own rival without mercy. That’s Nyssa al Ghul, in case there was any doubt.

The thing is, she’s still in Starling City training Black Canary and being taught in turn about the glory of American comfort food. We see the rare softer side of Nyssa, but it quickly goes away when Laurel Lance tells her that Oliver has accepted the offer to become heir to the League of Assassins leader.

Felicity Smoak and Thea Queen are at the Diggle household, where the topic of getting John a costume … er, “identity concealment,” comes up. They talk about the need for a new status quo now that Ollie is gone and ask Thea how she’s holding up. Diggle mentions the old military saying about being gone but not forgotten.

Laurel keeps apologizing for not filling in Nyssa, but she gets a bit of a shock in return: Nyssa informs her that Oliver will come with as many men as necessary to kill her. Sure enough, we see Al Sah-him, Maseo and a bunch of League foot soldiers hit the rooftops looking for her.

When Nyssa fills in Diggle and Felicity on what’s going on, it doesn’t go over well. Felicity, in particular, feels there’s no way Oliver would ever be turned against people he cared about. Laurel speaks up on Nyssa’s behalf after she leaves in frustration, eventually convincing the others she can at least be useful for locating Ollie. Also, Laurel planted a tracer on her, because this isn’t her first day on the job.

Later, Diggle and Laurel discuss strategy and what will happen if they are forced to fight their friend. Diggle doesn’t think it’ll come to that, as he too thinks Oliver is strong enough to fight off any brainwashing.

Thea drops in on Felicity in the new Arrow Lair and ends up getting her to spill the beans about what might be going on with Oliver. She also can tell Felicity isn’t telling the truth when saying the remnants of Team Arrow are “handling it.”

The inevitable confrontation between Oliver and Nyssa takes place in the same place where Sara Lance was killed. Al Sah-him wins this fight too, but before he can finish Nyssa, the brand spanking new Canary Cry stops him in his tracks. There’s a brief but tense faceoff with Diggle and Black Canary, but Oliver decides to leave without saying a word.

Instead of saying thanks, Nyssa berates Laurel for getting involved. She explains that as the daughter of the Demon, there’s no happiness for her. Laurel channel a little Rocky IV by saying that if he can change, she can too.

Meanwhile, Diggle and Felicity are in disbelief. Felicity bemoans the fact that Oliver has given his soul as well as his life, and she gets a hug for some measure of consolation. Elsewhere, Oliver tells Maseo that Nyssa now has friends protecting her and gives the order to draw out Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter.

With everyone looking for help, Thea turns to dear old dad for intel on her brother. Informed that he is indeed in town looking to kill Nyssa, Thea says she’s not going to let that happen, even though Malcolm points out that Oliver didn’t sacrifice himself just so his sister could go to war with the League. Despite that, he asks what he can do for Thea.

Diggle returns home to find Lyla gone. He gets a call from Ollie, who explains that he can get his wife back if he produces Nyssa in 30 minutes. A royally ticked off John goes to demand that she turn herself in, and she’s willing to do so (that whole “no happiness for me” thing, I guess), even though Laurel implores all of them to be better than trading one life for another.

Even as a captive, Lyla shows plenty of fire, questioning Oliver on what he’s become. The others arrive to make the swap, and Oliver orders his (former?) friends searched, though Felicity prevents Maseo from searching her. Something’s up here. Nyssa is handed over, but when Lyla runs over and gives hugs to John and Felicity, she finds the latter hiding twin pistols in the back of her belt. Lyla starts shooting, and … oh man, fight time! It’s Diggle, Lyla and Black Canary versus Oliver and the League, with John having to square off against his best friend. Oliver wins that one and is about to consider running Diggle through when an arrow is shot through his hand. Thea Queen to the rescue (or maybe I should call her Speedy)!

Despite the rescue, Team Arrow isn’t celebrating. Not only is Nyssa likely a goner, they all agree that Oliver is truly gone. The only thing left of him … is us.

Ra’s is impressed with Al Sah-him’s fealty, and he orders Maseo to turn over his daughter’s weapons. Finding something he was seeking in the hilt of her sword, he orders Ollie to kill his daughter. At the last second, Ra’s has a change of heart. Reasoning that Nyssa is already broken, he wonders if her blood can’t be put to better use — as the bride of Al Sah-him. Neither Oliver or Nyssa seem too thrilled about that.

Felicity visits Thea and they discuss how they can move on with Ollie gone. When Thea wonders how she can fulfill her brother’s wish to live with the one she loves, Felicity explains how they faked Roy’s death and gives her his location if she wants a new life with him. But no one else appears to be getting any chance of a happy ending, as we see Laurel, John and Felicity all struggling to cope with the new normal.

Back in Nanda Parbat, Ra’s explains that the final act of ascension is to destroy one’s old home. Previous League leaders have razed cities, but Ra’s wants Oliver to use a familiar tool (the Alpha/Omega virus) to wipe out Starling City. And, now we’ve got ourselves a bit of a predicament …

Meanwhile, in Hong Kong: An emergency broadcast declares a state of emergency and the city is in a panic in the grips of Alpha/Omega. Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu come across military folks looking like they are dispensing a cure, but they’re actually infecting more people with the virus directly. The trio resolves to stop that, and after some successful gun and sword play, they do just that.

After finding Akio is okay, Tatsu and Ollie declare that it’s time to leave the city while the panic can cover their escape. They manage to find a car and start heading out, but blood from Akio’s mouth means he’s infected.

Favorite Moment: Thea had the line of the night this week. When Felicity asks how Speedy could have just walked right in and surprised her in the new Team Arrow lair, she replied, “My dad is a super villain, and you left your doors unlocked.” Correct on both counts, apparently.

Final Thought: I have mixed feelings about this kind of slow burn build to the season finale as opposed to the rising tension in each episode down the stretch of Season 2, but I can see why the internal conflict within Oliver himself is a compelling contrast to the external threats the previous two seasons. Only two episodes left …

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