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Arrow Recap — The Fallen
April 25, 2015 By Trevor Richardson
The Fallen is rightfully named. Thea is struck down by Ra’s al Ghul and Oliver has to make a hard choice: let Thea die and remain the Arrow, the hero of Starling City, or save her life and become the next leader of the League of Assassins. To do that, Oliver would be a fall for Oliver, a descent to his old life as a killer, a life of darkness and a struggle for survival. He would, in a sense, be trading one island for another. The City of Nanda Parbat, the home base for the League, is a kind of island hidden in the mountains of Tibet, but leaving his loved ones behind to become something he hates would be the ultimate isolation. Oliver is falling, Thea has fallen, all of the men working in the League are broken men in their own right, and even the usual peppy Ray Palmer has come to realize that the women he loves has feelings for someone else. As I said, The Fallen is aptly named. Everyone is pretty down in this episode.
Felicity asks to borrow Ray Palmer’s jet and together her, Oliver, Diggle, Thea’s remains, and Malcolm Merlyn fly to Ra’s al Ghul and the Lazarus Pits, now the only option for saving Thea’s life. Merlyn insists that what comes out of those waters will not be the Thea they all love, that he would rather lose her forever than see that happen, but Oliver shuts him down hard with a very direct, “Get on the plane, Malcolm.”
In past reviews, I expressed disappointment that they bypassed the Lazarus Pits when Oliver was stabbed in his showdown with Ra’s. Recently, I’ve backpedaled on that position and it feels worth reiterating here. I am not sure if this was always the plan in the writer’s room or if they realized that it was a mistake to leave the pits out of the story and found a way to write it back in, but either way this is so much more impactful. Oliver using the pit to live and return as the Arrow is boring when compared to the life of his sister being leveraged against his resistance to Ra’s al Ghul. It’s tragic, brilliant, and epic storytelling that has provided some of the best character moments this season. Season 3 kind of spun its wheels in the beginning, but finally found its momentum with this story arc and I for one couldn’t be more impressed.
On the topic of great character moments, Oliver and Felicity share a great, quiet scene together on the jet. He explains that he came back to Starling before they found him on the island, confronted Thea’s drug dealer, and wound up breaking his neck. It is a confession of sorts, but it is also his way of explaining to Felicity that he would do anything to protect his sister, even give up his freedom to keep her safe. In what seems to be a common occurrence in the final episodes of an Arrow season, Oliver says the words, “I failed.” This might just be a fanboy’s hope, but I think it comes more from a writing standpoint, I really hope he doesn’t fail. I hope he beats Ra’s somehow because this pattern of Oliver failing when it matters most just to up the stakes on the story is getting a little old. Just once, I would like to see him really own, but I doubt that will happen. What was it The Green Goblin told Spidey? The only thing people love more than a hero is to see a hero fail.
Diggle defines what I see as the real meaning of The Fallen. It’s the League itself. He almost scoffs, “The League of Assassins…you’re feared for your bravery and power but all I see are a bunch of weak men running from their lives, trying to escape.”
He goes on to practically grill Maseo about his choices, calling him a coward and basically a fool for working with these people. I think we’ve all known for most of this season that Maseo is in the League because his son, Akio, has died. This hasn’t happened yet in the story, but as the flashback narrative shows Oliver and the Yamashiro’s racing to stop the Alpha-Omega from detonating in Hong Kong, we have to know that the boy will die soon. Watching this conversation, you have to hope that Maseo will somehow redeem himself, and soon, as Diggle plants a seed of doubt by asking him if his son would be proud of him right now.
Just before we cut to the Lazarus Pit, the camera moves in on Maseo’s face and his eyes are filled with questions. Something awesome will come of this and, as usual, we’ll have Diggle to thank.
Thea is lowered into the Lazarus Pit in a creepy occult ceremony complete with white dress and priestess chanting. As the resurrected Thea explodes out of the water, she kicks Oliver halfway across the room and has to be forcibly held down and sedated. All of that is pretty standard fare where the Lazarus Pits are concerned and I was pleased to see them do it justice. In her bedroom, after awakening again, we see a confused, borderline amnesiac Thea who thinks Oliver is dead, her mother is still alive, and tells Merlyn, her father, that she loves him. This will likely go on for a while because shows like this are always looking for ways to torment their characters and mix up the dynamic, but the most interesting part of all of it was the bittersweet expression on Malcolm’s face. On the one hand, he has his daughter back, on the other, it’s not really her at all.
Felicity storms out of the room and confronts Ra’s by saying, among many other wonderful things, that this is all “perverse,” and that she has powerful friends who will go to war to get Ollie back. Ra’s is just as chilling as ever as he explains that when he was taken to be the next Ra’s al Ghul he was told to come quietly or watch his family tortured to death right in front of him. He adds that he endured a fate worse than death to spare them pain, mirroring the fact that Oliver is doing the exact same thing in the next room, and tells Felicity to give Oliver the goodbye he was never given.
So, finally, Felicity goes and tells Oliver she loves him and he’s changed her life, and she gives him a goodbye he’ll remember. Then, in typical Felicity fashion, she makes an awkward joke and just says, “We did it.” She’s hilarious, they manage to make things work with this character that would crash and burn with just about anyone else. Then they share a drink, toast to “us,” and —big surprise! — the drink is drugged. Oliver passes out to Felicity saying, “I can’t lose you.” What’s the plan, Felicity? She might not even know, but this is an amazing plot twist.
I have to take a time out from this recap and say something. I love that, despite the fact that they are the least powerful people in this show, Felicity and Diggle are the only people who ever seem to know what is really going on. They’re beyond just the conscience or moral compass of the team, they seem like the only ones who have the will and grit to get the right things done.
This next scene was a game changer for Felicity’s character. She stands in a room with Malcolm Merlyn, a man that terrorized an entire city and was nearly unbeatable to the bitter end, and John Diggle, a military man with a mind and will of his own, and gave orders. She didn’t ask, she didn’t beg or flirt to get it done. She bossed them around, talking fast in that way that she always does, but there was a kind of drive behind her fear that was outstanding. Watching Malcolm Merlyn, the Black Archer, shrink away as she told him to go get Thea and come back in five minutes, nearly shouting, “Go!” was a moment worth remembering. I just love that in all the female characters this show has offered, the assassins and crime fighters and femme fatales, the strongest woman in the show is the tech girl with the glasses. I can’t stress enough how much this choice continues to impress me.
As the team fights their way through the halls, with Merlyn in the lead, dropping assassins left and right, they make their way toward the catacombs behind the temple. The fights were already cool and my heart was already racing and then the door opens on the temple itself, Merlyn prepares to take on three of Ra’s al Ghul’s goons at once and what happens? Arrows fly and they all drop. I hate to admit this, given the fact that I had so recently been thinking that Diggle had made an impact, but I didn’t think of Maseo. I thought Oliver woke up, I thought Thea had gotten a bow somehow, I thought of every other person but the obvious and when it dawned on me, I actually fist pumped. I did. Go ahead, laugh.
There was a brief scene earlier during one of the flashbacks that had seemed sort of out of place at the time. Maseo and Tatsu discuss the bio weapon and the fact that Maseo thinks they should be running. Tatsu says they have to help people, they have to try to save lives, because if they don’t they are “just a shell, and not really alive at all.”
Maseo unmasks and Felicity asks why he is helping them. He says, “If I don’t, I am just a shell.” This is a great moment and not the first time the wisdom of Tatsu was repeated by one of the heroes. I like that, despite her limited role in the series, she seems to always be putting pressure in just the right places.
The next two minutes are just jam-packed with awesome. The team is nearly out when they are finally caught and surrounded. Oliver recovers from the drug and declares himself “Heir to the Demon,” ordering the men to stand down and tell Ra’s that he will return shortly. A lot of fond farewells are given as Oliver walks his friends to safety and there is a very subtle moment that should not be overlooked. John says he doesn’t know what to say and Oliver echoes Felicity. Earlier, Oliver had said much the same thing and she replied, “I do,” proceeding to tell him all the ways he has made a difference. Oliver says, “I do. John, you’re the best man I have ever known and, whatever happens, you are my brother.” There is something about that word, “brother,” that has a way of cutting to the quick in moments like this. John says nothing, what can you say? They simply hug it out and part ways.
When it’s time to say goodbye to Felicity, Oliver says a lot of sweet things that amount to him wanting the best for her, wanting her to be happy, then Felicity says they are always saying goodbye to each other, they ought to be good at it by now. There is a look here on Stephen Amell’s face that I have never given thought to until now. He doesn’t cry much as Oliver, and I used to think he just plays him as cold and controlled, but that’s not true. He plays a man trying not to cry and that is this look. It’s there a lot, nearly every episode. Oliver makes a sort of subtle wince and looks away, his eyes slightly misty, and then it’s gone in a flash and he speaks. This time, he simply says, “Then let’s not say goodbye this time,” and he kisses her. I loved this exchange because I often feel like actors are trying to cry, but it’s the rare actor that can portray the man trying not to.
As things wind down, Malcolm and Thea come to a sort of truce that is not quite a new beginning, Felicity tells Laurel what happened and cries in her arms, and Oliver is branded, literally, as part of the League of Assassins. Gearing up in the uniform of Ra’s al Ghul’s soldiers, he stands in front of his new master, under a different hood, as Ra’s says, “Oliver Queen is no more, now there is only the Arrow…Ah Sah-him, Heir to the Demon.”
We see Oliver’s eyes, distant and angry, and then only the Arrow emblem. This was a fantastic episode filled with a lot of highs and lows. What is next in store for Oliver and his friends is likely to be a surprise as this season continues to shock and amaze, and I for one am at a bit of a loss. “The Fallen” could have been the season finale, how they plan to top this in just a few episodes will be a thrill to watch.
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