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Arrow Recap: Al Sah-Him
May 5, 2015 By Trevor Richardson
This week’s Arrow left me a little cold. “Al Sah-him” takes place three weeks after Oliver accepting his role as “Heir to the Demon.” As Al Sah-him, he has been tortured, drugged, and otherwise forcibly indoctrinated into the mindset of the League of Assassins and, as is repeated throughout the episode, Oliver Queen is dead.
It’s not that the story wasn’t cool or anything, it just felt like more of the same. I haven’t put my finger on it exactly, but it could just be as simple as dead eyed lackey to Ra’s Al Ghul is simply not that interesting. Perhaps the only really thrilling moment was watching Oliver drive a katana through Diggle’s heart as Diggle says he still believes in him. That was a daring moment and one that was shocking, heartbreaking, and completely fake. Oliver had been drugged with an herb, presumably similar to the blue flowers from Batman Begins, that cause hallucinations of loved ones and friends. Oliver proved his willingness to kill his own people without us having to actually lose a guy. In the end, watching a good man tormented to the point of becoming a robot isn’t the thrill ride you might expect.
The other stuff going on with the team back in Starling City was leaps and bounds more entertaining. We got to see the depth of friendship between Nyssa and Laurel, adding new layers to a couple of characters that have been side-lined more than once lately. Diggle and Felicity share a lot of personal moments about losing Oliver and coming to terms with things. At the top of the episode, they still hold on to hope, believing that he is simply living somewhere else now and maybe someday he can come back. When Ra’s sends Oliver to Starling City to kill Nyssa, a potential challenge to his future throne, the team witnesses the heartless killer that used to be their friend. After that, it’s all about protecting Nyssa and, for all intents and purposes, Oliver Queen is dead. Like I said, this line comes up a lot.
Thea also got some good scenes. Her and her father, Malcolm Merlyn, discuss the topic of her brother and Merlyn basically reiterates the same theme, Oliver is dead, he is Al Sah-him now. Felicity tries to give her some peace of mind by encouraging her to move on with her life by finding Roy, who recently faked his own death and fled town. With all of the chaos in Thea’s life, being dead at the top of that list, she had no idea that Roy was still alive and so there was a glimmer of hope and relief in an otherwise bleak storyline.
Oliver crosses a lot of lines as Al Sah-him, but the most dramatic line has to be kidnapping Lyla, John Diggle’s wife and the mother of his newborn daughter, Sarah. In exchange for Lyla, the team has to offer up Nyssa and after a lot of debate they finally agree to the meeting. At the exchange, however, they pull a double-cross and Lyla gets her hands on two pistols and drops a few of the assassins before anyone seems to know what’s what. A pretty decent fight breaks out and, to everyone’s surprise, Thea shows up in a hood of her own putting an arrow through her brother’s arm as he prepares to put a sword through Diggle’s heart as he had previously hallucinated at the beginning of the episode.
In the end, Oliver and Nyssa end up back and Nanda Parbat with her father and Team Arrow leaves angry and betrayed. Oliver was sent to put an end to a major threat to his reign, but at the last minute, Ra’s determines that Nyssa is broken and no longer a threat, killing her “would be gluttony.” As it turns out, Nyssa was not wanted by the League for abandoning her station to find Sarah Lance or any other claims from the past few episodes. She had, in fact, gotten her hands on Ra’s Al Ghul’s only vial of the Alpha-Omega bioweapon, the center of Oliver’s flashback storyline this season, and had fled with it to keep it out of her father’s hands. It’s pretty obvious in all the subtext that Oliver wasn’t sent to kill her or to protect his reign, but to retrieve this vial.
Despite Oliver’s brainwashed state, he receives a lot of heavy information that he has to process. For starters, Ra’s says that sparing Nyssa’s life will give them the opportunity to “put her blood to better use,” and says the two of them will be married. The Alpha-Omega, meanwhile, will be unleashed on Starling City as it is tradition for the new Ra’s Al Ghul to destroy his home and, symbolically, his past. To me, it was implied slightly more subtly that Oliver might have been courted as “Heir to the Demon” just for the purpose of retrieving the Alpha-Omega and unleashing it on Starling City. Ra’s says that Oliver did what he could not — defeat Nyssa and bring her back to Nanda Parbat. It seems very likely that Oliver will discover that for all of Ra’s Al Ghul’s fancy words, he is essentially just a terrorist bent on mass murder, no different than Malcolm Merlyn in season one, and that Oliver has basically just been used.
As the season three finale approaches, the biggest question will be if this Al Sah-him story arc will continue into season four or if it will be resolved more quickly. All I know is, as a fan of Green Arrow in the comics, I keep watching this show hoping to get a little more green in my arrow, and instead it just keeps getting more and more black. I’m ready to watch a superhero, not just a floundering vigilante with higher aspirations. That’s not to say that the show has not been entertaining, even epic at times, but the eight-year-old fanboy in me just wants to see Oliver do a really good job for a change. He’s always one step behind, always crying to Felicity about how he failed, and wondering about the overall effectiveness of his crusade. Look at the track record: he didn’t stop the earthquake machine in season one, he didn’t save Tommy, he didn’t save Shado, he didn’t save Sarah, he didn’t save his mother, he only stopped Slade’s invasion force in season two after a lot of death and damage was done, he couldn’t really even save himself in this season, needing to be rescued by Roy when Lance had him cornered, and then he failed to save his sister and had to give up his own soul to bring her back. For a superhero, he’s kind of a drag, and I’m kind of bored of it. I am ready for a little more winning.