Hand down — pun oh so fully intended — tonight was the standout episode thus far of Season 4.
Throwback Thursday came early this week as this definitely was reminiscent of the glory days of Season 1 and 2 while rekindling the show’s greatest rivalry.
Oliver had an unwinnable dilemma. Agree to Nyssa’s terms and kill his enemy turned reluctant ally, Merlyn, or watch Thea die without the cure in Nyssa’s possession. Despite standing alongside him in several battles, I was glad Team Arrow had no reluctance in suggesting Oliver revert to his old kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out early vigilante days and just kill Merlyn. It made sense seeing as how Merlyn has done little to endear himself to the Team and all the current drama with Thea was directly tied to his machinations. In a lot of ways this was the payback Merlyn had so smoothly managed to avoid through all of last season.
Still, Oliver formed an uneasy truce with Merlyn and trusted him while dealing with the League of Assassins on a deeper level than Team Arrow and for Oliver, that meant something perhaps even deeper than Merlyn being Thea’s father.
Team Arrow figured Nyssa would stop an all-out war with Merlyn’s League of Assassins and her loyal army if Merlyn handed the title of Ra’s al Ghul to her. Until then, Star City was going to be the battleground for an all-out ninja warfare. When in doubt, unleashing a clan of ninjas on an episode is always a surefire recipe for an exciting 60 minutes.
Felicity’s subplot with her father, The Calculator, wisely avoided prolonging the two learning of their hack-of-all-trades alter egos. Felicity felt more fleshed out this episode than she has in the past two seasons and her conflicted emotions came across as genuine as opposed to forced drama for drama’s sake. Unsure whether to listen to her mother — how bizarre was it seeing Donna serious? — or give her dad the benefit of the doubt, Felicity decided to give him a test, which he failed miserably.
While it was no surprise The Calculator tried to steal all of the Palmer Tech research, it was interesting he was so caught off guard that Felicity called the cops on him. Maybe it was just his arrogance, but there seemed to be a hint of real feelings on his part. Tom Amandes is only slated for two appearances this season, but I’d love to see more of this family dynamic.
The island flashbacks still came up lacking. It was frustrating watching Taiana give up Oliver’s one advantage for a barely hinted at release from her cell. Then almost immediately after seeming to forgive Oliver and suggesting he find redemption in freeing all of Baron Reiter’s prisoners. Fortunately, not a lot of time was devoted to the flashbacks so it couldn’t weigh the episode down too much.
Finally realizing Merlyn was perfectly fine letting Thea die to retain his title of Ra’s al Ghul, Oliver came up with a plan. I was convinced he was staging this fight with Merlyn for Nyssa’s honor right up until the moment Oliver cut off Merlyn’s hand and gave Nyssa the ring of Ra’s. That might have been the most hardcore ending to a fight since The Climb and it was wholly unexpected.
It was a major game-changing moment for the rest of the season and was exactly the kind of shocker needed as we reach the home stretch. Nyssa summons Oliver, Laurel and Merlyn and she tells them she’s disbanded the League of Assassins before burning Ra’s ring. Merlyn looked like he was considering reaching into the firepit, but with one arm in a sling, he thought better of it. Merlyn vowed revenge on Oliver, who quickly bucked up and warned him not to try and threaten him. The animosity between the two was back and more personal than ever.
But not one to make an empty threat, Merlyn arranged a meeting with Damien Darhk and gave up the person Oliver loves the most. Not Felicity Smoak, but his son. Uh-oh. Looks like we’ve got a strong new contender for that body at the cemetery, which makes so much more sense. This season looked like it was going to be limping to the finish line, but these last few weeks have definitely raised the intensity and excitement. For the first time this year, I’m anxiously awaiting next week’s episode.