TV Recap: Arrow – S3,E4 – "The Magician" #Arrow

The MagicianTypically shows don’t make a big fuss out of their 50th episode, but in that special realm that “Arrow” inhabits every episode is more meaningful than the last and this milestone outing, it again reminds us this is the standard-bearer for comic book TV shows.

Arrow - The Magician - Laurel and NyssaPicking right up from last week, Nyssa (Katrina Law) is aiming an arrow at Oliver and Roy demanding to know Sara’s whereabouts. Before he can tell her, Nyssa knows her lover is dead and sets off to find her killer. She goes to Sara’s grave site, where Laurel is grieving, but not so much that she can’t tell off Nyssa for starting Sara on the path that ultimately claimed her life. Nyssa tells Laura she gave Sara the jacket she’s wearing now, but Laurel isn’t fit to wear it. Nyssa doesn’t totally have this whole condolences thing down just yet.

Oliver had Roy tail Nyssa and they track her to Sara’s safehouse, which included information that Malcolm Merlyn is alive and back in Starling City. Oliver is less than ecstatic. Tying in to last night’s episode of “The Flash,” Felicity is off in Central City so the guys will have to do their vigilante work without hi-tech support this week. Fortunately, Nyssa knows what to make of the blank slate of paper Sara had on her at the time of her death. It’s a message in invisible ink with a name – Jansen – a monk, that she sought her father’s help in locating.

Poor Capt. Lance still doesn’t know that Sara is dead and apologizes endlessly to Laurel for not telling her that Sara asked for Jansen’s address. The longer Laurel waits, the worse that reveal is gonna be for her and Lance. Thea is buying back Verdant and makes Roy her assistant manager. With Olicity on the back burner, we did kind of need some sort of romantic subplot and Thea/Roy makes the most sense especially with the new dynamic of Thea as Merlyn’s evil assassin protege.

Arrow - The Magician -MerlynTeam Arrow (-Felicity+Nyssa) head to Jansen’s monastery, but instead of finding him, Nyssa encounters Merlyn, who fights her off long enough to escape. Oliver thinks he’s outsmarted him by tagging him with a tracer arrow. Merlyn remains two-steps ahead though and lures Oliver on a wild goose chase and calls for a meeting in a public place. Lesson #29 we learned from “Jerry Maguire” — firings and assassinations cannot be done in public places.

For all the haters who complain that the series is Batman-lite complete with liberal use of Gotham’s rogues, there’s no denying that Merlyn — Arrow’s actual arch-rival in the comics — has been the show’s biggest villain and his personal ties to Oliver make him a dual threat in a way that Slade can no longer be to Arrow. Plus, John Barrowman does such a tremendous job making Merlyn such an unrepentant, smug bastard. Merlyn swears on Thea’s life that he did not kill Sara and Oliver believes him. The rest of Team Arrow? Not so much. Nyssa storms out after learning Thea is Merlyn’s daughter and Diggle suggests sitting this fight out since Oliver won’t kill Merlyn, but Nyssa has no such oath.

The MagicianNyssa kidnaps Thea as a lure for Merlyn even going old school with a purple smoke signal to get his attention. Arrow arrives first and frees Thea and Merlyn again tries to plead his innocence to Nyssa. That fails spectacularly leading to Arrow vs. Merlyn vs. Nyssa: Three Way Dance. It’s a dazzling “Phantom Menace“-style brawl that could have been 60 minutes and still not been enough. That action sequence was one of the best we’ll likely see this year, but oh did it end too quickly for my liking. Merlyn pins Nyssa to a wall, but Arrow disarms him. Merlyn tells Nyssa that her father, Ra’s al Ghul, was the one responsible for Sara’s death and he informs Arrow he knows of the island prison Slade is held captive on (the possibilities of a Slade/Merlyn team up are enough to leave me salivating), but Arrow lets him walk off.

Nyssa vows vengeance and Arrow reminds her who the don of Starling City is and says Merlyn is under his protection. This will not end well. Thea gets a call from Meryln and she tells him Oliver is completely in the dark

Nyssa returns to a hideout in the mountains where she tells a man (taking a bath in a pool? Lazarus Pit?) about her blood oath to avenge Sara’s murder, Merlyn is still alive and that Oliver has him under his protection. The man finishes dressing and says then Oliver Queen will now be at war with the League of Assassins. Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) is not happy. Uh-oh, Oliver. It’s still not too late to give Merlyn over to the League. Nable hs the unenviable task of being the guy to follow Liam Neeson’s perfect Ra’s in “Batman Begins.” Ironically, Neeson said about reprising the role on “Arrow.” “I would, in a heartbeat, if it came my way, yeah. Very much so.”

Arrow - The Magician - Nyssa and ArrowEven this week’s Hong Kong segments, which up to this point have been the lone underwhelming subplot of Season 3, had some intriguing developments. Waller forces Oliver to assassinate a man in the streets and collect a USB drive. Suspicious of her motives, Oliver manages some computer time and demands a meeting with Waller, where he reveals the victim used to work for Waller. He was Waller’s go-between for Edward Fyers (from season 1), whose plans to shoot down a plane using the rocket launcher was thwarted by Oliver and Slade. Waller wanted the plane taken out because a deadly assassin was on it and that was Waller’s best shot of taking her out. The assassin has white hair like China White — one of Arrow’s first foes. Are they related or just like the same hair color? So now Hong Kong could start getting interesting.

Four episodes in and “Arrow” already feels like it should be heading to its mid-season finale with all the developments we’ve gotten so far. How excited are you for the Arrow vs League of Assassins battle and will Black Canary resurface in time to help?