Lest we forget that Arrow is, at its heart, a slick and sexy CW show whose characters just happen to be decades-old comic book characters, “Heir to the Demon” comes along to remind us, especially in its final moments. And that’s far from a bad thing. Many of the first wave of great comic book writers, after all, honed their craft by writing romance comics, which were about as soapy and melodramatic as anything on Pretty Little Liars or The Vampire Diaries (In full disclosure, I have a soft spot for both shows.)
In any case, what matters is that “Heir to the Demon” continues the high-quality trend set by last week’s “Tremors.” Aside from its numerous well-crafted action sequences, it gives us a brief respite from Oliver’s POV, delving more into the show’s second most important family: the Lances (specifically, the still mysterious Sara Lance).
Furthermore, the episode’s focus on the Lance family means—cue excited ER fans and Doctor Who fanatics—the return of Alex Kingston as Sara and Laurel’s mother. Granted, her role in this episode is mostly to look sad and be kidnapped, but it’s always nice to see a familiar face.
This week’s devious interloper is none other than Nyssa al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter and Sara’s old companion from her League of Assassins past. And by “old companion,” I mean former lover. Yes indeed-y, Sara and Nyssa’s first scene together finds the two rushing at each other, presumably in battle position, before embracing and moving into a kiss. Like I said, Arrow is a bona-fide CW show at heart.
To the show’s credit, however, it chooses to portray the pairing as a legitimate romance born out of intense emotional bonding rather than a titillating excuse to show two very attractive actresses caressing each other (but, you know, there is that).
Nyssa has arrived in Starling City in an attempt to bring Sara back into the League. When she refuses, Nyssa threatens to target her family. (She has already poisoned an unsuspecting Laurel.) The situation escalates until, during the episode’s climatic battle, Sara ingests a vial of the same League-sanctioned poison used on Laurel, demonstrating that she would rather die than return. Though she is almost instantly revived by Oliver (gotta admit, I believed it was her actual death for a brief second), this drastic action breaks through Nyssa’s cold façade and convinces her to officially release Sara from the League. With the villain gone, there remains the inevitable drama that comes with Sara’s familial reconciliation. Though mother Lance welcomes her long-lost daughter back with tears and open arms, a hurt Laurel has only spite for her sister (you know, with the whole stealing her boyfriend and never contacting the family to let them know she was alive).
Keeping with the episode’s theme, the flashbacks center purely around the Lances in the days leading up to Oliver and Sara’s fateful boat trip. (We see Sara surreptitiously texting an excitable Oliver at random intervals.) When it comes to the show’s traditional flashbacks, I am always prone to pointing out how these segments truly show star Stephen Amell’s range as an actor. Whereas modern Oliver is your typical brooding, portentous superhero, Amell creates an entirely different version of Oliver in the flashback scenes simply by adjusting the timbre of his voice. Here, the same could be said for Cathy Lotz as Sara. The character we meet in the flashbacks—a sorority-like girl with girly bangs and an energetic, youthful glow—is a far cry from the badass, yet damaged warrior chick with toned abs that we see in the very next scene.
In spite of the episode’s focus on Sara, Oliver (or, in a broader sense, the Queen family) also gets quite the story bump. It starts when the always-resourceful Felicity discovers that Moira has wired a generous amount of money to a doctor who knows about Thea’s true parentage. Putting two and two together, Felicity confronts Moira in the Queen household and demands she tell Oliver. “We all have our secrets,” Moira responds, a line that could very well act as a tagline for the show. She subsequently refuses to relent and proceeds to warn Felicity that, if she herself decides to tells Oliver, he will forever hate her for merely being the messenger. Though Felicity tries to remain silent, it’s too much to keep in and—after an assurance from Oliver that he will never abandon her—she divulges her secret. This is, of course, right before Oliver must go onstage and endorse his mother for mayor. Way to time things, Felicity.
Then there’s that final scene. Oliver and Sara meet in the training room, having both been recently dealt an emotional blow. Oliver, after learning that his mother has been lying to him for decades, cuts all non-election-related ties to Moira. Sara, likewise, has just received a brutal (and not entirely unearned) takedown courtesy of Laurel. The two’s emotional baggage draws them to each other and, before you know it, they’re making out while bathed in the headquarters’ ominous shadows. Oh snap.
I have to admit, at this point, such a hook up almost feels like overkill. Between devious plans from the League of Assassins, the Blood/Deathstroke team-up and the yet unexplored H.I.V.E connection from a few episodes back (I’m assuming at least one of these are acting independently of the other), the fact that the writers once again turn to Oliver’s crazy love life for drama almost feels a step too far. Then again, I thought that about the Oliver-Laurel-Tommy triangle at times, so I can only trust that all this high school-esque drama ultimately delivers the proper pay-off.
CW, man, CW.