“The Fallen” marks a seismic shift in the status quo of Arrow. Over the course of the episode’s runtime, Thea is brought back to life, Oliver and Felicity finally consummate their long-simmering relationship and Oliver gives himself over to the League. There are a ton of big events at play here, which makes it all the more curious why this episode ends up feeling oddly muted.
Picking up from last week, Oliver discovers a dying Thea in her apartment. An emergency operation manages to revive her, but the doctor makes it clear that it might be best to look into “other options.” It doesn’t take long for Oliver and his team to realize that this is Ra’s al-Ghul’s masterstroke—he’ll offer to heal Thea via the Lazarus Pit if Oliver agrees to accept his fate as the new Ra’s. With no alternative, Oliver travels to Nanda Parbat—with his entire crew this time.
What follows is a shockingly insular episode by Arrow standards. Most of the episode’s midsection consists of various characters participating in heady, emotional discussions. We have Oliver and Malcolm attempting to comfort a newly revitalized and disorientated Thea; Diggle and Maseo discussing Maseo’s decision to side with Ra’s; Felicity confronting Ra’s about his treatment of Oliver and Ra’s convincing Felicity to give her friend a proper goodbye, which subsequently leads to her initiating candle-lit sexy time with Oliver. Seriously, it’s romantic and everything, but veers dangerously close to cheesy late-night Cinemax as well. This makes it all the more relieving when a post-coital Felicity awkwardly comments, “Well…that happened…”
Some of these discussions work better than others. The Felicity and Ra’s scene is a definite highlight, as we finally get to hear of Ra’s backstory and how he was forced to become the head of The League after his family was threatened. The scene goes a long way towards humanizing a man who, until now, we’ve only seen in the context as being near-supernatural badass. On the other end of the spectrum, the Diggle/Maseo scene, while perfectly fine in execution, exists mostly as set-up for Maseo to switch sides and help Team Arrow towards the end. Again, it’s not a bad moment, but it’s a bit hard to digest that a person Maseo barely knows could so drastically shift his loyalties. Also, we learn definitively that something ill did indeed befall Maseo’s son, and the guilt of it has been eating him up inside. That’s all fine and dandy, but it seems a bit odd that the writers would just go ahead and reveal this before actually showing it during the Hong Kong flashbacks.
Not that this would help ratchet up excitement about the flashbacks. Hong Kong-era Oliver, Maseo and Tatsu are attempting to stop a crime syndicate from activating a biological weapon and wiping out a good portion of the city. As we’re nearing the season finale, I think it’s safe to say the Hong Kong flashbacks in general have been more miss than hit. Even with the action now picking up (perhaps in an attempt to make up for the light action in the main plotline), I still find myself wishing the flashbacks would stop killing the momentum of the present-day story.
Back in the present, the turn in the episode occurs when a desperate Felicity drugs Oliver and tries to convince the rest of the team to help him escape Ra’s’
grasp. Naturally, this well-meaning but foolish plan is quickly discovered and Oliver orders his team to take off. Oliver then returns to the castle where his initiation as the next Ra’s officially begins. He is clothed in League attire and redubbed “Al Sah-Him.”
“Oliver Queen is dead,” declares Ra’s.
There’s a lot to digest here. With only three episodes left in the season, the main thrust appears to be a battle over Oliver’s soul. It remains to be seen whether this means a full-on brawl between the extended forces of Team Arrow and the might of the League, though that would certainly be an interesting dynamic, especially if a metahuman like The Flash ends up getting involved. It’s also not hard to believe, however, that after two seasons of epic concluding fights that the Arrow creative team might opt for something a bit more low-scale. Certainly, this season has attempted to take a more introspective approach to its story—to varying degrees of success.
In any case, “The Fallen” proves to be a logical extension of “Broken Arrow,” which is fine if a little by-the numbers. We’ve yet to see if Oliver’s “new identity” means a complete brainwashing of the hero we know and love. Even if so, Maseo’s betrayal of Ra’s in this hour certainly indicates that it’s nothing that can be overcome fairly easily. Overall, it’s a hard episode to judge on its own without knowing how the rest of the season will lay itself out. One can only hope the climax will be worth the extensive amount of build-up.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.