“The Offer” is one of those episodes that serve mostly to react to what came before it. As with most “big event” episodes in Arrow, whether it be the death of Moira Queen in Season Two, Sara’s death this season or Oliver’s disappearance/presumed death in the mid-season finale, the subsequent installment takes its time reflecting on the events and how they affect the show’s (now vast) cast of characters. In the case of “The Offer,” Oliver makes the obvious decision upfront—he refuses Ra’s’ offer to become the new head of the League—only to have the rest of the episode reiterate Ra’s dour observations about how Oliver’s crime fighting will end. Ultimately, Oliver settles on sticking with the status quo, which mercifully caps off this internal debate in the same episode. It’s not hard to envision that, in a series more starved for story, this arc would be stretched out for a few episodes. And while its brevity is appreciated, the episode does end up feeling a bit too insular, and lacking in spark as a result.
Picking up from the previous episode, Ra’s pitches Oliver on the prospect of becoming the League’s new leader. He even shows him a certain vat of water that has allowed him to extend his lifespan and heal himself over the years (yes, Lazarus Pit!). When Oliver rightfully questions why in the world he’d want to have any part of an organization with such an unsubtle name as “League of Assassins,” Ra’s actually manages to make a somewhat convincing argument. Eventually, he claims, all of Oliver’s friends will abandon him, the police will turn and brand him a criminal, the woman he loves will leave him and he’ll find himself facing death all alone with nothing to show for his life’s work. Crime will continue to grow and flourish, no matter how many villains he defeats. As leader of the League, however, he’ll be given infinite resources and the opportunity to really make a difference.
While we all know that the hero in these stories is predestined to stick to his chosen path, it’s hard to ignore that Ra’s’ points don’t have some validity. Since superhero stories started going into dark territory in the ‘80s, there’s been a certain notion that the arrival of such a heightened protagonist can often do more harm than good, as it encourages villains to step up their game. This has definitely been the case with Arrow, as Oliver’s targets have evolved from rich, influential men with high security, to chemically induced super soldiers, to now mythical assassins with elevated healing abilities. Plus, given how many of these villains he’s encountered again and again, it’s hard not to entertain the idea that all his efforts have been for naught (Lord knows he’s had to deal with that Vertigo stuff more times than I care to count).
Indeed, Oliver comes home to find that, despite braving the odds by returning with Malcolm and no lethal stab wounds, he is not exactly welcomed with open arms. Thea is furious at him for risking his life to save Malcolm. Quentin Lance has cut all ties with him after learning from Laurel that the two conspired to keep Sara’s death from him. He sees that Felicity has moved on to (seemingly) more stable Ray Palmer. Furthermore, when Oliver does reveal that he is considering Ra’s’ offer, this only causes further friction with Felicity and Diggle.
Oliver tries to find some meaning in his life by stopping a gang of criminals bent on taking revenge against members of the Starling City police force for their brutal tactics, but it only succeeds in driving him further into despair about the cyclical nature of Starling City crime. Typical of the “character”-centric episodes, the antagonists in this entry are very much downplayed. And while such a dynamic is perfectly understandable given the installment’s focus, setting the Team Arrow crew against a bunch of common criminals can’t help but feel like a step down after a string of fairly memorable adversaries (topped off by Vinnie Jones’ Brick).
In addition to a good schooling by Felicity, Oliver is eventually turned around after saving the police precinct from a surprise assault by the criminals. Afterwards, he thanks Felicity for her advice and explains that saving the cops’ lives and, in turn, protecting their families has reminded him of why he does what he does. The explanation can’t help but feel a bit half-baked and clunky but, again, I’m glad the writers decided against throwing another wrench into the Team Arrow dynamic, given how often that has occurred this season.
Meanwhile, the Team also claims a new (quasi) member in the form of Nyssa al-Ghul. Pissed off that her father has passed her over as the new League leader, she abandons the League and arrives in Starling City to help the Team take down the bad guys. She even appears to be in the midst of starting a friendship with Laurel who, in the wake of the Sara revelation, is dealing with some Dad drama of her own. Nyssa’s conversion has been a long time coming, but I am starting to wonder if the show will end up having any major long-term villains as all of them eventually seem to end up becoming allies in some capacity.
Before concluding, the episode delivers two final major twists. One comes in the Hong Kong scenes where, after a series of mostly dull flashbacks involving Oliver trying to escape the bad guys with Maseo and Tatsu’s son in tow, he finds himself facing down a woman who looks remarkably like the late Shado. The second comes at the end of the episode when the episode’s bad guys are whacked by Ra’s al Ghul, dressed in Oliver’s Arrow attire.
“The Offer” proves to be a decent episode of Arrow, albeit maybe not the most exciting entry to return to after a three week hiatus. If anything, the episode does effectively establish how much Stephen Amell has grown into his role. The entire hour is anchored by his ability to seem legitimately torn between his current life and the lure of Ra’s’ offer, and Amell really sells the conflict. Yet, even if this week proved to be a bit too low-key for my tastes, the plotlines set up in this entry should hopefully prove to yield some bombastic showdowns further down the road.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.