“This is Your Sword” continues Arrow’s unfortunate stumble towards its third year conclusion. Between the dull Hong Kong flashbacks, the relentless meditation on Oliver’s place in the world and the general lack of proper finale momentum, the show’s third season seemed destined to go down as a mixed bag. I will say this—I really miss Vinnie Jones’ Brick who, at this point, seems like more of a menacing threat than Ra’s, whose subdued approach often means that he is unable to demonstrate his formidable nature.
That’s not to say that aren’t some pleasant surprises in the episode. For one, it turns out that Oliver has not actually succumbed to The League’s brainwashing and has merely been playing up his loyalty so that he can better dismantle them from the inside. This also meant working to convince his friends that he had turned to the dark side (hence, his uncharacteristic kidnapping of Lyla last week). The only person who knows this secret, in fact, is Malcolm Merlyn who must then tell Team Arrow about Ra’s’ plan to decimate Starling City with the Alpha/Omega chemical weapon.
While initially unwilling to listen to him, the team is convinced of Malcolm’s intel when he brings in Tatsu to corroborate his story. I’m not exactly sure how effective this move would actually be considering this is the first time the team is meeting this woman—Felicity even voices this concern—but, in any case Team Arrow, along with Ray’s ATOM who is shockingly forgiving of Felicity in the wake of her abandoning their relationship for Oliver, packs up and heads to Nanda Parbat (they must be getting amazing points on their frequent flier miles, considering the amount of times they’ve flown to and from there). Somewhat predictably, they are almost instantly captured and thrown into custody. Things get worse when Malcolm approaches Ra’s and proceeds to tell him about Oliver’s subversive plans. Oliver tries to convince Ra’s of his loyalties, but Ra’s desires actions and not words. And so Ra’s throws Malcolm in with the rest of the captured Team Arrow and tosses a canister of the biochemical weapon into the cell where it begins emitting its poisonous gas. The team begs Oliver for his help, but he coldly walks away.
We then cut to Oliver and Nyssa’s impromptu wedding ceremony, which is intercut with all the members of Team Arrow slowing slipping into unconsciousness. Naturally, this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of our main cast. I imagine either Oliver switched out the biochemical material with some kind of sleeping gas, or this marks yet another step in his and Malcolm’s convoluted plan to undermine Ra’s. My money is on the latter, as I can’t imagine Malcolm being so stupid as to think ratting on Oliver to Ra’s would win him favor.
Oblivious to what is happening, Thea travels to an out-of-the-way car garage where she finds Roy working under the alias Jason (reference to Jason Todd, another famous sidekick who “died?”). The two spend the night with each other and even hatch plans to start a new life together. Thea even brings Roy his Arsenal suit because, after all, just because The Arrow is dead, doesn’t mean Arsenal has to be. The next night, however, Thea awakens alone and discovers that Roy has already moved on. In a note, he explains that he doesn’t want his on-the-run lifestyle for her. He also decides to leave her his superhero costume. Granted, I know this means that Thea will finally be living up to her “Speedy” nickname but that’s mighty fortunate that such a specially designed suit is one-size-fits-all. Overall, this subplot seems designed to serve two purposes—officially sever the Roy character and set up Thea as a potential savior for Team Arrow. It works fine, I suppose, but given I care so little for the Thea/Roy relationship, it’s a bit of a drag.
Then there are the Hong Kong flashbacks, which remain a curiosity in the show’s general structure. For one, any tension about the fate of Akio is dispelled by the fact that we already know he dies and drives his parents apart. Second, it’s very strange to see Oliver acting as a cold-blooded killer (he eliminates two seemingly innocent guards just doing their job) when we’ve seen him make such huge strides in his approach to justice over the past three years. The only slightly effective part of this flashback is how Akio’s death, with Tatsu humming a lullaby over his dying body, is paralleled with Maseo’s death when Tatsu does the same after stabbing him in battle. I must say, I had a feeling Maseo would not survive the season, but the fact that he doesn’t even live to sacrifice himself for the sake of good seems like a real blow to the guy’s character.
“This is Your Sword” serves as the third season’s penultimate episode, but lacks any of the zest and sense of scale that other season-concluding Arrow episodes have shown. Indeed, this final batch of installments, with one or two exceptions, has proven very underwhelming and I don’t carry a ton of hope for how the finale shakes out. Arrow is still a show I like and have fun watching, but this year has found it getting a bit creaky in its joints. With an entire new wave of superhero shows soon to hit the airwaves/streaming services (the ATOM spinoff, Supergirl and Marvel’s planned output), Arrow will definitely need to get back on track if it hopes to compete.
Mark Rozeman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.