Everyone who watched the Arrow episode a few weeks ago knows what the title of this episode, "The Offer," means. And we know what the answer will be. So the rest of the episode was just about serving up a steaming cup of crazy, using each character's particular talents in that area. Spoilers ahead...
So here are each character's special gifts, and how this episode uses them:
Oliver Queen spends the first part of the episode contemplating Ra's offer to be the next Ra's al Ghul. And what a well-made offer it is! Ra's turns on the charm, saying things like, "Your allies will turn on you," and "You will die alone." Oh Mr. Al Ghul, how you do go on! Fresh! Sensing this is not getting his point across, Ra's "gives" Dig and Merlyn to Ollie to take home, like they're a gift bag.
Ollie proceeds to take the person who killed 400 people, violated his sister's mind, and made her kill a friend, right back to Star City, and let him rest up on the couch. The couch. The couch in the apartment that he and Thea live in. While Thea is there. And while he goes off and whines to Dig about how Felicity isn't having sex with him, and Quentin Lance hates him, and he doesn't feel like he accomplished anything, and somehow being given an army of assassins and a fancy bath routine will make this all better. There's no fix for poor decision-making skills, Ollie! Stupid is forever! You don't need to be put in charge of an unquestioning army of assassins. You need to be fitted with one of those shock collars that they put on straying dogs, and then you need to give a remote zapper to every member of your team.
He even comes to the right decision in the wrong way. The Arrow team spends the entire episode chasing after a guy who, coerced into confession by the police, sewed his lips shut and got some armor-piercing bullets. The episode ends with a massacre — and I use that word deliberately — at the police station. Ollie catches the guy, and comes back practically whistling, because he realized he just wants to save people. He doesn't need anything more. Which, fine, good decision, but jeez, Ollie. At least eight people were mowed down. Be less chipper.
Anyway, exactly how Stephen Amell manages to make Ollie likable, or even tolerable at times like these, is a mystery. It's not his face. I mean, he's handsome and all, but he looks like he should be murdering sorority girls on his yacht. And who knows. We've got two more years of flashbacks. That could still happen.
It's tempting to say that Thea doesn't do well with her mind-controlling puppet-master father sleeping on her couch, but, considering the circumstances, she does brilliantly. There was a little yelling and one knife, clutched in a shaking hand. And there was a surreal scene during which she plays host to Laurel while Merlyn, the killer of Laurel's sister, sleeps nearby.
But, and I've finally found this out, the point of the Thea character is to have the viewer, at least once an episode, say, "Oh, jesus, what is Thea doing now?" She's the pinball of this series - zooming all over the place too fast for you to even remember the reason she's moving in the first place. She starts out the episode attempting suicide-by-Nyssa, then lies to the group about how Nyssa got out of her cell, yells a lot at her father, drinks some wine, changes clothes (I want this girl's leather jacket collection), and ends the episode desperately making out with Roy. I didn't even put on socks until five o'clock yesterday afternoon. Where does she find the time?
Upon hearing that this week's villain sewed his mouth shut, "If only I had known I had that option."
Merlyn pretty much spends this entire episode lying on a couch. Oh, how I envied that couch. We all know John Barrowman is the human equivalent of an elf prince — with those perfect teeth, that patrician nose, and skin that makes him look, in all circumstances, as if he were painted by Vermeer — but that's not what his true talent is. In this episode he explains that Ra's chose Ollie because a prophecy foretold that anyone who survived a fight with Ra's al Ghul would take Ra's' place. Only he doesn't say that. He says, "I don't put much stock in augury but there is a prophecy: The man that doesn't perish at the blade of Ra's al Ghul will become Ra's al Ghul."
What human being can say that? Honestly. And he gets lines like this every episode. Lines like, "I did not kill your beloved," and "Let me prove to you my reborn loyalty!" That is linguistic sadism, I tell you, and yet he handles it with style.
The pretty young things in this show throw themselves around the room weeping, but if you want real sadness, Quentin Lance is the one to go to. Paul Blackthorne does a great job of conveying something difficult — a man who knows he's sabotaging himself, but can't change. It's not so bad when he's breaking his alliance with The Arrow, because he knows his supposed ally covered up the news of Sara's death. Things get really sad when he tells Laurel that, as much as he loves her, he doesn't think he can ever forgive her. This scene is reinforced, rather than undercut, when the villains attack the station and he immediately sends Laurel out to safety. It's not about being angry, or exacting revenge, it's about not being able to get over the feeling of loss and betrayal.
Arrow took a surprising, and welcome, turn with this character. I wasn't especially fond of her at first, because all she really did was give people smoldering looks and talk about honor, and you can only get away with that thing if you're a vampire. After a final fight with Ra's al Ghul, during which he disinherits her and lets her lover's killer go free as a present to the guy he's actually passing his mantle to, she . . . goes back to Star City and gets a life. Yes, this life involves killing people with arrows, but it also involves awkward dinners with Laurel Lance and funny little face twitches when she tries to interact like a human being.
Shado is back? Shado? Shado?