They've been talking about Nanda Parbat since season one, so you know an episode entitled "Nanda Parbat" is going to be either a huge let-down or one of the season's best offerings. I thought, for a long time, it was going to be the former. I was wrong.
First let's talk about why I thought this was going to be terrible. To do so, we'll have to attack this episode back-to-front. This episode seemed to be all about morality. The characters attempted to make moral decisions, but the morals were all over the place.
The most morally confusing part was Oliver's quest to "save Thea's soul" because it would destroy her to have killed her father. His quest involved going back on his vow not to kill by murdering oodles of League of Assassins underlings, and all to free a single captured mass murderer. The quest also involved shouting at everyone, supposedly because everyone except Oliver was too emotional. It involved kidnapping Nyssa al Ghul and holding her prisoner. It, for some reason, did not involve reminding Thea that her actual father, the one who raised her and loved her and was kind to her, was Robert Queen. (Robert Queen's Ghost: "I shot myself for this? I should have named you Dick, Ollie. Actually, I should have named you both Dick. Dicks.")
But this episode isn't about morals. It's about honesty, and Digg goes to extremes to show that to us. It takes Digg going to Nanda Parbat with Oliver, finding Merlyn with him, getting captured with him, getting chained to the floor awaiting execution with him, and telling Ollie that he wants Ollie to be the best man at his now-very-much-hypothetical wedding, to uncover Ollie's real motivations. Ollie was feeling the trauma that comes with being "killed," and he couldn't admit it, and he was willing to do anything — including teaming up with Merlyn and planning a suicidal rescue mission — in order to get a chance to strike back at the person who "killed" him. Digg takes that in — and remember they're both facing death here — and is happy to have helped his friend. John Diggle, you are the best person in your world, which is saying something considering your world contains Felicity Smoak. (Yes, we will get to her.)
So why is Merlyn in Nanda Parbat? Well, that's a funny story. Last week, if you remember, Ollie revealed to Thea that she, under the influence of drugs, had killed Sara. He told her not to tell anyone. She told everyone, and I mean every goddamn person she even looked at. If her club were still open she would have been karaoke-ing it.
Thea tells Laurel, who is having a really strong episode. She may make a great Black Canary yet! When Thea explains she was drugged, Laurel requires all of half a second to cope before assuring Thea that it wasn't her fault. She then sets Thea on what seems like the right path, given the information they have at the time. (To top it off, Laurel goes out, attacks Merlyn, and when he kicks her around, pulls out a gun. Because in this episode everyone is honest about everything, including their own fighting abilities.)
Thea tells the League. They take Merlyn. His bluff about revealing that Thea is the actual killer is called. Good job, Thea.
Thea tells Roy. He confides in her about killing a cop while on drugs, and reveals to us all that he helps the cops family. (That's another case of messed-up morals. I'm pretty sure that a kid isn't going to feel great about getting Christmas presents from his father's secret killer.) Thea rightly considers this half-assed, and admits that she's slightly responsible for Sara's death because she knew Merlyn was a murderer when she let him into her life. So she goes to Nyssa's cell, confesses, in veiled terms, and hands Nyssa a sword.
Oh, badass. Yes, partly crazy, but badass. I have loved Thea's petty brattiness with the tenderness of a mother and the enthusiasm of a New England Patriots fan, but if this is what we get when she sheds the attitude, I am reconciled to the loss.
We've talked about Thea's chat with Nyssa. Nyssa gets a lot of time for honest conversation in this episode. And most of it really sucks for her.
To start, we see her walking in on her father's bath (always in the bath, that one), infuriated by the fact that they haven't caught Sara's killer. She accuses him of never approving of her love for Sara, and he calmly replies that he didn't approve because, "I knew Sara would leave us — leave you — one way or the other." Ouch.
She goes to capture Merlyn, and he taunts her, telling her that her love for Sara lost her her chance to take over the League after Ra's is gone. Ouch. (No, seriously, ouch. She beats the sparkle off of his smile, but still, that's some painful truth.)
When Nyssa is the one dishing out honesty, she's a lot kinder. Capturing Merlyn at the moment when Laurel pulls a gun on him, she tells Laurel that she admires her for avenging her sister. Later, when Laurel realizes her vengeance is empty, Nyssa shares a memory of Sara laughing at Ra's "demonstration" of power, which comforts Laurel. Nyssa never really clicked for me as a character. She seemed like the stock foreign character who has an accent and always talks about "honor." It's good to see another side of her. These are really good scenes. I keep forgetting how good Arrow gets when it gets Bechdelist, with women talking to other women.
Not that women talking to men is that bad. Felicity spends most of the episode managing Ray, who has locked himself away to work on a problem with his supersuit. She shuts down his computer system until he eats a meal and takes a shower and gets some sleep. After the meal and shower, they take a recreation break. As soon as Ray wakes up, he flashes on the magic formula to make his suit work and goes flying around, looking like a cross between Judge Dredd and Baymax.
Let's consider this. Felicity inadvertently helped Ray get control over Queen Consolidated. She partnered up with him to build the business and the supersuit. And she sexed him into an epiphany. She's been helping Ollie since about five episodes into the first season, and she's been pretty much running his lair and finding most of his criminals for him. Even her college boyfriend built his major scheme around her work. She even (briefly) dated Barry.
It's all her. Clearly she's the power behind the superheroes. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Felicity "The Kingmaker" Smoak.
• "My friends call me Digg. You shouldn't even talk to me." Oh burn! Also, there's something about a huge guy saying things in an normal tone that's even more intimidating than the way-overdone uber-manly growl.
• "It's hard to remember a time when I was actually in love with you." Yes. Stick with that, Laurel. The last thing anyone wants is you and Ollie as a couple again.
• "I was your horseman!" When Merlyn said this, did anyone else simply drift away thinking about John Barrowman riding a horse? Just me? You have to admit it's a great image. He should play a jockey. Or Genghis Khan. Or a centaur.
• "I want you to become the next Ra's al Ghul." Raysh! Raysh Raysh Raysh! We all heard it! We heard the guy say his own name and it is pronounced Raysh so let's all just call him Raysh from now on! Agreed?