This week’s episode of “Arrow” was one that fans have been anxiously awaiting since Ra’s Al Ghul was first announced as the season three villain. With DC Comics more comic book friendly lineup of television series, they’ve been given the opportunity to tell the best stories they can, with freedom to fully express their characters in a way that “The Dark Knight Trilogy” could not. As much as I love Nolan’s three Batman films, the stories became limited in that creatively they were bound by real-world rules. Other than a few elements, “Batman Begins”, “The Dark Knight”, and “The Dark Knight Rises” were very much grounded in the reality of our own world. Within the universe that began with season one of “Arrow” and has continued into “The Flash”, the world and characters of DC Comics have had a better opportunity to be more true to the original source material. While I’ve never been a fan who believes you’re bound by years worth of history, and what works on the page doesn’t always translate to the screen, I do enjoy a sincere tip of the hat to the comics that inspired the medium of adaptation. “The Fallen” was a full nod to the comics lore of Ra’s Al Ghul and the League of Assassins that felt reverent to what Denny O’ Neil created in 1971. It also provided fan service to those loyal to the relationship of Oliver and Felicity. “The Fallen” is a five star episode.
Continuing where the last episode of “Arrow” left off, “Broken Arrow”, Thea Queen (Willa Holland) is rushed to the hospital after the deadly attack by Ra’s Al Ghul (Matt Nable). As her brother, Oliver (Stephen Amell) waits by her side, the doctors lose her pulse and tell him that it may be “best to consider other options.” John Diggle (David Ramsey) and Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) show up to console him, but he’s soon distracted by a purple smoke signal spotted outside the hospital window. While Diggle warns him that it’s best to ignore as it’s probably League related and that they should come up with a plan, Oliver heads out anyway. He meets with Maseo who tells him that he could bring Thea back to life if Oliver rethinks the offer Ra’s Al Ghul made him in the episode “The Offer.” For those who missed that pivotal episode, Ra’s offers Oliver Queen to take up the mantle of The Demon’s Head and become the next Ra’s Al Ghul.
The idea of allowing Ra’s, Maseo, and the League to restore Thea’s life is something that Oliver doesn’t need to contemplate for long. He loves his sister and decides that his only option is to bring her to Nanda Parbat, home of The League. Malcolm Merlyn a.k.a. The Dark Archer (John Barrowman) warns him that “the waters change a person in the soul” and that Thea will not be the same person after the ritual. Diggle and Felicity also agree that this isn’t a smart move, but more importantly for the fans, this is the first time “Lazarus” is used within the show. Diggle references Lazarus from the Bible in regards to the water spring at Nanda Parbat. Later on, Oliver directly calls it the “Lazarus Pit” while conversing with Merlyn before they leave. They arrive at Nanda Parbat after Felicity asks Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh) for one of his jets and are immediately greeted by The League. “Welcome home, Al Sahim.”
Ra’s welcomes them and while Diggle, Meryln, and Oliver have already visited Nanda Parbat, this is Felicity’s first time seeing the mystical and dangerous location. It’s all a bit startling and very “Temple of Doom” meets “The Mummy (1999)” when the actual ritual begins. Thea is lowered into the Lazarus Pit while the League members chant. The springs start to bubble and the rope used to lower her in buckles. For a second it seems as if she’s gone forever, but almost immediately she leaps out! Thea has changed and initially seems like a rabid animal, but soon collapses and is brought to her quarters. She awakens and only remembers Merlyn as her father, but does not recognize Oliver. Both med have a sidebar and while Merlyn argues that she has changed forever, Oliver tells him that the confusion will pass. (Ra’s told him offscreen.) Later on that very night, Felicity visits Oliver in his quarters and they talk. She tells him how she’s against his commitment to the League and that she still loves him. They make love which I’m sure has driven the “Ollicity” fans wild, but the intimate moment is interrupted once Felicity drugs Oliver. Her plan is to escape Nanda Parbat with him and while it seems like a terrible plan, Ra’s “right hand stooge” Merlyn (as Felicity calls him) tells them that their only chance of survival is to head for the catacombs. They fend off numerous League members as they make their escape, but eventually the group is outnumbered. Luckily for them, Oliver wakes up. “I am Al Sahim, Warith Al Ghul, and you will obey.”
Oliver declares his allegiance to Ra’s Al Ghul to the other League members and they allow him safe passage to see his friends out. They part ways and Oliver then returns to the fortress. He’s met with anger by Ra’s as several League members have been killed and is asked why he allowed them to leave as they should be punished by his blade. Oliver tells him of his commitment and that Ra’s issues with his friends are over. When asked who helped them escape, Maseo immediately speaks of his actions to which Ra’s forgives as they were the actions of a man tethered to his past life. He then tells Oliver that Maseo will help remove all of his connections to the world and past life of Oliver Queen as he is ushered into his next life as heir to the demon. They begin their training and Ra’s brands Oliver’s back with an arrow mark. He then tells his pupil that “Oliver Queen must be extinguished from memory.”
“The Fallen” was an important episode as it gave fans the first, live-action depiction of the infmaous Lazarus Pit from DC Comics. As someone who grew up with “Batman: The Animated Series” and enjoying any and all episodes related to Bruce dealing with Ra’s, Ubu, and Talia – this was the episode for me. I’m sure many other fans watching tonight were giddily excited by the first true sight of the pit in action. While we’ve gotten hints at its existence throughout this season, “The Fallen” marks the occasion of “Arrow” turning straight to the pages of DC Comics’ most revered of Batman vs Ra’s Al Ghul stories. We’ve had episodes that have borrowed elements from The Dark Knight before and while many fans have felt that “Arrow” has essentially become a small screen version of Batman, the series is very much its own entity. While “Arrow” shares the same DNA as Batman (they’re both DC!), the cast and crew have continually managed to raise the stakes and keep this as exciting as ever. Wednesday’s are a highlight thanks to “Arrow” and after tonight’s episode, I certainly cannot wait for next week. Outside of the Lazarus Pit usage in “The Fallen”, I’d like to point out how daring it is when the writers pen scenes for a classic character such as Ra’s Al Ghul to interact with someone like Felicity Smoak. There’s a moment in the episode that finds her confronting The Demon and essentially trying to verbally fight with him. She’s angry at the predicament her love is in and she demands that Ra’s let him go. Ra’s, expertly played by Matt Nable (definitively, I should add) remains as cool as a cucumber and recounts a story from “many lifetimes ago.” We learn that Ra’s had a wife and children and on one night a man gave him the choice to leave with him or watch his family be brutally slain. He chose to leave with the man, never getting to say goodbye to those he loved. He tells Felicity that life is “often more cruel than fair” and that she needs to say goodbye to Oliver as he was not afforded a farewell to his family. The scene plays so well and is poignant in revealing more about Ra’s Al Ghul, but managing to never see too much behind the candelabra. If it wasn’t for Matt Nable and Emily Bett Rickards, the scene could easily play off in a terribly flimsy way that would undermine a significant portion of this episode. But, luckily for us, the talent here is much more adept in maintaining the realism of what’s at stake and being ever so reverent to characters that have been cherished for so long.
“Arrow” airs Wednesday night at 8 pm on The CW. Check your local listings.