TV Recap: Arrow, ‘Nanda Parbat’

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Nanda Parbat Plot Summary:

Still reeling from learning Malcolm (John Barrowman) manipulated her into killing Sara (Caity Lotz), Thea (Willa Holland) takes drastic measures and turns him over to Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable). Worried that she will regret essentially killing her father, Oliver (Stephen Amell) decides to go to Nanda Parbat to rescue him. Meanwhile, Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Ray (Brandon Routh) grow closer as he works out the final kinks in his A.T.O.M. suit.

With eight episodes left and a brief hiatus until the next episode, “Nanda Parbat” was all about wrapping up arcs from the beginning of the season and setting up those that will carry through to the finale.

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Let’s start with the old stuff. Thea was still shaken after learning the truth about Sara and, instead of taking a page out of her brother’s book and endlessly brooding, she straight up turned Malcolm over to Ra’s al Ghul. As you can imagine, I cheered. Sure, she wasn’t killing him herself as I’d hoped, but this twisted revenge was much better. Of course Oliver had to go and ruin everything. Granted, he knows better than any the emotional toll being responsible for a parent’s death takes, so I can’t exactly argue with him. Plus, given Thea’s behavior the rest of the episode, she was in a bad enough place without adding that.

She made one questionable decision after another, starting with telling Laurel (Katie Cassidy) the truth and ending with letting Nyssa (Katrina Law) out of her cage, essentially trying to commit suicide. She may have claimed it was all about guilt, but, for once, Roy (Colton Haynes) was right in saying that she was needlessly punishing herself. Even so, while it would be awesome to see her and Nyssa sword fight to the death, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Nyssa knows too well what it’s like to be manipulated by an emotionally distant father so maybe they can bond instead. I’ve been hoping Nyssa would become part of Team Arrow since she first tackle-kissed Sara, so sign me up for that friendship.

In a mix of old and new arcs, Ray finally finished his A.T.O.M. suit. I wish I cared. Unfortunately, in 15 episodes, the writers haven’t done a single thing to make me invest in the character or his hero journey except to continually hurl him at Felicity. The Arrow writers do a lot of things well, but romance is not one of them. Laurel and Oliver, Roy and Thea (though they’ve become more interesting now that she’s gone dark), even The Flash’s Barry and Iris, each couple lacks convincing heat because their trajectories feel so directed by the typical twists of TV romances. Felicity and Oliver only work because they weren’t part of the original plan, but something that developed because of the actors’ chemistry and audience enthusiasm. The only bad writing they’ve encountered is Ray.

From the beginning, the show has asked us to consider him a legitimate option for Felicity, but never bothered to convince us that he is. Ray has never been made into a fully-realized character, but exists only as a foil for Oliver. When Felicity went to Ray right before they ended up in bed together, she was still angry that Oliver was stubbornly going off to Nanda Parbat to die despite everyone telling him not to. She walked in there openly complaining about his stubbornness and her nagging Ray was clearly her acting out the control she wishes she had with Oliver on a more pliable heroic billionaire. So, when Ray thanked Felicity for calling him out and openly acknowledged her value (something Oliver would never do), how could she not throw herself at him? All she’s wanted the whole season, maybe longer, is that kind of open affection and appreciation from Oliver.

However, the problem with making their coupling about Felicity’s need for Oliver to change is that it removes any meaning it may have for Ray and Felicity as a couple. Instead, it makes their relationship seem like just another obstacle in the inevitable road to Felicity and Oliver. While Felicity has every right to work out her Oliver issues through Ray, she’s got to be careful. I’m just saying, for someone so prone to verbal slips, she should avoid calling out any names while they’re in bed.

Still, sloppy as the writing has been, some of the blame belongs to Routh. Hard as Rickards tries to make the connection between Ray and Felicity seem real, she can’t start a fire by herself. Ray has always been creepily insistent in his pursuit of Felicity and Routh plays him with such vapid charm that it’s not only difficult to see him as a romantic possibility for Felicity, but as a character at all. For all his fast-talking, Felicity-esque frankness, he is merely the pudgier, less interesting version of Oliver. After how difficult loving Oliver has been, it makes sense that Felicity would want the uncomplicated version. Because Oliver Queen really is a complicated mess right now.

His struggle since the premiere–and really since the show began–has been about identity. Up to this point, it’s been about who he is. Now, in this final run of episodes, Oliver needs to ask himself who he wants to be. I never thought Ra’s would choose Oliver to take his place in the League, but it is a fantastic turn. Especially because Oliver is already more like Ra’s than he probably realizes.

Though we don’t know much about the Demon Head, we do know that nothing is as important to him as his pride and the League. Not even his daughter can compete. Oliver operates in a similar way. Even though every single one of his friends and family told him not to go after Malcolm, he didn’t listen. He had to assuage his damaged pride at all costs. From day one, Oliver has ignored even the best advice and followed his own sense of right—usually making things worse in the process. When the show returns in a few weeks, I’m sure everyone on Team Arrow will tell him he’s crazy for even considering becoming the next Ra’s al Ghul (not that the current Ra’s will probably give him much choice). And, much as I would like to think they’ll make him see reason, I still don’t think Oliver is capable. He still needs more time to become a hero. Maybe that’s what he’ll finally become by the end of the season.

Rating: 6/10

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By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico. ============================================================================================================================================

By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to.