TV Recap: Arrow, ‘Al Sah-Him’


Al-Sah Him Plot Summary

After weeks of brainwashing by Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable), Oliver (Stephen Amell) has become Al Sah-Him. He returns to Starling City tasked with killing Nyssa (Katrina Law) and Laurel (Katie Cassidy). The remaining members of Team Arrow are enlisted to save her. Though Diggle (David Ramsey), Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Thea (Willa Holland) are reluctant to believe Oliver is gone, they soon realize he’s not the man they knew.

That episode was fantastic. At the same point last season, Arrow aired one of the worst episodes of its run with “City of Blood.” It was pure table-setting even if it led to a pretty great finale. This year, it looks like the show has learned how to set up the season’s final beats and deliver a great episode.

While there was a lot to love about “Al Sah-Him,” the stunt team deserves a lot of credit for making the hour so strong. Seeing Oliver be “reprogrammed” by Ra’s is one thing, but his fight with Nyssa really brought home how much he’d changed. He actually moved differently, his fighting style morphing into the stealthy elegance and trickery of the League. But it was the big League/Team Arrow showdown near the end that really stole the show. Lyla (Audrey Marie Anderson) pulling the concealed guns out of Felicity’s coat like a boss, Nyssa being her usual awesome self, Laurel finally being useful, Diggle vs Oliver in a battle between brothers — it was all spectacular. And then Thea ended it by firing an arrow into Oliver’s wrist. I was beside myself.

The only thing more energetic than the fights was the storytelling. It was surprising how well it all fit together. The writers even had time to set up next year’s probably ‘Big Bad,’ Damian Darhk. While we needed a new enemy at some point, I’m a little wary. The problem with these kinds of stories is that there’s always a bigger villain and, eventually, it becomes difficult to keep ramping up their badness. Ra’s is going to be a tough act to follow, but the show was smart to retcon this Damian Darhk into being responsible for past storylines like trying to steal Malcolm’s earthquake machine and stealing a file from A.R.G.U.S. But that’s next season’s problem.

This season, the threat against Starling City is going to come from Oliver himself. I seriously can’t believe that Alpha and Omega virus from the flashbacks has a point. My Arrow watching buddy and I didn’t even bother to learn the name of it the first half-dozen times they mentioned it. Given the huge role the Mirakuru serum played last season, that twist should have been obvious, but it was still a surprise to see Ra’s take the virus out of the grip of Nyssa’s sword.

That said, it’s slightly odd she didn’t think to warn Team Arrow that Oliver finally becoming Ra’s would mean Starling City’s destruction. But, sometimes writers use faulty logic to heighten drama. It’s the end of the season and they’re tired. They were similarly lazy in asking the audience to believe that Diggle and Felicity didn’t find time in the WEEKS of Oliver’s absence to say to Thea, “Hey, I know you think your life is the absolute worst right now, but on the bright side, Roy’s alive and he wants you to leave Starling City and live happily ever after with him!” While I would have jumped for joy at the prospect of getting rid of both characters just a season ago, I hope Thea stays. Watching her refuse to take orders from either Malcolm (John Barrowman) or Felicity and suit up to try to snap her brother out of his reprogramming was her best moment ever. That’s the post-Lazarus Thea I want to see.

I’m also completely on board with the Al Sah-Him version of Oliver, even if it is disturbing to see him go full villain. Amell was not the strongest actor when this show began. He’s justified his blankness by saying Oliver was supposed to be emotionally cut-off, but Season 1 Amell couldn’t have pulled off the moments where Oliver broke through the Al Sah-Him brainwashing/herb therapy in last night’s episode. The first occurred when Team Arrow traded Nyssa for Lyla. The crinkle in his forehead as Felicity begged him to remember himself spoke volumes. The second came when Thea shot him and the mere sight of her convinced him he didn’t need to follow through on killing Diggle (thankfully). The third happened when Ra’s decided Oliver and Nyssa should get married. Two people have never looked unhappier. I couldn’t help but laugh. From the promo, it looks like they’re probably going to go through with it, but that will be the most loveless marriage in history. If Oliver were in his right mind, he’d take Maseo (Karl Yune) off of whatever his other duties are and task him with researching the League of Assassins’ policy on divorce stat.

But as this episode made abundantly clear, Oliver Queen is gone. I really admired the show earlier this season when it separated Oliver from Team Arrow and they were forced to move on without him. Every one of those characters grew and that looks set to happen again. Still, with two episodes left in the season, I doubt Oliver will remain lost forever. The finale is called “My Name is Oliver Queen,” after all. Hopefully for everyone involved, there will still be something left of his soul when he returns.

Rating: 8.5/10

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.