Oliver Queen has been tested by Ra's Al Ghul and been found worthy of becoming his heir and the new leader of The League of Assassins. It is an offer Ollie is reluctant to think about but which he tentatively considers after being told he may reject the offer without penalty and leave Nanda Parbat with his and Merlyn's debts forgiven as a token of good faith.
Upon returning to Starling City, Oliver finds his problems are far from over. The woman he loves is with another man. His closest friends are questioning his actions since Merlyn is still alive. And now his name is mud with Captain Lance, who is nowhere close to forgiving The Arrow or Laurel for lying to him about Sara's death.
Unfortunately, the police will have need of The Arrow's help when a new gang-leader called Murmur comes downtown, armed for bear. And as Oliver and Thea both struggle with issues of identity and who they are, Laurel will find herself being made an offer as well.
In the flashbacks, Oliver and Akio run around Hong Kong, attempting to give the slip to the ARGUS agents trying to kill them, only for Oliver to run into an unexpected familiar face.
Batman: Son off the Demon (The idea of the League of Assassins adopting non-violent means and the general theme of Ra's Al Ghul giving his empire to a vigilante), Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey (the idea that a young Dinah Lance waited up for her parents as a child when they were at work and a female assassin is impressed by Black Canary and offers to teach her) and the comics of Dennis O'Neil, particularly Daughter of the Demon.
This season has seen Willa Holland given some of the most challenging material she's ever had to deal with on this show. This episode showcases that she is more than capable of meeting that challenge, as she struggles to figure out who she is in the wake of two failed murder attempts and one attempted suicide ala provoking an assassin into killing her.
Stephen Amell gives a strong performance here, as we are given a rare chance to see Oliver in a moment of emotional vulnerability. Oliver's sanity has been called into question several times in the past few episodes and Amell's performance here is built around the Santayana saying that a fanatic is one who redoubles his efforts while losing sight of their goal. The past few episodes have seen Oliver giving his all only for him now to realize that he has no idea why he is doing what he's doing. His search for answers is a powerful one and Amell nails Ollie's conflict.
As usual, Paul Blackthorne dazzles with every speech he gives. And while Quentin Lance seems to be turning into a more villainous figure, Blackthorne's charisma may leave the audience feeling more sympathy for him than for Oliver and Laurel, no matter how noble their intentions.
Thematically, the script is a strong one, with themes regarding identity and father/daughter relationships repeating throughout.
A nice bit of subtlety in the wardrobe for this episode - Felicity is wearing blue, Ray Palmer's color, throughout the episode. One more dig against Oliver and his bad choices.
The action sequence in the police station is very well handled.
Ra's Al Ghul says he seeks a successor because the healing waters he's used to prolong his life are beginning to lose their effectiveness. This is precisely why the comics version of Ra's Al Ghul began seeking out a worthy heir, at first selecting Bruce Wayne aka The Batman in Batman #232.
Ra's Al Ghul's sitting room is decorated with the lost Van Eyck painting The Just Judges, which was stolen in 1934. According to episode writer Brian Ford Sullivan, the panting is the original in the reality of Arrow and that he thought it would be a fun sight gag and that the painting - which represents Justice - would be the sort of thing Ra's would wish to own.
Michael Amar aka Murmur is based on a villain created during Geoff Johns' run on The Flash. In the original comics, Michael Amar was a surgeon and a serial killer, who cut out his own tongue and sewed his mouth shut. Here he is an ordinary criminal who sewed his mouth shut as part of an effort to focus his mind.
Quentin notes that, as a child, Laurel would wait up for him when he was on duty at night to make sure he got home safe. During Gail Simone's run on Birds of Prey, it was revealed that Dinah Lance did the same thing for both her parents - dad being a beat cop and mom being a superhero, respectively.
Another nod to Gail Simone's Birds of Prey - in that series, Black Canary impressed Lady Shiva - the most powerful member of the League of Assassins - and Shiva offered to make Canary her apprentice and teach her how to be a better fighter. This is precisely what happens between Nyssa and Laurel in this episode.
"Wing ta lao wo chey" means "The tale to be told begins thus" in a long dead dialect. They are also the first words of Ra's Al Ghul's origin story in Daughter of the Demon.
"Hao Ba" means "okay" in Mandarin Chinese.
We finally learn the secret of Ra's Al Ghul's longevity - some form of magical water. It is not referred to as The Lazarus Pit, though Ra's claims it was first written about by Herodotus (who did write about a magic fountain that prolonged life), that it was described in the Qur'an (where there is an account of the sage Al-Khidr discovering the restorative Water of Life) and that the explorer Ponce De Leon sought it (Ponce DeLeon did seek what he called The Fountain of Youth).
Felicity connects a virtual TCP to an open source sensor in two minutes - a task Ray Palmer couldn't accomplish in two weeks.
According to Felicity, some believe that sewing your mouth shut focuses the mind like meditation.
Diamond-tipped bullets can pass through police body armor.
Ra's Al Ghul: Oliver Queen is a man destined to be alone. He loves a woman he knows he cannot have.
Oliver: You don't know me.
Ra's Al Ghul: But I know The Arrow - "Al Sahhim". You will never be anything more than a vigilante for those whose lives you save at the risk of your own. Your city will turn on you. And your cloesest allies within the police department will call you a criminal. You will be scorned. And hunted. And then killed. Dying as you began your crusade. Alone.
Ra's Al Ghul: We are Justice. Isn't that what you've dedicated your life to? Then why confine your crusade to a single city, when I can give you a whole world to save?
Arrow: You still need training.
Laurel: When are you going to stop telling me that?!
Arrow: When you no longer need training.
Quentin: My whole career, my whole life... Even when I knew nothing, I at least knew right from wrong and I knew vigilantism was wrong! The day we take the law into our own hands is the day that we... we become outlaws. And that idea - that idea was precious to me. Almost as precious as my little daughters. I threw that all away the day I threw in with you. You know why? Because I trusted you. But I see the man under the hood now. He lies. And he keeps secrets. Also, he doesn't have to carry around the weight of his decisions. And I'm done with him.
Merlyn: You asked me to make you strong. To make sure you can't be hurt again. You learned your lessons well.
Thea: I have learned nothing from you. Do you realize that I am so messed up I was willing to die last night? For what you made me do? You know, I didn't think it was possible for me to hurt any worse than I did when I came to you. You proved to me I was wrong. So what was it again that you taught me?
Oliver: What did you do to her?!
Merlyn: I encouraged her to kill me. My version of being a supportive father.
Oliver: You tell me - what have I really accomplished? My mother is dead. Tommy? Sara? Crime's not down and my sister is in ten different kinds of pain right now.
Felicity: So you leave. Then what? All the people you've lost? All the sacrifices you've made? It all would have been for nothing!
Oliver: ...I don't know why I'm doing this anymore.
Felicity: I can't... answer that for you. Yes, Captain Lance is shutting you out. But I don't believe you're The Arrow so people can say "thank you". And yes, you and I aren't together but that was your choice. When we thought you were dead, each one of us had to figure out why we were doing all this. Seems like it's your turn.
Quentin: When you were a little girl, you used to wait up for me when I was out nights. You couldn't fall asleep until I walked through that front door.
Laurel: I remember...
Quentin: You were always the protector of this family, of everyone... Laurel Lance. Always trying to save the world...You can't save this.
Quentin: You don't know how hard I've tried to forgive you for lying to me the way you did. I'm not proud of it. You're my daughter and I'll always love you but I don't know if I'll ever be able to forgive you.
(After finding The Arrow standing over Murmur)
Quentin: What, are you waiting around for a 'thank you'?
The Arrow: That's not why I do this.
Oliver: I started all of this because of my father... to right his wrongs. It became something more. But I never stopped to think about it. Or about "why?" until you asked me to.
Felicity: And what was the answer?
Oliver: Tonight at the precinct. The only thing I could think about was those police officers and how their families were counting on me and Roy and Diggle to get them home safe. That's why I'm doing this.
Thea lies about how Nyssa escaped her cell in the Arrow Cave, not telling Roy and Laurel that she let Nyssa out.
Thea refers to the events of A314 & A315 and nearly killing both Slade Wilson and Malcolm Merlyn. She also says the only reason she didn't kill Merlyn was because she thought of her mother and how she'd feel about her becoming a killer like him.
Roy and Felicity are apparently officially an item.
There is a prophecy that any man who does not perish on the blade of Ra's Al Ghul in a duel will become the next Ra's Al Ghul.
In the flashback, Oliver runs into a woman who is the spitting image of Shado.
Nyssa has apparently been kicked out of the League of Assassins and offers to train Laurel.
Thea and Roy hook up once again, after a tearful Thea shows up on Roy's doorstep needing someplace else to be.
Ra's Al Ghul, disguised as The Arrow, begins killing random criminals in Starling City.
The opening scenes take place in Nanda Parbat.
The Fridge Factor
Laurel freezes up as a van nearly runs over her and she has to be saved by Oliver.
The Bottom Line
Like The Flash episode Out of Time, this episode starts out as a weak bit of filler with an unmemorable villain, saved only by the charisma of the cast and some brilliant speeches. Then we get to the last ten minutes and the surprises come along, bam, bam, bam. And it becomes something, if not great, than at least memorable.