Review by Logan
Have you ever sat next to one of your friends while they played over again a level that they’d just failed at? (spoilers ahead)
I have. It’s not too exciting. The worst part is when your friend acts like a stubborn child, refusing to move on simply because they have to be a winner.
Welcome to John Diggle’s world. Oliver, uncharacteristically like an idiot child, is off to face Ra’s al Ghul again. The show works outrageously hard to make that happen, mostly through a series of idiotic plots by Thea that don’t really make any sense (just how did she get in contact with the league again? Does she have them on speed dial?).
But hey, The Atom was cool. For, you know, the whole twenty seconds.
This is usually the point at which I repeat what I’ve said throughout my reviews of this season about the show’s consistent support of Oliver’s no-kill rule, and how it reinforces the value of human life. It does that. But at this point, continuing to bring that up feels a bit trite. As a Christian film and TV buff, I’m interested in media that promotes principles that fit in with a Christian worldview, but I want media that’s high quality, too. I think that’s a fair thing for me to ask for.
This episode fails on both fronts. It fails in terms of its worldview because, while Oliver still shows concern for life, even for the life of his enemy Malcolm Merlyn, it’s more of a pretext for his stubborn wounded pride. And the fact that he uses his sister and Merlyn as excuses to hide his prideful motivation is never challenged as immoral. In fact, Diggle compares it to the bravery of soldiers on the battlefield. It’s hard to dispute the fact that justifications for Oliver’s second challenge to Ra’s al Ghul grow more ridiculous the more the episode tries to explain it.
Then, as if that theme had not done enough damage, we must also endure more subtle (or not-so-subtle) nods at Sara’s homosexual relationship with Nyssa, not to mention an inferred sex scene with two other characters. The only redeeming quality of the episode in this realm is that Laurel’s lust for revenge seems to have dissipated, although I suspect it will be back with full force next week.
It fails in terms of quality because it’s mostly a rehash of previous themes and ideas, with a few cliffhangers out of left field to make it seem fresh. Don’t get me wrong, I thought (most of) the cliffhangers were cool, but they do little to redeem forty minutes of bleh.
Speaking of the cliffhangers, let’s talk about those for a second. Thea’s inevitable conflict with the angst-ridden Nyssa is bound to be interesting. It’s going to be especially interesting because of Ra’s al Ghul’s apparent indifference toward his daughter, and because Thea will undoubtedly emerge from the conflict with a darker spirit (I think she’s still going to the dark side. Maybe to the identity of Cheshire. We’ll see).
But then there’s the other major cliffhanger. Namely that Ra’s al Ghul wants Oliver to take his place. From the perspective of a TV viewer, it’s intriguing. I wonder how the show’s tone will change when the primary villain wants to the hero to be on his side. But then there’s the comic book nerd in me, who’s horrified that the show writers have essentially stolen a crucial Batman story element, infused into the Green Arrow’s story, and then acted like no one would notice.
The idea of Batman taking Ra’s al Ghul’s place, particularly as it relates to his relationship with Talia al Ghul, has been a long-standing part of the Batman mythos. It has long defined Batman’s relationship with the man known as Head of the Demon, and been transferred into various media. So in the end, I can’t help but be less intrigued and more insulted at the lack of creativity.