Review by Logan
I’ve been complaining a lot this season about Arrow being predictable. I guess this episode is an example of why you should be careful what you wish for.
The last episode left us with a Thea who’d been stabbed through the chest and left in the Queen’s apartment on a broken glass table, bleeding out. If you’d foolishly assumed she was dead (like I did), then the joke’s on you, because her life hanging in the balance is the whole point of “The Fallen.” And in a dark move that nobody around Oliver can bear to live with, he goes to Nanda Parbat to make a deal with Ra’s al Ghul.
My initial reaction to this line of events was one of incredulity. How could Oliver, who has been so set and so firm about his no-kill rule, even when it came to Malcolm Merlyn, make a deal to become part of the League of Assassins, in any given case? That just seems so backwards and so contrary to his entire philosophy. But then, as things come to a head and he ends up in a yelling match with Malcolm, he yells “At least she’s alive!”
That reminds me of a line that numerous heroes and villains have cited over the years: How far would you go to protect your family? That question is posed in a different manner here as it pertains to Oliver. Can he be bought? If he can be bought, what is his price? Apparently, his price is Thea.
That, in turn, raises another all-important question. Since Oliver has been set on the absolute morality of his no-kill rule, but has found a situation in which he’s willing to break it, in a pretty significant way, does that mean he is employing situational ethics? If we, in turn, have a point at which we would abandon our morals for some supposedly extenuating circumstance, does that make us guilty of the same double standard?
Those questions are really hard to miss in a narrative like this, and those are questions that are implicitly posed to Oliver himself. The rest of the show’s cast, including Malcolm Merlyn, does not express an aura of understanding towards Oliver’s decision, and really paints him in a negative light. He might be saving his sister, but he’s giving up his life and everything he stands for in order to do so, for a salvation of Thea that is really too good to be true. As Malcolm tells Oliver, “I love my daughter, but I’d rather lose her forever than subject her to the pit.”
The episode is compelling first and foremost because from a purely entertainment perspective, it’s a break from the expected. From the moment Oliver steps onto the jet to Nanda Parbat, and with each passing moment from there on out, it becomes clear that this isn’t a rouse. It isn’t a trick. That’s a side of Oliver we really haven’t seen, and it’s something we really didn’t expect.
But it’s effective for deeper reasons, as well. It asks serious questions of morality and when morality becomes subjective, and what ideals are acceptable to give up in order to save your loved ones? Are any? If any are, which ones are they? For the Christian, does your responsibility to protect your family trump any other responsibilities? There may be answers to some degree of these questions, but they are not easy ones to grapple with or abide by.
With all of that said, I have no illusions about this show. I know it isn’t meant to be a deep study of ethics or a philosophically-minded drama. It’s a comic book show. But in being a comic book show, it’s managing to tackle some pretty heavy issues, whether intentionally so or not, and that makes this episode the beginning of something that could show the disastrous consequences of Oliver’s approach to morality in this case. Could he, in the words of Harvey Dent, live long enough to see himself become the villain? And if so, who will stop him?
Those are compelling questions that I haven’t asked when watching this show before. And for the first time in a long time, I’m counting the days until the next episode. While a scene of sexuality dilutes my ultimate grade for “The Fallen,” I must say that overall it is one of the best episodes of this season.