Arrow: 315 “Nanda Parbat” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
Over the last couple of episodes Arrow has been relatively consequence-free: although we had the double whammy of Thea learning about her brother’s secret identity and then about the fact that she was the one who murdered Sara, things didn’t really feel like they had ramifications.
With “Nanda Parbat”, all that changes.
As we return to Starling City, Malcolm is continuing his training of the Queen siblings and beating them both fairly comprehensively. He tells Oliver that he’s going to fail because he’s been training for years to ‘bring a bow to a sword fight’, and because of that he is likely to meet his end (again) at Ra’s al Ghul’s hand. Thea, on the other hand, isn’t dealing with her guilt over Sara’s death so well, which is exactly why Oliver didn’t tell her in the first place, and it doesn’t take long for her to spill the beans to Laurel. However, considering her recent arc has focused on getting revenge for Sara’s death, Laurel reacts surprisingly well and tells Thea that it’s not her fault, it’s Malcolm’s.
So naturally, Laurel goes after Malcolm and after failing to beat him down with her nightstick, she pulls a gun on him because she is aware of her failings as a combatant. However, her revenge is cut short as she and Malcolm are surrounded by Nyssa and a bunch of League members, who knock Malcolm out and take him away. As it turns out, following her confession Thea’s guilt took control and she tattled on Malcolm to the League, who are now going to exact their probably extremely violent revenge.
Oliver attempts to stop them before they get away, but is distracted fighting and capturing Nyssa as Malcolm is bundled into a helicopter and flown out of Starling City. He decides the best place to keep Nyssa is in a cage in the Arrowcave (which I don’t remember ever being there before), and although it seems like he is ready to torture the location of Nanda Parbat out of her, she instead gives it up willingly as she knows that Oliver will die there.
Armed with the location of the League stronghold, Oliver prepares to head to Nanda Parbat and rescue Malcolm: however, considering what happened last time he did something like that, Diggle decides not to take any chances, and after a conversation with Lyla, declares that he will be accompanying Oliver in the A.R.G.U.S. jet.
Once there, the two of them manage to launch a pretty successful assault on the stronghold: there’s a particularly cool moment as Oliver picks up a flaming arrow fired by a member of the League and fires it straight back, probably violating that no-killing rule he seems to have sometimes. However, as they reach Malcolm, who has been hung over some burning hot coals, he tells them that they have walked into a trap, and the doors close on them as Ra’s al Ghul makes an appearance and informs them that they are now prisoners.
While in chains, the pair of them have a heart-to-heart where Oliver admits that a big part of the reason he is doing what he is doing is not to keep Thea safe, or to protect his city from the potential threat of the League: it is because he couldn’t stand the fact that he lost a fight when Ra’s knocked him off the mountain. It’s an interesting moment that reveals a lot about Oliver, that regardless of his supposed altruism there is an element of ego and arrogance about what he is doing: presumably this also contributes to his disapproval of Laurel’s actions, that she is trying to do the same thing as him in a different way and he feels insecure about that. But whatever the cause of the admission, it leads Diggle to ask Oliver to be his best man, a position Oliver accepts gladly.
However, this nice moment between the two characters is interrupted as Oliver is taken before Ra’s, who reveals how impressed he is with Oliver for coming back from the brink of death as strong as he ever was. To that end, he makes a surprising offer: for Oliver to take his place as the head of the League of Assassins.
The offer is something of a curveball, although considering how similar parts of this season’s storyline have been to certain Batman storylines (in the comics, Ra’s and Batman have a duel that looks remarkably similar to the one Oliver engaged in back in episode 9), it’s not entirely surprising. However, we have to wait several weeks to find out what Oliver’s answer is, and we shouldn’t assume too quickly that it will be a refusal: Oliver is an intelligent guy, and seeing how much good he can do with a small ragtag bunch of vigilantes, he must be able to see the potential for having an army of highly-trained soldiers behind him.
Elsewhere, Laurel and Nyssa bond over their love for Sara and their grief at her death, which will probably spell bad news for Malcolm in the near future, and Thea and Roy find friendly solace in each other over their shared history of inadvertent murder. Ray, on the other hand, has been working on his armour since last time we saw him, and Felicity offers her assistance: firstly, by making him eat something proper, take a shower and get some sleep, and later by giving in to the sexual tension between the two and sleeping with him. It’s a good thing she chose to do so as well, because Ray has a post-coital epiphany and manages to put the finishing touches to his legally-distinct-from-Iron Man suit of armour, and he uses it to take flight above Starling City.
Finally, in the flashbacks Oliver is debriefed by General Shrieve, who then informs him that he can go home, or wherever he wants to go, as can Maseo and his family. However, as they are about to depart, they are attacked by A.R.G.U.S. agents sent by a disgruntled Amanda Waller, and as Maseo and Tatsu are taken by the agents Oliver is forced to flee with their son, and Amanda Waller firmly cements her place as the villain of the flashbacks.
“Nanda Parbat” is a significant improvement on the last two episodes in terms of actions and consequences, and includes some big and important moments that will likely impact on the remainder of the season, alongside some quieter and more character-driven scenes that serve to remind us why we all love these characters so much.