Recap: Arrow, “The Offer” (3×16)

Shado’s not dead. I have to admit, even though Arrow is big on resurrection, I didn’t see this one coming. We saw her body, and her death was the catalyst for Slade Wilson’s catastrophic campaign for revenge. Does her apparent survival cheapen that whole arc? That remains to be seen – and really, we don’t know if she’s still alive in the present – but I will say that Celina Jade’s return to the show is welcome.

“The Offer” is the calm before the end-of-season storm; an episode where our principle characters try desperately to re-establish some sense of normalcy and control in the wake of near constant emotional devastation. Oliver returns to Starling City having flat-out refused Ra’s al Ghul’s offer to make him Heir to the Demon, but he returns shaken and disconcerted. The Lazarus Pit and refined meals might not have swayed Oliver’s resolve to reject Ra’s, but Ra’s prediction that the city will turn against Oliver and he will die alone, rejected and a failure, haunts Oliver.

The seed of doubt planted by Ra’s grows some serious roots when Oliver sees the Demon’s predictions coming true, as is often the case with vague and self-fulfilling prophecies. Detective, now Captain, Lance lashes out at the Arrow, since he accurately assumes that the Arrow concealed Sara’s death from him. Still reeling from his ties to the police department being severed, Oliver goes to see Felicity at her office and comes face to face with the gooey, flirtatious affection between Felicity and Roy. At this point, Oliver’s angst and discontent is so discomforting that I’m squirming in my seat; something has to give, or Oliver is likely to break.

Isolated and despondent, Oliver tells Diggle about Ra’s offer, and that he’s actually considering signing on with the League. After all, what has he accomplished in Starling City? Crime isn’t down, all the criminals that he put in Iron Heights are back on the streets thanks to Brick, and so many people he loved are dead. Oliver Queen is nobody, and the Arrow is a mere vigilante, but as Ra’s, he could make a difference rather than a dent. Why wouldn’t he accept?

Because, as Felicity puts it, joining the League would be crazy. When everyone thought that Oliver was dead, each member of Team Arrow had to think about their individual motivation to keep working to save the city. Oliver has never needed to do that – to really think about the purpose of being the Arrow. All the conflict with Merlyn and the League has made Oliver focused entirely on the forest, and he’s forgotten about saving the trees.

In an effort to normalize his life, Oliver pursues Michael Amar, aka Murmur, a relatively mundane villain-of-the-week despite having the very cool feature of his mouth being sewed shut. Murmur steals a truckload of industrial-grade diamonds to make armor-piercing bullets and evades Oliver, Arsenal, and the Black Canary. As they pursue the robbers, Oliver manages to wrap his head around who he wants to be. His job, regardless of whether or not anyone wants it, is to be the person who makes sure the cops make it home to their families safely. He protects those who protect others; the ultimate back-up. Once again, he can visualize his own goodness, and tells Maseo to deliver the message to Ra’s that he’s turning down the inheritance offered to him. He’s not willing to take on the identity of the Demon’s Head, but Ra’s is more than willing to take on his and sully the Arrow’s good name by going on a campaign of slaughter, contrary to everything that Oliver just reaffirmed that he stood for.

Olier isn’t the only one going through a rough patch. Ra’s is so determined to have Oliver as his successor – due to some prophecy, ugh, that I hope we never hear mentioned again – that he tells his own daughter that if she doesn’t like it, she can hit the road, and she does. Nyssa returns to Starling City, because aside from Nanda Parbat, the only other place that feels like home is where Sara grew up. Meanwhile, Laurel’s dealing with her own daddy issues, as Captain Lance can’t bring himself to forgive her. He still loves her, but he doesn’t know that he’ll ever be able to get past her lies, and there’s nothing that she can do to make it better.

And Thea? Thea returns to Roy. Sweet, kind Roy, who has never wavered in his love and devotion to Thea, even when she was making out with DJ Terribly Useless. Seeking sanctuary in Roy’s apartment and Roy’s arms makes sense for Thea; before her mother’s death and Malcolm’s entry into her life, she was happy with him once. It might have been the last time she was happy, and being with Roy might be the key to Thea finding herself.

Odds & Ends

– Laurel and Nyssa’s tentative steps towards friendship are a pleasant addition. At any rate, it makes sense for Nyssa to take over Laurel’s training, and their pairing is another in Arrow’s long list of strong female relationships.

– Speaking of Laurel’s fighting skills: “You still need training.” “When are you going to stop telling me that?” “When you no longer need training.” Welcome back, levity. I did miss you in the past few hyper-serious outings.

– Even when Thea is adrift and searching for her identity, she doesn’t lose her sense of humor: Oliver asks, “Is Malcolm still alive?” prompting her to lament, “In my head I’ve already slit his throat seven times… broke his neck twice…” And later: “Where are you going?” “To go buy my evil dad some soup.”

– Oliver both thanks Felicity and tells her that she was right. I feel Felicity’s delight.

– I started Googling to see if diamond tipped, armor piercing bullets were a real thing, and I’m pretty sure I just made it onto about a dozen watch lists.