Arrow RECAP: Everyone Goes Home Empty-handed (S3:E4)
Previously on Arrow: Sara Lance is dead and Oliver vows vengeance, Moira Queen died before she could impart a dramatic secret about Malcolm Merlyn, Malcolm Merlyn is a ninja villain who’s training Thea Queelyn in his ways, newly-trained Thea is coming home to Starling City, and Nyssa al Ghul hasn’t heard about Sara. Awkward! Previously on Cy’s life: I sold my house and moved and am still behind on everything. PREPARE FOR RECAPS ON TIME IN NOVEMBER!
We begin right where last week cliffhung (or is it cliffhanged?), with Nyssa demanding Oliver and Roy tell her where Sara is. I’m pretty sure Nyssa should know that a) Team Arrow is incredibly unlikely to have killed Sara and b) Team Arrow is very likely to tell Nyssa where she is without being held at arrowpoint since they damn well know Sara and Nyssa are on the same team (etc.). Oliver looks sad to be the one to impart the news that Sara is no more, though that could just be fear of the whole arrow-in-the-heart-thing. Nyssa is also sad, but she doesn’t shoot Oliver, at least. Oliver tells her that they buried Sara in her empty grave, and Nyssa leaves. Oliver sends Roy to follow her, carefully. I’m pretty sure the only way Nyssa al Ghul of the League of Assassins is going to not notice that Roy Harper and his five months of sidekick status is following her is if she’s overwhelmed with grief, so that’s lucky.
Oliver and Thea meet at a restaurant, because as we saw last week, Thea only has important conversations over drinks. They remind us that Oliver is ostensibly broke, though not in the way that most broke people are broke, wherein they struggle to pay their bills and spend hours worrying over potential but inevitable future medical, vet, car repair, or house repair bills. Oliver is broke in the way that he can’t pay for dinner in fancy restaurants, but can fly to Corto Maltese at the drop of a hat, and fund a secret, high-tech lair. Thea is less broke because she’s going to re-open Verdant, and she has investors to do so. Oliver muses on how she’s different, stronger, and immediately asks if she’s seeing someone because the only way a woman could have healed from a traumatic incident is if a man helped her. Thea tells him to mind his business.
On Island Time, bad-hair!Oliver is following a rich-looking old white man in Hong Kong. Ollie has some existential crisis about his role as an assassin for Waller while the old man eats ice cream. Really, that’s all that happened in this scene, and I’m embarrassed that it gets its own paragraph.
Laurel is at Sara’s grave, moping, when Nyssa appears over her shoulder. Laurel isn’t startled, somehow, and Nyssa kneels at the grave and murmurs something in another language that may be a prayer but sounds like an oath of vengeance to me. Nyssa offers Laurel the condolences of the al Ghuls, but Laurel is less than gracious, unequivocally blaming Nyssa for Sara’s death. It’s harsh because Nyssa is clearly grieving too, but she at least manages to dis Laurel by telling her she’s not fit to wear Sara’s coat.
Roy has followed Nyssa successfully to what may or may not be an assassin flophouse, but from how Nyssa fingers stuff and cries, it’s probably Sara’s place. Oliver meets her there, wanting to talk about how to find Sara’s killer. He says he needs Nyssa’s help; Nyssa says she doesn’t need Oliver’s. Which is very likely true, but Oliver doesn’t accept that. He just starts looking at Sara’s stuff and pretending Nyssa hadn’t said anything, so she accidentally starts cooperating. Turns out Sara wasn’t in Starling to kill anyone; she was there to follow up on rumors that Malcolm was alive. Oops.
Back in the Arrow Cave, Nyssa exposits that Malcolm was a League member who left the League on good terms, until Ra’s got word of his little destroy-the-Glades plan, which it turns out is against assassin ethics. They tabled the matter when they thought Malcolm was dead, but Moira tipped off the League to his survival, so Sara was sent to confirm.
Oliver and Nyssa had found her camera in the safe house with a memory card full of Malcolm, like, walking around Starling City in the daytime. Nobody else saw him, really? Anyway, Team Arrow + Nyssa (who I guess is filling in for Felicity this week—she’s in Central City with Team Flash, and apparently Team Arrow is only allowed one woman at a time) plan to retrace Sara’s tracking steps, starting with a useless blank piece of paper that had been in Sara’s boot. Of course, it’s not blank; it’s the magic heat-activated paper we’ve seen time and again on this show, but somehow that didn’t occur to Oliver? Okay. The paper has Sara’s surveillance notes on it, including the phrase “Dad help?” Looks like a visit to Quentin Lance is in order.
At police headquarters, Laurel comes to visit Quentin, totally fine, no really, 100%. Laurel is there to find out if Sara had gotten information on a name from her ghost ink note, which she does without telling Quentin that Sara is actually dead. He says Sara got Ken Zhi Jansen’s last known address, and then he and Laurel exchange harmless pleasantries about Sara’s mysterious line of work that she is totally still doing, while alive, when Nyssa shows up. Laurel excuses herself, pissed that Nyssa is butting in on her part of the operation. Nyssa, along with the rest of the free world, disagrees with Laurel’s decision to hide Sara’s death from Quentin and has a claim for equal stake in the matter as Sara’s girlfriend. But when Quentin interrupts them, she also doesn’t tell him the truth.
Team Arrow is traipsing along to Jansen’s address while Oliver exposits that Jansen was a monk and Malcolm kept him from being deported once upon a time, thus earning him apparent sanctuary in Janson’s monastery. The archers and John split up to case the monastery, and the soundtrack goes exceedingly dramatic while the four of them walk…in the dark…endlessly…holding their bows. John is the one to find Jansen, or at least the plaque on his memorial tree. Meanwhile, Nyssa has found “Jansen-Sensei” and introduces herself, telling him that he’ll spill the location of Malcolm Merlyn or she’ll kill him. As you’ve no doubt guessed, “Jansen” is Malcolm. Nyssa looses her arrow, but he dodges. They fight briefly until Malcolm escapes via flashbang, and despite having a perfectly clear shot of a not-really-moving target who then turns around and smirks at him, Oliver manages to fire only one arrow and graze Malcolm’s arm. Well done, team.
Defeated, Team Arrow al Ghul shuffles back into the cave to break the bad news to Laurel that Malcolm is alive, he probably killed Sara, and he got away. Luckily, the arrow Oliver grazed him with contained Felicity’s GPS nanoparticles, so they can track Malcolm. Laurel is pissed that Oliver didn’t straight-up kill Malcolm, but that would’ve ended this season waaaaay too early; and I imagine that John Barrowman’s contract contains requirements for a minimum number of smirks onscreen that he has not yet reached. Basically, Laurel is angry that Oliver isn’t a cold-blooded killer these days. Nyssa goes to calm Laurel down, and Roy goes to watch Thea in case Malcolm tries to make contact. LITTLE DO THEY KNOW.
Island time. The old man is still eating ice cream. Oliver has a knife. He stabs the old man in the heart unceremoniously. Nobody in the crowded streets noticed. Oliver takes the old man’s keys. Again, why did this scene need a whole paragraph.
Laurel is angry in the alley outside of Verdant. Nyssa reminds Laurel that she loved Sara too, and she understands what Laurel’s going through. Laurel is finally sympathetic, and Nyssa promises that they’ll find Malcolm and she will kill him, even if Oliver won’t. Roy goes to find Thea prepping for Verdant’s grand reopening, offering to help her with the details. She is unsure, but he claims—convincingly—that he’s only offering as a friend, so she gives in.
Oliver is driving his motorcycle unsafely (at least he has a helmet!) when John radios in with a location on Malcolm. Oliver doesn’t feel the need to share that information with Nyssa, and it turns out the air conditioning factory Malcolm was supposedly holed up in is empty—and Malcolm himself is talking into Oliver’s ear from his cell phone. He says they need to talk, in public, and without the rest of Team Arrow.
Oliver, because he is dumb, shows up at Malcolm’s chosen public place without the rest of Team Arrow, and without his mask. True to his word, Malcolm is there, apparently unnoticed by the literally hundreds of people passing through the plaza despite being an incredibly public figure (formerly). Malcolm claims he didn’t kill Sara, offering up as proof that killing the love of Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter’s life is not a great way to get the League’s bounty off his head. They quickly transition to fighting over Thea: Malcolm claims he saved Thea five months ago, while Oliver was off Arrowing it up, while Oliver warns him to stay away from her, like Thea hasn’t already made her own decision on this topic. They ignore that, but Malcolm swears on Thea’s life that he didn’t kill Sara.
Oliver meets Thea for coffee (jfc the beverages and this girl) the next morning, angry. Oliver tells Thea that he’s serious about this whole telling the truth thing, and so he has to tell her a major secret: MALCOLM IS ALIVE! Thea tries to pretend this is a big shock, but at least she’s sincere when she thanks Oliver for telling her the truth. Oliver is only marginally convinced.
In the Arrow Cave, Oliver is breaking the news to Nyssa that he believes Malcolm is not Sara’s killer, because he swore on his daughter’s life. Ollie, you were best friends with this man’s son, so that promise should mean a lot less to you. The League didn’t actually know about Malcolm’s daughter, so Nyssa does some light threatening and Oliver offers up pretty damn easily that Thea is the lucky offspring. Nyssa is pretty skeptical about Malcolm’s promises; John backs her up, and tries to remind Oliver that Malcolm dead is not a bad thing whether or not he killed Sara, specifically.
Island Time. Which I guess I should call Hong Kong Time now, except they’ve been to Hong Kong in non-island time, so…Island Time. Oliver gets home to Maseo’s apartment, angsting over the murder. He and Maseo argue a bit over the necessity of conscience, especially when one is protecting one’s child. It’s tedious, and I don’t care. Oliver interacts with the kid not-cutely, swapping five seconds on Akio’s computer for five pieces of the secret candy stash above the refrigerator. Maseo is less than pleased with Oliver’s sudden demands to meet with Waller based on whatever he saw in five seconds’ worth of his victim’s flash drive. Seriously, it takes at least ten seconds to install the driver.
Roy and Thea are leaving the soon-to-be-Verdant, where they have been painting, and Thea is unsure that she likes the self-aware, non-douchebag Roy. Before he can prove her wrong (either her thinking or his own niceness), Nyssa flips down from nowhere, threateningly. Roy parkours in front of Thea and takes a stun dart to the neck for his trouble. He passes out as Nyssa takes a relatively pliant Thea into custody.
Malcolm is calling for Thea when a black cloud of smoke coming from the window of what I guess is her apartment turns him into Angry Dad. I guess Malcolm is a sucker for burn permits.
Team Arrow is discussing Malcolm in the cave after Thea’s abduction by Nyssa. Laurel has pulled some traffic camera footage from the police precinct house, which she apparently has unlimited access to, showing the unauthorized burning that spooked Malcolm. Oliver assigns John to secure the perimeter so Thea won’t see his face (he really needs a mask; how come only Roy and Ollie get the badass leather?) and orders Roy to stay home since he’s been hit with a tranq.
Thea is hanging upside and threatening Nyssa adorably. Aww, she’s like an especially angry porcupine. Nyssa is obviously luring in Malcolm, but Arrow is the one who shoots through Thea’s bonds and catches her, telling her to run. He and Nyssa fight until Malcolm arrives in full Merlyn gear. They all three fight next, in a battle that is nicely choreographed but completely incomprehensible since they all want to take down the other two.
Malcolm pins Nyssa with arrows, but Oliver has a bead on Malcolm with Nyssa urging him on. Malcolm maintains that he didn’t kill Sara; in fact, he presents an alternative: that Ra’s al Ghul killed Sara, maybe for her doubted loyalty to the League, but especially for stealing his daughter. He challenges Oliver to kill him if he doesn’t believe him, because they both know arresting him is utterly useless. Oliver declines, and Malcolm escapes.
Nyssa is angry and punches Oliver in the face. She still doesn’t believe Malcolm, and Oliver still does, so much so that he claims Malcolm is under his protection as long as he’s in Starling City. Nyssa is a little disbelieving that Oliver would incur the League’s wrath so nonchalantly, but that’s probably because he doesn’t really understand what it means to incur the League’s wrath. Felicity gets back just as Nyssa leaves, proving my suspicion that Team Arrow can only have one woman at a time (Laurel is clearly an adjunct).
Island Time. Waller is angry that Oliver has made her come to Hong Kong. He’s realizing that she’s been spying on him the whole time he was on the island. The information on the USB drive that Oliver recovered from the old man he murdered indicates that Waller was the one who ordered that plane shot down over the island, the incident that Oliver, Slade, and Shado prevented. Waller claims that Oliver is out of his depth, which is almost certainly accurate. Waller tells him that shooting down the plane had nothing to do with the Chinese economy; she was after a single target: Chen Na Wei, the white-haired leader of the Triad that we’ve met multiple times before.
Laurel is at Ted’s boxing gym…ohh it’s called Wildcat Gym, which I missed last episode. Cute, CW. Nyssa stops by to say goodbye and give Laurel a few boxing tips. At the police station, Quentin is getting suspicious. He leaves a message on Sara’s emergency line that he loves her. Ughhh.
Oliver stops in to see Thea at to-be-Verdant. Thea is totally playing dumb on why Nyssa took her, and Ollie plays even dumber, pretending it may’ve been for some sort of ransom situation. Roy’s here next, also checking up on Thea, and apologizing for getting tranq’d instead of helping. Thea offers him a job as Verdant’s assistant manager, and Roy falls over himself to accept. Malcolm calls next, to also check up on Thea, Christ. Thea claims that Oliver is still in the dark and thanks Malcolm for looking out for her. Reminder: Thea left Starling to get away from all the lies.
Nyssa arrives home to the League, as angry as she’s been every other time this episode, but she gives her report that the rumors of Malcolm being alive were not exaggerated. Ra’s says she sounds sad, and Nyssa admits that Sara is dead and she’s vowed vengeance. Ra’s says Malcolm will face League justice, but not for killing Sara, who wasn’t truly one of them. Nyssa is exactly as pissed as she was at the end of last week’s episode, but she hides it a lot better this time. And Oliver courts war with the League, according to Ra’s al Ghul. OH SNAP.