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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Arrow 2x13 - "Heir to the Demon"

The heroic, slam-bang, sensational "Heir to the Demon" brings prodigal daughter Sara Lance back to modern day Starling City, and she didn't come alone. (Double entendre.) Hot on Sara's heels is a major player, not just as a DC Universe import but to this series and its grander game -- the daughter of Ra's al-Ghul, the titular "heir to the Demon," Nyssa al-Ghul (Katrina Law)! Sara had left Starling to keep her family out of the League of Assassins' cross hairs, but the League has manipulated events to bring Sara home so that she can be reunited with her... as it turns out, beloved! As the Arrow observed from the shadows like a silent guardian, a watchful protector, Nyssa al-Ghul sexily somersaulted from above in the same manner the Canary did in "Broken Dolls" to confront Sara and instead of killing her -- they locked lips! Whoa. Whoa whoa whoa. Who saw that coming?! Suddenly, millions of arrows stood up in their quivers when Nyssa and Sara reunited. Hey, this show just got interesting!

All right, enough of that. The stunning reveal that Sara and Nyssa were lovers further tangles the web for the heroes of Arrow. (Quentin's reaction was the most rewarding, swallowing his surprise and glad that someone loved his daughter and cared for her during those terrible years she spent away. Father of the Year.) During Laurel's amusing little bender last week, a League member spiked her booze with poisonous snake blood, correctly suspecting that concern over her sister's life would lure Sara back to Starling. (Oliver was quick to lay blame on the League though it was Oliver himself who personally called Sara to alert her to Laurel's plight.) Nyssa has come to Starling ostensibly to bring Sara back to the League, but truly to confront her lover who ran away from her. Nyssa even has a little Arabic pet name for her: Ta-er Sah-fer. Why did Sara quit the League? Because she couldn't take all of the killing she was forced to do by her sworn oath to the League. By quitting the League, or trying to, Sara also quit Nyssa, who says she found Sara starving and helpless. Nyssa saved Sara's life and taught her to be the super cool, super awesome superhero she is today. This is much more compelling than it seemed at first when it was just a superhero being chased by the villains who trained her. Though she loved Nyssa, in her heart Sara is not a killer, echoing Oliver's evolution in his time under the hood. Sara begs Nyssa to ask her father to release her from her vow; Ra's has only ever released one from the League - Malcolm Merlyn - and look what happened there.

(Incidentally, there has long been a discrepancy as to how to pronounce 'Ra's al-Ghul'. Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight Trilogy pronounced it as 'raahs', and that's how Oliver says it. And I as well. Nyssa, with her Arabian-like accent, pronounces it 'raysh' like in Batman: The Animated Series. Arrow has it both ways, successfully.)

And yet, Nyssa cannot take "no, go home to Nanda Parbat" for an answer, so she goes into the League of Assassins playbook and kidnaps Sara's mother Dinah, who has also returned to Starling to care for her ailing daughter Laurel. This leads to a tremendous The Dark Knight-like chase where the Arrow and Canary race Nyssa's truck on the Arrow Cycle, with Canary busting out her Canary Cry sonic device before leaping onto the truck. Canary realizes the kidnap victim is her mother but Nyssa punches her right in the face and sends her onto the asphalt. The Arrow then decides to quit the chase entirely -- this may have been the first superhero high speed chase ever that ended because the heroes were somehow aware there was an act break. Nyssa's devious plan is a simple trade of Dinah for Sara, but Sara would literally rather die than return to a life of murdering others at the behest of an immortal madman. Sara poisons herself with the snake venom, but the Arrow arrives with the antidote and saves Sara after taking on and defeating Nyssa one on one. In the end, a heartbroken Nyssa incredibly releases Sara from her vow to the League of Assassins. Sara is back for good in Starling and free to perform ridiculously painful looking athletic training in the Arrow Cave and fight crime as Canary alongside the Arrow. To celebrate their new arrangement, Oliver of course jumps at the chance to bring Sara back to the land of heterosexual sex. All's well that ends well.

Well, not really. The saga of Sara Lance's return to Starling has major ramifications for Arrow and for the Lance family. For the first time, Arrow eschews flashbacks to the Island, taking us back instead over six years to the happy days in the Lance household the night before Sara secretly sailed off with Oliver on the Queen's Gambit. We see Quentin and Dinah happily married and a young, optimistic Laurel getting ready to apply for law school while planning to share an apartment with her "frat boy" boyfriend Oliver. Sara returns home from college to surprise her family, but is really planning to meet that shameless cad Oliver on the Queen's Gambit. Later, we see it was Moira Queen herself who came to the Lances' door to share the terrible news that Sara was on the Queen's Gambit when it sank. When Laurel at long last sees her little sister alive, all the pieces fit for her that Sara is - and Laurel is correct about this - the lone cause of all of the tragedy that has befallen her family. Sara's deceit by sleeping with Oliver and her presumed death shattered their parents' marriage and drove their father to alcoholism. Sara spent six years never attempting to contact her family. Dinah was abducted and held ransom while Laurel was literally poisoned, all as pawns to bring Sara back to Starling. And now Sara gets a pass because she's home, and Sara not only gets to be a superhero but unbeknownst to Laurel, she's also seemingly back with Oliver. Is Laurel wrong to resent or even hate her sister? To see Sara from Laurel's point of view, Sara is kind of horrible, even if no one else will share Laurel's opinion.

Meanwhile, the campaign is underway to make Moira Starling's new Mayor, a development neither Slade Wilson nor Sebastian Blood welcome. Everyone's positioning themselves for war and making threats. Caught in the middle is Felicity, who did her usual sleuthing into Moira's finances and discovered the truth about Thea's parentage -- that Malcolm Merlyn is Thea's actual father. Moira immediately goes into defensive mode and preys on Felicity's insecurities, promising that Oliver would hate her if she ever revealed the secret that would rip her family asunder. But Moira really doesn't know her son at all; when Felicity suddenly reveals some long-withheld details about her home life growing up and tells Oliver the truth about his own family, Oliver doesn't take it well. He does manage to grit his teeth through a questionable-sounding introduction of his mother at her first campaign rally, but later, Oliver really tears into Moira for all her lies, ending his relationship with his mother and forever turning his back on being the mommy's boy he was. Never mind that Oliver lies by omission every minute of every day by pretending he's not the green hooded vigilante archer who is the scorn of crime and savior of Starling City, but he just can't take his mother's lies any longer. Pot, kettle, green, Queens.