“Apparently, we both handle grief differently.”
We saw this idea in “Sara” with regards to Felicity and Oliver, and we see it again–albeit in a different context–in “The Magician”. Oliver Queen is someone who always seems to be at a distance from those around him, someone who is intent on protecting those he loves, but also someone who dons a suit and plays the role of a vigilante. It may oftentimes place him on a different wavelength from the people populating his world, but it helps him just as much as it may hurt him.
In this episode, we see him attempting to abide by his moral code, struggling over whether or not to kill Malcolm Merlyn as the pressure mounts on all sides. We’ve certainly seen our fair share of Oliver’s moral dilemmas, but the dynamic between him, Nyssa, and Malcolm helps this storyline transcend a generic “Should I do this or that?” scenario. The way three different ideologies clash here, both physically and emotionally, is nicely played by Amell, Law, and Barrowman, and we’re observing as past and present seem to become entwined.
“The Magician” sets up, in particular, a contrast between the mindsets of Oliver and Nyssa. Not only are their ways of handling grief different, but so are their ideas of justice. Whereas the former attempts to frame his argument around who’s actually partaking in the act of killing–“I’m not a killer,” he insists–the latter frames her argument around who’s on the receiving end; “Malcolm Merlyn is a killer,” she counters. Even Diggle begins to support her viewpoint, stating that “the world would be better without Malcolm Merlyn” and that “Nyssa didn’t make a vow not to kill” him. There’s a delicate balancing act here between the two sides that threatens to tip over in Nyssa’s favor.
And yet, Oliver still remains steadfast in his ideology. He made a vow not to kill, and this vow now extends to him protecting someone from being killed by someone else. After a lifetime of violence and destruction, he’s attempting to right the ship, to do a complete 180, and as a result, he essentially becomes the face of idealism when contrasted with Nyssa and Malcolm. He’s told that “the world is a dangerous place, and he is too distracted to protect Thea”, as well as that the “world’s a much more complicated place” than he thinks. Those sentences may be valid, but his desire to solely focus on Sara’s killer may be equally so, and he is absolutely right in saying that we shouldn’t be blindly following orders as if the end always justifies the means. One has to wonder, though, whether he’s being naive here or not in trusting Merlyn.
The rest of the episode is concerned with relationships, relationships between fathers and daughters or former lovers or people connected through shared hardship. During Malcolm’s and Oliver’s meeting, Malcolm states that he returned “for the simplest, noblest reason: Thea”, and Nyssa later categorizes her father as a “demon” and Thea’s as the “Devil”. The contrast in images suggests that simple paternal instinct can undoubtedly be corrupted by power, by evil, and the final sequence of the episode consists of two phone calls: Lance to Sara, and Malcolm to Thea. Both involve some element of deceit–Laurel hasn’t told her father about Sara, and Malcolm and Thea are playing everyone else–and both will have major consequences in the future.
The actual final scene, though, introduces Ra’s al Ghul, someone who epitomizes all the violence and corruption and death in Starling City. He’s someone who “will kill without hesitation”, and he is most certainly going to be a formidable presence moving forward. The war’s just starting, folks.
-Okay, Roy’s flip off the car is lame and unnecessary. Not as cool as he hoped it would be, and it doesn’t help that he immediately gets tranquilized.
-The people of Starling City have memory problems. Or facial recognition problems. After all, Malcolm Merlyn is standing right in the middle of a plaza.
-The flashbacks still aren’t that interesting, but we do see an act of murder that starkly contrasts Oliver’s stance on killing now; that ties in a bit thematically. We also get some info about Chien Na Wei (China White) in relation to Amanda Waller and Flight 637.
– “The strongest metal is forged in the hardest fire.” Nyssa and Laurel are drawn to each other out of a need for revenge.
– “What’d I miss?”
-It’s the 50th episode!
Photo credit: The CW, Arrow