Arrow: The Thanatos Guild

Nyssa_al_Ghul_Katrina_Law-22

Nyssa is back, bearing gifts

If you’ve been watching Arrow for a while, it’s become clear that something has been up with Thea Queen, played by Willa Holland. Her part has been getting smaller and smaller, with long absences based on flimsy excuses. According to several sources, Holland herself has been behind the reduction in her role. Well, that behind the scenes issue comes to a head in “The Thanatos Guild.” And while there is similarity in the names, no, it has nothing to do with Marvel’s Thanos, the big villain in the upcoming Avengers: Infinity War.

The show opens with another flashback, as Thea gets into a limo with Malcolm Merlyn some four years ago. This is when he offers to train her and she eventually becomes Speedy, back before she gave that up. Since Malcolm is apparently dead (to the disappointment of fans and John Barrowman, who played the Dark Archer), this might be one of the last time we see him.

In the present, what appears to be an outgrowth of the League of Assassins meets, talking about Merlyn’s living legacy. This is the first of a really ridiculous number of times they say that Merlyn is dead on this episode. I had heard that Barrowman himself was trying to find a way to bring the character back (like he is with Captain Jack Harkness of Torchwood), and I guess this is either a big misdirect for his return or the show’s way of metaphorically putting a stake through the heart of that hope. At any rate, there’s clearly some kind of power struggle going on between Athena, who seems to be in charge, and Nyssa, Ra’s’ daughter, making her first appearance since the big blow up on Lian Yu.

After Thea’s decision last episode, they are holding a small goodbye party for her in the Lair. Why not, it seems like everyone knows how to get there anyway. They could get some funding for the team renting it out as a banquet hall. There are some scenes with Thea teasing William about frosting, and a good father/son moment with Oliver and William. Other topics of conversation include Roy and Thea’s future home, Quentin’s attempts to domesticate/rehabilitate Black Siren, the hunt for Diaz and identifying his dirty cops, and the simmering subplot of Oliver being Green Arrow again and Diggle wanting the hood back. I hope they don’t take that last one to as ridiculous extremes as they have the split team ongoing stupidity.

Dinah and Curtis are at Rene’s apartment (weird choice) working on figuring out which cops are dirty. As I’ve said before, the Star City police department is working on giving the one in Gotham a run for its money for “Most Corrupt.” Curtis gets distracted wondering about the goodbye party for Thea, which I’m curious about. Since the teams aren’t talking, how did he even know about that? Zoe comes home from school, and we see Curtis is taking care of her while Rene heals up from his random Dramatic Injury. We also learn Curtis has a crush on one of Dinah’s fellow officers, Anastas.

Roy and Thea’s attempt at Happily Ever After goes badly. As they try and leave town in the latest of a series of red sports cars that Roy manages to keep getting, they are attacked by assassins and then saved by Nyssa. She warns them this was just a scout unit, and the three of them flee, with Nyssa warning Thea she can’t run from her legacy.

Everyone meets up at the Lair, where they make sure Thea and Roy are ok, and Nyssa makes the first of several jokes about Oliver being her husband (they were married in the League a few seasons ago, just as a formality). Nyssa tells them about the titular Thanatos Guild, an off-shoot of the supposedly-defunct League of Assassins, led by Athena, a protégé of Malcolm’s. This also leads them to the start of a quest for treasure map to something or other Malcolm was working on.

While Dinah becomes more suspicious of Captain Hill, Nyssa and Thea go to what appears to be a lesbian bar to meet Tigressa, an associate of Malcolm’s. After some repartee, Tigressa gives them the location of the hidden map, and declares she’s done with the League. Thea is envious of that stance.

With Felicity providing advice as Overwatch, Nyssa, Speedy, Green Arrow, Spartan, and Roy in a weird mix of his old costume and civilian clothes go to find the map. Actually, Roy’s look is probably a nod to the “New 52″ version of Arsenal’s costume, right down to the ball cap. Of course, nothing goes smoothly, and the team gets a nasty surprise to kick off a showdown, then big fight, between the good guys and the Guild. The heroes win, in part due to Thea getting clever with using some of the things Malcolm left behind. They bring the map, hidden in a giant cube Felicity dubs the Hellraiser box after the horror movies, back to the Lair. It has a mathematical cypher, so, of course, Felicity has the best chance of figuring out how to open it. Roy is a bit put out by working on this instead of just leaving like they planned.

Dinah and Curtis further their investigation by breaking in to police evidence. Of course, since Dinah’s a lieutenant with the police, she shouldn’t need to break in, but this adds drama, I guess. She gets them in, Curtis brings a toy to defeat some of the security, and they start looking for something to prove Hill’s on the take. Curtis runs into Anastas, and flirts his way into covering for Dinah.

Nyssa and Oliver bicker about their marriage, Felicity’s reactions to the jokes, and Thea’s future. Nyssa draws comparisons between Thea’s issues with things Malcolm did, and her own quest to right Ra’s’ wrongs. They get interrupted by Felicity making progress on her task, and we learn about a previously unknown talent of Roy’s. What they find inside isn’t at all what they were expecting, and is another mystery, although I had an idea what they needed as soon as I saw what was going on. This leads to another entertaining scene between Felicity and Nyssa as Felicity works on the puzzle.

Thea and Roy have a scene of her reassuring him about what her intentions are, which was a bit more soap opera than it needed to be. Meanwhile, Dinah and Curtis get a surprising result from their evidence raid which seems to nix her theory about Hill. Dinah almost looks disappointed, which is a bit odd. Then again, Dinah hasn’t been rational since this whole team split thing kicked in.

Thea packs away her costume, and is quite sure she’s not bringing it with her. Oliver offers her an out for not seeing this through, and she makes a few observations about the Oliver/Diggle/Green Arrow mess. There’s a lot of talk about people being the best versions of themselves. Diggle once again shows how useful he is by finding where the assassins are hiding.

This, of course, leads to another major fight, with everyone getting in some good action scenes. Roy pulls off something a bit unbelievable, but it’s good aside from that. Thea defeats Athena, who manages to get away to return as a future irritation, I’m sure. In all the chaos, they finally learn the secret of the map, both in terms of how to read it and what it leads to. It’s a big secret that is in line with things from the comics, and might offer an explanation for a future character return.

At the police station, Curtis flirts with Anastas and gets a date out of it. Dinah learns some troubling things that make them reevaluate an earlier conclusion. Thea takes up a new quest, which Roy accompanies her for. So does Nyssa, and I have to say, I’d watch that spinoff. Nyssa, Roy, and Thea on a series of missions? I’d be in. The threesome departs, after Nyssa ends one of the running jokes.

What I liked: Katrina Law is back as Nyssa al-Ghul! She’s great to watch and I really enjoy her character. It was also good to see Roy in action, even with the dumb costume. The inter-team rivalry and childishness seems to have toned down since Rene left, which I’m grateful for. Dinah and Curtis were actually useful and not mindlessly snarky.

What I didn’t: I’m really worried they are building up to something bad with the Diggle/Oliver rivalry over the hood. I hope it doesn’t get as stupid as the team split. Aside from “hey, we haven’t forgotten about this,” I’m not sure what the point of the brief Zoe scene was. I’m a bit disappointed that there’s yet another version of the League, especially when another version of that is happening at the same time over on Gotham. Roy’s miracle trick in the last fight, and his random announcement of a skill, seemed a bit weird, as much as I like the character.

It was a good episode, better than a lot of what’s happened this season. I’ll give it a 3.5 out of 5.

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