Merlyn runs out of tricks. 

‘Nanda Parbat’ finished the cycle of revealing all the secrets of ‘Arrow’ this season, and as the show is going on a brief 1 month hiatus, it also left us with plenty of cliffhangers, for almost every character.

Jumping in, the episode begins in the titular Nanda Parbat where Ras Al Ghul is reclining inside a pool of water, which may or not be a kind of Lazarus Pit based on comic lore and who exactly Ras is. Because of the way the episode ended, I’m going to say it was a Lazarus Pit, as a declining Ras Al Ghul would have to use it to keep up his strength and vitality. Anyways, Nyssa interrupts his session with “news” that Oliver Queen is still alive, but Ras is already aware of the fact, saying that it doesn’t matter as Queen did not actually kill Sara. Nyssa, enraged, asks whether Ras truly believes that or just doesn’t care because of Sara’s relationship with her. Ras explains that he always knew Sara would leave the League, one way or another.

Back in Starling City, Oliver, Thea and Malcolm train in the Arrow Cave, with Malcolm more and more disappointed in the pair’s inability to fight in synchronization against him. Thea is still clearly distracted by the news of her killing Sara from last week, and has a hard time of it when Laurel arrives, and comments to Thea that her fighting style is similar to the way Sara fought. Thea seeks solitude, but is met instead by Roy, who bonds with her over the shared pained of having killed someone while under the influence of mind-altering drugs injected into their systems without their consent, but Thea points out that Roy does not have to see the family of the cop he killed every day, as she does with Laurel. Her guilt getting the better of her, Thea decides to confess everything to Laurel, (who herself is feeling rather guilty as her father is still not speaking to her for lying to him about Sara’s death), and Laurel is surprisingly understanding about the whole thing, though it does reignite her intense hatred for Merlyn, and an anger at Oliver for keeping it from her. She goes to confront Oliver, who lies to her about it again, only this time Laurel knows the truth, and calls him on it, clearly unable to understand how Oliver could work with Merlyn.

Oliver confronts Thea for disobeying him and telling Laurel about Sara’s death, and she explains that she can not work with the man, and has decided to do something about it. As Oliver asks her what exactly she did, we cut to Merlyn in a back alley, as the Black Canary confronts him, alone. No one thinks Laurel stands a chance here, but apparently she thought her months of training could somehow prepare her to take down the Magician. After knocking her around a bit, Merlyn points out how little chance she has, and Laurel draws a gun on the man, and honestly it would not have been out of character for her to use it. Luckily (unluckily?) Nyssa arrives with her League of Shadows goons, and they abscond with Merlyn, with Nyssa telling Laurel that she will be sure that Sara’s killer will be dealt justice.

Back at the Arrow Cave, the Quiver Crew discusses Thea handing Merlyn over to the League, with Oliver clearly upset about the whole concept, aware that the guilt of killing her father will eat at Thea eventually. Felicity reluctantly helps him track down the transport the League will be using to take Merlyn out of the city, and Oliver rides out to the air field on the Arrow bike, ready to halt the escaping helicopter. Instead while the League men get Merlyn onto the helicopter, the Arrow is distracted by a brawl with Nyssa herself, who he eventually beats, but not in time to save Malcolm. Oliver takes Nyssa back to the Arrow Cave as his prisoner, where the team is worried he is going to torture her for information. Fortunately for him, Nyssa readily gives him the location of Nanda Parbat, as she believes going there will only lead to Oliver’s death. Merlyn meanwhile is brought before Ras Al Ghul, where we finally see him genuinely terrified, as he begs for mercy. Ras will have none of it though, and tells Merlyn he will suffer for what he has done.

Oliver prepares to leave, struggling to explain to his team why he as to save Merlyn, (for Thea apparently), though all, especially Diggle, suspect there is more to the trip. Diggle returns home and discusses the situation with Lyla, who points out how guilty Diggle felt the last time Oliver left and they thought he died, and encourages him to accompany his friend to Nanda Parbat. Diggle agrees, and Oliver reluctantly lets Diggle join on the trip. Before they leave however, Thea confronts Oliver, asking why he is going, and Oliver explains that the guilt of killing her father will get to her one day, and since Oliver already deals with the guilt of both their parents having died for him, he does not want her to go through the same thing.

Once Oliver and Diggle are gone, Nyssa and Laurel have a heart to heart, recalling fond memories of Sara and bonding over their shared love of the woman. Thea thinks a lot about what Oliver told her, and realizes she still has guilt over Sara’s death, and now for Malcolm as well. She visits Nyssa herself, freeing the woman and telling her she lied about Merlyn, that she killed Sara. She hands Nyssa a sword, and tells her to kill her. Cliffhanger #1! (but not really as there’s no way Thea dies)

Meanwhile Oliver and Diggle infiltrate Nanda Parbat, though not without being seen, having to battle their way inside through dozens and dozens of League agents. When they eventually find Merlyn, he is basically being crucified over hot coals, and he mouths that they’ve walked into a trap. Steel doors swing shut, and Ras reveals himself, peering in at Diggle and Oliver through the cage he’s trapped them inside. When we next see Oliver and Diggle, they are tied up in the dungeon, and since they have nothing but time, they take a moment to discuss Oliver’s true motivation for coming to save Merlyn, where Oliver reveals losing to Ras Al Ghul and almost dying really hurt his pride, as he just couldn’t believe that someone beat him. Diggle understands, and explains that every soldier needs to believe he’s the best out there, and that he’s going to make it home. Also in that moment, Diggle reveals that he’s been meaning to ask Oliver to be his best man for his upcoming wedding to Lyla, which Oliver glady accepts, granted they make it home alive. Ras Al Ghul demands an audience with Oliver, and Oliver is brought before the man on his knees. He tells Ras to take his life, but begs him to spare Diggle’s life. Ras explains that he admires Oliver’s fortitude, strength and courage, and has no intention of killing him. He wants Oliver to be his replacement, leading the League as the next Ras Al Ghul. Cliffhanger #2!

As for Ray Palmer, throughout the episode we were treated to Felicity visiting the man at his home, where the man had gone hermit for over a  week in a desperate craze to finish the ATOM suit, which he saw was essential after the events of Brick taking over the Glades. Felicity locks him out of the network and demands the man get some food, a shower, and some sleep, which he reluctantly agrees to. She revisits him after his sleep, her attraction to the man rekindling as he walks around shirtless, and they share a kiss, which leads to them finally sleeping together. Post-coitus, Ray awakens with an epiphany, leaving Felicity in bed to make the final adjustments to the suit. He puts on the ATOM armor for the first time and takes flight, soaring past the window of his bedroom, where Felicity still lay asleep. Cliff hanger #3!

In the Hong Kong flashback (yes, back in Hong Kong, as General Shrieve had to debrief Oliver outside of the United States for some reason, (besides plot convenience I’m hoping), Oliver finishes his debrief with General Shrieve and ARGUS men, and he and Maseo are free to go. Maseo and Oliver reunite with Tatsu and their son on the docks near the boat they will be taking home, but they are ambushed by armed gunmen. Maseo says they are Waller’s men, though we have no idea why she would choose to kill them at this point. They try to escape, but Maseo and Tatsu are pinned down, while Oliver (holding their child), has a chance to escape. They order Oliver to flee, saving their son, and the last we see is Oliver carrying the boy over his shoulder while Tatsu and Maseo watch sadly. Cliff hanger #4!


* Nyssa knows there’s more to Thea’s story, and I’m sure she’ll get it out of her. Until then, I think she’s going to abduct Thea and take her to Nanda Parbat, where she will join her father and brother in imprisonment.

* Oliver will not become the next Ras Al Ghul, but he may pretend to go along with it to get Merlyn (and maybe Thea) free. I think the season finale will be the League attacking Starling City with Ras Al Ghul at the head of the army, enraged that Oliver turned down his offer, not to mention the dozens of League members that Oliver and Diggle mowed down on their way inside Nanda Parbat to save Merlyn.

* Will the ATOM suit have any of the powers from the comics? I mean sure, it’s cool that ‘Arrow’ essentially has its own Iron Man now, but the ATOM was awesome for his ability to shrink to small size, hence the name ATOM! So far they haven’t really shown any signs of this, but it might be something they’re holding back.

A pretty great episode overall, it’s going to be a long wait until March 18th when the show returns. What did you think of tonight’s episode? Sound off in the comments below!