Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 12 of Season 4 of Arrow.
After a character-driven episode with “A.W.O.L.” last week, Arrow was back to its breakneck business as usual in “Unchained.” With Oliver trying to juggle his many problems, Felicity facing off with a new computer nemesis/her long-lost father, Thea slipping into a coma as a consequence of her post-Lazarus Pit unsated bloodlust, and a handful of familiar faces showing up, there was an awful lot going on. One familiar face was Nyssa, who escaped her imprisonment in Nanda Parbat to bring an intriguing opportunity to Oliver. She’ll save Thea's life from the darkness of the Lazarus Pit…as long as Oliver kills Malcolm Merlyn.
Nyssa had been absent from Arrow ever since she awesomely went behind Malcolm's back and sabotaged the Lazarus Pit to destroy is restorative properties, but she came back with a vengeance in "Unchained" as she and her supporters staged a coup within Nanda Parbat. She deserved no less after being forced to work as minion to a man who had ordered the death of her beloved, so there was some real poetic justice to Nyssa seizing the assassin fortress.
Then, things got a little weird as Nyssa went off to Japan to retrieve something called “the Lotus” from the person who was guarding it: Tatsu. Last seen in Season 3 after joining Team Arrow as Katana to help take down Ra’s al Ghul, Tatsu’s reappearance in “Unchained” was a pleasant surprise. Did it make total sense that she had happened to join an order that happened to leave her protecting an artifact that another Arrow side character happened to need? It did not. But it was nice to see Tatsu again, and giving up the Lotus to Nyssa enabled Nyssa to make her appearance in Star City to make her offer to Oliver.
Her appearance really couldn’t have been more timely. If Thea had been jumping around rooftops as Speedy, Nyssa’s pitch to Oliver wouldn’t have carried much weight. Since Thea began to succumb to the latest set of Lazarus Pit side effects in the beginning of “Unchained,” Oliver was in a perfectly desperate state of mind by the end of the hour to ponder Nyssa’s proposal.
Taking the life of a murdering supervillain to save the life of Star City’s cutest vigilante normally wouldn’t take too much deliberation, but Oliver loses about half of his IQ points whenever he tries to make decisions involving Malcolm and Thea. Add in the fact Arrow has been trying to sell Oliver and Malcolm more as frenemies than nemeses lately, and we can almost certainly expect Oliver to agonize over his decision next week.
If Arrow goes the bold route and actually allows Oliver to kill Malcolm to save his sister, the entire rest of the series could be changed for the better. Malcolm was Oliver’s first supervillain, and his path of destruction can be traced throughout all of the show that has aired so far. Putting an end to Malcolm would definitely work to show that stakes are starting to rise higher than ever before for Team Arrow and Star City. Besides, as wonderfully enthusiastic as John Barrowman has been in the role of Malcolm Merlyn, the character has outlasted his organic place in the series. Oliver killing Malcolm would be dark, but it would also be awesome and show that Arrow isn’t messing around anymore.
Is it likely that John Barrowman will be leaving Arrow forever at the end of next week’s episode? Not particularly. Still, there are further months of wait before one big death will land a character in the grave, so we can probably count on Thea not dying for at least a few more weeks. Malcolm’s death in the next episode is somewhat more likely and could certainly make watching Thea go through another set of post-Pit side effects du jour more rewarding.
In case it’s not super obvious, I was not a big fan of “Unchained.” If Nyssa’s offer to use the mysterious Lotus to rid Thea of the darkness of the Lazarus Pit somehow results in the end of Malcolm Merlyn, however, I would call her plot the biggest success of this episode. Of course, considering that Malcolm doesn’t know that Nyssa has broken out of her cell, Nyssa could have had a far easier time just sneaking up on him and killing him herself rather than tracing a mysterious MacGuffin through the remote mountains of Asia to persuade Oliver into doing it for her. But then this wouldn’t be Arrow.
Arrow airs at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.