Arrow Season 3 lets loose its 15th installment of the year with “Nanda Parbat,” as Oliver journeys to the League of Assassins’ headquarters to rescue Malcolm Merlyn, while Ray Palmer completes his A.T.O.M. suit and Thea lays a shocking revelation on Laurel.

Last week’s “The Return” saw the Queens returning to Lian Yu to find Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) waiting for them, while the past Oliver arrived back in Starling City, checking in on his loved ones, so what does the 15th episode of Arrow Season 3 bring?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about Arrow Season 3, episode 15, “Nanda Parbat!”

To be honest, Arrow’s incarnation of Ra’s al Ghul has never felt entirely coalescent. Not only does Matt Nable remain a continually curious choice for a character typically portrayed as either Middle Eastern or Asian (Liam Neeson notwithstanding), but the DC Vvillain’s presence in the series has spread with an admittedly bizarre trajectory. It seemed in Season 1 like a name producers weren’t entirely sure they’d gain access to, while Season 2 brought a greenlight to at least namedrop and feature some supporting characters. Actual inclusion of the character in Season 3 has seemed more of an obligatory ante-upping from Slade than anything else, as in two seasons Arrow burned through any major villains with personal connections to Oliver Queen.

More than a questionable inclusion however, Arrow Season 3 hasn’t quite conjured enough compelling evidence of Ra’s al Ghul as an urgent threat, still suggesting the character could rationally accept Malcolm’s culpability for Sara’s death, even acknowledging Oliver only challenged the League for fear of Thea’s well-being. Arrow wants to make a larger point on Oliver protecting Malcolm from the moral high-ground, though considering the character has cost hundreds of lives and manipulated just as many, his own daughter included, “Nanda Parbat” didn’t do very much to support a need to rescue Malcolm from Ra’s’ retribution.

Admittedly, tonight’s hour brought an intriguing revelation on the nature of Ra’s purported immortality, though given Arrow’s inconsistent relationship with supernatural (see: The Flash), said “twist” raised more questions than it answered. Are we to believe that the “spirit” of Ra’s al Ghul transfers from man to man, for the current version to boast about events in 1854, or has the Lazarus Pit simply sustained the current model that long? Much like Oliver’s death, it doesn’t seem terribly likely that Arrow would actually embrace Oliver assuming the mantle of the Demon’s Head, so we’re hard-pressed to acknowledge any heightened stakes “Nanda Parbat” might have brought to this uneven third season.

At the very least, tonight’s hour offered a stronger insight into Oliver’s current mindset, revealing a sort of superhero PTSD that saw him courting death against Ra’s once more, rather than the somewhat-shallow justification of saving Thea’s soul from any future killing. Season 3 seems to be heaping quite a bit of doubt onto Oliver’s leadership ability, eliciting interventions from the team left and right, and the only relationship still standing on solid ground seems to be the one between he and Diggle. Both men understand the burdens of war and having one’s faith shaken, giving tonight’s bro-tastic (and Best Man-ly) scenes an extra bit of resonance, even calling back to their simpler bond in early days.

"You realize this is the second time we've ended up in a foreign prison together, right?"

Much of “Nanda Parbat” lent to characters seeking out one kindred spirit or another, as Laurel lays into Oliver for his years of duplicity, but finds common ground with Thea and Nyssa for sorrow over Sara’s death. Nyssa’s recollection of Sara’s first encounter with Ra’s proved especially sweet to share with Laurel, while it was also of interest to see Laurel so quickly forgiving Thea, itself another confession that Season 3 was wise not to drag out. By the same token, Thea and Roy found an unexpected bond over taking innocent lives without control, though Thea believes a certain darkness to have already infected her beyond redemption. Not all of tonight’s cliffhangers landed with the urgency intended, though Thea’s confession and invitation to Nyssa should prove an interesting conflict for March’s return.

Felicity too finds her kindred spirit in Ray Palmer, or at least a version of Oliver that recognizes, even invites her capacity to keep worse tendencies in check. Tonight’s A.T.O.M.-centric C-story didn’t do Felicity too many favors, again leaning on her reaction to shirtless superheroes above the more independent characterization we’d come to love, something Badass Digest’s Meredith Borders articulated nicely in a recent essay. Worse than a reductive take on Felicity however, Palmer’s role in Season 3 still feels entirely removed from any of the main storylines, and leaning ever more on Iron Man comparisons, right down to the framework of tonight’s suiting-up montage, whirring gears and all.

A.T.O.M. thus far presents as an impressive bit of technical wizardry, no doubt paralleling Marvel’s 2008 beginnings in the manner Arrow itself first cribbed from Batman Begins on a TV budget, but barring any official announcement of another spinoff, the newest superhero debut still feels marred by irrelevance, and dragging down a major character at that.

We’ve a few weeks off from Arrow to pick up on the multiple cliffhangers established tonight, and while “Nanda Parbat” brought a good deal of excitingly-executed action, and more than a few questions to consider, Arrow Season 3 still suffers from less-than-sturdy foundations. The integration of Ra’s al Ghul has yet to present a viable endgame for the remaining eight episodes, even as a number of core character relationships have found new strength and honesty by its disparate conflicts. The flashbacks too could certainly use some work, as tonight’s past adventures fed little into the present conflicts, and seem void of direction overall.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • There’s an intriguing sort of parallel repetition tonight, as both Oliver and Ray are separately told of their need to sleep, while Oliver twice needs the room cleared to have a conversation with another character. I’m surprised the rest of the team was willing to keep shuttling around.
  • Having Laurel fight Malcolm was an intriguing opportunity, though at some point Season 3 should take care to highlight Laurel actually improving at hand-to-hand combat.
  • So, are we on Oliver getting the Queen fortune back yet? Can’t imagine A.R.G.U.S. will always have a spare plane lying around.
  • Speaking of which, did Amanda Waller really turn on Oliver and Maseo, or is Shrieve maybe working angles of his own?
  • Boy, those League-trained henchmen sure go down easily, no?

Well, did Arrow hit the mark with its 15th Season 3 installment? What did you make of its major revelations? Stay tuned for the latest, and check back next month for our review of Arrow Season 3’s “The Offer” on The CW!