Arrow Season 3 lets loose its 16th installment of the year with “The Offer,” as Oliver returns to Starling to consider Ra’s al Ghul’s proposal, while Laurel bonds with Nyssa, and Quentin breaks away from the Arrow.

Previous installment “Nanda Parbat” saw Diggle and Oliver journeying to the League of Assassins’ headquarters to rescue Malcolm Merlyn, while Ray Palmer completed his A.T.O.M. suit and Thea offered a shocking revelation to Laurel., so what does the 16th episode of Arrow Season 3 bring?

Read on for your in-depth review of everything you need to know about Arrow Season 3, episode 16, “The Offer!”

An infuriating season spent reviewing FOX’s Gotham has me keeping an ear out to producer interviews justifying questionable choices, and many of the recent buzz surrounding Arrow has inspired a similar pause. Prior to “The Offer,” Marc Guggenheim offered a surprising suggestion that the realm of magic and supernatural lent well to Arrow, at least moreso than The Flash’s super-science (I disagree on both fronts), while all the recent announcements about an insane Atom spin-off series feel more and more like Arrow itself has become unrecognizable. Each series it spawns seems to stretch focus to a point that Arrow itself can barely sort out its own identity, let alone Oliver Queen’s

I say all this as a general point of context for reviews, as “The Offer” mostly managed to outgrow an uneven start and pull out some strong choices by the end, even if the season’s shaky foundation undermines a bit of that good work. It’s an intriguing question, to ponder if both of Oliver’s conflicting identities might give way to a third option of becoming another entirely in Ra’s al Ghul, but not one Arrow takes seriously enough to offer any larger point on the season itself.

On the one hand, Ra’s certainly presents a tempting offer that – in a way – resembles death of a different kind. Oliver would have no pain, no worries nor lack of resources, and leave his loved ones behind for a murkier ideal of spreading his vision for justice around the world. Ultimately, that notion arrives at odds with the Oliver we’ve come to know over three seasons as a survivor, one who focuses (with occasional tunnelvision) on the immediate conflicts at hand, the same live-or-die mentality that informed his daily choices and struggles to stay alive during a five-year odyssey.

Turning the Arrow into Starling City’s hero pivoted that ideal toward finding light in the darkness, and while Starling’s overall crime stats may not have fallen, the surviving police officers of tonight’s shootout will return to their families. Felicity especially manages to keep Oliver focused on those smaller victories, and their meaningful exchanges tonight helped cement the offer  to become Ra’s al Ghul more defeat than opportunity.

Trouble is, February’s “Nanda Parbat” (as well as the surrounding interviews) portrayed Oliver’s opportunity to head the League of Assassins as a swerve from previous seasons spent building to showdowns with Malcolm Merlyn or Slade. Ra’s’ proposal made for an interesting twist to be certain, but “The Offer” swiftly turns Oliver’s inevitable rejection about-face into once again making an enemy of Ra’s al Ghul. Placing the Demon’s Head in Arrow garb by the end to start a smear campaign against the vigilante also proved an unexpected twist, but again, not one that seems to serve the season’s goals of sorting out Oliver’s larger issues.

Meanwhile, the "Roy learns to read, reads one book" arc exploded out of the gate tonight.

A bit more effective tonight than Oliver’s non-dilemma were the smaller, more emotional beats with Laurel and Nyssa in conflict with their fathers, particularly the resolution that saw the two women striking up an unlikely friendship, with promises of future training. Quentin’s own anger felt a bit less specific against the Arrow, considering how dangerous he knew his daughter’s line of work to be in the first place, though Paul Blackwell nailed the more quietly intense standoff with Laurel, when the story wasn’t being made to service Oliver’s emotional arc.

Likely the only narrative throughline that couldn’t connect was Thea’s frustration with her own father, reading more like an aimless anger that “The Offer” wasn’t certain what to do with, pushing her arc into the same vague questions of identity that Oliver suffers from, and tabling the idea to lose herself in Roy once more. Arrow Season 3 has had more than a few issues this season with writing strong female arcs apart from stronger men, something Felicity nearly again fell prey to with Oliver’s casual dismissal of her competence while dating Ray, though in that case at least, the strong scenes between she and Oliver prodding one another over his decision to stay made up for it.

Contextually, it’s still maddeningly difficult to see where Arrow Season 3 might be headed overall, and doubly so with its flashbacks (Guys, don’t randomly resurrect Shado. Just … don’t do that at all.), leaving the most I can muster a guarded optimism. “The Offer” made a lot of headway in clearing off the cobwebs for some solid character work, it’s the overall story’s foundation that makes everything feel so shaky.

AND ANOTHER THING…

  • Total missed opportunity for Roy not to reference darting Nyssa as payback for this.
  • So, okay, the Lazarus pit is real. That doesn’t have to be “magic” exactly, and I’d prefer we leave that vague.
  • Oliver made Diggle sit the whole plane ride home without telling why they’d been set free. That was probably awkward.
  • Shouldn’t really hold this against a Vancouver TV budget, but was the Hong Kong botanical garden the same Starling set they’d confronted Malcolm Merlyn earlier in the season?
  • Thea’s belly shirts are back. Carry on.
  • Moratorium on Oliver vanishing into the night sky without his zipline visibly attached to anything.

Well, did Arrow hit the mark with its 16th Season 3 installment? What did you make of its major considerations? Stay tuned for the latest, and check back next month for our review of Arrow Season 3’s “Suicidal Tendencies” on The CW!