With last week’s Corto Maltese culminating with Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law) turning up in Starling City and pointing an arrow in the face of Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell), The Magician picks things up right where we left off. As Nyssa demands to know where Sara Lance (Caity Lotz) is, The Canary having been sent to Starling City by the League of Assassins, Oliver has to break the news of Sara’s demise to her one-time lover. Nyssa reveals that Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) was the reason for Sara’s final arrival in Starling City, so the daughter of The Demon’s Head seeks to track down Merlyn and seek some form of retribution and revenge. As Oliver is firmly in his ‘no killing’ stage, he finds himself at odds with the idea of slaying Merlyn regardless of whether he did indeed fire the fateful arrows into the chest of Sara Lance.
Given The Magician’s prominent use of Nyssa al Ghul and Malcolm Merlyn, the episode gives Arrow the chance to utilise some impressive action sequences, making the most of the training that these characters have (smoke bombs, anyone?). Additionally, we also get to see a rather awesome tear-up between all three of The Arrow, Nyssa, and Merlyn, with hand-to-hand combat, arrows, swords and more all used to dish out damage. And it’s with this element of The Magician that we really see issues developing between Oliver and Nyssa. Both want the same end game, to find Sara’s killer, but both have very different methods in doing this and also have very different ways of dishing out justice. Thing is, Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy), who has become a vastly improved presence this season, seems to be siding with Nyssa and the logic of find Malcolm Merlyn and kill him, making it as slow and painful as possible. Considering Laurel is supposedly a hero-in-waiting herself, one has to presume that this outlook is something she’ll have to work on throughout this current season.
On reflection, The Magician is an episode that centres on people getting their balls out. No, this is merely a figurative term, with none of the principal cast members donning a creepy coat and flashing innocent passers-by at a local park. Indeed, what we mean is that several characters show that they are taking no shit from anybody. In certain instances, Laurel, Nyssa, and Thea Queen/Merlyn (Willa Holland) all show that they’re not ones to be messed with. Whilst the tough-as-nails, no-nonsense approach is pretty much standard for Nyssa, the other characters mentioned have sometimes come across as wet lettuces in previous seasons. And on that note, it’s with the episode’s finale that Oliver Queen drops his pants (again, purely figuratively) and reveals he has the biggest grapefruits on the show. Let’s just say, going forward The Arrow has seemingly made himself the enemy of somebody that can literally destroy his world. If you’ve been keeping up with this season (or read our recent season preview in STARBURST #404 – cheap plug) then you’ll know exactly who we’re referring to. For those who have yet to see The Magician, we’ll leave that topic there.
Hong Kong-wise, Oliver continues with his questioning of what exactly he is being used for, going to the lengths of summoning Amanda Waller (Cynthia Addai-Robinson) and revealing a twist that ties in nicely to what we’ve seen in the previous two seasons of Arrow, including the imminent return/debut of a face that we’ve seen in modern-day Starling City previously. With Oliver under orders from Waller, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in relation to modern goings-on for The Arrow. As ever though, these flashback moments have a certain freshness about them and the growing relationship between Oliver and Maseo (Karl Rune) is another highlight of a show that regular hits all of the right notes.
Performance-wise, this is an episode that largely hinges on John Barrowman's Malcolm Merlyn, with the now-season regular Barrowman delivering in spades. Always untrustworthy, even when seemingly telling the truth, Merlyn is great to have back in the show, and his dynamic with daughter Thea is something that brings up the game of Willa Holland, giving the often-bland Thea some extra layers to her character. Equally, Season 3 has also seen Katie Cassidy's Laurel Lance have more to do, with Cassidy's performances improving as a direct result of that. Often the weak point of seemingly most episodes, Laurel Lance has finally become relevant - hurrah! And as The Arrow, Stephen Amell continues to deliver strong performances week after week. It seems almost redundant to harp on about how well Amell does in the role these days; it's literally just become the standard now. As for a slight gripe, Roy Harper (Colton Haynes) is a character that is in need of, quite simply, more to do; he just seems in limbo right now, taking a back seat to all around him. Here's hoping that (the still to be titled) Arsenal gets more involved in things over the coming weeks.
All in all, The Magician furthers the mystery behind the death of Sara Lance, with a battle ahead for Oliver Queen that could have huge consequences on the future of the Emerald Archer and those around him.
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