Nyssa al Ghul visits Starling City for personal reasons, which was the first clue that she didn’t come on orders from her father. Nyssa defeats a legion of airport security agents in her grand entrance and introduction to the audience. Oliver has faced many talented fighters but never an al Ghul. “Heir to the Demon” concerns Sara’s relationship with Nyssa and her family more than it concerns Oliver’s one fight with Nyssa. Sara and Nyssa work through their past relationship together, and, well, Sara works through quite a lot by the time she and Oliver make out and undress one another in the final scene of the episode.
The Lances are at the center of “Heir to the Demon.” The pressing matter in the present is intercut with scenes from the past, days before Sara snuck away with Oliver on the Queen’s Gambit. Flashbacks reveal a general scene of familial bliss. Quentin and Dinah have their lives together and in order. Laurel is about to apply to law school and looking for apartments with Oliver. Sara surprises the family with a weekend visit that’s really a cover for her trysts with Oliver. I know the flashbacks were meant to show what’s changed in the last six years because of Sara’s decision to leave with Oliver. A totally together family, healthy and loving, came apart. Laurel struggles to get through days without prescription drugs and alcohol, and she struggles more with those two when getting through the day. Quentin’s been bumped down to beat cop. Dinah’s frayed. The flashbacks merely offer glimpses at what was. Short scenes try to show, and tell, enough to clearly contrast what’s been with what is. The problem is the shortness of the scenes. Sara decides to leave with Oliver because of a silly fight with Laurel. (I think Quentin spends the entire flashback cooking.) Last season and half of this city made clear what the flashbacks tried to further clarify. Flashbacks to the island would’ve been a better choice, but no island story would line up thematically with what went on in the A story.
Nyssa poisoned Laurel to get Sara’s attention, and to get her back to Starling City where she’d force her to return with her to the League of Assassins. Their past romantic relationship was surprising, which was a thoughtful choice because it subverted my expectations about why Nyssa came to Starling City. Nyssa wanted Sara back for reasons of love. Reasons of love make a mess of things. Someone’s personal motivations or feelings or what-have-you always complicate matters more than resolves. Dinah’s kidnapping, Laurel’s poisoning, and other threats to her family are drastic steps to get Nyssa her girl back, her girl she saved from starvation and nursed back to health, who once loved her with the same passion and intensity. Sara challenges Nyssa’s love for her, too, by forcing her hand as Nyssa forced hers. Laurel was poisoned with snake venom. A fellow assassin uses a higher volume of venom to kill himself when pressed for answers by Oliver about Dinah. Sara swallows a full tube of venom, effectively killing herself to save her family.