For those of you not watching the CW's Arrow, allow me to give you a brief crash course on the second half of season 2: the League of Assassins has come to Starling City, and they're after Sara Lance. Now, you might be asking yourself, "wait, the League of Assassins? Isn't that a Batman thing? And who the heck is Sara Lance? What happened to Dinah?" Well, friends, here's the thing: first of all, never say the B-word in the presence of Oliver Queen. This is the world of Arrow, and Oliver is basically the new Bruce Wayne.
And about Sara Lance. As it turns out, in the Arrow world, Dinah has been downgraded to Laurel (as in Dinah Laurel Lance) and brushed off to the side. Her younger sister, Sara, is currently working as Black Canary. Sara, as it turns out, is a member of the League of Assassins, and now they're in Starling City to get her back.
Also, they're after Malcom Merlyn, but this article isn't about him.
So Sara comes back to Starling City, realizes her death has left the family traumatized, and has to deal with the fact that the League of Assassins is after her. So what's a girl to do? Make out with Nyssa Al Ghul, that's what.
Much to the shock of viewers (and Oliver, who was watching from the shadows), Nyssa Al Ghul comes to Starling City not in search of Oliver Queen, but in search of her lover, Sara Lance. And after appear before Sara in a trail of ribbons (I'm not joking) Nyssa greets Sara with a dagger at her side, but opts instead to kiss her instead of stab her. Ladies, am I right? So unpredicable.
As Nyssa and Sara break their kiss, she tells Oliver that Sara will be coming with her, got it, hetero boy? Well, maybe I added that last bit, but it's pretty much implied. Nyssa and Ollie protectively growl over Sara, and at some point she steps in the middle like "guys, seriously? I'm right here."
It gets better: Nyssa and Sara take a walk by the pier, and Nyssa again tries to coax Sara into coming home, first with her big brown puppy eyes,
and then with a less friendly route. Nyssa reminds Sara that she saved her life, and that Sara made a vow with the League of Assassins that she needs to keep. "We both know the real reason why you came here," Sara points out, and Nyssa makes more heartbreakingly adorable faces. "I wasn't with you because you saved me," Sara continues, "I was with you because I loved you."
As it turns out, using the past tense was not a good idea. For all of her love, Nyssa is still an Al Ghul, and apparently the best way to get someone back into the League of Assassins is by kidnapping and threatening their mother. Not cool, Nyssa. Then it turns out that two can play the emotionally manipulative game: upon arriving to rescue her mother, Sara poisons herself, and a terrified Nyssa releases her from the League. Pretty dramatic, I know. But let's take a look at the big picture.
The relationship between Sara and Nyssa had not been announced before this episode, as many queer relationships on television often are. It seems, at times, that representation is something of a publicity stunt, which is completely disrespectful to the people that are supposed to be represented. And while it is arguable that this relationship was written in for shock value, it was actually handled with a surprising tenderness.
Nyssa Al Ghul is borderline psychopathic, single minded, and scarily determined to get what she wants. But when push comes to shove, her love for Sara outweighs her desire to have her. In a show where 99% of the romantic relationships are "Oliver Queen and __" it is refreshing to see not just another relationship, but a relationship between two women.
Of course, this is Oliver's show, and Sara does end up with him at the end of the episode, but the relationship between Sara and Nyssa has not been completely erased, nor has Sara's queerness; she has called Felicity "cute" on several occasions, and to pointedly put in a comment like that following a coming out episode means that the writers are still willing to acknoledge that Sara is attracted to women.
Furthermore, the relationship with Nyssa, while first occuring under Oliver's gaze, is not actually done in a way that is supposed to appeal to the male gaze. The relationship between Sara and Nyssa is written in a way that focused on their emotional connection, however frayed and messed up it may be. And while Nyssa is presented to us as an antagonist, she is not shown to be heartless. In fact, one could argue that Sara is her weak spot.
This isn't written off as an experimental phase, or as a mistake; Sara loved Nyssa, and Nyssa is still very clearly in love with Sara. While Arrow is far from perfect, it's nice to see a woman that was interested not in Oliver Queen, but in another woman. I'm curious to see if Nyssa's story ends with her releasing Sara from the League, or if she and Sara will have another reunion. I, for one, hope that Nyssa and Sara figure it out. I'm kind of getting sick of everyone being in love with Ollie.