While this article is mainly speculation, there will be a couple of cast and producer comments which you may find spoiler-y if you're feeling like being very much in the dark about where Arrow goes in the next eleven episodes; and I'm going to compliment myself and say at this point it looks like pretty solid speculation. So, that said, you've been warned, and speculation to come may be spoilery.
While writing up my weekly news and trailer article, I included a tiny segment on the Lazarus Pit (as I have pretty much every week since Ra's al Ghul's debut, magnificently played by Matt Nable). But this week, as I rewatched season three (which proved to be a lot of fun), that 'little' segment continued to grow until I decided it warranted its own article.
Firstly- does the Lazarus Pit exist in Arrow?
So, let's get one thing out of the way: the Lazarus Pit (indeed, there are potentially multiple) exists on Arrow. I think at this point that's clear. Firstly, let's talk within the show itself. It started way back when we got the casting call.
Of a bygone era? A shaper or history? With the wisdom of the ages, and its greatest secrets? It certainly sounded from the get go like a man who'd been around for a long, long time. Then we got this.
"It's been 67 years since a man challenged me," Ra's said in a line which spoke straight to comic fans everywhere. For a man who looks in his 40s, he must have found some of those really good dermatologists we see in online ads all the time who promise to take ten years off your face. Unless, of course, he was a comic character who's trademark is a Pit which has kept him alive for centuries.
Particularly odd when the casting call called for somebody in their 40s-50s, if they have a line about him being more than 67 years old, no? Then we got his monologue before he smashed (ah, fought) Oliver.
Making him 11 years old when he killed his first man ensures that Ra's is at least 78 years old in this continuity. Now, count for the fact that he has killed 'several thousand' since then, and he seems to be very well traversed in the whole duel business prior to 67 years ago. More than likely Ra's is not just a senior citizen, but that he is literally, all information considered, centuries of years old. So- how does he stay young?
Lazarus Lore, a quick explanation.
Any DC Comics fan knows the answer. The Lazarus Pit. According to lore, Ra's found the first Lazarus Pit centuries ago while working for a sultan. Ra's dug a pit where he discovered the restorative chemical pools that he dubbed Lazarus Pits for their abilities to heal those at death's door, though they were soon revealed to have maddening side effects. It was only later in their history that more Lazarus Pits were revealed across the globe, from the Batcave, to the Australian outback (where Matt Nable- and me!- comes from, if more suburban than outback hehe) to Tibet, where Nanda Parbat is located.
Oddly, for a while a Lazarus Pit could only be used once on an individual, and then a new one would have to be discovered, but Nyssa al Ghul, Ra's daughter (second and more minor to Talia in the comics, but a prominent character in Arrow) discovered a way to make them inexhaustible.
Also of particular note- in "The Resseruction of Ra's al Ghul" Ra's also has access to a "Fountain of Essence." This is essentially the Lazarus Pit, but without the insanity side effects commonly found with it. It merely restores and recuperates its user, and doesn't necessarily bring them back from the dead after a long time. I believe a Pit similar to this- though still called a "Lazarus Pit," and if Stephen Amell is using the word more than likely it's been discussed- will be the kind that appears on Arrow.
Now, some behind-the-scenes confirmation on the Pit:
In an interview with Collider, Stephen Amell, better known as Oliver Queen, said the following:
We have mystical herbs on the show that have healing powers. We’ve seen a Lazarus Pit, although that’s not something that’s going to be used for Oliver. I hope he survives. I like playing him.
So, they exist. But his most curious comment is what prompted my current outbreak of research- we've seen one.
And, just recently- so recently I had to edit it in, when discussing a crossover with Constantine:
"It would be interesting. I was saying this earlier. It would be interesting to cross over with Constantine, only because he knows a lot about the Lazarus Pit, which is something that we've introduced in the show this year."
Consider it confirmed, well and truly.
Did Merlyn or Oliver use it? What other theories exist?
Many theories have ranged as to just how the Lazarus Pit will exist on Arrow. Will it come in the form of medicine, or just a liquid drawn from a pit? Fans, including me, speculated for ages on a part of Malcolm Merlyn's costume which seems out of place- a vial coloured green, worn when he died and afterwards.
We still don't know how Merlyn rose from the dead (it hasn't been addresed since his revival at all, other than a reference to Nanda Parbat), and for those of you sceptical as to how Oliver did it, I'm quite sure (could be wrong, but this is my hunch) there's a bit more to learn about just how he survived, even if it doesn't involve a Lazarus Pit but rather something to do with Alpha and Omega from the flashbacks, common allegories for life and death in the DC Universe, or something referencing the fact Katana is also a master healer in the DC world.
But Stephen said quite clearly- we have seen a Lazarus PIT. Now, unless my vocabulary is very off, that's not a pit around Merlyn's neck.
The Lazarus Pit has perhaps shown up several times- and it is, indeed, a Pit.
Remember, this is speculation. However, rumours have abounded for quite some time that there is indeed a Lazarus Pit on set, and a recent Con saw people commenting on Lazarus Pit concept art for the show. I can't confirm the validity of this, but I have now heard it several times.
I believe the Lazarus Pit has (quite literally) been lurking in the background of Ra's al Ghul's scenes for quite some time. This is where my theories begin to culminate after rewatching many scenes. We start way back at the end of Episode 4.
You see what Ra's rises from? It was a deliberate choice from the beginning to have Ra's al Ghul rise from the water on the director's and writer's part, for sure, given how iconic that is. But one might be forgiven, when we can't really see much, for believing that this basin is just a bath. That is, of course, to a point.
And remember Marc Guggenheim's answer to this question in an interview with comicbookresources.com regarding this very scene.
Q: What kind of discussions has there been about the Lazarus Pits, which is an important part of Ra's al Ghul's mythology?
A: I think the best answer to that question is to direct you to the end of episode 4, and the very first time we saw Ra's. That's the best way I can answer without spoiling things.
Is this our clearest look at it?
Now, come to Episode 9, The Climb, where we've seen by far the most screentime of Ra's and learned the most about him so far (note we have a full episode centric on Ra's, potentially even with flashbacks, to come, and more which will include him, from Nanda Parbat to more than likely The Offer, and of course the finales.) The real reveals in term of Lazarus Pit happen in the monologue above at first glance, but it's in a small, cool scene where we're distracted by fighting that the real hints might have been dropped. This scene, namely, which I could rewatch over and over.
In the far left of that freeze frame for the video you can see the same thing Ra's rises from at the end of The Magician. And, from this angle, it looks very much like a sort of pool, almost like a well. But we'll examine it far more closely in a moment. What's worth immediately noting is how much money the producers have put into this set. It's very intricate, with the windows, lamps, and architecture, as well as the floor pattern, shaped somewhat like a labyrinth. It's something they've obviously intended to reuse and revisit over and over.
This room seems to be Ra's al Ghul's sort of chambers, a major room in Nanda Parbat, though I can't see a bed or whatnot here. But we know what's most important to Ra's- the Lazarus Pit. He would certainly have this grand hall built around it with nothing else in the room to detract from it. That's the thing- this room is otherwise empty in all of its appearances, excluding a bath screen in its first one.
Now, let's get back to the bath thing (will be known as 'pit' henceforth, note the lack of capitalization, as we're not certain)! It seems odd to raise a basin seemingly filled with water and surround it with such decoration for no reason, again, particularly in an otherwise empty room.
What's also worth noting is how old it looks. The rest of the room conforms to a certain type of Tibetan/Arabic, temple-ish architecture. Look at the walls, the floor- they're not the same crumbling, stacked stone as this pit. It's all very smooth, polished, quite intricate. There, though, we essentially see a rock formation in the wall, seemingly natural, and these rocks placed in an ancient looking style around that pool looking area.
Remember the Lazarus Pit's lore. This isn't something Ra's built. I wouldn't be surprised at all if the writers went that Ra's found this pit and then decided to build around it (assuming it is one). The amount of candles also gives it a real shrine kind of appearance and definitely draws focus to it in that empty room. The stairs up the side also indicate that it dips back down again in the middle, and that it's not just a raised altar.
This is when we get into real close analysis and, dare I say, over analyzing stage. But hey, I'm allowed to say it, I'm the one over analyzing. I suggest you watch the actual scene for this, as the photo doesn't quite capture it. I'm referring to the reflection on the wall you can kind of see behind Ra's in the photo. It's that shimmering, pristine water effect you get off really clear water. It's almost greenish, though I wouldn't quite go that far. The main point of this is that it's also almost certainly edited in post production.
Which, of course, is an easy way to prompt you to say "...big deal?" And perhaps that's right. But around this very ancient looking pool/pit, covered in candles and the only thing in this big empty room, it seems a nice finishing touch, especially when Ra's al Ghul was bathing in it, to have it mystically reflect water to make it even more grand and intricate onto the stony wall behind it in post production, when realistically they could have just left it as is.
Note in this photo below of Karl Yune (Maseo) standing in front of the same structure that there appears to be water trickling into it from a background source, and it gives a clearer look at the whole thing; there is some depth in there, for certain, and you appear to be able to see the top of the water.
If I could speculate even further on their nature, I would say that in the Arrow universe I would put money on them looking like this. In the Arrowverse the bright green bubbly water from comics and animation probably wouldn't work or fit with the more grounded (that's not to say hyper realistic, it's just not hugely colorful and mystical) universe that has been built here. More likely it'll be filled with pristine water/liquid, or perhaps it'll have a green tinge to it, with the restorative powers of the Lazarus Pit embedded in them- similar to my earlier speculation that it'd be more like Ra's' Fountain of Essence,' even if it bears the name of the Lazarus Pit.
So, that's my theory! If you've stuck by this far and gone through all of that, even if you skimmed it, I hope I've given you some food for thought and made some good points. Like I said, it's all speculation if it's not an official comment, but I think it has some stock.
Whatever the case, make sure you keep tuning in to Arrow (the ratings are already increasing, which is amazing) and we'll find out in time! Click here if you want next week's trailers for all the DC shows.