- NOTE: This article is about the incarnation of Ra's al Ghul from the Arrowverse. The mainstream version can be found here: Ra's al Ghul.
|“||I was 11 years old when I killed my first man. I remember the look in his face when the light went out behind his eyes. Such a sudden change, almost imperceptible, between life and death. And I felt ashamed. I had stolen from that man the most precious gift of all - life. But I also felt something else - pride, because I had taken up arms against someone who sought to do ill against my family. And I realized what I had done was necessary. You see, I have replaced evil with death. And that is what the League exists to do. And I have killed several thousand more men since then. And the world is better for it.||„|
|~ Ra's reminiscing to Oliver Queen the first time he killed before their first duel.|
Ra's al Ghul is a major antagonist in Arrow. He is an unseen antagonist in Season 2, the main antagonist of Season 3, and a posthumous antagonist/mentioned character in the following seasons. He was the leader of the League of Assassins and also the father of Talia and Nyssa al Ghul. He later makes a guest appearance in an episode of Season 1 of DC's Legends of Tomorrow.
He was portrayed by Matthew Nable.
About "Ra's al Ghul" (title)
In Arrow, "Ra's al Ghul" (Arabic: رأس الغول Raʾs al-Ġūl; Demon's Head) is the title of an otherwise unnamed man who was the leader of the League of Assassins. This title applies to all Ra's al Ghul successors, but Oliver Queen was chosen to be the next Ra's al Ghul because he survived a battle against the current Ra's al Ghul. Whoever holds the title of Ra's al Ghul leads the League of Assassins and has access to supernatural waters which can heal wounds and grant the user the ability to live for much longer than the normal human lifespan. The water's effects, however, are not permanent and lose their effect on the user after an unknown solid period of time, requiring the current Ra's al Ghul to find a successor before his time runs out.
The man known as "Ra's", who appeared in the series' third season, had inherited the title from a predecessor. He was also the husband of a late unnamed woman, the father of a late unnamed boy, a late unnamed girl, and Nyssa al Ghul, and the best friend and former rival of Damien Darhk.
So far, there have been at least three men who held this title. The holder of the title became Malcom Merlyn until the title was taken from him by Nyssa and Oliver and the League was disbanded.
At the age of 11, this unnamed person, who would later known as Ra's al Ghul, killed a man for the first time because the man intended to harm his family. He felt ashamed that he had taken the life of a person, but also proud because he stood up to someone who threatened his family. He justified what he had done as necessary by claiming he had "replaced evil with death", a sentiment that later became the goal of the League of Assassins. Ra's went on to kill "several thousand more men", and believed the world was better off for it. At some point, Ra's was requested by his predecessor who held the same title to become the next Ra's al Ghul, a request he initially declined.
Ra's went on to live a blissful life, having two children with his wife. One day, his predecessor came to his home and told Ra's to leave his family without a goodbye, or watch them tortured and killed. Ra's chose the latter, a decision he greatly regretted.
In 1854, Ra's happened upon an illusionist in Vienna, becoming mystified with his tricks. Nearly half a century later, he came across the man again, but the man was withered and old.
Around 1947, someone challenged Ra's to a trial by combat, presumably to he death, with Ra's coming out victorious.
Malcom Merlyn joined the group, but eventually released from his bonds to the League by Ra's, a decision he later regretted.
Retrieval of Sara Lance
Ra's sent a messenger to Sara Lance, ordering her return, though she refused and killed the messenger when he declined to report to Ra's that he had not found her, as she wanted. Around a week later, he sent Al-Owal and a team of assassins to bring Sara back by force, only to lose his team to both Sara and Oliver Queen.
Ra's was later contacted by Moira Queen after Malcolm mentioned that he went to Nanda Parbat. After learning Malcolm was alive, it was revealed that Ra's wanted to kill him for breaking the League's code of honor with The Undertaking.
Ra's sent Nyssa and another League member to once again try to bring Sara Lance back to Nanda Parbat, though Nyssa ultimately released Sara from the League.
Meeting Mesi Natifah
Sometime later, however, Sara Lance returned to the League, to keep her family out of danger.
After he'd heard of Khem-Adam and his extremist sect Onslaught, Ra's wished to speak with Khem-Adam. He sent Nyssa and Sara Lance to retrieve him from his base in the Amon-Shu Caves of Kahndaq. They arrived back, with Khem-Adam and a girl named Mesi Natifah. Wishing to give Mesi vengeance, he gave her his sword to use on Khem-Adam.
The hunt for an heir
When Nyssa arrived back at Nanda Parbat from a visit to Starling City, she confirmed Malcolm Merlyn was still alive. Ra's informed his daughter that Malcolm would face consequences for crimes against the League's code. Ra's asked about Oliver Queen, to which he learned of Oliver's oath to protect Malcolm at any cost. Due to this, Ra's took it to mean Oliver was courting war with the League.
Following Sara's death, Ra's sent a squad of assassins, led by Nyssa and Sarab, to capture Oliver. They informed Oliver that he would be given 48 hours to find Sara's killer or the League would begin killing innocent civilians until the killer was caught. After the time was up, Ra's and various League members traveled to Starling City in preparation. However, Oliver met with them, falsely claiming to have killed Sara upon her request. By League law, he was entitled to a trial by combat, and so Ra's accepted the duel, allowing Sarab to tell him of the neutral meeting place.
The two met atop a mountain sometime later. They both removed their shirts, going with tradition, and Oliver picked up two swords against Ra's who was bare-handed. The latter discussed his first kill at age 11, feeling proud that he had replaced evil with death, which was what the League striven to do. They began fighting, Ra's dodging each attack with his hands behind his back, and soon disarming Oliver and fighting with the blades. Ra's easily parried Oliver's strikes and promptly cut him. He led him back to the edge of the mountain. Impressed that he had lasted longer than most, Oliver was given a chance to steal back the blade, however, Ra's quickly caught the blade as Oliver stabbed at him, disarming him once again. He promptly stabbed Oliver in the chest, saying a quick prayer before pushing the dying Oliver over the edge, and tossing the sword into the ground as a grave for Oliver.
Ra's was confronted by his daughter, Nyssa who had just discovered Oliver survived and demanded Oliver be killed. After the League captured, Malcolm, Ra's watched as Malcolm beg for mercy, before sending Malcolm off to be tortured. When Oliver made an attempt to rescue Malcolm, Ra's locked Oliver in, along with Diggle. Later, Ra's asked if Oliver was willing to be his successor as Ra's al Ghul.
As Ra's continued to explain why Oliver should take his place, Oliver denied the request, and Ra's allowed Oliver to leave with Diggle and Malcolm. Sometime after their departure, Nyssa returned to the palace only to berate on why Malcolm was still alive. Ra's explained that Nyssa had only wanted Malcolm dead in revenge of Sara's death and that he had let them go as a sign of good faith to Oliver who will become his heir. Nyssa got enraged by his decision to make Oliver his heir and tried to kill him after which he easily disarmed her. Ra's puts Nyssa off, saying that Oliver surviving a fair duel with him merits the vigilante the right to take her father's place; and he never did approve and will never approve of the feelings of his daughter.
Sometime after Murmur's arrest, Ra's arrives in Starling City dressed as the Arrow, and quickly killed Murmur's remaining men leaving only one alive to spread the word. To force Oliver to take his offer he made Maseo and other assassins dress up as The Arrow and kill criminals.
After Maseo killed Celia Castle and failed to kill Felicity Smoak, he met with Oliver and told him to accept the title of heir to the demon or he would spend the rest of his life in a cage, claiming he wasn't going to capture Oliver when he challenged it but a police helicopter soon arrived. He later sent Maseo to intercept and capture Quentin Lance and brought him to Ra's where he revealed The Arrow's identity as Oliver Queen.
Oliver Queen got arrested but got free when Roy turned himself in as The Arrow to set Oliver free. After Roy faked his death, Ra's targeted Thea. He appeared in her apartment and asked her if she knew who he was. After she said Oliver would kill him, he said Oliver would beg him to become the next Demon's Head. He caught the knife Thea threw at him and the two got into a fight. Ra's effortlessly dodged her strikes after which he slammed her through a table. Drawing his sword, he then impaled her, and said a quick prayer, after which he left the apartment.
Birth of Al Sah-him
Ra's greeted Oliver with his entire league as a desperate Oliver arrived at Nanda Parbat holding a deceased Thea. After Thea's resurrection, Ra's expected Oliver to hold his end of the deal. Later, an upset Felicity approached Ra's and told him she doesn't care about the prophecy. Felicity told Ra's he didn't know what love was, though Ra's told Felicity about his past life. Ra's told Felicity he is offering a chance for Oliver to have a proper goodbye, one that he never had a chance to do. After a failed escape attempt by Felicity, Malcolm, and Diggle, Ra's asked Oliver who assisted them, though Sarab quickly came clean and revealed he killed three of the league members. Ra's told Sarab he won't punish him for Maseo's actions and spared him for his loyalty. Ra's went on to mark Oliver with a mark and started to cleanse Oliver of his personality so all that remained was Al Sah-him.
The next weeks Ra's personally trained Oliver and helped him improve his swordmanship and combat skills. He used isolation and brainwashing techniques to make Oliver forget about his past and he began to accept his new identity and name. Exposing him to a herb Oliver started to hallucinate and believed a captured intruder was in fact his friend John Diggle. Ra's ordered him to kill him and Oliver quickly overpowered the intruder in a swordfight and killed him after which he realized the intruder was not John.
Impressed with the loyalty of Oliver Ra's showed him a few ruins as he told him he and Damien Darhk were like brothers and both candidates to become the new head, of the demon. After Ra's was chosen he was ordered to kill Damien, however he hesitated and Damien escaped and started his own organisation H.I.V.E.. Ra's explained to Oliver how Damien had attempted to buy the earthquake device and was responsible for multiple crimes. This was a direct result of Ra's having doubted in killing him. Ra's then told Oliver he does not want this for Oliver so he ordered Oliver to take out his rival for the title Heir of the Demon.
After Oliver captured Nyssa and brought him to her he complimented Oliver. He recalled how Nyssa used to steal food when she was young, but that she had never been able to hide things from her. He searched Nyssa her weapons and found the Omega virus. Ra's told her he would remember her as the warrior she once was, Nyssa replied that she was not afraid of him. Ra's ordered Oliver to kill her but stopped him at the last second. He mentioned Nyssa had been defeated by Oliver and was no longer a threat. He told both of them they would marry and Nyssa would become the bride of the demon.
Ra's explained to Oliver that the ruined village he had shown him was his former home. He mentioned that to become the new head of the demon one had to whipe out his former home. Just like he had did and the former Ra's before him had whipped out Alexandrie. Ra's explained that he would unleash the Omega Virus on Starling City. Ra's recalled how Maseo had come to him and offered him the Omega Virus when he wanted to join him. Maseo reported a plane had been readied to spread the virus.
Ra's visited Nyssa and explained to her how he had met his concubine Amina Raatko. He gave Nyssa a necklace he had given to her, and she then gave it to him to give it to Nyssa for her wedding day. Nyssa refused and Ra's told her she would marry Oliver or she would suffer like thousand deaths.
When John Diggle, Malcolm Merlyn, Laurel, Felicity and Ray Palmer blew up his plane a huge fight started in which Maseo and many assassins got killed. Ra's confronted them and made his men capture them. He explained to them the plane was just a distraction to see if there were any traitors reporting to them. Team Arrow made it appear like Maseo had been the traitor.
Omega Virus and Death
Ra's talked to Malcolm who told him Oliver had been the one betraying him. Ra's called Oliver who told him that was not the case and he was devoted to the League. Ra's went to Team Arrow and threw in the Omega Virus as they screamed for Oliver to help. He and Oliver walked away as they left them to die.
Ra's, Oliver, Nyssa and a squad of assassins departed on a plane. Oliver woke up and Ra's told him there are dreams of desire, temptation and truth. Oliver explained that he dreamed of rebirth as Head of the Demon. Ra's told him they would destroy Starling and then he would get the ring that would allow him to command the League. The plane started to shake and the pilot told them the plane had been sabotaged. Enraged Ra's blamed Nyssa. Oliver told him it was his doing. Oliver handed Nyssa a sword and she started to fight the assassins. Ra's mentioned to Oliver he had given him his holy mission. Oliver told him he had one already. The two fought and Ra's managed to knock down Oliver. Nyssa killed his assassins but Ra's subdued her and Oliver and promised them he would destroy the city and then hunt them forever. He then escaped from the crashing plane by parachute.
Ra's tracked down his rival Damien Darkh to a hotel in Starling. However, he had already escaped and Ra's noticed Oliver and his team closing in on his assistent. Ra's called the assistent and then shot him. He taunted Oliver and told him he would spread the virus and destroy the city.
Ra's then send a messenger to Oliver to tell him he would meet him so they could have a duel to finish this. Ra's met Oliver and mentioned how he would win either way. If Oliver would kill him he would become the Head of the Demon and if he would win his city would die. Ra's saw that Oliver used the sword he had been impaled with. Ra's and Oliver engaged each other in a swordfight. Ra's kept the upperhand the entire fight and ended up knocking Oliver down and destroying his sword in one strike. Ra's mentioned that thousands of men would mourn his death if he would die. He then attempted to strike down Oliver. Oliver disarmed him with the same move Ra's had used to defeat him and ended up impaling his chest. Oliver told him the men would bow to the new Ra's al Ghul. Oliver then says the same prayer Ra's did. Seemingly proud, Ra's hands him the ring and then collapses to the ground, finishing his empire of terror. His death led to Malcolm becoming the leader of the League of Assassins.
Visitors in 1960
After Sara, Kendra and Ray Palmer and have been stranded in the '50s (Legends of Tomorrow), Sara eventually leaves the two and returns to Nandar Parbat. Years later (only for the stranded ones), the time beacon Ray built draws back the Waverider and with almost the complete team reunited, they decide to go for Sara.
During her time in Nanda Parbat, Ras deviced a mix of herbs which stop Sara's bloodlust. After watching her train, Ra's congratulates Sara on her progress. At night, Rip and his team infiltrate Nanda Parbat to save Sara but are captured and about to be executed for trespassing. Appealing to the ancient traditions of the League, Rip demands a trial by combat. Ra's agrees to the trial and sends Sara in as his champion. Rip nominates Kendra as his champion and the two women start their duel.
Chronos later enters the fortress during the trial by combat between Sara and Kendra. The Legue's assassins prove to be no match for his advanced technology and he kills many of them on his way in. With no choice left, Ra's frees his prisoners to make sure the League can continue to exist. Claiming that as they brought Chronos here, they should be the ones to defeat him, Ra's leaves Rip's team to fight and defeat Chronos. After they have defeated Chronos, Ra's releases Sara from the league. Before leaving, Sara tells Ra's to make sure that in October 2008, his daughter is near the coast of Lian Yu. Ra's asks why he would send Talia on such a journey but Sara answers that she means the daughter that has yet to be born and that she's sure that he would name her Nyssa.
Ra's has a cold demeanor. According to Malcolm Merlyn, Ra's is ruthless, as he will not hesitate to kill his enemies, though despite this, he has a personal sense of honor. He is also shown to be capable of respecting his opponents and even holding them in honor, as shown in his commending Oliver's fighting skills and praying for him after stabbing him. After Nyssa told Ra's that Sara was apparently killed by Malcolm, he paid no heed and only focused on punishing him for his role in the Undertaking, saying he never saw Sara as a true member of the League of Assassins. Despite this, he seems to care for Sara because of Nyssa's feeling for her as he carried out the League's tradition of killing 50 people a day until Oliver reveals the one who killed Sara, although it is very likely that he knew as long as Sara's death was unavenged, it would distract his daughter from her duties to the League. Ra's stated his reason for not seeing Sara as a true member of the League was because he knew she wasn't suited to kill people with her life and did not approved her relationship with Nyssa because he believed it would end in Nyssa's heart break.
He is also known for being impatient, refusing to impose his will after he speaks once. Despite having a somewhat calm and stoic demeanor, Ra's is capable of being surprised; as when he first looked upon Oliver's youthfulness, the only thing he could say at the moment was "You're just a boy". He said that he feels pride for the thousands of people he had killed as genuinely believes the world is better off with these men dead and in that way he created a better world. He said that this is the purpose of the League of Assassins.
Despite his ruthlessness, he seems to have somewhat of a soft side. This was shown when he granted Oliver a trial by combat and let Oliver pretend to be the one who killed Sara despite knowing full well he did not kill her and that Oliver was simply trying to keep the people in his city from dying. This made Ra's take a liking to Oliver. He also told Oliver in a soft manner that he shouldn't be afraid to die as death claims everyone sooner or later rather than just killing him in a ruthless manner. Ra's does seem to not entirely be ruthless in general. His ruthless punishment of Malcolm Merlyn is only out of obligation to the League's code, claiming he'd take no pleasure in making Merlyn suffer. He also released Malcolm from his obligations from the League under unknown circumstances on the condition Malcolm would honor the League's code of honor.
As noted by Malcolm Merlyn, Ra's' custom after killing an opponent in a death duel is to leave his weapon in the arena of combat, as a marker to honor the opponent.
He is also intelligent and calculating, Ra's knew the moment after he had captured Malcolm, that Oliver would come and try to rescue the latter, actually planning to use this to request Oliver to succeed him. He let Oliver, Malcolm and Diggle go while predicting coming events for Oliver to make him overthink his offer. Ra's apparently doesn't request people to do things but he orders them. This was shown when he started killing people in Starling City with The Arrow's tools to frame him to make the "request" to be Ra's al Ghul more appealing.
- Peak of human physical condition: As a highly skilled fighter and assassin, Ra's is shown to be in top physical condition. Ra's is shown to be very quick, able to catch a sudden sword strike Nyssa used in an attempt to kill him.
- League of Assassins training: Being the leader of the League, Ra's would have the highest level of training any assassin could.
- Master hand-to-hand combatant/Martial artist: As the leader of the League of Assassins, Ra's is highly proficient and experienced in unarmed combat. During his death match against Oliver Queen, Ra's calmly faced his opponent unarmed, he dodged sword strikes with his hands behind his back and overwhelmed Oliver with multiple precise strikes before he disarmed him. He also mentioned, despite Oliver having fought him for a couple minutes, he survived longer than most of his opponents.
- Master swordsman: As the leader of the League of Assassins, Ra's is a master swordsman. During a fight against eight men, he easily defeated them in just ten seconds killing them. Against Oliver in their death match, Ra's was able to repeatedly catch Oliver off guard and slash him.
- Master archer: Ra's is shown to be a master archer, he is very proficient in archery, when he posed as The Arrow.
- Genius-level intellect: Ra's was able to predict the stealth attack on Nanda Parbat, and trapped Oliver and Diggle when they came for Malcolm. Ra's is also a great leader, as he has led the organization for an unknown number of years with success since he accepted the offer of becoming the next leader of the League of Assassins, from the organization's previous leader. He is able to recognize the internal conflicts in people and can use that to his advantage. He was able to predict the adversity of Oliver and used this while attempting to convince him to take his offer. Ra's later performed killings dressed as The Arrow to frame Oliver and make the city turn against him.
- High tolerance for pain: Ra's was able to catch a sword strike by Oliver during their duel, an act which shocked the latter, with his bare hands.
- Multilingual: Ra's is capable of fluently speaking English and Arabic.
- Stealth: Ra's was able to appear in Thea's loft without her being aware of it.
- Sword: Ra's carries a decorated, double edged sword as his side arm.
- The Arrow suit: Ra's wore a suit identical to Oliver Queen's while posing as The Arrow.
- Customized Oneida Kestrel compound bow: Ra's used a bow identical to Oliver Queen's bow while posing as The Arrow.
- Customized hunting arrows: While posing as the Arrow, Ra's used a number of green arrows identical to Oliver's and used them to kill Murmur's men.
- Quiver: He wore a quiver while wearing the Arrow suit to carry arrows.
- Ra's al Ghul, along with his daughters, are normally portrayed as enemies of Batman and his associates. However, his organization, the League of Assassins, has a history with Green Arrow and Black Canary.
- This is the second live action portrayal of the character, following the Nolanverse adaption and preceding with Gotham's adaption.
- Matt Nable's casting as Ra's was met with notable controversy from fans. In light of Liam Neeson suggesting he would be happy to reprise the role (and the follow up reveal that Neeson was offered the role but had to turn it down being given little attention) many criticized the actions of the casting department when Stephen Amell announced it. Nable's debut in "The Magician" went largely unnoticed by critics due to only a very small amount of screentime, though fans were critical. Despite all of that, following the airing of "The Climb", Nable was heavily praised by fans and critics alike, many suggesting he held up to Neeson's portrayal of the character.
- Similar to his DC comic version, Ra's al Ghul is not his birth name. However, the DC comic version actually assumes the identity of Ra's al Ghul whereas the show depicts the name as a title given to whoever is the current leader of the League of Assassins. Also, unlike the DC comic version, there has been more than one Ra's al Ghul.
- In the comics, Ra's arranged exactly the sort of alliance he proposed to Al Sah-him between Batman and his eldest daughter, Talia.
- Ra's al Ghul is the first Arrow main villain to die in the third season.