This is a recap, so there will be SPOILERS APLENTY. Read on at your own risk.
Oh man, oh Manischewitz, was last night’s Arrow six kinds of surprising. While Tuesday night’s The Flash definitely had its share of heartache and revelation, Oliver Queen had a whole lot more to deal with including, well, a fight that did not go the way he thought it would. The truth about a lot of things came to the surface and I don’t think anybody saw that ending coming the way it did. But, like any good climb, we have to start at the bottom to work our way to the top.
Throughout the episode, entitled “The Climb,” we get shots of Oliver free-climbing the side of a cliff which will lead him to the inevitable ending. However, the trouble really began 48 hours earlier when, after delivering a goon to Captain Lance outside of the SCPD Christmas party, the Arrow is attacked by members of the League of Assassins, whom he initially thought was Malcolm Merlyn. Nyssa is still pretty pissed that Oliver hasn’t delivered Sara’s murderer to the League, even though he’s been working pretty darn hard at it. She tells him that, in accordance with League rules, if he doesn’t deliver, the ninjas will kill 50 people in Starling City to send a message. 50 people a day, I think they even said. So he’s going to have to work fast. We also find out that his flashback friend Masseo is a member of the League, working with Nyssa, so it’s pretty clear something bad happened in Hong Kong.
Laurel is visiting Sara’s grave, which apparently she does quite often, when Thea happens upon her, having just visited her mom’s grave. Thea wonders why Laurel would visit the grave of someone who’s still alive, so Laurel, to my utter shock, just tells her that Sara really is dead, that she was murdered by some unknown person, and that she can’t tell Oliver. And Thea’s totally okay with this. That’s… pretty nuts.
At Palmer Technologies, Ray cheerfully walks up to Felicity and starts talking about smoothies. Felicity is, understandably, irritated with him and he knows it. She starts to leave and he asks if it’s because of the kiss they shared. She has no problem with that; it was the way he just took off afterwards that’s the issue. Before he can explain, she gets a 911 from Oliver and has to leave. For work. “But you’re AT work,” replies Ray.
In the Arrow Cave, Oliver is freaking out that the League is going to murder people, which to be fair is a pretty valid fear to have. Caitlin over at STAR Labs still hasn’t finished the DNA test from Sara’s arrow, though, so they still don’t have an answer. Oliver and Diggle talk about how there’s no contingency plan for something like this, and the city can’t just fall back into fear and ruin. A little later, the test results come back and, DUN DUN DUN, the DNA on the arrows belongs to Oliver, matching 11 out of 12 whatever-they’re-calleds. Oliver is now positive the culprit is Malcolm Merlyn setting him up. Even though the was assumed to be in Corto Maltese, he could very easily have come back for that.
Laurel’s shiny veneer of holding it together slowly starts to crack when her mother, Dinah, comes to town for the holidays. Dinah notices almost immediately that Laurel tenses up whenever Sara’s name is mentioned. Actually, Capt. Lance must be some kind of terrible detective not to see that she gets hella wiggy when they talk about where the youngest Lance might be. Having coffee with her mother later, Laurel AGAIN cracks and tells a glassy-eyed Dinah what happened, and that they can’t tell Quentin lest he lose it and spiral toward self-destruction. Dinah makes her promise to make whomever’s responsible for Sara’s death pay.
Speaking of that… Felicity determines that a specific charter plane went to Corto Maltese, then flew around all over the place before finally coming back to Starling. Arrow and Arsenal go and aggressively interrogate the pilot who initially balks but then provides security footage of not only Malcolm Merlyn getting off the plane, but also Thea. Why would she lie? To Diggle, Roy, and Felicity, they think this means Thea’s the one who killed Sara. It makes sense given what Felicity found regarding Sara’s wound pattern. Oliver won’t hear of it, though. His sister isn’t a murderer. Later, he asks Thea about it at home and she denies ever having left Corto Maltese since May. More lies?
Ray tracks Felicity’s phone (creeper) to Verdant where he wants to apologize. She’s still pretty ticked but Ray makes a compelling case. He had a fiance last year who was murdered by the mirakuru army while Ray himself watched. He swore that he’d never kiss another woman, and he hadn’t, until he was kissing Felicity that night. I mean, I don’t think there’s a better explanation than that for how he acted. Your move, Smoak.
We then cut to the fictional country whose name I can’t find to the temple of the League of Assassins where, for training, Ra’s al Ghul makes a group of ninjas attack him so that he can murder them. It must be fun for him. Nyssa arrives and tells him of Oliver’s non-compliance. The Demon’s Head tells her to ready the dogs of war, or whatever cliche he spouts.
Felicity convinces Oliver that maybe he’s not the one who should be talking to Thea about what happened. He Arrows-up and breaks into the apartment to ask her about Malcolm Merlyn. She feigns fear for half a second before tossing broken glass at him, throwing some kicks his way, and jumping out the window. Sooooo, clearly she’s been doing some training.
Later at Verdant, Malcolm Merlyn finds Oliver who pounces on the villain and swears to kill him. However, Merlyn has sent Oliver a very special video to his phone. It’s footage of Thea firing the arrows that killed Sara. Why would he do this? It’s simple, actually: leverage. He knows the only way to get the League off his ass is if Ra’s al Ghul is dead, and the knows the only way Oliver would ever fight him is to protect Thea. Even if Oliver tells the League that Merlyn orchestrated the murder, they’d still kill Thea since she was the triggerwoman. And she doesn’t even know she did it, because Malcolm drugged her with a forgetful-root.
So, Oliver has no choice. He goes to the League and tells them it was he who killed Sara and challenges Ra’s al Ghul to a duel, as is the custom of the League. They give him 12 hours to put his affairs in order before heading to a neutral location somewhere.
Ray Palmer shows Felicity what he’s been working on: a method for turning things small, so they can fit in the palm of his hand, perhaps. He shows her an experimental suit design he’s been working on which he calls the Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism…or ATOM. He wants Felicity’s help in saving the city. “Why does this keep happening to me?” she mutters to herself.
Oliver says farewell to Thea, basically, then goes to the Arrow Cave to say goodbye to Diggle and Roy, and then Felicity walks in and the other two peace out. She’s terrified not that Oliver can’t beat Ra’s, but that he’s not going to kill him if he gets the chance. He doesn’t know what he’ll do, but he does know that he’ll do anything to save his sister…and that he loves Felicity. Too little too late, buddy!
He climbs up the mountain and gets to the plateau where Masseo once again tells Oliver how much he’d rather not have to watch him get murdered. Nyssa instructs Oliver to choose his weapons, and he picks a pair of swords. Ra’s al Ghul appears and begins talking about his first kill at the age of 11, then the several thousand people he’s killed since. He has no weapons, but tells Oliver he’ll just take his when he’s ready. After staring each other down for a moment, they begin…
And Oliver gets his ass handed to him. It’s quick. Almost too quick. Oliver loses both of his weapons and continues to get hit time and again. Ra’s is about to deliver the killing blow, saying that Oliver should be proud he lasted as long as he did, when Oliver springs one final– nope, Ra’s counters that one too, slicing him in the side and punching him in the throat, sending the hero to his knees. And then, unceremoniously, Oliver gets run through with the sword and kicked off the cliff. THE END.
Now, obviously Oliver’s not going to be dead because A) he’s the main character and 2) it’s only the midseason mark, but HOT DAMN. I didn’t see that happening that way at all. Malcolm Merlyn had to have known this was going to happen. He HAD to have. It really illustrates just how dangerous Ra’s al Ghul is. Holy crap, you guys.
Oh, right, I guess we should talk about…
In Hong Kong, Oliver and Masseo torture/interrogate a guy who stole a specific drug, the same one Merlyn later used on Thea, for China White, who then seeks revenge by kidnapping Masseo’s wife Tatsu. That’s it.
Next year is going to be INSANE. How’s Ollie getting out of this one? I guess we’ll find out when the next episode, “Left Behind,” airs January 22nd.