The holidays have come to Starling City, but not all is merry and bright. The League is in town, and they want answers about what happened to Sara. Ra’s al Ghul is out of patience. In a rather less than friendly tête-à-tête, Ra’s informs Oliver that he has 48 hours to bring in Sara’s killer, or the League will send Oliver’s old friend Maseo to start “cleansing” the city. 50 innocents will die each day until Sara’s killer is brought to justice.
Caitlyn is able to give Team Arrow a leg up by sending over the analyzed DNA from the arrows that killed Sara. It’s not as helpful as they were hoping, though, as the sample leads directly to Oliver (or at least someone who shares a whole lot of genetic markers with him). Oliver is convinced that Merlyn planted the evidence. Felicity’s magical hacking abilities confirm that someone flew from Corto Maltese to Starling on the night before Sara’s murder. Security cam footage obtained from a now-terrified pilot shows that Malcolm wasn’t the only Merlyn on that plane. (You can see where we’re going with this, right? Because the writers really, really wanted you to catch on early.)
While most of the team is down in the lair, Felicity has a visitor upstairs in the club. Ray has come to apologize for running out on her after their kiss. He had a fiancée once, but she was killed right in front of him during Slade’s siege last season. Now he’s pouring everything he has into making Starling a better place, kind of like an anti-Merlyn.
Oliver asks Thea if she ever came back to town while she was gone, but she lies right to his face. Felicity says that maybe Oliver isn’t the one who should be questioning Thea and suggests that he go as the Arrow. He does so and gets the shock of his life when Thea competently fights back, then leaps out the window. (Stephen Amell’s WTF face was brilliant, even under the mask and a pound of eye makeup.)
Thea lets Daddy Dearest know what went down, so Malcolm pays Oliver a little visit down at Verdant. He has a video of Sara’s killer, and Thea’s the one holding the bow. Merlyn made her do it with a mystical memory-altering plant. Thea has no idea that she’s the one behind Sara’s death. Merlyn tells Oliver to turn himself in to the League. Ra’s will allow him a trial by combat, and if Ra’s dies, then Thea’s (and incidentally, Merlyn’s) blood debt will be erased. If Oliver refuses, Merlyn will just show Ra’s the video anyway. Oliver does as Merlyn demands and is given 12 hours to settle his affairs and present himself at a neutral location (the top of a sacred and super-hard to climb mountain).
Meanwhile, Felicity goes to confront Ray about something that’s been bothering her. She knows he has a secret, because she knows a little something about handsome billionaires with secret pain. Ray shows her the ATOM exoskeleton and tells her of his plans to use it to help Starling. He wants Felicity’s help to make it a reality. Girl can’t catch a break…
Oliver says his goodbyes to Thea, Digg, and Roy, then comes the Olicity scene that Stephen Amell told fans about a couple weeks ago. Felicity begs him to kill Ra’s al Ghul, because she’s afraid that the assassin will use Oliver’s humanity against him. Oliver says that he’ll do whatever it takes to protect his sister, then tells Felicity that he loves her.
Oliver makes his way to the crazy, mystical mountain that happens to be within relatively easy reach of Starling City and begins his duel to the death with Ra’s ah Ghul. Maseo and Nyssa look on as Oliver fights well, but is ultimately defeated by the Demon. Ra’s stabs Oliver through the chest, then kicks him off the top of the mountain. Roll credits and try to start blinking again.
The B-plots were short, yet significant this episode. Laurel is determined to talk about Sara’s death to everybody except her father. Now Thea and River Song Laurel’s mum are in on the secret. Dinah gives Laurel a rousing Spartan mother speech, very “come back with your shield or on it,” when Laurel reveals that she wants revenge on Sara’s killer.
In the Hong Kong flashback, Ollie learns that Chien Na Wei is after a bioweapon called Omega. He and Maseo sneak into the lab where it was being developed, only to find that an inside associate had already taken it. They question him and learn that he was dosed with the same memory-altering drug that Malcolm would give Thea 5 or 6 years later. While Ollie and Maseo question the scientist, Chien Na Wei attacks and captures Maseo’s wife, Tatsu.
Okay, with the notable exception of Laurel, I was on the edge of my seat for most of this episode. I loved it. I loved it HARD, and not just because John Barrowman and Alex Kingston were in the same episode. In conversation with a friend a few months ago, I guessed that Thea was the one who killed Sara. I didn’t quite see Merlyn’s Xanatos Gambit coming, though (which I guess is the point of a Xanatos Gambit). Well played, Arrow. Well played.
Also, I know it’s a midseason finale, and I know Oliver has crazy plot armor because he is, in fact, the title character. None of that knowledge stopped me from gasping in shock as I watched him go over the edge. He’s going to come out of this, because it’s going to be a really crappy rest of the season without him. I just don’t know how yet. And we now have about a month and a half to stew over it, because Arrow doesn’t come back until January 21st.
Arrow 3.09 Episode Recap and Review: The Climb
Maseo: “One man’s suffering is not worth the lives of an entire city.”
Felicity: “Why does this keep happening to me?”
Things to Ponder:
- Should I even bring up the DNA match between half-siblings, or just let that go?
- The theatre person in me wants to go back and watch the mountain fight about ten more times, because that stab in the side was really, really cool.
- Papa Lance is going to take the news of Sara’s death so much harder when he finds out that pretty much everyone else in Starling City already knew.