Arrow RECAP: Oliver Dies at the End (S3:E9)
Previously on Arrow: Ray and Felicity kissed and he’s sorry about it, Malcolm Merlyn is alive and well and training Thea Queen, and Ra’s al Ghul is not pleased with Oliver.
It’s dark and snowing and Oliver is climbing a fucking cliff face.
Two days earlier, Quentin heads out to the back alley from the Starling City PD Christmas party to find a bound-and-gagged baddie and an Arrow-growled “Merry Christmas.” Quentin hauls his gift inside and Ollie turns to go, ducking a singing arrow that comes from the other end of the alley. He whirls and fires back, and his assailant blocks his arrow. A half-dozen black-clad assassin types surround Oliver—SCPD really needs to install a camera in that alley. They fight, but he doesn’t stand a chance against their numbers. They bind him for the first dude to approach and punch him in the face, knocking him out.
He wakes to Nyssa al Ghul. He claims they had a deal, and she says that he’s been too distracted with his city. Ra’s is fed up with waiting for Oliver to get around to bringing Sara’s killer to justice. She tells him that he has 48 hours to find Sara’s killer or the League will kill 50 people a day in Starling City until he does, and the man tasked with doing the “cleansing” removes his mask: it’s Maseo.
Laurel is at Sara’s grave, talking to her awkwardly. She tells Sara that she misses her and Merry Christmas, and Thea approaches; she was putting flowers on her mom’s grave. Thea doesn’t understand why Laurel’s talking to Sara’s grave when Sara is still alive, and Laurel can’t help but admit that Sara’s dead. Thea is stunned, and Laurel also has to admit that she can’t tell Quentin. She makes Thea promise not to tell Oliver, and they hug.
At Palmer Tech, Ray comes into Felicity’s office amazed that the building has a cafeteria. She’s brusque with him, saying she’s late to a meeting, but he wants to know if they’re okay. She says yes, in that way that means no, and he asks if it’s about the kiss. Felicity denies it, and Ray quickly realizes the problem was him leaving after the kiss but says he can explain. Felicity says she’ll explain and tells him that she gets it was a moment, and it happened, and it’s over, and they can forget it. He looks very much like this is not his explanation, but she gets a text from Oliver and says she has to go, leaving him outside the elevator.
In the Arrow Cave, Oliver recounts his run-in with the League and Nyssa. John says that they’re going to need a plan if they don’t make the 48-hour deadline. Oliver says he knows, but he doesn’t know what they’re going to do.
On Island Time, Oliver returns to Maseo and Tatsu’s apartment after his interrogation, which apparently worked, because he learned that Triad is after a supervirus created by a biotech company that was looking for a super antibiotic (real life check: antibiotics and viruses are unrelated) and that this virus could wipe out a whole city. Oliver has lost his appetite from the whole torture thing, but Maseo tells him that one man’s pain isn’t worth a whole city.
Felicity is on the phone with Caitlin, reading a news article about the Reverse Flash (or “mysterious yellow blur”) attacking STAR Labs. The reconstructed DNA sample comes through, and the hit in the SCPD’s genetic markers database comes back very quickly: as Oliver Queen.
We have another flash scene of Oliver on the cliff face before we’re back in the Arrow Cave confronting the DNA results. Oliver thinks the answer is simple: the person with the most interest in pitting Ollie against the League is Malcolm Merlyn. John reminds us all that Malcolm was in Corto Maltese with Thea at the time, but they don’t know that for sure, of course. Felicity sets out to trace Malcolm’s steps for the past two years, but in two days. Good luck with that!
On Island Time, Maseo and Oliver are at BTHK Biotech to try to steal the supervirus before the Triad can, but the vial that held the virus is already empty. Maseo rewinds security footage to discover how Chen Na Wei got to the virus before them: she already had someone on the inside.
Quentin is on the phone when Dinah arrives in his office, and they hug and make small talk while Laurel comes in, obviously surprised to see her mother. Dinah says she just wanted to spend Christmas with her family and says Sara isn’t returning her calls. Laurel says, lamely, that Sara is backpacking in the Andes.
In the Arrow Cave, Oliver is beating up a dummy while Felicity works, but she found something: ARGUS monitors all air travel out of Corto Maltese, and she found a private chartered flight that flew around Mexico and the Caribbean for a bit before ending up in Starling City the night before Sara’s murder. Oliver and Roy head off to investigate the landing strip where the plane came in. Arrow throws a pilot through a window, and the man insists he didn’t fly Malcolm anywhere, but without looking at the photo, so Oliver is not impressed. The second time, the pilot says Malcolm will kill him. But Oliver is convincing, and they get security footage proving Malcolm came into town: and so did Thea.
Oliver is—okay, it’s really hard to fit these scenes into the recap, so just assume that there are glimpses of Oliver climbing the super-snowy Official Cliff Face of the League of Assassins throughout the episode, okay? Back at the Cave, the team is watching the footage of Malcolm and Thea arriving in Starling City right before Sara’s death. John immediately considers the possibility of Thea’s DNA having been on the arrows and not Oliver’s (though they’re only half-siblings, which is genetically the same as being cousins, i.e., not enough to befuddle a DNA test; even given the degraded samples and Thea not being in the SCPD database, Oliver would’ve come up as the closest match, but not a 92% match, which is what he was). Oliver, of course, refuses to consider Thea as the killer; for one thing he can’t fathom why she would kill Sara. Roy’s only suggestion is that Malcolm is her father so apparently evil breeds true. Felicity reluctantly points out that the trajectory of Sara’s arrow wounds is consistent with an archer Thea’s size, but Oliver has had enough. As he goes off to sulk, Felicity gets a call from Ray, who has pinged her phone and wants to talk, so he’s where she is: Verdant.
She heads upstairs and grabs a table with Ray, saying that she thought she told him she didn’t want to talk about it. But, Ray says, she mansplained his own feelings to him, and that wasn’t fair (he has a point). He claims that he did not regret kissing her, but he’s sorry for leaving. He says he felt guilty because his fiancé was killed by the mirakuru soldiers, and it felt a little like cheating. Predictably, she is really sorry.
Oliver comes home to the loft he’s sharing with Thea, to her decorating. He quickly confronts her, saying he knows she saw Malcolm in Corto Maltese, and Thea claims that she’s lost too much family to just ignore Malcolm entirely. Oliver flat-out asks if she flew with Malcolm to Starling, and Thea flat-out lies and says she didn’t.
On Island Time, Maseo acts as taxi driver to kidnap the BTHK Biotech scientist who stole the virus vial, and he and Ollie get set to interrogate.
Laurel and Dinah have coffee, and Dinah immediately notices that something’s wrong with Laurel, because…mother’s intuition? She also immediately deduces that it’s something to do with Sara. Laurel tries to deny it, but Dinah literally invokes mother’s intuition this time, saying that she feels like she won’t see Sara again, just as powerfully as she felt she would see her again before the Black Canary surfaced. I get what they’re doing here, but this scene is ridiculous. Dinah literally goes from “you’re hiding something” to “Sara’s dead but for reals this time” in thirty seconds with no input from Laurel. Anyway, Laurel confirms and convinces Dinah that Sara’s death remain secret, even from Quentin.
At League headquarters, Ra’s trains by fighting like eight ninjas at once, dispatching them easily, by which I mean, apparently, killing them, because that seems like a sound training strategy. Nyssa and Maseo come in to tell him that time is almost up and the guilty party hasn’t been named, and for some reason Ra’s thinks this means Oliver doesn’t believe they’re serious about killing fifty people a day. He dispatches the pair to Starling City.
Oliver returns to the Cave after questioning/decorating with Thea, telling Felicity and John that she totally lied about coming to Starling with Malcolm, but she didn’t kill Sara, you guys. He knows this because he looked deep into her eyes. Unsurprisingly, the rest of Team Arrow is not convinced. Felicity tells Oliver that they understand why it’s impossible for him to believe it, but that means he can’t be the one asking Thea about it. Oh, I thought they might send Roy, or John, but no, she just means Arrow.
Thea is still decorating when Arrow breaks the window (really, Oliver? It’s your own house!) and demands to know where Malcolm is. Thea pleads for him not to hurt her for like two seconds, then throws broken glass in her face and strikes. They fight, briefly, and Thea vaults over the balcony and is gone. That went well.
Oliver is brooding at the bar in closed-Verdant when Malcolm strides in, annoyed that Thea was attacked by the Arrow. Oliver is not happy and tells Malcolm that he figured sparing him meant he wouldn’t kill again. And then he grabs Malcolm and slams him into the bar, thinking he might have to reconsider that life choice. Malcolm tells him that he shouldn’t, for Thea, and I think he’s appealing to that whole Thea’s-only-family-but-Ollie thing, but no, it’s just blackmail: Malcolm has sent a video to Oliver’s phone of Thea shooting Sara, and if the League finds out, Thea is dead. Malcolm also reveals that it wasn’t Thea herself—she was under the influence of a drug that made her very amenable to suggestion and left her with no memory of the event. Well, that’s convenient. Oliver says he’ll just tell Ra’s the truth then, but Malcolm says Thea fired the arrows, so she’ll still be the one to die. He wants Oliver to take the fall instead, because he’ll get trial by combat with Ra’s. And if Ra’s dies, Malcolm will be free of the League’s bounty on him.
In the Arrow Cave, Oliver is brooding some more about Thea’s new status as killer, courtesy of Malcolm. The team is concerned that Oliver can’t beat Ra’s, but he remembers something Malcolm said to him when they fought: that Oliver couldn’t win because he didn’t know what he was fighting for. Now, he says, he’s fighting for Thea, so he has to win.
On Island Time, Oliver pulls a bloody arrow from his torture victim, not understanding why the man hasn’t confessed when they have video of him stealing the virus. Maseo thinks he truly doesn’t remember, but Oliver doesn’t believe that until Maseo finally gets around to telling him about the magic memory-erasing mind control drug. Maseo also realizes that by kidnapping her spy inside BTHK Biotech, they may accidentally bring Chen Na Wei to them—or to Maseo’s family. Tatsu is, at that time, helping Akio with his homework when Chen Na Wei busts into their apartment. She admires the décor and pulls one of Tatsu’s katanas from its sheath, clearly threatening, so Tatsu tells Akio to run and takes the other sword, and they fight.
Oliver confronts Nyssa at the League’s base in Starling City, demanding to speak to Ra’s, who is inexplicably in Starling City even though we saw him order Maseo and Nyssa there like ten minutes ago.
He seems surprised at Oliver’s youth, odd since Oliver is a very public figure, and tells him he failed to protect the city by not producing the killer. Oliver claims, calmly, that he killed Sara. Nyssa doesn’t believe him, but Oliver says that Sara asked him to kill her. Oliver demands trial by combat, and if I were Ra’s, I would be getting awfully suspicious right now. But Ra’s accepts.
Maseo, alone with Oliver, tells him he’s as stubborn as ever, and Oliver exposits for us that after “it” happened (I assume at least Akio is going to die, and we probably are meant to think Tatsu did as well), Maseo went to the League to train, arriving the same time as Sara. Maseo states unequivocally that Oliver did not kill Sara, but then tells Oliver he has 12 hours to settle his affairs before arriving at the secret blood-debt-settling grounds, which is at the top of that cliff face we keep watching Oliver climb.
Laurel and Dinah are at Sara’s grave. Dinah is reminiscing about Sara and Laurel’s childhood games of dress-up, where Laurel would pretend to be a cop and Sara a doctor. Dinah says Sara deserves more than a secret grave, and Laurel tells her that she’s going to find the killer and make them pay. Dinah is down with that.
At Thea and Oliver’s apartment, a man is just leaving after fixing the window Arrow broke. Oliver asks what happened, and Thea claims a bird broke it. Oliver takes the opportunity to cryptically warn Thea about Malcolm’s motives (i.e., not actually loving Thea). She’s worried Oliver’s trying to make her choose again, but he says no, he would do anything to protect her. Thea’s is confused about what that means, but they just hug.
On Island Time, Maseo and Oliver get back to the apartment to find it in ruins. There’s blood on the table, but Akio runs in, unhurt, claiming that Chen Na Wei took Tatsu.
At Palmer Tech, Ray has just invented something cool when Felicity comes into his office. She asks him what he’s doing with Queen Consolidated and wants to know why he even bought it. Puzzled, he says, well, it was for sale. Felicity is not convinced and says that she’s good at keeping secrets, and she knows Ray has some. Ray says it was hard to tell her what happened to his fiancé, but Felicity says that wasn’t the whole truth and if Ray doesn’t spill, she’s leaving the company. He says he has to show her, and does, starting with some exposition: computer engineers used to think that mainframes had to be huge to have top-notch processing power, but the limitations of heat and power consumption really meant that things needed to be small. He’s been expanding that idea to things besides computer processors, and he brings up the 3D model of the A.T.O.M. exosuit we’ve seen teasers of before (previously called OMAC, Ray tells us). He’s designing the suit to protect Starling City, and he wants Felicity to help. Felicity laments her life choices.
Oliver is packing in the Arrow Cave when John and Roy come to tell him they want to come. Oliver nixes that idea immediately, but he tells Roy to take care of Thea and hugs him. He shakes John’s hand as Felicity arrives. They do the I-know-you-have-to-go dance, then Felicity asks Oliver to please kill Ra’s. No last second sparings like he’s done for Malcolm; he has to kill him this time. Felicity is smart. Oliver makes no promises but says he’ll do whatever he has to do to save Thea, and also he loves Felicity.
Oliver reaches the top of the Cliffs of Insanity, finally, and Maseo and Nyssa are waiting for him. Maseo tells him to takes his shirt off (woo!) and to choose his weapon.
Oliver selects two short blades as Ra’s reminisces about the first person he killed, at age 11, and now he’s killed thousands more and made the world a better place. Oliver says Ra’s has taken his last life, and Ra’s says Oliver’s lived his last day. Oliver steps close, noting that Ra’s is unarmed, but Ra’s casually says he’ll be using Oliver’s blades. Oh, snap.
The fight begins, with Oliver wasting energy while Ra’s dodges calmly, landing bone-breaking blows periodically and quickly taking possession of one of Oliver’s swords. It’s not going well for Oliver, who’s already bleeding, while Ra’s is literally fighting with one hand behind his back. He gets Oliver at knifepoint quickly and says he survived longer than most people, but Ollie rallies, parrying him off and taking the blade—briefly.
Ra’s catches it with his bare hand and jabs Oliver in the throat, nicking him deeply. Oliver falls to his knees, and Ra’s tells him not to be afraid of death before running him through.
As he’s bleeding out, Oliver remembers his father, mother, Thea, Felicity… and then Ra’s pushes him from the cliff. Welp, guess that’s the last we’ll see of Oliver! Right? (Comic check: Oliver’s died two or three times, just like everybody else).