On this week's episode of Arrow a number of characters did complete about-faces, and it was fantastic. It was like watching the climactic unmasking scene in every movie ever for 50 straight minutes. Then there was a sword fight!
Cirque du Soslay is in town, and they truss Ollie up like a holiday turkey. They do so to point out that Ollie has been harboring a mass murderer and has been failing to catch Sara's killer. They announce that unless Oliver delivers the person who killed Sara in 48 hours, they'll kill 50 innocent people a day. The Arrow team, after freaking out and complaining that that's not fair and it's impossible to solve the case that fast, solve the case with hours and hours to spare. This may be a new crime-fighting technique.
This may also be because the guy behind it all is the person the League of Assassins suspected from the very beginning — the one they wanted to execute before Ollie stopped them. Seriously, these people are good at what they do. Can we get them to guard Starling City?
Joining the League of Assassins, in the first and most literal climactic unmasking scene of the episode, is Maseo. I have some ideas as to why he joined the League, due to the absence of both his wife and son in the present day, but his unmasking totally knocked me for a loop. Good job!
Ollie's team gets knocked for a loop when his DNA turns up on the arrows that killed Sara. Ollie stomps around, insisting that it was all a frame-up orchestrated by Merlyn. And he's right, just not in the way he thinks. Merlyn used a special mind-control herb to make Thea execute Sara without knowing about it. Ollie finds this out during fights with both Thea and Merlyn, and it must be said that Thea acquits herself better. Ollie, expecting a helpless and untrained sister, comes crashing through Thea's window in superhero guise. In return he gets a heaping helping of glass to the eye as Thea tells him to stay away from her family. How much do I love that Ollie, whenever he is trying to use the Arrow persona to intimidate his female relatives, has had his ass handed to him? Very, very much.
Merlyn doesn't do as much damage because he is not trying to defend himself during his fight. Ollie, he announces, will defend him. Merlyn has a video of a mind-controlled Thea killing Sara. Discarding his mask of fatherly concern, he gloats that now Ollie has to falsely confess to the murder and challenge Ra's al Ghul to a fight. If Ollie wins, all blood debts, including Merlyn's, will be canceled. If Ollie loses, I guess Merlyn just has one less problem. Thea is now, in a manner of speaking, his hostage. Any move Ollie makes against him will result in her death. And I am so glad Merlyn's turned evil again. He has eyes like a thunderstorm in Tahiti, people! You don't waste eyes like that on a hero!
Ollie accedes utterly to Merlyn's plan. He does so without even warning his sister that she's now the mindless puppet of a mass-murdering sociopath because, I guess, that would hurt her feelings or something, and I approve. Look, I like Thea. I'll even go so far as to say I was wrong when I disapproved of her severe bob hair cut. (I can see now that the woman has the jawline for it.) But she made the conscious decision to throw in her lot with a mass murderer and sometimes bad decisions have consequences.
And speaking of entertaining-but-horrible parenting, Laurel's mother is in town for the holidays. I am just settling in for yet another round of tortured lies about how Sara is just fine, really, but before I so much as get a handful of potato chips to my mouth, Dinah reveals knows Sara is dead. She figures it out that fast.
Then I settle in for the obligatory period of mourning. Don't get me wrong. I like Sara's character a lot, but I've seen people mourn her death at least six times over by now. Ollie alone has watched this woman die three times. I feel like I've built up a mourning callus. Which is why it's fantastic when, after Laurel swears that she'll find Sarah's killer, Dinah turns to her and says, "Then you make them pay and you make them suffer." Yes! Mommy!
Felicity has two big moments in this episode. The first is after Ray's revelation, where he tells her he only backed off on kissing her because his fiancée, Anna, was killed in front of him during the super-soldier attack last year. Felicity was the first woman he's kissed since then, and he felt guilty. I know fans are split on Ray. Some finding him endearing and fun, while others think he's creepy and annoying. I think he's all four, but this reveal gives his manic optimism some poignancy. It also makes Felicity realize that she's not just backing a tech mogul. She comes charging into his office, demanding he tell her what she already knows — that he's going to be a superhero. He obligingly shows her the ATOM suit. I swear, Felicity's going to bag every hero in the DCU.
Felicity's next stop is the Arrowcave, where Ollie is resignedly going off to "confess" that he killed Sara and have a duel with Ra's. She asks him for one favor before he goes. What is her favor, you ask?
Hell, yes, Felicity! Hell yes! If anyone didn't love you before this moment, they should now.
Ollie and Ra's duel on a plateau atop a mountain while Nyssa and Maseo look on. The plateau is covered in ice and the wind is bitter cold. Snow flurries around them. What's the first line of the scene? "Remove your shirts. This is custom." Ladies and gentlemen, the motto of the CW network.
The duel begins, and I can't even begin to describe the brutality. Picture a grizzly bear fighting an egret. Or an old barn trying to stay up during a hurricane. Or that scene from the 1976 biopic of Caligula where they buried people up to their necks in dirt in the coliseum and had a kind of threshing machine go across the field and chop their heads off. The fight is one horrible wrenching arm-twist, open bleeding wound, and knee to the stomach after another until Ollie is at the edge of the plateau with a sword at his throat. He rallies, grabs a sword, the music swells — and Ra's knocks him back down and stabs him right through the gut. End of fight.
Ra's says some complimentary things about Ollie, prays for his soul. He even does that thing where he tenderly tips up Ollie's chin to help him make eye contact. This is the first time that move has not been creepy. I guess you have to be an immortal warlord after a duel to make it work. He finishes praying, and pushes Ollie over the edge of the mountain.
Now that's a fight.