As we knew, the catalyst for the episode was the deadline-slash-death warrant issued by Ra’s al Ghul: Find the killer of Ta-er al-Sahfer (that’s Sara to you and me) or the League of Assassins will begin slaughtering the good people of Starling City.
But what followed was a compelling, twisty melange of sleuthing, discovery, uncanny fan speculation and… well, those final few minutes.
Newly “incentivized” to track Sara’s killer, Felicity finds that 12 of the 13 DNA markers on the arrow Caitlin tested point to Oliver. Queen. Yeah, that guy. Oliver surmises that Malcolm Merlyn is behind this bit of misdirection, and has Felicity check into his whereabouts the night of Sara’s death — and in fact, a private plane did travel (in a circuitous way) from Corto Maltese to Starling City just before that tragic night. On board: Malcolm… and Thea.
When Thea insists to Oliver that she never returned to Starling before her recent homecoming, he returns to grill her further, about Malcolm’s whereabouts, but this time as the Arrow. Thea puts up an OK-enough fight, then escapes over the railing (!) of her posh loft while warning the vigilante to stay away from “me and my father.”
Once Malcolm gets wind of this confrontation, he visits Oliver with a damning video of Thea, in archer mode, murdering Sara on the rooftop. Malcolm speaks of a Votura plant/drug than can compel people to do one’s bidding, with no recollection afterward. Thus, Ra’s al Ghul is after Thea, which Oliver obviously can’t allow. Instead, Malcolm suggests that Oliver take the rap for Sara’s murder and face a “trial by combat,” against the Demon’s Head himself. Kill him and all blood debts are forgotten — the hit on Malcolm himself included. But really this is about Thea.
Seeing no alternative, Oliver requests his trial. But before he makes tracks for the “consecrated” neutral fight site, Felicity asks one thing of him: Kill Ra’s al Ghul. It’s not that she thinks he can’t, but fears that he won’t. Oliver asserts that he knows exactly two things about himself: He will do whatever takes to save his sister. “And the other?” Felicity asks. “I love you,” he says.
Climbing arduously to a distant mountain top, Oliver strips his shirt off and chooses two mighty sharp-looking blades, while Ra’s… opts to go without, taunting that he will use Oliver’s weapons once he’s done with them. As cool as a cucumber, Ra’s enters into the skirmish with Oliver, fending off most every parry and never seeming to break a sweat (if such is possible on a snowy, high mountain). Oliver sure enough loses one sword, then moments later cedes the other. Ra’s forces Oliver to the edge of the ridge, where Oliver briefly reclaims the upper hand. But only briefly. Ra’s smacks him, does one of those throat-poke things, and then cuts into his challenger’s left side. After whispering some mystical words about wishing that Oliver “avoids the grave” and what not, Ra’s delivers a final, brutal strike, running his saber through Oliver’s rib cage. Then, for good measure, he shoves his opponent over the cliff with the heel of his boot.
To reiterate: WTF?!
Elsewhere in the episode:
* Laurel admitted to Thea that Sara had died (which of course later became wholly ironic), but she couldn’t bring herself to reveal the same to her visiting Mom — but never underestimate a mother’s intuition. Dinah deduces that Sara has died, and learns that Quentin does not yet know. Upon hearing Laurel express her fervent desire for justice, Dinah echoes: Make them pay, and make them suffer.
* Ray (who does his “stalker” rep in some Internet circles no favors) opened up to Felicity about Anna, a woman he loved who was killed during the Mirakuru men’s assault on the city. When asked to share his obvious other “secret,” he showed her the latest schematic for the A.T.O.M. (Advanced Technology Operation Mechanism) suit — and he wants Felicity to help him save the city with it. (“Why does this keep happening to me?”)
* In flashbacks, we saw that while Oliver and Maseo were out interrogating one of Chien Na Wei’s lackeys, China White herself stormed Maseo’s house and got into it with Tatsu. By the time the boys got back, Maseo’s wife was gone. (In the current day, Oliver discovers that Maseo joined the League after some ominous “thing” happened during their shared past.)