WTF. Arrow Photo Recap S3E09, “The Climb”

So here we are, the much-ballyhooed mid-season finale. Some people were blown away and deaded, and some found it underwhelming and meh. My mood varied as much as the tone of this recap. It was a memorable one, and a hard left in a lot of ways.

The show opens with Oliver climbing a snowy mountaintop in the dark…

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…and rapidly switches over to the SCPD Christmas Party, where Captain Lance is chugging nog and getting an unexpected gift from his favorite green elf.

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They exchange brompliments about how great the other is, and it’s a testament to their journey as imaginary partners that Lance’s opinion of Oliver is so high. As he goes inside with his new toy, Oliver gets a surprise of his very own.

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At first he thinks it’s Merlyn, but no, just someone with the same taste in leather sportswear. The League of Assassins has come to Starling to finish their Christmas shopping and kidnap the resident hero.

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When Oliver comes to, we find out why. Nyssa A-G says her father is done with Oliver’s excuses for not finding Sara’s killer. He has to find and deliver the killer in the next 48 hours or she’s going to let her minion kill off Starling citizens ‘cause JUSTICE That minion is Maseo, who has taken on a new name that I think is Sarab. Oliver protests that Sara is dead, but Nyssa is all,

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Laurel is a the cemetery boring her poor sister’s soul with inanity when Thea, who was visiting Moira, bumps into her. Before we know it, she is coming clean to Thea about Sara being dead, glossing over the fact that her father doesn’t know and emphasizing she not mention it to Oliver.

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OLIVER? REALLY? Whatever. Your main takeaway is that Thea is upset and scandalized, and Laurel brings sadness everywhere.

At Palmer Tech, Felicity and Ray are supposed to be “weird” but are so much more normal and make so much sense. Basically Ray has finally noticed that he dorked up, Felicity (among with the rest of us) wants to forget it happened, and the Oliver 911’s her and she is all “LATER HATER” and I love my sassy muppet so much.

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When she arrives at the Foundry in yet another coat I need to steal, Oliver tells her, Roy and Diggle about Nyssa’s ultimatum. Felicity says that Caitlin is still analyzing the DNA, but Oliver asks her to hurry.

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Diggle points out that they need a backup in case this goes south, but Oliver is fresh out of contingency plans.

***FLASHBACK ALERT***Oliver comes home from a nice long day of torture and Maseo hands him a dishtowel. Who knows why.

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DUDES. Amirite? Oliver did get information about the super-virus Omega from him, but he haz a sad. Maseo is all, “Dude. City> you.” Except he says it with a tiny bowl of food, cause torture is hard work. *** END FB***

At the Cave, Felicity is catching up on her Reverse Flash news and getting the DNA results from Caitlin in the form of a reassembled genome, which she then runs against SCPD’s genetic markers database. The results come in, but she openly doubts their veracity and refuses to show Oliver until he demands to know who it is.

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Once again we get a nice view of Oliver climbing up this fakakta mountain. image

He almost falls, but catches himself in time. Save that ass, boy.

Back at the Cave, Felicity clarifies that she took a sample of the perspiration on the arrow that killed Sara and that it matched a DNA sample that Oliver gave during his arrest in E105. Oliver guesses that he was set up by someone with a vested interest against the LoA, and that it was Malcolm Merlyn.

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Diggle points out that he was out of the country, but Oliver reminds him he is REALLY good at hide and seek. Felicity starts an image search, even though time is running short.

***FB ALERT*** At BTHK Biotech in Hong Kong, Maseo and Oliver break in and find the empty canister where Omega used to be. I have a  physical reaction to Karl Yeun’s cheekbones. Chen Na Wei had someone on the inside get it for her. ***END FB***

The Police station and Dinah “River Song” Lance is in for the Holidays to spend some time with her girls.

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Laurel, who is surprised to see her mother, makes up an excuse as to why Sara isn’t answering her calls. Don’t try to get one over on Melody Pond, girl.

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At the Arrow Cave, Felicity has found a wacky flight pattern for a plane out of Corto Maltese.

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When Oliver asks when it landed on a private strip outside Starling, she replies that it was the night before Sara died.

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Somewhere out there is a pilot  that is about to find out how high Oliver can toss him.

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After some ‘interrogation’, the pilot makes a decision between dying now or later and confesses that he flew the man they show him (Merlyn) into Starling and offers him security footage from that night, October 7th.

Back at the cave, Roy hands the footage to Felicity, but when she pulls it up, it’s not only Malcolm we see emerge from the plane.

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Oliver now knows that Merlyn lied about staying away from his sister. Diggle says the DNA may be hers, but Oliver tells him that Thea neither would nor could, and even if so, why? Even Roy admits that Merlyn being her father may have hammered the killer nail home. It’s finally Felicity that urges Oliver to look at the facts, pointing out that the shooter was below average height.

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Oliver’s not quite ready to listen, and as he walks away, Felicity’s phone rings. It’s Ray! And because wanting to speak to a woman in your employ about non-work things merits employing techniques that make human rights activists blanch, he pings her phone and shows up at her location despite her EXPRESS DESIRE NOT TO SPEAK TO HIM.

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He has a sad story though, and that makes it all okay! Ray’s cool! Calm down, everyone. Atom1cflea Disclaimer: If this happens to you in real life run because you are about to be Lifetime-movie killed.image

Summary: Ray’s fiancé Anna was killed by a Mirakuru soldier the night of the raid on the city, and he now wants to use the A.T.O.M. suit to protect the residents of the city. He felt guilty kissing someone other Anna since her death, and he tells Felicity that no man would regret kissing her. image

Because Felicity has no idea that she is a BAMF and a superhero gateway drug, she wryly alludes to knowing one man who does regret kissing her. She puts her hand on Ray’s to hold him down until the cops get there offer him comfort.

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Oliver heads back to the apartment he shares with his sister, and finds her decorating the tree. Oliver tells her that he knew she saw him in Corto, and she admits to trying to get to know him now that she lost both parents. Oliver asks if she came back with Merlyn at any point, and she denies it, saying that she would have called him. They are so sweet it breaks my heart.

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It’s obvious that she is sincere, and that he thinks she is lying.  I’ve said it before and I will say it again, but  to me, this is and has always been the central relationship on Arrow.

***FB ALERT*** Oliver and Maseo torture the man who stole the Omega, but he doesn’t remember. Maseo tells him they’ll get it out of him one way or another as Oliver points a bow at him. ***END FB***

Dinah and Laurel are out to dinner, and Dinah notices the look on her daughter’s face when she speaks about her sister. She tells her that her mother’s intuition is telling her something is wrong.

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When Laurel, who has been avoiding looking at her finally makes eye contact and nods, Dinah knows that Sara is dead. Laurel tells her mother it has to remain secret because of Sara’s involvement with dangerous people, and that Quentin doesn’t know because it would kill him.

Nanda Parbat. R’as al Ghul stabs dudes with the same enthusiasm I muster for changing my oil, but it doesn’t make them any less dead. I get the feeling that everything bores him.

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Nyssa drops in on Dad to say Oliver’s time is almost up, and he tells her to return to Starling City and remind Oliver Queen that they are “merciless, and only ask once.” He then leaves to watch paint dry.

At the Arrow Cave, Oliver tells Felicity and John that while Thea lied to him about spending time with Merlyn, she super-duper did not kill Sara. Diggle very diplomatically tries to point out that his family is and always has been his blind spot. As he lists the instances, Oliver loses his temper and Team Arrow has a domestic. Felicity shouts at both of them to stop, which they do immediately because they know who’s boss.

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She tells Oliver that she can’t imagine how difficult this is for him, but that John is right. Thea lied to him. Oliver knows she lied about Malcolm, but he says with tears in his voice that he doesn’t want to believe Thea capable of killing Sara. Felicity, always reasonable, says that is why he shouldn’t be the one asking.

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The Arrow shows up at Thea’s apartment and comes in through a window to ask about Merlyn. Thea at first pretends to be frightened, but then attacks him.

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Oliver blocks her with a look of shock on his face but doesn’t hit back. Thea angrily warns him to stay away from her and her “father”, and jumps off the balcony.

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I have a super-stong urge to poke Oliver cause I bet he would fall over.

At the bar in Verdant, Oliver is nursing a grudge when Malcolm walks in after Thea calls him and tells her she got a visit from The Arrow.

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Oliver calmly tells Merlyn that he figured he would never kill again…but he was wrong.

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He picks Malcolm up to choke him against the bar when his phone buzzes and he stops to look. Malcolm has sent him video footage of Thea killing Sara, and threatens him with showing the LoA the footage if Oliver kills him. He tells Oliver that he dosed Thea with a plant that made her highly susceptible and left her with no memory, and even if Oliver tells R’as it was his plot, it was still Thea who fired the arrows.

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Malcolm’s plan is for Oliver to blame himself, gain rights to a trial by combat and kill R’as. Once the Head of the Demon is dead, all blood debts die with him-that includes both Thea’s and his.

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He is glad to see that Thea can still motivate Oliver, and advises that he not take long in making his decision.

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That night in the Arrow Cave, Oliver blames himself for letting Merlyn turn his sister, the kindest person he knew, into a killer. Felicity tells him that even if he blames himself, it ’s not his fault.

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Diggle urges him to tell R’as it was Merlyn, but Oliver tells him about the video. When Roy worries that he will be killed, Oliver responds he won’t, because now he knows what he is fighting for: Thea.

***FB ALERT*** Oliver is super-annoyed that their prisoner won’t confess. Maseo says he may not remember taking the Omega, and tells Oliver about the mind-control drug. He worries that Chen Na Wei may come to find them. At Maseo’s house, we see her arrive and threaten his wife and son. Tatsu tells her son to run, and the two fight each other with swords.****END FB***

Oliver goes to see Nyssa and asks to speak with R’as, who apparently has nothing better to do than hang in Starling, stare at fire, and let’s be frank, be a bit of an ageist.

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Oliver confesses to the murder of Sara. He tells Nyssa that he killed her because she “begged [him] to”, rather than be in the League. R’as tells Oliver that he should let Sarab kill him for thinking he was a fool. Oliver responds by demanding his right to trial by combat. R’as, who I am pretty sure is nodding off, warns Oliver that it has been “67 years” since a man challenged him (shout out to the Lazarus pit!) and asks if he has a death wish. Oliver asks him if he accepts, and he does.

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A brief flash to the mountain, where Oliver has reached the summit and pulls himself over the edge, gasping for breath.

Sarab/Maseo and Oliver are left alone, and we get a brief idea of what happened to bring Maseo to Nanda Parbat, the same year as Sara. He tells Oliver that he does not think he killed her, and that he has no desire to bear witness to his death. Oliver says nothing, so he gives him a location and tells him that he has 12 hours to get his affairs in order before The Thrilla on The Hilla.

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At Sara’s grave, Dinah reminisces about her daughters’ childhood and how Sara wanted to be a doctor. Laurel sees her mother’s grief and promises that she will find Sara’s killer “no matter what it takes” and make them pay.

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Dinah surprises her (and us) by demanding a promise from her daughter: not only to make them pay, but to make them suffer.

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These Lance women will cut you, y’all. RESPECT, MOM.

At the Queen apartment, Oliver walks in to see Thea repairing the window. She lies to him about how it shattered, and he makes one last attempt to warn her not to trust Malcolm, saying that he has discovered things about him, and he doesn’t love her. image

Thea asks that he not make her choose between her father and brother. He tells her gently that he never would, and that because she is his family, he will always protect her.

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Thea, worried, asks what that means, and he pulls her in for a hug. “It means I love you,” he says quietly, “no matter what.”

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Dammit, I love these two bbs. Not only do they hurt my heart but…

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Christ GREEN AND RED SCARVES? Was the entire color scheme of this show designed to put me in therapy? It’s a good thing this is about where my attitude took a dive, because you can’t go much lower when you’re already flat on your back in the basement.

***FB ALERT*** Maseo and Oliver arrive home to find Akiro alone. He tells his father that the white-haired woman took his mother. ***END FB***

Felicity walks into work and demands to know what Ray is doing with “Queen Consolidated,” because this seems like the time to worry about that mess, even if it’s nice to know she can’t remember to call it Palmer Technologies, either.

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Ray takes her “Hey you can trust me I keep secrets for people with emotional baggage” speech to heart and shows her the A.T.O.M. (Advanced Technology Operating Mechanism) suit, born from both processing and weapons tech small enough to fit in his palm. So superhero persona-wise, the Arrowervse has it broody Batman-type, it’s chipper Spidey-type, and now, we’re going to get an Iron Man-type except NOPE cause RDJ.image

Felicity wonders why this keeps happening to her, I wonder exactly the same thing about this entire plot line, and really the answer is that if you KEEP DEMANDING SECRETS FROM SECRETIVE PEOPLE YOU WILL KEEP LEARNING SH*T YOUR WERE LIKELY BETTER OFF NOT KNOWING. Sigh. These two. Whatever.

Now ish gets real.

In the Cave, Oliver is getting ready to go. Diggle wants to go with, but Oliver gently refuses him. He asks Roy to take care of Thea and gives him a hug. John (he calls him John!) shakes his hand. Felicity walks in, and it’s obvious by her quiet “Oh” that she didn’t expect him to leave so soon, and Digg tells Roy to give Oliver and Felicity a moment alone. image

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What follows has been extensively gif’d, dissected and discussed, so add mine to the pile. Felicity is rooted to the spot, one hand on her purse and the other nervously twitching her fingers as she asks where he is going. Oliver tells her that it will be fine and he’ll come back in his fake-chipper tone and Felicity’s voice is the one that drops to a lower register, saying she wishes that his comment “sounded more convincing.”

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The look he shoots her is an acknowledgement, but he stays silent.  She rushes through the next sentence as she places her bag on the table, saying that she wishes he wouldn’t go, but knows better than asking him to stay. Oliver smooths down that bag like his life depends on it, and tells her he appreciates it. She then walks up closer to him and asks him to do one thing, even if he doesn’t want to. Quiet, serious Oliver, who has nothing to lose in his last few moments with her, earnestly tells her that if it is her asking, he will do it. Damn you, Amell. THOSE EYES.image

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“Kill him,” she says quickly, and the shock is evident on his face.image

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Felicity offers that Ra’s al Ghul is one of “the most powerful men to ever walk the Earth,” and even as Oliver tells her he wouldn’t go if he didn’t think he could win, she clarifies that it’s not his skill she doubts, but his ability to take a life. She is “terrified” that Oliver won’t kill him. Just for reference’s sake, this is what Oliver looks like directly after that line. AMELL IS KILLING IT. There is shock at the depth of her emotion, tenderness, and the shifting eyes of doubt. IN FOUR SECONDS.

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Back to the scene. Felicity says she knows that it isn’t who he is anymore, but she doesn’t want to see his humanity turned against him. image

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Oliver slings his bag on and tells her that he isn’t sure if he is a killer anymore, but he knows two things. The first is that, no matter who he is, he is someone  who would do whatever it takes to protect his sister. image

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Felicity, who has been looking into his eyes until that moment, drops her gaze. He then looks at her worried face and and gifts her with one last comfort, pulling her towards him to kiss her forehead. image

For a moment, both are pressing in towards the other with eyes closed, and it’s an instant of perfect faith in each other and the mission. image

Oliver breaks away and looks at her face once more before walking away, and Felicity, somewhere between worry and panic that the actual time has come, asks for the second thing.image

Oliver smiles a bit, shaking his head, and takes one deep breath as he looks at her again.

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“I love you,” he says simply, as a statement of fact and at her stunned, sad face, he turns and walks away, leaving her frozen, only her twitching fingers indicating her anxiety.image

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Oliver hauls himself over the edge and walks the flat summit where a stone circle marks the spot of the duel. Maseo and Nyssa stand witness, and Maseo tells Oliver to remove his shirt as is the custom. image

He warns Oliver in a whisper that R’as “The Demon’s Head” al-Ghul is not known for his mercy and if he wants to bow out, now is the time. Oliver doesn’t answer, and he tells him to choose his weapon.image

As Oliver picks two swords, he listens to R’as wax poetic about murder and why he both regrets it and takes pride in it. It is exactly the sort of horseshit you expect from a self-important dude who takes forever to strip off ceremonial garb when he has a poor half-naked bastard waiting to battle him the the snow. image

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Hurry up, R’as. Damn. He says the League exists to replace “evil with death” and you just know he is batsh*t because that’s like replacing poop with vomit. STILL BAD. Then they recite the obligatory monotone sh*t-talk most fighters do before they throw down.

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Nyssa takes a moment to toss her five cents in and mess with Oliver’s head about being envious that he will see Sara first. image

R’as tells Oliver to begin, but Oliver points out that he is unarmed. No matter, says this asshole, he’ll just take Oliver’s knives once he is done, and he punches him in the jaw. Oliver swings, and the fight begins.

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Now we all know that Oliver is a great fighter, but there is a lot of emotion here. Every three of his actions meets with one reaction, and while Oliver’s attacks may force him back, R’as connects every time. He fights Oliver in the same way I load printer paper, efficiently and perfunctorily. He even manages to cut his forearm.

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R’as, late for his stories, finally decides to speed things up a bit and manages to back Oliver near the precipice, sword at his throat. He tells him that he should be proud to have survived longer than most, and Oliver takes the opportunity to twist his arm and force him to his knees, disarming him, and I stand up to cheer. I know there are those of you invested in his vow, but I wanted him to kill the sh*t out of that f*cker.

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But there’s a brief pause between twisting his arm and striking his neck with the sword where Oliver doubts, and it’s a window. image

R’as twists away forcing Oliver to take another, wider swing and R’as grabs his sword by the blade, cutting himself, pops him one in the throat and stabs him in the left side. image

Oliver falls to his knees (since a whack in the larynx inhibits your breathing) and R’as walks over and not unkindly tells him that he shouldn’t be afraid, because “death comes to us all, my son, we can only evade it so long”. By now I am resigned to the inevitable, but it doesn’t mean I don’t want to set his stupid robe on fire and punch him in the dong. image

He takes Oliver’s chin and tilts his head to look at him, telling him that he “should consider this an honorable exit.” That said, he stabs him under his right pectoral, looks like between the 6th and 7th rib, straight into his lung.

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There is a moment where no one does a damn thing as the fandom recoils, and then we either all lost our sh*t or thought “I can’t believe they are going to [insert your theory here].” I was in the second group, because never for a second could I, will I, or do I believe that Oliver Queen is RL dead (Comic-book dead is of course, probable), and while poignant, it just felt to me like the writers sticking a bookmark in a book I was really enjoying, and closing it in the middle of the paragraph.

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So Oliver’s bleeding and because R’as has yet to meet a situation in which he can’t be pedantic, he begins to recite a a variation of the prayer for the deceased in something that is supposed to be Arabic.

Oliver flashes back, one by one, to the people who have meant the most to him in his life: Papa Queen, Ma Queen, Thea, and of course, Felicity.

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It is poignant in the sense that, while his alienation, resentment and anger have always been expressed and explored, it is Oliver’s capacity for selfless love that is his true defining character trait. Because he loved his father, he gave up his life to redeem his mistakes. Because he loved his mother, he forgave her every sin and supported her until the end. Because he loved Thea, he climbed a mountain and sacrificed himself to The Demon’s Head.  It is only his love for Felicity that is unrealized, incomplete in its expression, and that–despite my cynicism in the longevity of this plot–is truly heartbreaking.

A dying Oliver kneels, as he once refused to, before his enemy. As the prayer finishes R’as al Ghul lifts his foot, pushes him over the cliff, and throws the sword in the rock, where it buries itself in the snow.

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So this it it. Is Oliver’s “death” permanent? HAHA NOPE. If it was I wouldn’t use bitchy quotation marks. Felicity’s mourning is going to be EPIC, though, and maybe it’s a sign of how much this show has twisted my feelings that I am kind of looking forward to it. For now, however, we’re on hiatus! For any trailer recaps, follow me here or on Twitter @conniebv .

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