Oliver’s cold naked hands reach for purchase at the edge of a frozen cliff. That’s how “The Climb” opens on Arrow tonight. So what was that all about? Well, we’re about to find out. Then we are returned to the state of the Arrows 48 hours before.

As the Arrow, Oliver makes a suspicious human delivery to Papa Lance in an alleyway. The gift is bound and gagged and I can’t help thinking this scene feels like the cat is bringing its fresh to its owner.

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Arrow Gets Attacked By Velociraptors with Arrows

Once Papa Lance is out of the way, Oliver is surrounded by some ninja-type Velociraptors with arrows and knives and wires who come at him from all sides. Before he knows what’s happening, he’s spread eagle and tethered to opposite sides of the alley. The ninja in charge advances and pops Arrow one in the face. Lights out.

When he awakens, he sees Nissa. Nissa shames the Arrow for having failed at capturing Sara’s killer. She says her daddy is cheesed-off that Arrow has been dinking around protecting the city when he should have been kicking ass and taking names until he found the loose arrow that felled his ex girlfriend, Nissa’s beloved Sara. Wait, I thought Ra’S al Ghul didn’t even like Sara, that he actually resented her. So what is this? Is it recompense he seeks for his property having been damaged and taken from him?

Then we see another hooded guy behind Nissa. Holy crap, it’s Merlyn. God I love Merlyn. Well, it’s actually John Barrowman whom I adore. Have you seen him in Torchwood? Do yourself a favor and watch it. Fantastic. Barrowman is the kind of actor that you don’t care if he’s playing the good guy or the bad guy because he’s good at whatever he’s doing in the moment. But wait, is it really Merlyn?

Dude removed his mask and we see Oliver’s old Hong Kong pal, Maseo, who is apparently a member of the League of Assassins now. The message is clear, ‘find Canary’s killer or we will start wiping up the streets of your beloved Starling City with the blood of its citizens. The whole thing is very dramatic. Very Robin Hood-y. 

Back at the Bat Cave….

Felicity ‘Wonder Girl’ Smoak has uncovered that it was Oliver’s blood on the arrows that killed Sara. What? DNA doesn’t lie. Could it be Thea who did the deed? This is starting to look really nasty. 

Flash back and we see Maseo and Oliver looking for a vial of Omega which someone else has already stolen before they get there. This is a clue to how someone could have committed murder without knowing they did it. So, did someone drug Oliver into killing Sara?

Merlyn Finally Shows

Present day, Felicity locates footage of Merlyn and Thea flying into Starling City from Corto Maltese the very night before Sara was killed. It’s looking more and moor like Merlyn might be the doer. But why? And does Thea know anything about it? She can’t because she was shocked out of her gourd when she found Lauren mourning at Sara’s grave and learns that Sara really is dead. Things are getting twisty-turney and I’m not sure where this is going. So, it’s Thea or Merlyn who ended Sara? 

Back to the Future Perfect Tense

Oliver is scaling an arctic ledge again. What is this all about? I read something on a comic book site about what’s really going on here, but I don’t want to spoil it for you so I’ll keep that to myself. Slowly enough it’s being uncovered what’s going on here. Oliver is going to fight someone to the death, but first he has to survive the journey to the kill spot. Perhaps that’s what we’re watching?

Ray on the Prowl

Intermittently we see scenes of Ray trying to talk to Felicity about the unsatisfying and abbreviated kiss they kinda shared at the end of their date last week. She doesn’t want to talk about it because she’s convinced he regretted kissing her. Actually, the way he extricated himself from that little romantic entanglement was so awkward it would have made even Angelina Jolie insecure about the power of her own womanly wiles. 

Ray catches up with Felicity and lays a sob story on her about his fiance whom he watched die during an ambush of some kind. It’s kind of a fakey story designed to cause some sympathy for Ray and put a wall up between these two. I can’t tell if Ray is making this up and I’m surprised Felicity falls for it. Is Ray simply trying to detour her from finding out what he’s really up to? And what is it that he’s really up to?  There’s something shady about this guy, I tell you.

Mommy Lance Intuits Sara’s Death

Mommy Lance appears for Christmas, curious about why Sara isn’t returning her calls. A disturbance in the force mom alerts her that something has happened to Sara, but Laurel entreats her not to tell Lance that Sara is dead because his heart will fail and she can’t bear to lose another person.

Liar, Liar, Thea On Fire

Arrow confronts Thea about having seen Merlyn and she denies it to his face. He’s come to her as the Arrow and I just can’t believe that she doesn’t recognize his disguised voice, his gait, his formidable chin and strong teeth. Are these people really that blind? Anyway, Thea whips out her new mad fighting skills and Oliver gets an eye full of what she’s been working on with Merlyn. Sh*t, he thinks.

Oliver tells Diggle and Felicity about Thea’s lying and they are convinced she’s involved somehow. Then Merlyn shows up at Verdant with video of Thea killing Sara. In comes the concept of the Omega Maseo and Oliver were looking for before. Apparently it’s a substance that can make people highly susceptible to suggestion and then make them forget whatever they did while under the influence. Merlyn says that’s what happened to Thea. She was drugged and made to kill Sara. Why would Merlyn do that to Sara, or if it wasn’t Merlyn, then who did it?

Merlyn says when Ra’S al Ghul finds out Thea killed Sara, he will kill her. Merlyn suggests that Oliver could face Ra’S al Ghul and tell him that he was the killer. He would then be challenged to a duel. If Oliver killed Ra’s al Ghul, all the blood debt incurred during Ra’S al Ghul’s reign would be paid off, including Sara’s blood on Thea’s hands and lots of blood on Merlyn’s hands too.

Oliver Considers Surrendering to Ra’S al Ghul for Combat

Once in front of Ra’s al Ghul,Oliver confesses to taking Sara’s life by her own choice. He says she begged him to do it, and that it wasn’t the first time she’d chosen death over life with the League of Assassins. Oliver is owed a trial by combat against Ra’s al Ghul, who hasn’t been challenged to one of these in 67 years.

Nissa and Maseo in the snow.jpg

Oliver is told to return home for 12 hours and to put his affairs in order. He gathers his stuff, shakes hands with Diggle and Roy, then Felicity comes home to the Arrow Cave and there’s a bit of a stand off. 

Felicity doesn’t want him to go, but she knows that won’t make him change his mind. She does request that Oliver go against his new humanity campaign and kill Ra’s al Ghul if he has the chance because he’s a nasty nasty guy. “I’m afraid he’ll use your humanity to stop you from killing him,” she pleads.

I Love You

Oliver tells Felicity that he knows two things to be true. First, that he will do anything within his power to protect Thea. He seals this comment with a lingeringly warm and solid kiss on her forehead, strong enough that she falls forward a bit when he pulls away. What else does he know, she asks him. He turns back toward her and says plainly and clearly with a genuine lightness exuding from his entire body: “That I love you.”

Fighting to the Death

This Ra’s al Ghul guy is not someone to mess with. He says he’s replaced evil in the world with death, and that has been his mantra always. That is why he does what he does. He feels justified in taking Oliver’s life in exchange for the life of his daughter’s beloved. 

Atop the blustery snow-covered cliff, Oliver and Ra’s al Ghul strip down to skins. Ra’s al Ghul comes to the fight empty handed and starts kicking the crap out of Oliver. Oliver is so beaten down emotionally that his stamina is nowhere as robust as Ra’s al Ghul’s. Finally, Ra’s al Ghul skewers him through the abdomen as Oliver’s life flashes before his eyes right before Ra’s al Ghul pulls his blade out of his chest and pushes him off the frozen cliff.

Is Oliver Dead or Alive?

So, the climbing we’ve been seeing throughout the episode, was that Oliver climbing to the fight? Or was that Oliver climbing back up the cliff-side after the fight? There’s no way he could have survived such a skewering through the right lower quadrant of his gut. Then again, perhaps the icy water he was plunged into when he fell off the cliff will preserve and stop the blood from leaving his body.

That’s how Arrow chose to leave us hanging for their winder hiatus! Gaaaah!

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(Images courtesy of CW)

Catherine Cabanela

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV