Distrust, disastrous betrayal, and death — and it all comes before the stroke of midnight on the latest Arrow.
Yes, after teasing from the onset of the season, the show revealed just who ends up in the mysterious grave first glimpsed last fall. That loss to Team Arrow comes after a rather unfortunate series of events after things had, relatively, reached some normalcy for the team. Damien Darhk was in jail, they had his idol on lockdown, and everyone made it out alright from the assault on Palmer Tech last week.
Even behind bars, Darhk’s machinations to carry out Genesis are still in effect, with Malcolm Merlyn assisting the prisoner in breaking free.
His first move to do so came last week as he approached Andy Diggle, who in “Eleven-Fifty-Nine” first appears to still be playing for the good guys. He reveals to John that Merlyn approached him, suspecting that he’s in the picture because of friction between H.I.V.E. and Darhk.
Andy, in a clear sign that he’s reformed, asks his brother for guidance after he’s been asked to help hijack a missile shipment. While Oliver worries about having Andy go undercover to help Merlyn (he still barely trusts the guy), he temporarily agrees to go along with that plan…right after a quick visit to Ruvé Darhk (Adams, to the public).
Ruvé, the new mayor to Star (by default, but even after dropping out of the race, Oliver saw an unprecedented number of write-in votes), accepts her new position while spouting a full-on Donald Trump slogan of making this city of theirs great again. One of her steps in doing so is having Laurel Lance become the new district attorney as the current DA becomes her deputy. (Pulling Laurel away from her husband’s trial probably doesn’t hurt, either.)
It’s a decision that Laurel sways back and forth on throughout “Eleven,” considering it first while she and Thea watch over the lair. Meanwhile, the boys, on Andy’s intel, go out to take down the missile hijacking, which they do so with ease. Too much ease, as far as Oliver is concerned.
If Oliver wanted a challenge, he should have stayed back at base. Malcolm shows up in search of the idol, siccing his holdover League of Assassins faithful on Laurel as Thea chases after her father. Malcolm eventually gains the upper hand, seizing the idol and fleeing as Laurel fends off his foot soldiers.
As the two halves of the team regroup at base, Laurel almost immediately keys into Oliver’s concerns about the hijacking. They stem back to his concerns over Andy, which Laurel acknowledges but warns him that Oliver better have some damn good evidence before accusing Andy of anything in front of Diggle.
Laurel has her own concerns in deciding whether or not to take the DA job. Quentin assumes she’ll be turning it down, but the thought of being close to Ruvé could prove useful for the team. Quentin understands, but he, much to his own surprise, warns her that accepting this new position would almost assuredly mean hanging up the Black Canary mask for good (or at least, you know, until she theoretically got another job at some point.)
Laurel keeps her decision-making largely to herself, though, while the team fights to retrieve the idol. Using information Andy provides, the team heads to a warehouse (because where else would any bad guy in Star City operate?) to track Merlyn down. Andy is along for the ride to prove his merit to Oliver, even taking an arrow for the Arrow when they find themselves in a room rigged with traps.
NEXT: Oliver confronts Andy
Yet even with this act, Oliver remains wary, particularly as John reveals one key piece of information to his brother: While Malcolm may have the idol, the team hid a piece of it in a separate location, which Darhk reveals to Merlyn prevents the idol’s powers from being activated. John hid it himself, so they’re still in good standing, but Oliver doesn’t like the idea of Andy knowing all of this intel.
Oliver’s cautiousness brings him to follow Andy as they all head into the next leg of the plan. (Laurel, meanwhile, heads to the jail to search Darhk’s cell. Alas, he refused the idol from Merlyn, so there’s nothing but verbal barbs about her and Quentin awaiting Laurel at the prison.) Oliver discovers John’s brother snooping around the apartment, which Andy says is simply him searching for surveillance from H.I.V.E. now that they may know he’s working with Arrow and John.
Oliver doesn’t buy the line, though, demanding Andy reveal what he knows about Merlyn and Darhk. John walks in on the scene, furiously pointing his gun at Oliver to let his brother go. Ollie begrudgingly does so but refuses to believe Andy no matter how much John trusts him.
Again their friendship appears to be breaking apart as Diggle accosts Oliver for his actions. Oliver may claim he is who his experiences have made him, but Diggle refuses to accept that. People can change, grow, and evolve, but Oliver’s refusal to do so and rather pity himself is not how John chooses to live his life. (And he digs the knife deeper by saying that is exactly why Felicity left him.)
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And who’s there to help Oliver address his feelings again? Naturally, Laurel, who Oliver has no problem giving advice to as well even if he can’t always follow the advice being given to him. He nudges her along the path of accepting the DA job. The city could use a hero who doesn’t wear a mask, and if it’s what she wants, like she once did, it’s a life she should chase.
Damien Darhk has her put on the Black Canary for one last night in her costumed role, however, as his minions give him the idol (though he has yet to acquire the stone himself). And so his reign of Darhkness in the prison begins with the other inmates killing the guards for him.
He takes hostages in the prison, grabbing the attention of Team Arrow, who all appear on the scene, including John and Andy, to infiltrate the facility (with some diversion assistance from Quentin) and take down Darhk.
They find their way to his hostage zone, but Darhk has his men corner the team, forcing them to put down their weapons. Andy is being held in a chokehold by one of Darhk’s men…until he’s released and hands over the stone to Damien.
Pointing a gun back at his supposed friends, he reveals he’s been tracking their every move for months, and once he heard that John had hid the stone, he knew he could retrieve it. John is in shock after having believed he could fully trust his brother and realizing that Andy’s been double-crossing him the entire time.
So with his realigned Ghost, his retrieved stone, and the idol, Darhk has full control of the situation. But Thea, who has been fighting with Malcolm out in the hall, surprisingly shoots Damien before he’s assumed his power once again. That means he’s vulnerable, and requires a few sacrifices to fully heal and regain his magical powers.
NEXT: A member of Team Arrow is lost
Back in control, Darhk force chokes Team Arrow, toying with his foes despite Malcolm’s insistence that they leave. (Why is Malcolm playing along with Damien? Well, for the protection of himself and Thea from Genesis — he acts as he does to protect his daughter.)
But Damien would rather have a little fun first, throwing members of the team around the room before he enacts his true act of revenge. Approaching Laurel, he tells her he has a message for Quentin, who he had promised would face consequences if he betrayed Darhk.
Darhk always keeps his promises, and he does so by stabbing Laurel with one of Oliver’s arrows. Giving her a few moments to suffer, he eventually flees with the inmates as Oliver rushes to help his injured teammate.
He brings her to the hospital for immediate medical care, where the doctor, among several instructions, tells the still-costumed Oliver to let her go. She means actually let Laurel’s hand go so they can operate, but if only she knew how prescient that turn of phrase would be.
The rest of the team (including Felicity) arrives while Laurel is in surgery. They believe she’s going to be okay and visit her in her room to tell her how much they love her. Everyone but Oliver leaves to give her time to rest because he plans on ensuring her safety.
So while he’s there, she asks him to make himself useful and grabs her wallet, in which she still carries around the picture of her he once carried back on Lian Yu. Laurel knows she isn’t the love of Oliver’s life, but he will always be the love of hers, she tells him, and she hopes he can one day find his way back to Felicity.
Laurel has one last promise to ask of Oliver (what it is is kept silent, though the rest of the tearful farewell focuses in on the flurry of emotions hitting both characters, delivered powerfully by both Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy) before she starts to seize. The medical team, along with the rest of Team Arrow, rushes in, where a tearful Oliver says she just started to suddenly seize. The doctors do all they can as Laurel’s friends look on in horror until finally her time of death is called. 11:59.
Oliver, lost and hurt, runs out of the room into the hall, only to be standing there crying as Quentin arrives. He had been held up at the police station, arrested for assaulting an officer while causing a distraction, but he demanded release when he heard Black Canary had been injured. He was granted that leave but arrives at the hospital too late to say goodbye.
Collapsing to the floor, Quentin tries to register yet another loss of a daughter (and hasn’t poor Quentin been through enough already?). And with the question of the mystery grave occupant finally answered, it doesn’t look like this death will be reversed any time soon, but its ramifications will certainly be felt by the entire team in the weeks to come.
Back on the Island
Oliver and Taiana head back from the catacombs, taking out some of Baron’s soldiers while freeing Taiana’s fellow enslaved people. While they suffer some loss in the ensuing firefights, the two (who make a pact to tell each other’s loved ones — in this case, that would be Laurel for Oliver — should either of them die) believe they’ve handled Reiter for good. Before escaping, they seal off the entrance to the catacombs with an explosion. But Reiter has bigger plans, enacting a spell after taking the lives of two of his own soldiers. What that plan is, however, will have to wait to find out.
What did you think of the reveal of who is in the grave? Did you think Laurel’s death was handled well or made too heavy-handed? Were you expecting Laurel or someone else in the grave? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter @jmdornbush.