The theme of this episode came down to heroism and what it means to be truly selfless. This is timely, of course, because the episode began with the fallout of Moira's death.
This wasn't the most exciting episode, but it definitely set everything up nicely for a climactic finish in the season finale. Let's recap!
To the funeral! Everyone is mourning Moira's death, except Sebastian Blood I guess. He's not that heartless. "Losing a parent changes you," he says as an obvious reference to when he killed his own mother. Of course, this is enough to set off Laurel's alarm bells that Blood is still a villain, but we'll get to that.
Also missing from the funeral is Oliver, which has set off Thea's oh-good-another-reason-to-hate-my-brother senses.
Diggle and Felicity are there as well, wondering where Oliver might be when Isabel Bullets Don't Matter Rochev shows up! She claims Oliver is missing because he retreated back to his island, hoping Slade would just give up apparently.
To Queen Mansion! We see a touching moment between Walter and Thea. Thea is unreasonably mad at Oliver, obviously, about missing the funeral. Can she just go one episode without being fatally disappointed in someone?
To the island flashback! Ollie, Sara and Team Beard make their way into the submarine from earlier that season. The only problem is that...well, none of them know how to pilot a submarine.
To the police station! So far, the cops haven't been able to track down Slade, but that's probably because they haven't gone to their quirky barely-a-lawyer junior detective, Laurel Lance! We're quickly treated to a lip service that Sara had to peace out for a "change of scenery," explaining why she hasn't been around.
After all, Laurel knows her sister is secretly a baton-twirling vigilante, so it would be weird if she hadn't thought to ask her sister about where the latest super-villains have been hanging out.
Whoa! Laurel is suspicious of Sebastian Blood again because of women intuition? Laurel claims "Something doesn't feel right," and if I know women, that means they either want to be "just friends" or something totally doesn't feel right. Since she and Quentin seem to be at least "OK" friends, I'm going to assume it's the latter.
"You once told me a cop is only as good as his gut. Well, I'm the daughter of a cop..."
Great reasoning by Laurel Lance.
To City Hall! Sebastian Blood is signing his first piece of legislation when he's interrupted by freakin' Alyssa. Come on Alyssa, just tell him to leave a message! But it turns out the man calling claims to be Blood's father! Gotta love the CW and their almost-soap operas.
In what was one of the weirdest moments of the episode, Sebastian responds, "That's impossible," glances around without changing his facial expression, and says, "Never mind, I'll take it." Could you be even more creepy?
Oh, it's just Slade! Makes sense that Slade would use a fake alias since the city is searching for him, but why use Sebastian's dead dad? That's way more suspicious than telling Alyssa you're his dying, Australian special-ops uncle.
And the phone call is just Slade literally "checking in" to see how Sebastian is doing as mayor. Sure, Slade sounded pretty menacing, which is probably implying something (although, let's be honest, Slade always sounds menacing). Pretty sure a quick text would have sufficed.
To the Arrow Cave! Felicity does a hilarious (to me) exposition that I just imagine was word-for-word what the writers were thinking needed to be said.
"Hey, we have to mention Barry Allen (The Flash) and tie that into S.T.A.R. Labs somehow to remind the audience that they're working on a cure for Mirakuru."
"Dude, let's just make Felicity say what you just said."
Roy is laying on the table still smarting from those venom arrows, which explains why Felicity is pretty anxious to get her hands on that cure. Diggle chimes in and does what he does best: make obvious observations that go over everyone else's head. It's like Diggle is one of the fans of the show, existing both with us on our couches and within the show itself.
Diggle points out that Isabel had to have ingested the Mirakuru since she's walking around after getting hella' shot, and even if he's wrong, it's comforting to know that at least someone is assessing the big mess Team Arrow is in.
Luckily, Felicity has been doing what she does best: computer...ing. Turns out Team Arrow really doesn't know where Oliver is, mirroring the introduction to Season 2 when Diggle and Felicity had to fetch Ollie from Lian Yu.
Oh, and they don't know where Sara is either, which is definitely not that surprising considering she's a trained assassin. I was almost offended for her when Felicity was pretty much writing her obituary.
As always, Diggle is the voice of reason and does what he probably should have done an episode ago...
To A.R.G.U.S.! Since the events of "Suicide Squad," Diggle has definitely been on complicated terms with Amanda Waller, who Diggle mistakes for a bloodhound. He argues that A.R.G.U.S. has to find Oliver for the sake of Starling City, which is pretty valid because Slade's Mirakuru army is coming, and even Waller must know that Oliver is probably their best chance at stopping him.
It was funny to see Felicity and Waller ruffle each other's feathers. Even the dialogue itself was awkward.
Waller: Did you run facial recognition, (expletive)?
Felicity: Yeah (expletive), I ran that (expletive) three times.
Diggle lets Waller know that Slade has enough dudes juiced with Mirakuru to "lay waste" to the city. Agreed, but I find it weird that Diggle just says "So we need Oliver's help" and Amanda is pretty much, "Yeah, obviously."
No argument? If I was Waller, I'd ask why they should be focusing on finding one dude who might help rather than just deal with it themselves. If I recall, A.R.G.U.S. definitely isn't short on Suicide Squads. Of course, we need Ollie because he knows Slade better than anyone, but does Waller really know that?
COMIC REFERENCE: See those patches on the A.R.G.U.S. uniforms? They've been showing up recently in the comics, as well. Specifically, on Booster Gold's.
To Verdant! Thea is busy running her nightclub (which, btw, I appreciate that the show doesn't forget that Thea does, in fact, manage a business. It'd be super annoying if they never actually showed her bossing people around and searching for Vodka crates). Thea is joined by none other than Isabel Rochev!
At first, I was confused by why Thea knows that Rochev is a (expletive). But then it dawned on me that Thea knows Rochev is the (expletive) who basically stole her family's fortune and screwed Oliver over (literally and figuratively).
Of course, Thea doesn't know that Isabel is also a dangerous (expletive), which explains why she casually has her guard down around her. Nevertheless, Isabel lands a metaphorically crushing blow by telling Thea that Queen Consolidated is shutting down Verdant because they technically own it. Not the NIGHTCLUB. Screw you Isabel.
The funny thing is that when Thea actually has a legitimate reason to be ticked off at someone, she just goes with it and is totally submissive. What a weird character. Her response is, "How long do I have?" instead of "(Expletive), get the (expletive) out of my (expletive) building!"
Despite Thea's flaws, I can't help but feel sorry for her. She's lost both of her parents, just found out one of them wasn't her real dad, hates her brother (as usual) and now she's even lost her business. That's a lot of loss for a 19-year-old girl. Maybe she just needs to go to Central City College, which is conveniently located near Greendale Community College.
To city hall! We see more mayor-ing being done by Sebastian. But instead of signing bills, he's now stereotypically blowing off important dinners. We get it, CW. Laurel barges in and engages in some awkward banter with the guy she publicly accused of murder a few months ago and they start chatting law. He must be really attracted to her, because anyone else would have told her to get lost.
She brings the Murphy vs. Dunleavy case to him, which is your typical real estate/Robin Hood sob story that Laurel is sure Blood will sympathize with.
COMIC REFERENCE: This one might be a stretch, but Laurel may be referring to Daniel Murphy, head of the prison guards at Belle Reve and one-time member of the Suicide Squad.
Blood happily agrees to help Laurel and congratulates her for making it back to the DA's office. Laurel steps out, revealing that she planted a bug on Blood's computer.
To the police station! Laurel and Quentin enlist the help of the police force's resident hacker to find a press release that proves Sebastian was in on Moira's death because it was time stamped before she--er--died. Rookie mistake Sebastian! Press releases don't even take that long to write; you couldn't wait a day?
Felicity gets caught snooping around the A.R.G.U.S. computers and throws this unintentionally hurtful line at Waller, who is about 500% done with Felicity. Waller then gets a Microsoft Surface notification that Ollie apparently just "checked in" to his other secret lair. Not even Batman has two lairs! (I think?)
To the island flashbacks! Oh good, Anatoly apparently learned everything he needed to know about driving a submarine since we last left Team Beard. Convenient! Inconveniently, the submarine is stuck, so Ollie comes up with the bright idea to just explosion their way out of there. Whatever you say, TV show.
But there's a twist! Someone has to set off the torpedo within the blast range, which means one person will be sacrificing themselves for the good of the group. My money is on Sara, since it hasn't been explained yet why Oliver thought she was dead after returning from the island.
To the other secret lair! Diggle and Felicity find Oliver in a condemned building, just sitting there in his Sunday best. I was hoping he'd be training or at least working on a way to stop Slade. But his grief over his mother's death is apparently stronger than his thirst for vengeance.
Oliver reveals that this lair was intended to be his backup Arrow Cave, but it ended up being where he goes to soul search. Totally makes sense considering how much Oliver likes his alone time (being isolated for so long on an island tends to do that to you).
Turns out that Oliver just wants to throw in the towel and surrender to Slade, acknowledging it's the only way to ensure that no one else gets hurt. Diggle (AKA the collective voice of the audience) tells Oliver that this won't work, but it's decent logic in Oliver's eyes. Slade said only one more person has to die for this to end, and Oliver is reasonably assuming that Slade is referring to him.
Felicity argues with him, explaining her backstory for the first time. She pours her soul out about how if she just accepted her circumstances, she'd be a cocktail waitress like her mother in Vegas. But she went to college, started working for Queen Consolidated and fell into Oliver's lap (that's something she'd awkwardly say, right?)
COMICS REFERENCE: Keep in mind that Felicity's inclusion in the Arrow universe is definitely unique in that she is actually a character from the Firestorm comics. In them, she's a business executive in New York City who marries a reporter, so they've definitely altered her story a bit to accommodate for the show.
Oliver limps away (his leg is clearly still thrashed) toward his fate.
To Queen-er-Rochev Mansion! Walter is trying to comfort Thea, who notes that she is now a "jobless, homeless orphan." Walter offers to help like a good former step-father, but Thea wants to start over.
Oliver arrives to learn that Thea wants to get the (expletive) out of Starling City, and Oliver actually agrees. He even lies to Thea about how she has the purest heart out of all the Queens (well, I consider that a lie, at least) and he wants her to get a fresh start almost as much as she does.
The feels. Oliver then dials Isabel to tell her to meet up with him alone. She's probably not misinterpreting that as a booty call, and I have to wonder why Oliver doesn't feel it necessary to say his goodbyes to Laurel and Sara.
To the island flashback! Right off the bat, Peter (sweater guy) offers to sacrifice himself, stating that "he's already dead." He lifts his shirt to reveal that he has radiation poisoning, anyway. Peter than quotes Ivo as being the one who said "the essence of heroism is to die so that others can live," which is why Oliver quotes it years later. What a twist we all saw coming!
To the pier! Oliver is standing alone lamenting over his mistakes and accepting that he needs to die, but is shot by a dart.
To the Arrow Cave! Diggle saved Oliver by tranquilizing him and bringing him back to the lair that Slade knows about and could invade at any time. Great thinking Dig! But when Ollie comes to, he's not just greeted by Diggle and Felicity. Laurel is there too!
This moment would have been way cooler, however, if we didn't already know that Laurel know who Ollie really was. I would have gasped like a madman.
Laurel reveals that Slade told her about Oliver's secret identity, pointing out that he must have wanted to tell her during the Undertaking.
Laurel brings up Tommy, noting that Oliver must have been there when he died. Ollie then tells her Tommy's last words and it's getting pretty emotional. "Arrow" doesn't always handle big scenes like this well, but I came out of it feeling like it was the reasonable discussion you'd expect from two people with such an intricate history. I especially liked how Oliver seemed to finally feel relieved to have the chance to apologize for not saving Tommy, which was such a major dynamic between him and Laurel earlier this season when they were at their lowest point.
I have to say that Laurel's dramatic speech was the perfect way to talk Oliver out of sacrificing himself, and it was definitely well-earned, especially when she reveals Sebastian Blood as Slade's ally. It's happened! Laurel is useful! Maybe now she can be Black Canary.
Ollie then makes the incredible leap that this must mean Sebastian is the guy in the skull mask. How'd you come to that conclusion? Sebastian could just be Slade's political pawn, but NOPE! He's a skull mask fiend.
To the island flashback! Oliver instructs Sara to stay away while they try to blast the submarine, promising that they'll come back for her later (we'll see how that turns out).
Ollie honestly admits to Peter that he doesn't think he could sacrifice himself like Peter is doing, which is probably true for Oliver at this point. This is actually a major moment for Oliver because he's acknowledging that nothing he's done so far has been to save anyone. He just wants to go home, and these are the formative moments that are shaping the hero that runs around in a hood.
Peter successfully steers the torpedo back at the ship to get it off of the sea floor in what appears to be some of the show's weirdest special effects (totally photoshopped) and the explosion knocks Oliver unconscious.
To the Japanese restaurant! Next on the Mayor Sebastian checklist: shake everyone's hand. I don't care what the guy does with skull masks after 5pm, he makes a pretty decent politician. But he's not alone tonight because Oliver is casually waiting for him, ready to dole out some arrow justice.
Meanwhile, Diggle knocks out one of Blood's bodyguards in the restaurant's elevator (is this restaurant in a skyscraper?)
To the torture room! Diggle reveals that the bodyguard is Clinton Hogue.
COMICS REFERENCE: Clinton Hogue is actually a follower of Brother Blood in the comics. In the New 52, he's the leader of the Splinterfolk, who are animal rights activists that have turned themselves into hybrid man-beasts.
But this won't be some Zero Dark Thirty-type torture. Nope! Felicity shows up to introduce cyber-torture, which isn't as suggestive as it sounds. After wiring half of Hogue's money to charity and threatening to ruin his parents' retirement funds, he breaks.
To the birdcage restaurant place! What is it with this restaurant and birdcages? Must be a reference I'm missing. Oliver and Sebastian proceed to have a polite dinner conversation, that is until Oliver decides to just go next-level crazy and reveal that not only does he know Sebastian Blood works with Slade, but that Oliver is the Arrow.
What. The. Heck. Oliver. Have you emailed the Starling City Girl Scout Troop yet because I think they're the only people in the city who don't know who the heck you are.
Apparently, Oliver's game is to convince Sebastian that he's playing for the wrong team, noting that Slade is just using him, but Sebastian just wants to remake the city in his image, no matter the damage done by Slade's Mirakuru army.
To Queen-but-not-really-anymore Mansion! Thea says her nonverbal goodbyes to her old home, and screens a call from Walter. This prompts her to seeing Roy on her phone's home screen to really land that she's leaving everyone behind to start over, but she'll probably make a speedy return (pun not intended).
To the Arrow Cave! Everyone's suiting up for the final confrontation with Sebastian Blood. For some odd reason, Laurel wants to join Team Arrow, but Ollie (thankfully) tells her she needs to cool her jets. They've taken in enough applications for one season.
To Blood's hideout! Sebastian suits up as well, donning his skull mask (it's after 5pm, calm down) for the first time in a while. He turns to an entire room full of mini-Deathstrokes (not that they're literally miniature) and commands them to kick some (expletive). But Oliver has eyes on the situation, and Team Arrow is ready to bury the army alive.
I just realized that this episode has been ruthlessly low on the action, so it's nice to finally see something moving quickly for once.
To the train station! Thea is at the train station and sees on the news that Queen Consolidated is making a comeback on the Stock Exchange with the headline "QC Soars Under New Wings" (ouch). I also thought that it was a nice touch that Thea didn't understand the meaning of riding coach (poor rich girl).
To the police station! Quentin watches as the cops bring in a detainee from Iron Heights, who is quite obviously a mini-Death.
To Blood's hideout! Apparently, hanging out with Diggle has rubbed off on Felicity because she makes the acute observation that Oliver is willing to wipe out Blood's army despite his no-kill vow, but Oliver argues "they're not men." Whoa-K. Good ethics there.
Apparently one of them heard that, though, because Oliver then has to face off against a mini-Death coming back from his bathroom break. They start making action fighting noises, but no one seems to hear them because Blood is keeping the speech going.
Unfortunately for Oliver, the mini-Death is too much for him to handle, and he quickly gets put into a chokehold. He's rescued by...Laurel? Well, kind of. She shows up in time to distract mini-Death so that Oliver can hit him point plank with a flash-bang arrow (why didn't you just fire like three of those?)
Diggle is ready to blow the charges, but he's attacked by Isabel Rochev, who appears to be Ravager.
COMICS REFERENCE: there are several "Ravagers," but Rose Wilson is the fifth. She's the illegitimate daughter of Slade Wilson and eventually becomes one of the Teen Titans after a brief stint as a villain. Though Isabel looks the part of Ravager here, I doubt the show is trying to combine the two characters, so it's possible she's just another mini-Deathstroke that looks a lot like Ravager.
Isabel hasn't forgotten that Diggle technically killed her, and I'm not too sure how Diggle is going to fare against her new abilities.
To the police station! The prisoner from Iron Heights breaks free and kills the hacker cop (HOW DARE YOU). He proceeds to attempt killing Quentin.
To the train station! While Thea is trying to mind her own business for once while waiting for the train, the guy sitting right next to her dawns his mini-Death mask and starts shooting the air. Obviously.
To Blood's hideout! Felicity gets a call from Cisco, the S.T.A.R. Labs employee who's working on the cure for Mirakuru.
COMICS REFERENCE: Cisco, who was introduced a few episodes ago, is a future Justice League member named Vibe.
While trying to escape, Oliver and Laurel get cornered by a bunch of mini-Deaths, prompting Oliver to shoot the ceiling and bury themselves alive.
To the island flashback! It looks like Anatoly and Oliver's plan worked! The submarine has been dislodged, but when trying to contact Sara, Oliver learns that she's in ambiguous danger.
To the streets of Starling City! The legion of mini-Deaths are now roaming the city, promising a more direct version of the Undertaking. Springtime is wicked dangerous in this town.
It's a pretty overwhelming cliffhanger, with every major character (besides Felicity) in extreme peril. Next week marks the penultimate episode of Season 2 with "Streets of Fire."