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It all hits the fan in a pivotal episode for Season 4 and the future of Arrow

Wow. It’s always tough to talk about such an emotionally searing moment so soon after the wound is opened, but I’ll try my best. After last week’s mess of comedic misfires, Arrow was back in fine form with a brutal episode that will change Team Arrow forever.

As we mentioned earlier, it was widely known that “Eleven Fifty-Nine” would be the episode to finally reveal who was in the grave visited by Oliver and Barry in the Season 4 premiere. So much like this week’s widely talked-about episode of The Walking Dead, most of tonight’s Arrow was just a waiting game to see who was going to bite the bullet (even though the news had leaked out weeks ago). Fortunately, unlike TWD, the Arrow showrunners trusted the audience enough to show us that death in the episode’s final moments, rather than concoct a ridiculous cliffhanger.

But before we get to that, let’s talk about the rest of the episode. The story begins with Ruvé Darhk clinching her victory in the mayoral race and offering Laurel the District Attorney’s desk, a decision she will wrestle with throughout the remainder of the episode. Another central plotline in “Eleven Fifty-Nine” is whether or not Andy Diggle can truly be trusted. We see him meeting with Malcolm Merlyn at the episode’s beginning, but Andy quickly and willingly discloses that information to John soon thereafter. Throughout the episode, Andy’s actions seem noble, but Oliver is unsure of his motives.

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The team realizes that Malcolm will be coming for Damien Darhk’s idol and since he knows where the bunker is located, they’re in a vulnerable spot. Intel from Andy splits the team, leaving Laurel and Thea alone to protect the idol. Sure enough, Malcolm and his inept assassins show up and disappear with the idol, and Ollie has good reason to wonder why Andy sent he and John on a fool’s errand in the first place.

Malcolm shows up at Iron Heights Prison to deliver the idol to Darhk, but unfortunately for him, Team Arrow has removed a crucial piece from the idol, rendering it useless. Soon after, Andy calls John with more suspicious intel, saying he’s tracking Malcolm to a warehouse. Ollie and crew show up, but it’s nothing more than a trap, and Andy ends up taking an arrow meant for Oliver.

When the team splits to follow up on leads, Ollie shadows Andy back to John and Lyla’s apartment and confronts him about his true loyalties. John shows up in the middle of the confrontation and orders Oliver to leave — at gunpoint.

Malcolm and his cronies smuggle a cache of shanks into Iron Heights and start a prisoner takeover, ending with Damien and his buddies taking a group of guards captive. Meanwhile, Laurel has made a decision to take the DA position, which will mean giving up moonlighting as the Black Canary. She puts on the mask one last time, though, to join the team as the head to the prison.

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Much fighting ensues, including another throwdown between Thea and Malcolm (which Malcolm wins… again). Once the team frees the hostages, Andy reveals his true loyalties. Yes, Oliver was right: he was working for Darhk the whole time. He hands Damien the missing piece of the idol, and the team is soon frozen in place by Darkh’s magic. Catching a errant arrow from Oliver, Damien tells Laurel he intends to stay true to the threat he made to her father and stabs her violently with the arrow.

Oliver races to the hospital with Laurel, who is rushed into surgery. The team changes into their street clothes and returns to the hospital with Felicity (in her first appearance all episode long) just as Laurel is wheeled into recovery — she’s going to be fine. After a touching talk with Ollie about their mutual love, Laurel suddenly begins seizing horrifically. Thea, Felicity, and Diggle run into the room with the doctors and nurses, but nothing works. At 11:59 PM, Laurel Lance is pronounced dead.

Stunned, Oliver stumbles into the hallway just in time to meet Captain Lance, who knows with one look at Ollie that his daughter is gone. He collapses onto the floor.

I knew from the unfortunate paparazzi set photos that Laurel was going to die this week, and I thought I was prepared for it. Her character has never been a favorite of mine, though Katie Cassidy has done an admirable job with what the writer’s have given her. Somehow, I hadn’t considered the emotional impact that her loss would have on the rest of the characters. The loss of Laurel Lance is a massive blow to both Oliver and to Team Arrow (not to mention the tortured Captain Lance).

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As bittersweet as this may seem, though, I think Laurel’s death is exactly what Arrow needs right now. Death used to be a constant companion on the series, from the revelation that Oliver’s father killed himself in order to save his son to death of Tommy Merlyn to the gut-wrenching murder of Moira Queen at the end of Season 2. Since the Lazarus Pit came along, though, Arrow has been more about cheating death.

Arrow is on hiatus until April 27th. In case you missed it, here’s the promo for the next episode, “Canary Cry”:

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