The CW‘s Arrow The Climb TV Show Review. Arrow: Season 3, Episode 9: ‘The Climb,’ forced an answer, to the murder of Sara question; but that answer had more to do with the fate of the accused, than the identity. Complicating matters further, were the ones doing the forcing. Feuding faces, from the League of Assassins, popped up to force Oliver into a choice. One face, Nyssa al Ghul (Katrina Law), returned to Starling City, demanding the identity of Sara’s killer. As a matter of League honor, Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable) was prepared to make all of Starling City suffer, if Oliver didn’t deliver. When the answer did come to Oliver, confrontation with the League was no longer optional, but inevitable.
If the League was only interested in Oliver’s compliance, then counting on him to not take an arrow, to the back of the head, seemed like a risky way of getting his attention. What really got his attention, however, wasn’t so much Nyssa’s return, but the League assassin she was prepared to unleash upon the city. Maseo Yamashiro (Karl Yune) was now in the League of Assassins.
The Maseo reveal came kind of early; but there was a lot to get through, before the mid-season pay-offs of the episode. Their Hong Kong flashback story amounted to an explanation of the Sara murder reveal; but it did come with an appearance by China White (Kelly Hu), that may have done more for a future Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) reveal, than the Maseo one.
Of course, no Arrow finale, of any kind, would be complete without a mini-crisis for Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards). This time around, it was being torn between her place on Team Arrow – and commitment to Oliver – and her newly evolved status, at the side of Ray Palmer (Brandon Routh). Never one to be passive about feeling cornered, she forced some clarification out of Palmer, before deciding where she needed to be, by episode’s end. Beyond the formal declaration of micro-mazing heroics to come (check your spin-off countdown clocks), Palmer added some personal context, to the personal shift in their working relationship.
The problem with the Palmer back story was that his playful flirtation history, with Felicity, was no longer playfully flirtatious; and that boyish charm – that made him a character I haven’t been able to hate (not that I was trying all that hard) – now seemed like a front. A hero with an edge wouldn’t be out of place, on Arrow; but a darker, more troubled Ray Palmer would be somewhat different from the one we’ve been sold on, so far. Some last minute ‘Olicity’ shipper service didn’t help clarify things.
Beyond moral support, Felicity’s return to Arrow Cave duty provided one troublesome answer, to the question that drove the episode. While the Hong Kong flashback made some allowance, for this initial result, self-doubt doesn’t pack the same punch as, say, the moral dilemma of having to choose between external priorities. Do you have to be an old Simpsons fan to figure out where incriminating Ollie DNA evidence would lead?
With the Sara murder back in the forefront, Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) being managed by daughter, Laurel (Katie Cassidy), took on a new wrinkle: Dinah Lance (Alex Kingston) was back in town. Good for Quentin, bad for Laurel. Laurel always was a lousy liar (or has it just been Katie Cassidy?). I suspect much of her father buying into her cover up has come from his own deep-rooted denial (something that may apply to his still not figuring out who The Arrow’s been, after all this time). Her mother, however, has maintained an eerily accurate intuition, concerning Sara, that made short work of Laurel’s efforts to protect both her parents from the truth. As sympathetic as I have felt towards Quentin, the understanding reached, between Laurel & Dinah, just left me feeling sorry for the guy.
Thea (Willa Holland) has been groomed into a far better liar; but Oliver caught her red handed. The DNA red herring made an Oliver-Thea confrontation unavoidable; but Oliver just couldn’t bring himself to do it. When The Arrow took a turn, however, Thea’s Sith training kicked in. No answers on that front, either.
The answer, to the big question of season 3.1, casually walked up to Oliver, for an amicable chat over The Arrow calling on Thea. The other face of the League, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), formally put to rest prospects of redemption, by sharing the fruits of his fatherly attention with Oliver. If the identity of Sara’s murderer didn’t surprise me, then I suppose I had no business expecting the circumstance behind it to be anything other than a moral cop-out.
Merlyn may have saved his placed, in the Arrow rogues gallery, but two areas, central to The Arrow’s very sense of being, had to be preserved: Starling City & what’s left of the Queen family. Between Merlyn’s gambit, and the League’s ultimatum, Oliver took the opportunity to put his life on the line, for both at once.
A tall order, and the subtext to both the episode title, and inter-cut scenes of Oliver’s literal journey to his decision’s outcome. It would be easy to pin the contrivance, behind Oliver’s bind, on Merlyn’s twisted genius; but this really was just an excuse to salvage one key character, while forcing a confrontation with the Big Bad. I am prepared to go out on a limb, however, with respect to a presented opportunity to stick it to the Big Bad’s synonymous source foil. Where this Big Bad was concerned, you go big, or go dead; and the episode’s contrivance left Oliver ready to demonstrate that he was still willing to go to the ultimate lengths, over what was at stake. Take that, Bruce.
Okay, so the Oliver-Ra’s al Ghul match-up was to be the real deal. Matt Nable did his best to make The Demon at once reverent, and menacing; but came across as more of a wary, old gunfighter. The duel, at the top of Oliver’s climb, made a convincing case for why Ra’s had not been challenged in a good, long while. Of course, the obvious stunt double made that happen; but only further undermined Matt Nable in the role.
As the outcome had already been given away, via promos, I suppose all that was left, for ‘The Climb’ to do, was to leave viewers speculating on how season 3.2 will reconcile with the 3.1 ending. I’d assume that Lazarus pits won’t factor in; but then again, there was Mirakuru. It is entirely possible that a precise surgical strike (i.e. no major organ/ artery damage) staged the outcome, leaving an opening, for a certain someone, in the League. The most likely scenario I was left with, at the time, went back to Hong Kong. Those events had already factored into present events, in the form of one character, and promises to do so, further. It’s only a question of which will be coming to the rescue, and by what motivation.
Despite going as far as it did, the Arrow mid-season finale will likely matter more in the long run, than it did as either a stand-alone episode, or the culmination of season 3.1. It had good action, and provided some answers to big questions; but was a little heavy handed, in its set-up, and generated more anticipation, for season 3.2, than satisfaction, in-and-of itself. A good way to close out any mid-season; but it could have done it better.
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