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Arrow: The Climb Review

Kalem Lalonde's picture

Full Spoilers

Arrow has been pretty mixed this season. Following the phenomenal season 2, it seems like the writers are having troubles toping the stakes (How can you top Slade giving Ollie a choice between his sister and his mother’s life?). Last week, the crossover with Flash breathed new life into Arrow with an amazing episode containing excellent character development, a threatening villain and an enthralling exploration of contrasting philosophies. I felt enthusiastic about Arrow, once again and boy did that trailer for the mid-season finale help. The episode seemed to be tense, action-packed and potentially heartbreaking. Unfortunately, I don’t believe the entire episode lived up to my incredibly high expectations, but it was great nonetheless. Arrow ends the year with a strong episode and an appalling cliffhanger that will have viewers yearning for the 2015 premiere, myself included.

The mystery ensuing from Sara Lance’s murder has been the central storyline to this season but it hasn’t been given a great load of focus. Popping advancements in and out of a few episodes and never really layering the mystery with interesting ideas (I didn’t like the Roy killed Sara storyline). The plot-line is given full attention (Ray segments notwithstanding) here and it finally concludes with a cop-out reveal. I have mixed feelings about Thea having killed Sara. I wouldn’t have expected it in earlier episodes but this episode heavily implies that she’s the killer before revealing it. I felt a little cheated that the reveal consisted of “Oh it could be Thea, oh it is Thea”. Also, having her being mind-controlled under a drug by Malcolm Merlin also feels lazy and insipid. I would have love to see Oliver come to terms with Thea being a murderer and having Thea take responsibility for her actions. Not only would it have made Thea more interesting, it would also have made Malcolm Merlin even more malicious. Taking Thea and twisting her mind and ideals to an extent that she would murder Sara would have been an intriguing storyline. The opportunity feels wasted.

However, I did feel that Merlin blackmailing Oliver into taking the blame led to some strong character development. Ollie has grown a lot this month with this week showing that he will do anything for his remaining family members. Even though Thea is a killer (well, sort of), he’s willing to give his life to protect her from the league. I was very impressed with Ollie’s selflessness, considering how shocked he was that Thea had lied to him about her whereabouts and recent activities.

When Ra’s Al Ghul was announced as this season’s overarching villain, I thought it was a perfect choice. He’s already been mentioned a few times and the head of the demon could pose an even greater threat to Ollie than Slade did. We were introduced to him a few episodes back but this episode is his true primer and I thought played the role of looming threat excellently. First off, let’s talk about Matt Nable. Fans didn’t seem to be too keen on the actor playing Ra’s, however I didn’t see much of a problem. He doesn’t look like Ra’s Al Ghul but he’s pulls off this interpretation of the character very well. He’s extremely menacing and calm. The writers had to raise the stakes this season and I think Ra’s is the perfect villain for the job. He brought a sense of honor to his villainy, during his speech before the duel and even right before letting Oliver die. On the subject, what a flabbergasting cliffhanger. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire fight which was choreographed to perfection and demonstrated how much better Ra's is than Oliver (Ra's not using a weapon and saying he would take Ollie's was a nice touch).  This midseason finale delivered on that end alone which has made me incredibly intrigued to see how the writers will handle the rest of the season. Obviously Ollie’s going to get a bath in the lazarus pit (Ra’s mentioning he hadn’t been challenged in 67 years implying he’s been around for quite a long time) but watching how Ollie’s story will unfold posthumously will be very interesting. It’s very bold to kill off your titular character and I'm eager to see what will happen next.

What displeased me the most about this episode was the material with Laurel and her mother. I’m actually a fan of Laurel Lance despite Katie Kassidy’s mediocre performance. I think her character has been through a rough journey and even though she was unlikeable during the majority of season two, she’s become a better presence in this season. Her material in this episode, however felt very weak. Not because of her character but due to some far-fetched views on a mother’s bond to her children. Her mother just knowing that Sara was dead because of a gut feeling was ridiculous and induced an exasperated sigh for me.

I also didn’t adore the material Ray Palmer had to work with here. I said in my Flash review that the Firestorm story felt a little irrelevant and hindered to main-plot and I feel the exact same way here. However, Ray’s scenes actually added some more depth to the charismatic businessman. His motivations for wanting to be a superhero (while a little clichéd) did make me sympathise with the character and his honestly towards Felicity was sweet and has started to tip over the love-triangle scale for me. I’m keener on the idea of Raylicity at this point than Olicity because relationships between central characters never captivates me very much. Anyhow, these scenes did serve to set-up the rise of the Atom but there was always a voice in the back of my head asking, why can’t we be catching up with Ollie right now?

In spite of its flaws, I greatly enjoyed Arrow’s mid-season finale. The stakes have been elevated for the writers to show us that Arrow is about more than just one man. My interest has been piqued and I think this season will start to build a lot more steam from here on out. The mystery of Sara Lance’s murder had its ups and downs but I’m glad we’ve paved the way for a new storyline. The threat of the League of Assassin is imposing and without Ollie leading the way, I can’t imagine how team Arrow will face this group of demons. I’ll definitely be coming back to find out!