Wednesday, December 10, 2014

REVIEW: 'Arrow' - Oliver and Ra's al Ghul Fight to the Death After Sara's Killer is Revealed in 'The Climb'

The CW's Arrow - Episode 3.09 "The Climb"

Nyssa returns to tell Oliver that her father has given him 48 hours to find Sara's killer or the League of Assassins will start killing Starling City citizens. Laurel is stunned when her her mother visits for Christmas. Ray tries to make amends with Felicity. Oliver sets a meeting with Ra's al Ghul.

As the midseason finale, "The Climb" is the culmination of a lot of the season's big story arcs. This season has gotten off to a rather sluggish start. Considering this episode brings a lot of the stories to their big moments, it often feels sluggish at times too. There are some epic moments throughout "The Climb." And yet, all the issues I've had with this season so far are still problems that I had with this episode. However, for the first time, I'm hopeful that with so many things resolved the season can have a sharper focus when it returns in the new year.

The ending of "The Climb" is a really important moment. It's the biggest cliffhanger the show has ever done - and it's set on an actual cliff. Unless Ray Palmer, Diggle or Roy is set to take over as the hero of Starling City, I'm certain the show will present some reason Oliver is still alive at the start of the next episode. But with so much buildup as to how deadly Ra's al Ghul is, it's the only kind of conclusion that would give this episode-concluding duel the weight that it needed. I was fully expecting some third-party to come in at the last second resulting in a draw. We just can't expect Oliver to beat Ra's during their very first fight. And yet, the show was backing its leading man into a corner. He had to consent to this duel in order to protect his family, his loved ones and his city. Sending him off the cliff is the only way to give the story justice. Ra's is going to be a major character moving forward. Neither of them is going to die. The fight choreography is once again phenomenal during that sequence. But the ending offers us the kind of hopeless devastation the plot naturally needed.

And yet, so much of the plot of this episode rests on the relationship between Oliver and Thea. That's simply a dynamic the show hasn't ever really been interested in developing. It's a hindrance to the show right now because there is this huge barrier between them: Oliver's secret that he is the Arrow. She has been trained how to fight by Malcolm Merlyn. She was manipulated into killing Sara. But the show can never really dig deep into the emotions of these two characters because of Oliver's inability to tell her his secret identity. She has undergone a transformation this season. And yet, Oliver is still being inauthentic with her. That makes their scenes together feel awkward and unrealistic. Not the kind of relationship you can honestly build a plot as important as this one on. I'm grateful that we finally have some resolution to the "Who killed Sara?" mystery. That could only fuel story for so long. Now, we can move past it and hopefully the repercussions of the reveal will be more interesting than the teasing at the start of the season.

But that also means that Laurel may be pushed even further away from Team Arrow. Thea killed her sister and she made a promise to her mother that she will seek vengeance. Of all the stories in this episode, the Laurel stuff drags the most. And yet, I can tell it will be important for the future. So, we just have to sit through it. Will Laurel take out her anger on Thea? At the start of the episode, the two of them are actually venerable together in the cemetery. They barely have a relationship. And yet, this could cause them to interact much more. Or will Laurel understand it was all Malcolm's doing and focus that rage into helping Oliver take him down? I really have no clue. Right now, I'm just willing to see how the chips fall.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Climb" was written by Jake Coburn & Keto Shimizu and directed by Thor Freudenthal.
  • Everything Felicity-related continues to be fantastic. Her pleading with Oliver to kill Ra's was such a great scene. And her reaction to learning what Ray has planned for the city was fantastic. Why does she keep attracting various vigilantes?
  • We also got more of Ray's backstory and it was the right kind of stuff to make me care and understand his motivations for everything he is doing. It also ties in nicely with the history of the show.
  • The only time I cared about the Hong Kong flashbacks was when Tatsu was fighting with China White. Again, exciting fight choreography can make most scenes on this show better.
  • However, the brief fight between the Arrow and Thea was very awkward - largely due to Thea's styling.
  • Also, Maseo has now become a part of the present-day story as a new member of the League of Assassins. I still don't really care about him.