After the past two years and moving into their third, Arrow has developed a few patterns. The mini-season of nine episodes always ends with something big, whether it was revealing the grand villain of the show that is Merlyn, creating the Flash, or revealing Deathstroke, Arrow likes to go big in its finales. Now, I won’t say that this episode was the most unpredictable of our finales and seasons, but I can say that it had guts. We don’t know all of the details, but Arrow is a whole new ball game now.
We actually had a fairly straightforward plot this week, focusing on the final reveal of Sara’s killer. Many predicted it was Thea, but a lot of the time the question and doubt in that situation was what her motivation would be. While the way it was addressed was a bit of a cop out in some respects, it did paint Malcolm Merlyn as the gloriously master manipulator that he deserves to be as Oliver’s archnemesis.
Flashbacks brought up the mind-control drug that was used on Thea and featured a fight between Katana and China White. While Maseo was revealed to still be alive in the modern day, some lines in the present are there to make us wonder who in his life is going to die. Normally, I would say they wouldn’t kill Katana, but to be fair I thought the exact same thing about Shado a year ago.
Speaking of killing, that finale was truly the main piece of the episode. The climb was a nicely used frame for the episode on the whole, but the final sword fight was where everything was going this time around. Not only was it well choreographed, but I absolutely applaud the team for letting the vast majority of the fight stand completely on its own. No cuts away. No background music. Just snow, swords, and slashes. When they did bring in music, it was excellently placed to almost get you thinking Oliver to win, only to see Ra’s straight up kill Oliver.
Killing Oliver is a gutsy move, even with the subtle hint (which I loved) that Lazarus pits exist. They get some serious points from me for doing it, but what we will have to wait and see is if they let this breathe. Even if Oliver gets brought back soon, he won’t be back in action soon. They’ve got a serious amount of storytelling potential right at their front door, and I’m hoping they make great use of it. This could be a great opportunity to really focus on the rest of Team Arrow.
While we’re on the topic, this was the true Ra’s unveiling we had been waiting for. The demeanor and almost…civilized manner Ra’s had in the fight was wonderful. Nable’s Ra’s has all the presence and force of personality I expect him to have. Yes, I would love a bit more beard on him, but I’ll let his acting chops smooth that one over for me. Other characters had some solid moments here too, whether it was the nice bonding moment between Oliver, Dig, and Roy before he left, Palmer revealing his plans to Felicity, or Thea standing up to the Arrow, this was a solid mid-season finale. Everyone knew where things were going, so Arrow made sure to spend time with its cast. Hopefully it spends time with them again in the wake of Oliver’s demise.
Favorite line of the week: “Why does this keep happening to me?” – Felicity
While they can play the storytelling potential of Thea being drugged to better serve their building up of Merlyn as a manipulator, it is trapped in cop out mode right now. Hopefully they can shape some great things out of it, but there’s a lot to do in the next half of the season. This plot aspect fits in with the ongoing issue of this little mini-season: predictability. Different plots each week were well done and handled, but the overarching Sara’s murder plot has moved so slowly that twists and turns have become predictable. Things have been such a long time coming that it hurts their payoff. But the team behind Arrow does always manage to still try to make it pay off in style.
As awesome as that final fight was, there were a few cuts with a blatantly obvious stunt double that hurt the flow of things. It was especially depressing here, because Arrow tends to have top-notch stunt work and this was an exceptionally great sequence that had that one thing unfortunately marring it.
Minor gripe: the pronoun game with flashback survivors is getting real old real fast. Last year it was Oliver refusing to discuss Slade. Now Oliver and Maseo won’t talk about Hong Kong. I get why it’s there and all, but still it is a bit tedious.
“The Climb” was the culmination of a lot of things for Arrow. While it wasn’t a perfect pay off, it made some risky moves in great ways. It has set up a great deal of potential, but it didn’t quite do enough on its own.