Arrow needed this hour. After weeks of fumbling around with unnecessary distractions, messy plotting, and atrocious guest stars, last week’s Flash crossover reinvigorated the show, and this midseason finale was the cherry on top, capably restoring some much-needed momentum and narrative focus to a season that had almost lost its way.
I’m pleased to report that Ra’s Al Ghul has proven to be a formidable villain. After Slade Wilson’s harrowing turn as the show’s main antagonist, I wondered if Arrow could pull off another menacing Big Bad. Thankfully, The Demon’s Head is an awesome addition to the show, with Matt Nable turning in an incredibly foreboding performance. Not only is he physically imposing (as evidenced by that final fight), but his belief in ridding the world of evil through savage methods is a compelling one. In addition, the writers dropped in a little nugget concerning his age, which means that the Lazarus Pit (and its infamous restorative powers) are obviously in play. I guess Ollie’s seemingly-mortal wounds aren’t so fatal after all.
Speaking of The Climb‘s cliffhanger (pun intended), the apparent “death” of Oliver Queen was certainly an unexpected ending. I don’t think there’s much suspense with regards to this development, as we know our title character won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. But the scene itself was stunningly executed: the various flashbacks to the most pivotal players in Ollie’s life, Ra’s voiceover, and that epic kick off the cliff. Masterful.
It seems that Laurel will indeed be suiting up when the show returns in January, and her mom’s reappearnce this week was the perfect final incentive. I got chills when Mama Lance urged her daughter to make Sara’s killers “suffer”, and I’m beyond pumped to see Laurel, Roy and the rest of team try to keep Starling City from delving into utter chaos.
So what stopped The Climb from being truly perfect? A number of things. Ray is apparently going to become a superhero soon with his ATOM suit, and I’m nowhere near excited about that revelation. His scenes with Felicity stalled the hour’s momentum, and made me question the two’s previous chemistry. Speaking of our blonde tech-whiz, I still don’t buy her and Oliver as the show’s new endgame couple. Ollie’s goodbyes to the team were certainly touching, but this coupling still feels way too much like fan service instead of an organic development, particularly after Laurel was made out to be his soulmate for so long. Ugh.
In addition, I kind of wish the reveal of Thea killing Sara held more weight. Making her the victim of Malcolm’s mind control drug (Votura, which was also mentioned in the flashback) basically makes her innocent. Wouldn’t this revelation have been ten times more effective if Malcolm had successfully tapped into Thea’s dark side and convinced her to actually kill Sara? Sure redeeming little Queen would have been next to impossible, but it would have been a much gutsier move from a writing perspective. I just can’t shake the feeling that the writers took the easy way out here.
Bits & Arrows
– Excellent teaser with Arrow captured by the League and Nyssa giving him the ultimatum. Also, Maseo is alive!
– Laurel and Thea bonding at the cemetery was very moving. In retrospect, it makes their eventual face-off all the more exciting.
– This week’s flashbacks were the strongest of the season. Finally China White (hellbent on a new bioweapon) made an appearance and kidnapped Tastu in a thrilling little sword fight. More please.
– Ray’s finance was killed by Mirakuru soldiers. That’s sorta touching I guess.
– So Ra’s practices his fighting skills by killing a dozen men at a time?
– Thea fighting off the Arrow in her shiny pants has to be the most laughable sight of all time. Actually, that honour belongs to her consequently jumping off the building like a vigilante. Let’s never speak of this scene again!
– Malcolm’s plan is admittedly the most brilliant thing of all time: he frames Thea and this ensures Oliver killing Ra’s and erasing his debt. Genius.
– Loved the Queen siblings’ Christmas Tree decorations with their names.
– A great touch: Felicity begging Oliver to kill Ra’s so he can come back to her.
– The face-off between Oliver and Ra was expertly choreographed and sufficiently raw. I especially like that the fight scene wasn’t accompanied by music of any kind, just the grunts of warriors and the clashing of blades. Utterly fantastic.
Oliver: This isn’t what Sara would want!
Nyssa: Sara is dead! It’s time you remember that.
Felicity: What are you going to use it for?
Ray: To protect the people of this city. And I want you to help me.
Felicity: Why does this keep happening to me?
Laurel: Mom, can I tell you something? Whoever did this to Sara, I am going to find them no matter what it takes. And I am going to make them pay.
Dinah: Then you make them pay. And you make them suffer.
Ra’s: (seeing Oliver for the first time) You’re just a boy.
Ra’s: You see I had replaced evil with death. And that is what the League exists to do. And I have killed several thousand more men since then. And the world is better off for it.
Oliver: You’ve taken your last life.
Ra’s: No. You have lived your last day.
Nyssa: (to Oliver) I am envious of you. You will see her before I do.
Not perfect, but The Climb was a riveting midseason finale and a welcome return to form.