Arrow, Season 3, Episode 9, ‘The Climb,’ Review

Wow.  What a first half of Arrow season 3.  This episode was actually very accurate sample of the season as a whole so far.  It has yet to meet the high bar set by the last season, but there have also been some huge moments, as well as a very successful crossover.

If you haven’t seen Season 3, Episode 9: The Climb yet, you should do that before reading this, as I do not shy away from some major spoilers.

Despite having one the the biggest cliffhangers in recent TV memory, the rest of the episode seemed very lacking.  They attempted to use the time hops (we were basically playing in 3 separate timelines for most of the episode) to keep up the tension, but it mostly served to jumble the pacing.

After 8 episodes, we finally know who Sara’s killer is.  When Nyssa al Ghul gets tired of not knowing who to serve justice in the wake of the murder of her lover.  She delivers an ultimatum to Oliver.  He has 48 hours to turn over Sara’s murderer, or the League of Assassins will begin to execute citizens of Starling City.

Felicity finally gets the DNA off one of the arrows that killed Sara (thanks to some crossover help from The Flash’s Caitlin Snow).  When the DNA shows a match to none other than Oliver Queen himself, Oliver becomes convinced that he is being framed by Malcom Merlin, but the rest of Team Arrow sees the evidence as pointing towards Oliver’s sister, Thea.

After confronting Merlin, Oliver is faced with the truth.  Merlin used a special plant to manipulate Thea’s mind to get her to kill Sara.  As a result, she now owes a blood debt to Ra’s al Ghul.  To protect her, Oliver decides to claim he was responsible and challenges Ra’s al Ghul himself to an honor duel in order to wipe away Thea’s blood debt (along with Merlin’s, by no coincidence) from the ledger.

There was so much exposition to get through prior to Oliver actually meeting up with Ra’s, though, that the first 55 minutes of the episode felt both rushed and weighed down, leaving only 5 minutes for Oliver’s actual confrontation with Ra’s.  Under other circumstances (this being the midseason finale), the story may have been better served to have been split between two episodes.

The actual confrontation with Ra’s, however (which took up the entirety of the marketing for the episode), was very well done, even if it was only a few minutes of the episode.  Ra’s al Ghul is an epic and dominating figure.  Matt Nable really gives respectable life to the character.

Ra’s is potentially centuries old.  He tells Oliver that he hasn’t been challenged to combat for 67 years, meaning there is more at play in the background, which we are bound to explore in the second half of the season.

The fight itself is incredibly short lived, as Oliver is totally outmatched and outclassed by Ra’s, culminating in the cliffhanger ending of Oliver’s death.  It’s not his apparent death.  It’s his actual death.  Oliver got stabbed clean through and dumped off a cliff. He’s dead.

Considering the introduction of Ra’s’s longevity, it’s fairly clear how Oliver will return to most comics fans, as it’s not likely he’ll be revived by the Green Lantern, since he’s not (at least yet) a part of this universe.

The cliffhanger itself was an amazing and shocking moment for many, but it was unfortunately a strong ending to an otherwise fairly weak episode.

There were some big moments of significance (outside of Oliver’s death), though.  We finally know who Sara Lance’s killer is, but Captain Lance still doesn’t even know she’s dead.  Her mother even knows now, but Captain Lance doesn’t.  The show might be hard pressed to be able to stretch that any further once the show starts back up.

That seems to be the case with this season as a whole.  There’s a lot of tricks (some better than others) that are all milked for maximum effect, but most of the filler material in between the various cliffhangers seems to fall fairly flat.  Most of the character drama (and love triangles) just feel tired and worn out.

Despite all that, the show has delved into some really interesting areas, especially with the introduction of Ra’s al Ghul and the reintroduction of the League of Assassins.  Hopefully the second half of the season will feel more full instead of having these highs and lows.

Arrow will return January 21st, 2015

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