‘Arrow’ Midseason Finale Review: Surviving ‘The Climb’


So that happened…I think those are the best three words to sum up my reaction to last night’s Arrow midseason finale. I know the producers were expecting gasps and shock and judging by what I saw on social media, they received plenty, but for me, the ending seemed like the one and only possible outcome to Oliver challenging Ra’s Al Ghoul.

Let’s backtrack a bit and talk about the rest of “The Climb” before we discuss the ending. The League of Assassins was tired of waiting for Oliver to produce Sara’s killer so they gave him an ultimatum: he had 48 hours to find the killer or they would systematically kill 50 Starling City residents at a time until the city was cleansed. That’s certainly one way to make a point.

That pushed the team into high alert…if high alert meant Felicity making a call to Caitlin and asking her to rush the DNA testing. She complied and sent the data, which Felicity ran against the felon database and it returned a match: Oliver. Since the team knew he wasn’t the killer, their first assumption was that Malcolm planted Oliver’s DNA on the arrows, but they also wondered if maybe Thea could be guilty.

As much as I hated the idea of it, I pretty much assumed Thea would be the killer when she randomly showed up at the cemetery and Laurel told her Sara was dead. This show rarely lets the two characters interact and it seemed odd that Laurel would just blurt out her biggest secret. Thea was floored and offered Laurel comfort without a hint of guilt. That made me think that Thea only knew that she killed Canary – perhaps someone Malcolm told her that she was a terrorist.

But the truth turned out to be a lot more complicated than that. Once the team saw footage of Thea getting off a plane with Malcolm the day of Sara’s death, Oliver attempted to talk to his sister about her relationship with Malcolm. They didn’t get very far before Thea shut it down and Felicity and Digg both agreed Oliver was too close to the situation and maybe he shouldn’t be the one to talk to her. So Oliver suited up and broke into his own home only to have Thea pretend to be scared for about two seconds and then fight him and jump over the ledge to get away – BAMF.

Seeing Thea fight Arrow and get away from him while coolly telling him that she would not let him hurt her or her father was probably my favorite moment of the episode. I’ve been waiting three seasons to see Thea get to be a badass and it’s finally here. So of course the next part ruined everything for me because this show doesn’t seem to want me or Thea to have nice things.

It turned out that Thea did kill Sara, but she has no memory of it because Malcolm used some kind of hypnosis on her where she can be controlled and then have the memories erased. And that’s only the beginning of his bid for worst father ever – he had it on video, which he showed Oliver and then told him that the League would come after Thea and kill her if Oliver didn’t go to Ra’s and admit he killed Sara. All Oliver had to do was challenge Ra’s to a duel, fight him to the death and win and then all blood debts would be erased – including Malcolm’s.

While I’ve never liked Malcolm, I have to shamefully admit that I did not see this part coming at all. It’s not that I thought he had Thea’s best interests at heart by any means, but I didn’t expect him to set her up this way. I’m curious how the show is going to justify keeping him alive moving forward. Will the team tell Thea the truth? If they do, will it matter to her when he’s the last family she has left? I’d like to see Thea come over to Team Arrow, but my guess is they will find a way to drag out the reveal and continue to allow Malcolm to manipulate her.

We’ll get back to Oliver in a moment, but first, I want to talk about the other stories being set up this week. Quentin asked Dinah to come home and surprise Laurel and right away she knew something was wrong. I’m all for the power of a mother’s love in theory, but it bugged me that Dinah instantly sensed Sara was gone for good. Maybe it’s because I hate that Quentin is being kept in the dark, even though I do understand Laurel’s reasoning. She’s lost everyone and she’s worried about his health. Fair enough, but I also think a grieving sister might not be the best judge of what someone can handle.

Anyway, Laurel told her mother the truth and brought her to Sara’s grave. Without coming right out and saying she planned to become Black Canary, Laurel promised her mother that she would make sure Sara didn’t die for nothing and Dinah told her to do what she had to do. I like that Dinah supported Laurel because so far everyone else has told her to stop and not try to become a hero. I know Quentin and Oliver just want her to be safe and that’s noble, but it’s her life and her choice and even if Dinah doesn’t know all the facts, it was good to see someone taking Laurel’s side.

Then we have Ray, who tried to apologize to Felicity for making things awkward with the kiss, but she didn’t want to hear it. Eventually, he tracked her down at the club and told her the whole story: he felt guilty for kissing her because his fiancée had been killed in the super soldier attack and he hadn’t been able to save her. Felicity understood, but she also knew he wasn’t telling her everything and that wasn’t going to fly. So Ray showed her his A.T.O.M. prototype and explained that he wanted to fight to make things better, which is when Felicity (hilariously) muttered to herself, “Why does this keep happening to me?”

I know Ray doesn’t have a lot of fans on social media, but I love this character. His backstory and why he wants to fight to make Starling City better just adds another strong layer to the character. I’m looking forward to seeing how this progresses moving forward and whether Ray will be allowed to become the Atom and be a hero…and if that will eventually lead to him taking his heroics on the road (could he be the next spinoff the producers and the network are discussing or will that go to The Flash’s Firestorm? Those are my two best guesses).

Back to Oliver – in order to save Thea, and unfortunately Malcolm, he goes to Ra’s and schedules a faceoff. One of Ra’s assassins, who happens to be the dude from the flashbacks (guys, I know I’m the worst, but I can’t care about the flashbacks and I don’t know his name. I’m sorry). He warns him that few survive the climb, but Oliver is determined to protect his sister at any cost. He shares manly goodbye handshakes with Digg and Roy and then Felicity asks him to promise to kill Ra’s – she’s worried his humanity will get in the way. Oliver promises he will do it to protect Thea and he tells Felicity he loves her.

So Oliver climbed the mountain (which they showed him doing throughout the episode – I thought this was a nice touch because it would have been silly to say it’s a complicated climb and then just magically show him at the top of the mountain). Ra’s gave him a final warning that it had been 67 years since he’d last been challenged (say what now?) and then the two got into the sword fight. It took about three seconds to show just how unprepared Oliver was for the fight and given that it was happening at the very end of the episode, it was hard not to know where this was going. Ra’s ran Oliver through with his sword, whispered some kind of prayer to him as Oliver thought about his parents, Thea and Felicity and then Ra’s booted Oliver off the cliff to his death.

As I said at the beginning of the review, this was the only possible outcome because Oliver Queen, even after everything he’s been through, is no match for Ra’s Al Ghoul. It would have been ridiculous to show Oliver besting him and then rushing back home to share the good news that everyone’s blood debts were gone. But at the same time, we all know that Oliver’s not going to die for real because he’s the main character and this is a show based on comics, which happen to include supernatural ways to bring people back to life. Given Ra’s comment about 67 years passing and he’s still alive and kicking (ass), it’s a safe bet he has a way to bring people back from the dead (most likely the Lazarus Pit).

I didn’t love this episode because it lacked the urgency I’ve come to expect from midseason finales. But there have been some interesting pieces put into play – Ray possibly becoming the Atom, Laurel taking up the Canary mantle, the fallout from Thea being the one to kill Sara without knowing it, the potential for Roy to have more to do than stand in the background – and of course how and when Oliver will come back from the dead. Personally, I hope they wait a few episodes to reveal to Starling City that he’s alive and potentially well because it’ll be way more interesting to see how everyone else reacts and deals with the consequences.

Mandy Treccia
Mandy Treccia has served as TVSource Magazine’s Executive Editor since 2016, formerly as Editorial Director from 2012-2016. She is an avid TV watcher and card carrying fan girl prone to sudden bursts of emotion, ranging from extreme excitement to blind rage during her favorite shows and has on more than once occasion considered having a paper bag on hand to get her through some tough TV moments. Her taste in TV tends to rival that of a thirteen-year-old girl, but she’s okay with that.

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