Arrow: The Climb review

Arrow did it all this week. Ra's al Ghul. Big mysteries solved. A surprise ending. Here's Mike's review...

This Arrow review contains spoilers.

Sometimes it’s the little things that make me love this show. Tonight it was Ollie dodging an arrow from a League of Shadows goon in the opening. Little did I know, that was only the beginning.

I honestly can’t believe the maturity of Arrow and it’s little brother show, The Flash. Here we are, back to back midseason finales, both with incredibly high profile supervillains at the center of them, and coming off an even more incredibly high profile crossover event the previous week. And what did both of these shows do? They actually played it cool for the vast majority of the episodes, with lots of low key character work, before ending with big (really, really big) moments.

Compare these to the midseason finale of Agents of SHIELD this week. That was great, too, but it was flat out action, sound, fury, and fan service from start to finish. Nothing wrong with that, but that feels somehow…safe…compared to what the DC TV Universe just pulled off.

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If you’ve been reading my nonsense, you’ll know I haven’t quite been enthralled with much of Arrow season three so far. Well, they sure got it right tonight. “The Climb” was much more than a big mystery reveal, a Batman villain, and a big ending. It was about as good an episode of Arrow as I think I’ve ever seen, and it did it without the usual heavy doses of crazy stunts and DC Comics easter eggs (but we will get to those, don’t worry).

I have to complain a little, if only to stay honest, though. Laurel wasn’t the problem this week, and it’s always good to see Alex Kingston show up, too. But we seriously have to stop with the “Quentin’s heart can’t take it” crap. That is some subpar soap opera garbage right there, and this show, any show, should be better than that. Ms. Kingston ruled with the “make them suffer” thing, though. I wonder if there’s more to her that we haven’t seen yet?

Gotta love Malcolm Merlyn’s plan to use Oliver against Ra’s al Ghul, though. That was some next-level chess, right there. Probably the single smartest, coolest thing I think we’ve ever seen from him. And I’m willing to put the “don’t take too long making up your mind” conversation up there as the single greatest interaction we’ve ever had between these two characters. 

And, finally, you knew this was coming. How the hell does Felicity Smoak somehow manage to steal the show with two distinctly different moments? Her “why does this keep happening to me” with Ray Palmer was a great tension breaker, but then her “KILL THE DICK!” speech to Oliver was really something else entirely. Really great stuff. And just like on last night’s Flash (in a chill Barry and Joe scene), Blake Neely snuck in some quietly dramatic music cues. Everyone did their job.

Wait, there was a duel? Oh, yes. THAT duel.

First of all, was Matt Nable doing his own swordfighting when he was killing his League of Assassins sacrificial practice lambs? If so, he gets a cookie. Then again, the dude is jacked, so he probably avoids cookies. 

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But that final battle with Ollie and Ra’s? That’s how it’s done. I’m glad it didn’t go on forever. It did exactly what it had to. Both actors kicked ass, it was perfectly edited, and it had just the right amount of gore (Ollie’s side wound looked particularly unpleasant). And no, I didn’t see that ending coming, either.

Who Killed Sara Lance?

Well, it looks like we can finally put this section of my reviews to rest, doesn’t it? We knew Thea was having some Manchurian Candidate issues, and now that’s all out in the open. My problem is that I don’t believe that a badass like Sara Lance could ever be surprised enough to let an amateur like Thea bump her off. I’m okay with most of this, but it’s a little unsatisfying…especially with the way the phone video made it look.

Gotta love Thea’s big heel turn. “Kiss my ass, you hooded douchebag!”* (leaps off balcony) 

* not actually what she said * 

Meanwhile, On an Island…

Hey, you know how I’ve been complaining about the island stuff? Yeah. Not this week. It was a slow burn, but we got there. Given recent “real world” revelations, though, all the “Ollie tortures the hell out of people” felt a little uncomfortable tonight.

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And we sure got to see Katana fight China White, didn’t we? Damn, that was good.

DC Universe Watchtower

– Just as we did with Miraclo/Mirrakuru, we now have a more grounded, real-world version of a venerable DC Comics concept with that Omega formula. Now, I’m not expecting to see Darkseid and friends show up on Arrow (or The Flash, for that matter) any time soon. BUT…

If you read Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis, he did a fine job of showing how gigantic, Jack Kirby concepts like Darkseid and the New Gods can be brought down to Earth (quite literally) for some more grounded adventures. Could we be working towards some kind of anti-life equation storyline down the line? Maybe after Greg Berlanti’s Supergirl TV series joins the party? I wouldn’t hold my breath, but you never know!

– Okay, so Ray Palmer is ATOM. This is cool (but I still kinda wish that he was Blue Beetle as originally intended!). And it’s really cool that he isn’t just going to be an Iron Man clone. But it’s really, really cool that the prototype name is OMAC. OMAC, people! That’s now TWO Jack Kirby references in this episode! I don’t have time to do this right now, but seriously, if you’re into having your mind totally blown by something that was decades ahead of its time, track down Kirby’s OMAC collected edition.

– This is the first explicit reference to Ra’s al Ghul’s near-immortality we’ve gotten on this show. We know folks who hang with the League don’t stay dead, and we really know that Oliver won’t stay dead, so there’s obviously a Lazarus Pit in our future.

– If you want to read more of my ramblings about Ra’s al Ghul click here.

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So, what do you all think? January 21st seems like a long way off. And since Arrow takes place mostly in real time, that means Oliver might be taking a dirt nap for a good long while on the show, too. Think Ray Palmer will have his ATOM suit up and running?

Mike Cecchini could probably use a Lazarus Pit of his own right about now. Give him the strength to carry on the fight on Twitter.

Rating:

4 out of 5