Arrow Season 3 Review “The Climb”

Seriously, Arrow?! You’re gonna leave me like that until the end of January?! How very dare you! Ok. Now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, we can move on to more important things. Like this insane mid-season finale. There are a few things I believe are necessary ingredients for creating a really good (mid-season) finale: 1) action, 2) romance, 3) character momentum/development and 4) at least one OMG moment. Blend well and you’ve got yourself a heck of a finale.

Arrow got off to a rather clunky start this season. The show didn’t seem to know whether it wanted to focus on Oliver brooding about his life or whether it wanted to focus on The Arrow brooding about Oliver brooding about everything. The point is. There was a whole lot of brooding going on. That is not inherently a bad thing, but the angst needs to have a point and it needs to propel the characters (and the storyline) forward. I was a little concerned that this was angsting for angsting’s sake, but by about the fourth episode or so, Arrow seems to have found its stride again. They realized that angsting and action don’t have to be mutually exclusive, and they did a much better job of blending those two elements together. It makes sense that Oliver would spend a bit more time being introspective after everything that happened with Slade Wilson. It also makes sense that he would be afraid to let his guard down and have difficulty establishing some sort of balance between being Oliver and being The Arrow. My concern with all of that, though, was that it wasn’t strong enough to provide a season long story arc for the show. For Oliver. Yes. But not for the show as a whole. Enter Sara’s death. Sara’s murder provided an opportunity to continue exploring Oliver’s psyche but at the same time giving the show a story that could carry the season because the story isn’t just her murder. It’s about the fallout from that and the choices the characters make because of it.

Oliver has had a difficult time figuring out how to turn The Arrow off. Since he no longer has to worry about Queen Consolidated, he can put all of his focus and effort into perfecting The Arrow. That would be a great thing if Oliver weren’t using The Arrow to hide. He’s hiding behind his work and it’s not good for him. It’s not good for anyone, but especially not for him. Oliver has only marginally dealt with his mother’s death and before he could get through that grieving process, he lost Sara. That’s a lot to deal with in a relatively short period of time, and instead of actually dealing with it, Oliver shut down. He focused on the mission so he wouldn’t have to focus on the pain. That may work for a little while, but little by little it eats away at you. Sooner or later everyone has to face the things they try to hide from. Working with Barry Allen finally made Oliver admit that he was hiding and, more importantly, losing himself in the job. Hopefully his encounter with Ras Al Gul will serve as a wake-up call for Oliver. I just wish the wake up call didn’t look so much like an execution. Stephen Amell has really impressed me this season with the depth and layers he’s bringing to Oliver. He seems much more comfortable in the role, and his performances this season have been much more nuanced than they have been in the past. Kudos to him for some really solid work.

Now comes the problem of Thea. In the interest of full disclosure, I must say I’ve never been a big Thea fan. That eing said, Thea’s rabid defense of Malcolm Merlyn doesn’t make any sense. Like at all. She can holler all she wants about Malcolm is her father and he’s some of the only family she has left and blah blah blah, but that’s crap. She hated Malcolm right up until the moment she found out he is her biological father. Now after a few months on an island she doesn’t question his love for and devotion to her? Seriously? It makes no sense for her to believe that Malcolm fundamentally changed basically overnight. Why is she so quick to believe Malcolm’s lies and disregard Oliver’s warnings? If she’s still under Malcolm’s mind control, that would be one way to sell it. Even though that’s pretty contrived. But what bothered me most about Thea (besides those ridiculous shiny MC Hammer pants) was her plea to Oliver not to make her choose between him and Malcolm. The things is, that shouldn’t have even been a choice. Oliver has loved and protected Thea his whole life. He has supported her and stood with her even when she was being a whiner baby. He has sacrificed for her and done more for her than she will probably ever know. Let’s compare that to Malcolm. Malcolm murdered her father and almost cost her brother his life too; attempted to kill her brother on numerous occasions; lied to her and everyone else; and let’s not forget that tiny matter of attempting to blow up The Glades killing hundreds of innocent people in the process. Did I miss anything? Oh, yeah. He also drugged her and used her as a bullet shield to clear his own blood debt with The League of Assassins. Granted, Thea doesn’t know about the last part yet, but she does know about the rest. Malcolm Merlyn is not a good guy and Thea’s blind faith in him after everything he’s done to her and her family is confusing to say the least.

Ray’s conversation with Felicity shed some light onto why he bought Queen Consolidated and what his endgame is. Ray felt helpless and weak when the mirakuru supersoldiers beat him up and killed his fiancee. He doesn’t want to feel that way ever again, and I can’t say I blame him. I still think he’s kind of shady, but if he was telling Felicity the truth (and I don’t doubt he was) then he really does have noble intentions. It does present a problem that he’s asking Felicity to help him be a superhero though. She’s already got a job in that area. It’ll be interesting to see how she handles that situation. I don’t think she’s going to leave Oliver though. She’s in love with him, and when he comes back he’s going to need Felicity more than ever.

One of the weaker elements of this episode was the Dinah/Laurel stuff. It was really just a rehash of the same song Laurel has been singing almost this entire season. I love Alex Kingston to death, but her presence in this episode seemed fairly unnecessary. Ever since Sara died the show has been beating the audience over the head with the fact that Laurel will eventually become Black Canary. Dinah’s presence here was just a means for the show to tell the audience again, ‘ See look. Even her Mom says she should be Black Canary.’ If you’ve read any of my reviews this season (and most of last season too actually) you already know I feel like Laurel is a pretty much next to useless character. They’ve tried to add some layers this season as far as Laurel trying to figure out how to channel her grief while also keeping the truth from her father. But in order for me to care about Laurel’s pain and her overall character journey, I have to care about Laurel and I just don’t. I’ve tried. Really I have. But I just can’t. The writing of her character has been inconsistent at best, and it’s hard for the audience to care about a character when the writers don’t really seem to care enough about her to make her more consistent.

I know there’s a lot that I missing, but there was so much packed into this episode. Usually I don’t like so much time shifting because it can be a bit confusing, but the time shifts were handled very well here. The Oliver/Ras fight was far too brief, but it was wonderfully filmed. It didn’t seem like Oliver was fighting the way he normally fights though. I can’t put my finger on it, but something felt slightly off about Oliver that whole time. Even still, it was an exciting confrontation. This episode was an excellent mid-season cliff hanger and I’m going to be on pins and needles until we come back at the end of January. So what did y’all think of the Arrow mid-season finale?