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ARROW Ends With a Cliffhanger

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Episode 309 “The Climb”

[Photos: Cate Cameron/The CW]

Well, that took a turn, didn’t it?

This episode: we find out who really killed Sara, Oliver has to deal with lies and obfuscation, Malcolm has been playing the long game, Ray Palmer has a secret, and Felicity still has a type.

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The DNA on the arrows that killed Sara finally have popped up a match: Oliver Queen! Only he knows he didn’t do it, so he figures Merlyn is somehow setting him up to take the fall for the attack. Only that’s not what Malcolm is doing. Oh, no. He has something even more nefarious in mind. See, Malcolm knows that there’s only one way to erase the blood debt he owes to Ra’s Al Ghul, and that’s to challenge him to one-on-one combat. But Malcolm also knows he’s not skilled enough to beat Ra’s, he’s got to set up Oliver to do it.

This shows Malcolm playing a long game, because all of the time he spent training Thea was so that he could polish his Daddy of the Year award by drugging Thea and making her kill Sara.

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Which is what puts Oliver’s DNA on the arrow, because he shares it with Thea. And he also recognizes that Malcolm used a drug called “vutura” (at least as far as I can hear it in the show’s audio mix) that grows only in specific places around the world, including Corto Maltese. This drug has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to … suggestion (did you hear that in Ricardo Mantalban’s voice?) Of course, the victim has no memory of doing whatever they were compelled to do under the influence, so Thea’s not going have any memory of shooting Sara.

Calling it now: This is the beginning of Thea’s arc into Speedy. Imagine how she’s going to feel when she learns that Malcolm manipulated her. She’ll turn on Malcolm in a heartbeat and join Team Arrow after the requisite emotional roller coaster ride that is the hallmark of a CW show.

 

The Climb

So now Oliver has no choice but to claim he was Sara’s killer and challenge Ra’s to a trial by combat. Of course, Ra’s doesn’t believe Oliver for a second, but he accepts the challenge. And for those not paying attention, he also says it’s been sixty-seven years since anyone has challenged him. Given that his first kill was when he was eleven years old, that would make him at least seventy-eight in this episode. Add that to an earlier episode, where Ra’s was exiting a “bath” of some sort, and we now have solid suspicions that the Lazarus Pit will be making its appearance soon.

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Speaking of Thea, she bumps into Laurel in the cemetery. And some were wondering then, if Thea might have been faking her reaction to the news that Sara’s actually dead. But since the drug induces memory loss, Thea’s reaction would have been genuine. And it also adds a little more of an emotional connection between Thea and Laurel that will probably factor in later when Thea’s confronted with the truth.

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And Laurel, meantime, has to deal with Mom’s surprise visit home for the holidays. And Mom being Mom, she knows that something’s up when Laurel gets twitchy. And it really is a waste of Alex Kingston’s talent that she only plays Mom on this show. It would have been much cooler — and more faithful to the comics — if she’d been the original Black Canary, or at least had some vigilante past that brought her into Quentin Lance’s orbit. Can you imagine those mother-daughter day training sequences? Casting Kingston has always felt like fan service, and she really should be given something more to do when she’s on the show.

Likewise, this episode also gives us more evidence that Ray Palmer was not supposed to be the new player for Queen Consolidated. Stay with me on this. Season one, same episode where Laurel talks about wearing the fishnets to a Halloween party, she also mentions “Ray and Jean” to Oliver, giving us our first nod to Ray Palmer and Jean Loring, who were married in the comics. Now, when Jean Loring showed up as Moira’s lawyer, it introduced a question as to whether or not she and Ray would have been Oliver’s contemporaries given that Teryl Rothery is older. Which would make Ray older as well.

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Jet forward to rumors that Ted Kord (Blue Beetle) would be making an appearance this season. Mainly because the casting call listed “Ted” as the character, but also because Kord Enterprises had already been name-checked several times. So it was a surprise that Ray Palmer showed up instead of Ted Kord. Turns out it was a DC-mandated change in the character. So we get Ted Kord with Ray Palmer’s name, and this episode is further evidence of that, as Ray tells Felicity why he’s developing the A.T.O.M. (formerly O.M.A.C.) exo-skeleton: the death of his fiancée Anna during the Deathstroke Mob attack last year.

Felicity’s reaction is priceless: “Why does this keep happening to me?” Well, because she has a type…

So, all of the pieces are now in place for Black Canary and the Atom to join up with Arsenal and what’s left of Team Arrow to step up and protect Starling City. Laurel will be first. When she learns of Oliver’s fate, she’ll suit up before she’s ready (for those who think she’s not been training long enough) to meet the challenge of Arrow’s legacy. And that will probably involve Ted Grant coming out of retirement as Wildcat.

Likewise, the Atom will jump into the fray, as Ray has admitted to Felicity he’s building the suit to protect the citizens. Arsenal will come into his own, too, and maybe it gets to be too much for him, and he tries to jump-start his skills with a little mirakuru cocktail? Could we get the Roy-as-addict storyline out of this? Would you want to see that play out on a CW show?

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And of course, Thea-as-Speedy has yet to be addressed, but it’s coming. Maybe in time for the season finale, when the city gets its proper comic book name of Star City. Plus, we have the unresolved question of what happened to Tatsu/Katana in Hong Kong when China White showed up and attacked over Oliver and Maseo searching for the Omega virus.

Now, kids, the question of the day: Is Oliver Queen dead? It certainly looks that way. Although Ra’s didn’t stab Oliver through the heart, it still looks like a killing blow. And falling off a cliff would just add a little insurance to the moment, yes? Plus, we have this from the star:

Now, of course it’s a comic book death. And there’s a slim chance he’s not dead. But it’s also an opportunity to use the Lazarus Pit, because Maseo just didn’t think the trial by combat was ever a good idea, and we’ve already seen in the promo that someone retrieves Oliver’s body. So, there’s that. But there’s also the confirmation that the next few episodes will be Oliver-light.

All in all, a good setup for the rest of the season. Plenty of moments in this episode, and quite a bit of open-ended plot threads to follow. Now, the show needs to play with the opening logo to highlight the vigilante of the week.

[Show web site at CW]     [Previous Recap: “The Brave and the Bold”]

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Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

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