WTF?! HOLY S—?! HUH?! NO THEY DIDN’T?! I CAN’T EVEN!
These are just some of the all-caps words that littered my notes on Arrow’s midseason finale, an episode I was skeptical about for two reasons. First, because the title reminded me of a song by a certain former Disney channel actress. Secondly, the first half of Arrow‘s third season has been rather uneven and hasn’t had a sturdy focus. But, boy, did tonight’s episode make up for everything that came before! “The Climb” delivered one of the show’s best fight scenes as well a lot of other great character moments. There was something in this episode for everyone to love. Let’s get to it…
FLASHBACK — Hong Kong, 3 years ago
This week, Oliver and Maseo are trying to get their hands on a deadly bioweapon called “Omega” before China White does. Apparently, one vial of this stuff has the power to take out an entire city. Oliver isn’t any more comfortable with torture than the last time we saw, but he’s closer to accepting it as a necessary evil. Maseo and Oliver find the lab that makes the virus and try to steal it. However, by time they get there it is gone.
Turns out, China White had a man on the inside who stole it for her. They capture him, but after hours of torture, they realize he doesn’t know anything because he was under the control of Vortura, a plant that makes a person susceptible to suggestion. Basically, it’s mind control, and Oliver’s reaction to finding out was priceless. Unfortunately for them, China White decides to visit Maseo’s home and has a nasty encounter (katana fight) with Tatsu. By the time Maseo and Oliver get back, China White has taken Tatsu.
Boy, does the League of Assassins know how to make an entrance. The Arrow is casually minding his business on this December night—you know, dropping gift-wrapped bad guys off at the police station for Quentin—when the League ambushes him in an alley. Outnumbered, Oliver is captured and dropped at Nyssa’s feet. Nyssa al Ghul, a.k.a Daughter of the Demon, a.k.a. The World’s Deadliest Glorified Messenger, has come to Starling City to deliver a message for the Demon himself: Oliver has 48 hours to find and deliver Sara’s killer or else the League will start killing innocent people in Starling City, because that’s apparently a thing the League does when it grows impatient. (ASIDE: I may be wrong, but didn’t Nyssa tell Oliver earlier in the season that the League was after Malcolm because his Undertaking, the nonchalant killing of hundreds of innocents, violated their code of honor? If that’s the case, how is the Undertaking not okay, but being ready to kill innocents over Sara’s death make sense? )
We’re less than five minutes in the episode, and we get our first surprise: The so-called “cleansing of Starling City” will fall to Sarab, who is revealed to be Maseo! Following some tragic night—probably the one that comes after the final flashback—Maseo traveled to Nanda Parbat because who needs grief counseling when you can just become a badass assassin. Oliver tries to reason with Nyssa that this isn’t something Sara would want, but Nyssa points out that Sara is dead and leaves him to get to work.
Because grief and loss is all over this episode, Laurel visits Sara’s grave and runs into Thea, who was also at the cemetery putting flowers on her mother’s grave. In their ensuing exchange, Thea is shocked and upset to find out that Sara is dead. Cleverly thinking on her feet, Laurel makes Thea promise that she won’t tell Oliver.
Elsewhere, Felicity and Ray are not okay. Felicity’s still upset with him for running off mid-kiss without saying anything, and she assumes that he did so because he regretted it. Later on, Ray stalkerishly pings Felicity’s phone and pays her a visit at Verdant to explain his reaction to the kiss. Turns out, Ray felt guilty about the kiss because it has only been a couple months since his fiancee, Anna, died during Slade’s siege on the city. Anna was supposed to be the last woman he kissed, and yet here he was kissing another woman.
Unfortunately for Team Arrow, and Starling City, Oliver doesn’t have a contingency plan for this kind of thing, so they really need to double down on the investigation of who killed Sara. Caitlin rushes the DNA test for Felicity and sends it over, and everyone’s shocked to find out who it belongs to: Oliver Queen. GASP! Commercial break!
NEXT: Sara’s killer is revealed