Thursday, December 11, 2014

Arrow 3x09 "The Climb" (The Unmerited Favor)

"The Climb"
Original Airdate: December 10, 2014

I'm an introvert. Anyone who knows me knows this, really. More specifically, I'm classified as an INFJ by Meyers Briggs -- someone with introverted intuition and extraverted feeling. Do you what INFJs are described as by the test? They're "The Protectors." That's the thing about introverts, really: we feel things deeply. We are compassionate. We are intuitive. It may exhaust us to socialize with others, but we care a lot about them and would do anything to keep them safe. For all of his faults, flaws, and past mistakes, Oliver Queen is definitely a protector. When you are under his care, you are under a promise. And Oliver Queen doesn't break promises.

Protectors are also very self-sacrificing, in case you haven't noticed. They are the people who throw every last part of themselves into thinking about and protecting others. They are the ones who make difficult choices that no one asks or forces them to make. They are the ones who climb mountains and swim oceans to protect and to fight for the ones they love most. But when protectors embark on their journeys, they often do so alone. "The Climb" is Arrow's midseason finale and it's a doozy that centers around Oliver Queen -- protector of Starling City, protector of Thea, protector of Diggle and his family and of Roy and Felicity and the Lance family -- making the ultimate hero's journey and heroic sacrifice. The theme of thiseason is identity. When Oliver Queen looks at himself and the choices that he has made, he's plagued with a lot of questions and doubts about his humanity and his worth and whether or not he's a hero.

But at the end of the episode, Oliver tells Felicity that he is certain of two very important things in his life (we will talk about those later, no worries). And I think that in that subtle moment, Oliver -- though he did not realize it -- found his identity. People misunderstand what it means to have a sense of identity. Oliver Queen certainly does. He's been spending the entire first half of this season wrestling with himself and the decisions that he has made or hasn't made. He's plagued, as I said above, with really deep moral questions about humanity and sacrifice. Oliver is a brooding hero and he's a dark hero, make no mistake about that. It's taken interjections by Barry Allen and Felicity in order to remind him not just of his humanity -- that he is still a living and breathing person with feelings, that it is okay to HAVE those feelings (think about the conversation Oliver and Felicity had in the foundry during "Sara") -- but I don't think Oliver realizes that there is still light and goodness within him. What's so complex about Oliver is that he looks at his life as a series of dark events, most of the time: of trauma and death and destruction. But when Oliver really looks back on his life (which we see him do at the end of "The Climb") what he sees is not darkness, but LIGHT. He sees his father's proud face. He sees his mother's genuine smile. He sees Thea fling her arms around him in joy. And he sees the light surrounding him and Felicity as they kissed for the first time. And Oliver realizes for the first time (albeit a bit too late), that his life hasn't been completely marred by darkness and therefore, neither has he. Heroes make difficult decisions and that's what makes them heroes.

But HUMANS make difficult decisions too. Humans tether themselves to the light. Oliver's never seen himself clearly until he's seen his life flash before his eyes. And when he does, he sees the people he loves most illuminating his darkness. People misunderstand what it means to have a sense of identity, as I said above. They think that being self-aware means knowing exactly who you are at every moment of every day. But I think that "The Climb" told us differently. I think this episode told us that knowing who you are isn't even the right question. The things that you do in the utter chaos and confusion are what make you who you are. And "The Climb" told us the story of Oliver Queen, protector of Starling City, defender of Thea Queen to the death, and lover of Felicity Smoak.

So let's talk more about that mind-blowing midseason finale, shall we?

Oliver (+ Thea)

So here is the central question of "The Climb": how far will you go to save the ones you love? And what does salvation look like, really? For Oliver Queen, it's clear that salvation is all about grace. Grace, as I have often heard, can be described as "unmerited favor." Grace is getting something that you don't deserve. (Mercy, conversely, is not getting something that you DO deserve. #linguisticlessons) Oliver has played the mercy cards pretty frequently throughout Arrow's run. He's spared lives in order to teach lessons; he's kept promises in order to keep his humanity. But what I loved about "The Climb" was that it shifted the focus slightly away from Oliver as a vigilante and a hero and a mercy-giver and instead highlighted him as a grace-giver. If the central question this season is about humanity and identity, then this episode is indicative of who Oliver Queen really is, whether he recognizes it or not.

Oliver Queen doesn't know what he stands for or who he fights for until "The Climb." What he does know is that he will be his sister's savior. That's not even a question. But the reason that he challenges Ra's to a duel isn't just because he wants to spare his sister's life or pardon her or protect her -- though those are, of course, huge factors No, Oliver decides to face death because he explains to Felicity that he would do whatever it took to SAVE his sister. That's who Oliver is, then, at the end of "The Climb." He is not a hero or a vigilante. He is a savior. He is laying down his life in order to ensure that his sister has a chance to live -- a chance to be happy and a chance to be redeemed. Protection and salvation are different, really, because as I said above, salvation involves grace. Oliver could have easily just desired to protect Thea and shield her from consequences. Perhaps he could have devised a plan, if he had more time, that would incriminate Merlyn and save Thea. But that didn't happen. Instead of allowing the  League to take and kill Thea, Oliver made a choice and his choice was to let Thea have a chance at the best life possible. The choice was to bear the consequences of her sins (Malcolm did essentially use mind control on her, so I guess there's that) -- to become the sacrifice so that she did not have to.

So here is who Oliver Queen is, laid bare: a man who will bear the guilt of the guilty so that they have the opportunity to live. THAT is grace. That is a hero.


I know you're all waiting for me to talk about that Oliver and Felicity scene in the foundry because it's so important not just to Arrow as a series, but to Oliver Queen's beautiful (and tragic) character development. When we met Oliver Queen, he was brooding and angry and guarded and hardened. He didn't trust people because he saw them as targets to be eliminated, not flesh and blood. But when he met Felicity, that changed. He saw this babbling IT girl as an actual human being -- as someone with a heart and a soul and a smile and a lot of blonde hair. He wasn't aware of it then, but Oliver's life began to change. In "Unthinkable" (there's a beautiful parallel to the scene at the Queen mansion which I'll talk about in a moment) Oliver became less-but-still guarded. He professed his love for Felicity under the guise of a mission. And he refused to comment, either way, about the status of their relationship at the episode's end when Felicity mentioned that moment. Oliver just stood and smiled fondly at her. He still had walls built up when it came to her -- he still hid behind guises and half-truths. And the most frustrating and heartbreaking moments of all have been in this season. In "The Calm," we saw Oliver on the precipice of complete emotional intimacy with Felicity. He's never had complete emotional intimacy with anyone, guys. He loved Laurel but was also sleeping with Sara. He loved Sara, but they always had a wall between them because of what happened on the island. With Felicity, it's different. With Felicity, Oliver doesn't see who he was. He doesn't look into her eyes and see the stupid kid he was like he does with Laurel or the guilty young man with blood on his hands like he did with Sara. He doesn't look into her eyes and see judgement or fear. You see, when Oliver looks at Felicity, he doesn't see his past or his present. He sees his future. He sees what could be. And that both exhilarates and terrifies him. Because that means he would do anything for her. Not just to keep her safe, though that is a part of it. He would literally move heaven and earth for that woman if she asked (a fact solidified in this episode).

Do you remember "State v. Queen"? Do you remember when Felicity felt guilty for making Oliver break his no-kill vow? Do you remember what Oliver said? It's my favorite Oliver/Felicity line to date, even with all that has happened this season, I think. He said: "He had you and he was going to hurt you. There was no choice to make." Think about that for a moment, would you? Oliver's life is riddled with choices -- choices he does make and choices he doesn't make and choices other people want him to make -- but when it comes to Felicity, there IS no choice. He will always save her. He will do that because he loves her. He would move heaven and earth for her, but he would also break a vow so that he could keep her safe. In "The Climb," before Oliver leaves for his duel with Ra's, he and Felicity have a beautiful conversation. (Can I just pause to say how underrated Stephen Amell and Emily Bett Rickards are? They have absolutely been phenomenal this season and I don't think I've ever seen an actress whose facial expressions are as heartbreakingly nuanced as Emily's are. I just needed to put that out there.)

Felicity doesn't want him to leave, but she knows it's futile to ask him to stay. Here's the kicker: the reason why it's futile isn't because he won't stay; it's because he WILL. Oliver tells her that if she asks him to do something, he will do it. Think back, if you will, over all of the times that FELICITY has been Oliver's voice of reason. She was the one to tell him to figure out a way to "end this" and stop Slade. He listens to her not just because she's rational (which she is), but because he loves her. And he knows, in that moment, that if she asked him to stay, he would have a very difficult time saying no. So she lets him go, but not without a request. Perhaps "request," is putting it too lightly. She essentially demands that Oliver break his no-kill vow. Remember the only time he's done that? (Hint: I mentioned it above.) Felicity knows that Oliver takes his promises and his vows seriously. But Felicity's concern in that moment isn't about Oliver's humanity -- it's about Oliver's life. She needs him to come back to her, no matter the cost. And she knows that he can defeat Ra's but also knows that given the chance, Ra's will stop at nothing to take Oliver down. She's fearful and rightfully so. And then, Oliver steps forward and kisses Felicity's forehead for so long that I half-expected there to be an actual kiss. I'll tell you why there wasn't and it's the same reason why Oliver and Felicity didn't kiss in "Streets of Fire" or "Unthinkable": if he kissed her then -- really kissed her -- when he was preparing to go off to battle, he would not be able to leave her. I have no doubt in my mind of that fact.

So Oliver kisses her forehead and he lingers and then he tells Felicity that he doesn't know who he is (which is partially true, because I think the next statement he makes actually DOES define who he is as a person), but he knows two things: 1) He would do anything to protect and save Thea. Oliver's love for Thea is beautiful and complex and layered and I love it. When Oliver walks away, Felicity asks him what the second thing he knows to be true is. And in this absolutely beautiful moment by Stephen Amell, Oliver turns to face her, takes a deep breath and -- with tears in his eyes -- tells Felicity that he loves her. He actually and finally says the words "I love you" aloud to the blonde and that's when Felicity knows, I think, that he's not coming back. And really, when you think about it, this is the moment Oliver knows he's not coming back either. He wants his last words to Felicity to be "I love you" -- the thing she will remember about him for years after he's gone; the tenderness in his voice as she replays the moment over and over in her head. He wants her to remember that -- to remember HIM not as The Arrow. Not as a hero off to battle or a vigilante avenging a wrong.

He wants her last memory of him to be of HIM -- Oliver Queen -- professing his love.

And then, Oliver leaves. And Emily Bett Rickards has a moment that is very reminiscent of "Unthinkable" after Oliver left the mansion. In that episode, she gasped and choked back tears. In "The Climb," she watches him leave and the weight of what his confession meant rolls over her like a wave. And she begins to cry. (In my head, the next angst-ridden moment is her sinking to the floor in realization but I'm a terrible person like that.) She doesn't get the chance to say that she loves him back because she knows what he's about to do and knows that if she asked him to stay, he would. She knows that if she told him she loved him, he would never leave. Felicity Smoak bravely and boldly lets Oliver walk away knowing that she is one of the very last things on this earth that he is certain about.

If that doesn't break your heart, I don't know what will. (Perhaps the fact that as Oliver is dying on the mountain, he remembers Felicity and their kiss. #SORRY)

Team Lance

QUENTIN LANCE STILL DOES NOT KNOW SARA IS DEAD. At least Dinah Lance does now, as the Christmas episode saw a reunion between Laurel and her mother. Apparently Dinah is more perceptive than her captain-of-the-police-department ex-husband (... that's probably not good actually), because she astutely notes that something is amiss and that Sara is dead. When Dinah and Laurel visit Sara's graveside, the former makes a request of her daughter -- she asks that Laurel not only find the killer and bring him or her to justice but that she also make them suffer. If that doesn't sound like a villain's line of dialogue to you, then perhaps I am in the minority.

As I've said before, I'm interested in Laurel's trajectory because it is seeming more reminiscent of a supervillain than a superhero at this point. I know that post-hiatus will contain a lot of episodes with Laurel so I really am intrigued to see how Oliver's death affects everyone in the city and how they step up to protect Starling in his absence. Right now, Laurel is a woman who has a warped idea of justice and a warped idea of right and wrong, which will make her trajectory as a hero more layered and complex, I think.

Ray Palmer

I usually treat Ray the way that I treat Laurel Lance throughout these reviews. I typically try to play devil's advocate for him. I haven't ever really hated him as a character (I don't feel that strongly toward him, though he did leave a bad taste in my mouth post-"Draw Back Your Bow"), but I feel like "The Climb" tried too hard to endear us toward Ray who is -- by all accounts of the law -- essentially stalking Felicity at this point  (since Felicity doesn't want him to be around her). I know that people romanticize this frequently throughout television and movie culture: the man is seen not as persistent and aggressive but as romantic in his pursuit of the woman. Again, I am not sure whether or not Ray Palmer has a social disorder or an actual disorder or is just so rich and charming that he's not used to others dismissing him, but whatever the case, he doesn't seem to understand the word "no." In his professional life, that's a great thing. People who don't understand the word "no" are the CEOs of large corporations. They're lawyers and businessmen and women. They're feared politicians. But that professional dedication doesn't translate the same into personal lives.

He pinged Felicity's phone. That's about ten thousand types of wrong and I don't hate Ray but I certainly don't believe he's the kind of person Felicity needs right now. (I won't say that he's not the type of man Felicity deserves because I think she deserves to be with a former murderer and vigilante who's slept with more women than Leonardo DiCaprio and is also technically dead now, so really, who am I to judge?) Does Felicity deserve to be pursued romantically? Yes. Does Felicity deserve to be with someone who, when she tells him "no," continues to pursue her instead of respecting her boundaries? No. Not at all. (For the record, no one deserves THAT.) Ray, as a person, is... complex. He's got a sob story that he tells Felicity and she feels bad for him. For the record, you're allowed to feel bad for Ray in "The Climb." I just don't think that we should misconstrue feeling sympathy with feeling acceptance for his actions. I feel bad that Ray had to watch his beloved get murdered in front of his eyes. And it makes me wonder if Ray was always like this -- always energetic and persistent and hyper -- or if he's become that way since Anna. If, instead of becoming a brooding, bitter, and angry person (like a certain arrow-wielding hero we know), Ray grieved with the same intensity but a different trajectory. It's not uncommon, really, to bury your feelings behind emotional facades -- by literally keeping yourself energized and busy so that you don't literally have any time throughout the day in order to process your grief. Ray seems like he's damaged, and though "The Climb" made me wrinkle my nose toward him as a character, I also still find him intriguing. I want to know WHY he does the things that he does. I want there to be an explanation. (But maybe I'm reading far too into this and there is no real explanation for his behavior and he's just a creep. In which case, consider the last five hundred words moot.)

"The Climb" ends with a duel, but this season of Arrow has really been all about dueling, hasn't it? It's been a season, thus far, that has focused on combating your inner demons, your external foes, and your desires. Human nature dictates that most of us will flee during conflict. That when there comes a time where we have to choose between saving ourselves and saving someone else, we will choose ourselves every time. Oliver Queen has done his fair share of fleeing and he has done his fair share of fighting. But no fight -- not with Slade or The Count or Merlyn or the island -- has had the kind of stakes that are present in "The Climb." Because no episode has caused Oliver to examine who he is and what he really fights for.

No episode in Arrow's history has asked the question of 'why' as fequently as this one does. Why does Thea deserve to live? Why does Oliver decide to fight? Why does he believe it's his job to protect Starling City? And when Oliver falls off the mountain, not all of those questions are answered. But I think that the most important and unspoken one is.

Who is Oliver Queen?

He is a man who will do whatever it takes to save the people he loves, even if it means the ultimate sacrifice.

Observations & favorite moments:
  • MVP for this episode, without question, goes to Stephen Amell. I admit that when I first began being pestered by people to watch Arrow, I inwardly scoffed. I don't watch shows on The CW, really, because they're a bit too soapy for my taste (I get my fill of that watching Pretty Little Liars, after all). But when I saw the kind of acting and effort that Stephen has put forth in developing Oliver Queen as a vigilante-turned-hero-turned-human, I cannot help but be awed. Honestly, Stephen Amell is exceptionally nuanced with his facial expressions and -- in recent episodes -- has utterly excelled at emotional scenes and moments. The salmon ladder is still impressive. His fight scenes are still ogle-worthy. But the heart of this show is in the quieter yet more impressive moments that Stephen delivers. Bravo, Mr. Amell and thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do with Oliver Queen.
  • "One man's agony is not worth the lives of the entire city."
  • Ever since Laura tweeted about it (who, by the way, did an AMAZING job covering the blog's Twitter this weekend for me so everyone go give her kudos), I can't stop thinking of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb" whenever the episode flashed to Oliver climbing the mountain.
  • Any episode with Alex Kingston is already a great episode. Any episode with John Barrowman is a great episode. I really need an excuse for Alex and John to share a scene at some point. Is that too much to ask for?
  • "Backpacking through the Andes!... I think."
  • "I can't imagine there's a man on the planet who would ever regret kissing you." "... I can think of one."
  • "The smaller the family, the bigger the tree!" Is that true?
  • Thea Queen was essentially female Aladdin with sparkly pants in her fight scene. As a related aside, I want those sparkly pants.
  • Geez, how fast do people pick up martial arts in Starling City? I can barely pick up Zumba dance moves in an hour-long class.
  • "Like, mind control? Really? That's a thing?" Hey flashback!Oliver, tone down your sass.
  • "It's been 67 years since a man has challenged me." (But have you done your waiting in Azkaban, Ra's?)
  • "You make them pay. And you make them SUFFER."
  • STARLING CITY WINDOW REPAIR GUY. I bet they sit pretty in swanky lofts because of all the business Oliver Queen unintentionally gives them.
  • "... Why does this keep happening to me?"
  • I'll never stop talking about that forehead kiss, guys.
  • Blake Neely made me cry with his modified version of the Oliver/Felicity theme during their goodbye. Like, legit WEEPING. It is gorgeous.
  • Holy crap, this show deserves all of the awards for fight and stunt choreography. That mountaintop duel was fantastic.
  • GOODBYE, OLIVER. IT WAS NICE KNOWING YOU. I'M SURE THIS SHOW WILL SURVIVE WITHOUT YOU, THE MAIN CHARACTER. (Kidding. We all know Oliver is coming back in a few episodes, but speculate HOW in the comments below!)
That was one killer (ha, ha, ha) midseason finale, guys. Since Arrow is on hiatus until January (UGH), I'll be on hiatus from these reviews as well. I'm thinking of picking up reviewing The Flash during Christmas hiatus, so keep an eye out for that! And, as always, let me know what you thought of the episode in your comments below. Until then, folks. :)


  1. So enjoyable to read your thoughts as usual. Can this be long again? Cause I know no one who watches this show much less loves it.
    I both agree and disagree that Oliver has discovered who he is during this episode. I think he still has a lot to figure out moving forward, really important questions. When he says he doesn't know if he is a killer anymore I believe he is referring to the fact that he knows he will make exceptions in his no-kill vow (Thea and Felicity thus far) but he doesn't really know what all those exceptions might be or what that means. We also define ourselves in the times when we make exceptions to rules we generally adhere to. Some questions for his future I am interested in seeing him wrestle with: What is he going to do about Malcolm? Has he really changed his mind about killing the man? How is he going to break the news about all this to Thea? Is he going to include her in the ever growing number of people who know his secret identity? Does the fact that he his clear about his love for Felicity mean that he is ready to do something about it? Cause he knew how he felt before but he still made the decision that his life couldn't include a relationship. Does the death experience change his mind about that? What would being Oliver Queen really look like? How would Oliver Queen inspire? Does he have any goals or interests outside of being the Arrow? Can his life be more well-balanced? He told John he doesn't want to die down in that cave. So I think he has a way to go in figuring out who he is as a well-rounded person. However, I agree that he has discovered who he is at his core and that is the most important step. That is why I hope we don't see a regressed, broken Oliver when the character returns. I would like to see this clarity be a turning point for the character.
    Interesting point about grace. I hadn't thought about it in those terms but you make a compelling argument. I really wonder what this means for Thea's development. When and how is she going to be learning all these things? What will Oliver's absence mean for her? Somebody is going to tell her he's dead right?? What will she do when she learns how deeply Malcolm has betrayed and manipulated her? Because if she was mad at Roy and Oliver and her mum last year this goes way beyond that. Is there a confrontation between her and Laurel coming up? (The only purpose I can see for their talk together in the cemetery is that Laurel has got evidence about how much Thea didn't know that Sara was dead. This will probably be referenced in future.) Can we see some real honesty between her and Oliver please?

    1. BECCA! Thank you for commenting so faithfully. I love your thoughtfulness. :)

      1) I do think that you're right. I won't argue that Oliver knows exactly who he is at the moment, but I think that "The Climb" revealed that he's more certain of certain things in his life than he allows himself to believe. He knows few things for certain and those are foundational truths in his life. You are completely spot-on in noting that "we define ourselves in the times when we make exceptions to rules we generally adhere to." *applause*

      I really am interested to see how Oliver's death affects everyone in the team. How they respond in his absence is going to say a lot about them, truly. And I wonder how it will affect Thea and her relationship with Malcolm (who is just such a downright evil and manipulative character, but I LOVE that -- I love having someone who looks so unassuming and is really so diabolical. Plus, I just love Barrowman).

      WELL WHO KNOWS IF ANYONE WILL TELL THEA ABOUT OLIVER BECAUSE NO ONE SEEMS TO LIKE TO TELL OTHER PEOPLE ABOUT DEAD SIBLINGS. (I honestly also don't know what the point of the Laurel/Thea conversation was but I am interested to see if they have a confrontation down the line. That would be interesting.)

  2. Okay, that was a lot of questions. Anyway, Ray Palmer. I've mentioned this elsewhere but loads of girls (and some guys) are finding Ray creepy and I really don't think that is the writers' intention. It's been pointed out many times how 'romantic' behaviour in film is basically stalking but redeemed because the audience knows they are supposed to be together so it's all charming and okay. Hmm, debatable to say the least. But yeah, Ray is not working for me thus far. I'm willing to see where they take the character but they have kinda lost me in the process of him pursuing Felicity. Barry Allen was an interesting love interest for Felicity because they worked well together and had so much in common and they established that fairly quickly without making me think it at all creepy. Surely they could have done so with Ray as well?
    That Oliver/Felicity scene at the endwas really well done from the writing to the acting to music (I am glad Guggenheim gave a shout out to the music there – great work, I totally agree). Subtle and powerful. It made me think back to lots of stuff in season 2, especially the finale. “I know you better so I won't ask you to stay.” I think back to the time when Felicity asked him not to go give himself up to Slade and Oliver went anyway. “If it's you asking I'll do it.” Oh man, that line not only killed me but told us a lot about Oliver's character. “You have to kill him” Wow, that was a reversal to all her arguments about Slade. I think some of this change has come from Sara's death and her increasing fear (she says she's terrified). If the mighty Sara can fall than it just got way more scary for Felicity especially considering Oliver told her he expects to end up the same. Plus, I feel she knows that she (and Diggle) have helped influence Oliver to have restraint but now that is exactly what could get him killed. “I wouldn't be going if I didn't believe I could beat him” Pointing out that this is not like Slade where he was leaving in despair expecting to die. “I do know two things” Straight up same line from both – Felicity knows two things in the clocktower: you are not alone and I believe in you. Oliver knows he will do anything to save his sister and he loves Felicity. Amazing work.

    1. I have problems with Ray because he's got nothing more of substance to him apart from being "that guy who is essentially stalking Felicity." I think the pinging of the cell phone was the thing that did it for me this week. Because, as you said, the romantic lead in movies is supposed to be persistent but charming... but since Oliver is arguably the romantic lead and Ray is not, he's already coming across as "the other guy" and the other guy? He doesn't know the word "no." For all his faults, Oliver respects Felicity's boundaries which is why I have problems with RAY. If Oliver wasn't like that, perhaps Ray's behavior would appear less creepy and less noticeable. (I really like Barry/Felicity. I really do still think a part of me will always ship them because they're little balls of optimism and joy. Ugh.)

      I am so glad that G shouted out the music because the new rendition of their theme was utterly beautiful. Music in this show is always so perfect. THANK YOU for noticing the parallels between the clock tower and that scene. It was beautifully done and so perfect. That entire scene was just so well-acted by Amell and EBR. You could hear the cracking in her voice when she told him to kill Ra's. And I am so glad they turned a trope on its head with the whole "I don't want you to go" thing. This was much more Felicity.

  3. Some random thoughts:
    - When/how is Laurel going to learn about her sister's killer?
    - I miss seeing Captain Lance. I think he'll be on screen more after break but somebody please tell that man his child is dead. This is getting ridiculous. If the (flimsy) reason of waiting until after they figured out who had done it is to be believed that is now out of the way. Tell him, tell him tell him or I will find a way to aquire the Speed Force, break into this other dimension and tell him myself.
    - I really thought Tatsu/Katana was the one from the flashbacks that we would be seeing in the present. Interesting using Maseo. I have been waiting for the writers to do something horrible to that family since ep 1.
    - Felicity “It was a moment and you regret it. Can we please pretend it never happened and go back to being professionals?” Is she taking a page from Oliver's book? I kinda thing she is just done with the whole pattern in her life. Ouch on so many levels.
    - “I am someone who will do whatever, whatever it takes to save my sister.” Foreshadowing much? I think plenty remains to be done to save her. And the little matching snowmen with their names on them? That killed me! “I would never make you choose.” I think Malcolm would. Their scenes together were all so amazing.
    - Malcolm has got to be the most selfish person around (an interesting opposite to Oliver) and I really don't believe a word that comes out of that man's mouth and I really think Nyssa was right when she called him the devil. And Oliver said he's not capable of loving. I think that is on the money. Of course, I love seeing Barrowman do his thing. Can't wait to see where that whole situation is going. He couldn't possibly believe that Oliver could beat Ra's in a duel right?
    - Oliver's reaction to Felicity touching his back after he talks about how kind his sister has always been so kind and Malcolm turned her into a killer. I love how Amell played that in his body and face. Subtle but certainly visceral.
    - Ra's going from saying “You're just a boy” when first meeting Oliver to calling him “my son” as he kills him. Interesting.
    - The lighting that they used as Oliver is thinking his last thoughts. I always noticed their choice to have that blinding, pulsing light behind Felicity and Oliver during that kiss ep 1. All the light in those memories was Stunning. And the MUSIC (Lord of the Rings-esque)

    Thanks for your reviews and thoughts. I hope you don't mind my word-vomit.

    1. I MISS CAPTAIN LANCE, TOO. Ugh, and FOR GOD'S SAKE, SOMEONE TELL LANCE ABOUT SARA ALREADY. I am really tired of waiting for Laurel to break the news to him.

      Those little matching snowmen are so cute. UGH. The Thea/Oliver relationship broke my heart in that moment.

      THANK YOU for noticing the moment Felicity placed her hand on his back. You can immediately see Amell react to it as Oliver -- it's so subtle and yet so poignant because he freezes and (I think someone on Tumblr noted this) she rubs his back slightly. Girl loves him for realsies.

      THE LIGHTING AND THE MUSIC AND THE DUEL. It was all amazing and movie-quality.

      Oh NEVER apologize for word vomit. I absolutely love your comments because they are so well-articulated. :D

  4. Fellow INFJs unite! Though I think Oliver is a sensor? I(post-island of course)SFJ(also post island). But I could be wrong...The sensor just comes from the fact that he intakes information based on what's around him, all that stuff with Barry about having to know your environment is very sensor, compared to the way Barry seems very intuitive about things.

    "But when Oliver really looks back on his life (which we see him do at the end of "The Climb") what he sees is not darkness, but LIGHT." ahhh yess thisss.

    "No, Oliver decides to face death because he explains to Felicity that he would do whatever it took to SAVE his sister. That's who Oliver is, then, at the end of "The Climb." He is not a hero or a vigilante. He is a savior." Ooh, yess to the saving of his sister as not being merely in terms of her physical protection. That's the immediacy of all of this -- though Oliver learned (hilariously) that she can somewhat protect herself. The more important part is saving her soul. Also, can we talk about the subtler than usual (but still obvious) Jesus symbolism? I mean, at least he didn't fall off the cliff arms spread wide open hahah but R'as prayer "forgive him" is very "forgive them for they know not what they do" and the random sword to the side... that one is a rarer used moment from the crucifixion that I don't know that I've seen or paid attention to before. But you laid it out even clearer, he's literally taking on her sins, being punished so she won't be. (though... he lost. So at the very least, Malcolm's plan didn't work, as HE is still indebted to the League. Ollie ain't saving e'rybody).

    "And he knows, in that moment, that if she asked him to stay, he would have a very difficult time saying no." and he basically tells her this. He says "I appreciate that." Which all of this in so few words explain how much they really do love each other. She knows him so well to know that he will leave, he will do whatever she asks and stay, but she is respectful enough not to ask because she knows how much his sister means to him, he shows his appreciation for and acknowledgement of it...

    "this is the moment Oliver knows he's not coming back either. He wants his last words to Felicity to be "I love you" -- the thing she will remember about him for years after he's gone; " aaaand I'm weeping.

    "As I've said before, I'm interested in Laurel's trajectory because it is seeming more reminiscent of a supervillain than a superhero at this point." and she's about to get another notch in the supervillain belt: betrayal by a close friend (not that she and thea are close in that sense [they haven't spoken since s1, right?!] but they've known each other for 10+ years).

    ""The Climb" made me wrinkle my nose toward him as a character," SO MUCH NOSE WRINKLING! I hated that he pinged her phone like that, especially because even though her home is certainly sacred ground, he was very close to infringing on her most sacred secret... and that rubs me the wrong way. Especially after he asks her to be his superhero sidekick (i wonder if we'll get a parallel moment where she isn't his sidekick but his partner... ). It also makes me wonder if he already knows she's working for the Arrow (and if he knows it's Oliver) because he clearly has no bounds for personal space or privacy and it seems like in his pursuit of Felicity (as an employee and romantic interest) he might have used his tech skills, power, and influence to find out things that other people wouldn't have the means to uncover... all of this makes me suspicious of him despite believing (and hearing from comic book fans) that he is a good guy, a hero.

    [1/2 because even after a 3800 recao, I still have so much more to say]

    1. Another INFJ here :) May be why we like to talk about character at length? I like your theory about Oliver's personality type. I think it's a good argument. Although he we've seen him trust his gut over pretty persuasive facts before... Maybe we could convince Amell or the writers to take a test as Oliver.
      I think we've only seen the tip of Malcolm's plans. It will be interesting to unravel them because I don't see the sense of it entirely yet. But when Oliver said "He has a video. He made contingencies." I wince for him thinking back to those earthquake generators. Malcolm always feels ahead and whatever his plans are they are very involved and well thought out.


      CONNIE. I love your comments. DUH. Let's begin:

      - There was so much symbolism throughout the episode (which is why the grace concept was the one I focused most on) and you're right: there are shades of Jesus symbolism in there too. I think I remember taking a class in college in which the professor talked about how all heroic journeys typically embody something like a Jesus epic, and I believe they were correct.

      I love the prayer Ra's delivers because I feel like it really drives home that spiritualism in the sacrifice.

      THANK YOU for noticing the moment where Oliver says "I appreciate that" because it does solidify the fact that if she asked him to stay, he would. God, if Felicity asked him to jump, he would ask how high. He loves her that much.

      YUP. The last thing Oliver says to Felicity is that he loves her and that is the moment she knows he is not coming back. UGH. RIP MY HEART OUT, WHY DON'T YOU, SHOW?

      idek what is going to happen with Laurel, but I hope it is good. I hope I like her more. Because at this point, all she is doing is NOT TELLING QUENTIN ABOUT SARA.

      Thank you for having the same feelings about Ray. It's one thing to pursue someone; it's another to LITERALLY TRACK THEM LIKE THEY ARE A DOG. That demeaned Felicity because the only time we see Felicity pinging people's phones is when she is tracking them because they are a criminal or suspect. UGH. Ray may be a hero in comics, but he's rubbing me the wrong way in the show...

  5. ""The Climb" ends with a duel, but this season of Arrow has really been all about dueling, hasn't it?" OHH this totally relates to Oliver's vertigo duel with himself! I mean, yes in the obvious, which is he, kind of ways, but also: R'as' initial story to Oliver on the mountain about killing someone at a young age, seemed to place R'as as an opposite to Oliver. Like he wants to present them as two sides of the same coin. You mention about the shift from "boy" to "son" and I think in my recap maybe in the comments we discussed how R'as might start to feel some weird affection for Oliver. But R'as is the extreme of who Oliver could be if he went down the wrong path (though we know this as R'as true nemesis, Batman, ramps this parallel up in spades lol)

    "I really need an excuse for Alex and John to share a scene at some point. Is that too much to ask for?" I feel without a doubt that they're working their hardest to make it happen organically. because they're nerds just like us. Just like they waited to get the boxing glove arrow right, they'll do their best to make it happen somehow (or just constantly tease us with keeping them apart).

    "STARLING CITY WINDOW REPAIR GUY. I bet they sit pretty in swanky lofts because of all the business Oliver Queen unintentionally gives them." They've been making BANK since the Arrow showed up in town. I bet they LOVE it. They'll be the first to notice that the Arrow hasn't been active in a few weeks... lol


    1. I think that the identity theme is lending itself to so many interesting episodes and themes, including the dueling of your desires, like we saw in the premiere. I think the most interesting thing is that Ra's has an idea of justice that paralleled Oliver's in the first season, right? Oliver replaced evil with death. That is what Ra's essentially says on the mountaintop. He isn't wrong -- he acts as judge and jury (ANOTHER GREAT THEME WHICH WE SAW THIS YEAR ALREADY) and repays crime for punishment. I like Ra's because he is terrifying and calm and grace-less.

      Man, I really am ready for John and Alex to unite in a scene. CAPTAIN JACK AND RIVER SONG.

      HAHAHAHAHA. The window repair guys are probably like "wow, this is the best business we've ever gotten -- I'm never leaving Starling City!" They must be making bank and I love that we got to see an actual person repairing the window in "The Climb." :D


  6. Good review! I don't think I'll ever truly buy Felicity not saying anything back but your review made me think of Felicity revealing Thea's parentage to Oliver. In that conversation Felicity talks about the pain of losing her father and Oliver promises never to leave her. Now Oliver is saying he loves her but only as a goodbye, which they both know. Not only is he breaking a promise to her but it's also invoking a deeply personal fear she has about those she loves leaving her. A fear made worse that this is the first moment he's truly, openly said he loves her. Damn this show and the feels!!

    1. Hello there Anon! Thank you so much for reading the review and for your comment. :) I think that you made a very astute observation in noting that Felicity is always so afraid of losing Oliver and in that moment, she knew exactly what he was really doing -- saying goodbye. Ugh, and then her face after he left and confessed just broke me. SERIOUSLY I CANNOT WITH THIS SHOW AND THE FEELS.

      Thank you again for commenting and reading!

  7. I'm curious as to why you think both Oliver and Felicity knew that he was never coming back. Oliver said he could beat Ra's and Felicity had no doubts. She believed he could as well. Her only worry was that he wouldn't kill him. Oliver very clearly stated that he would do WHATEVER it took to save Thea. He seemed pretty confident to me that he would beat him. And this statement from Oliver had to reassure her. Thoughts?

  8. And one other observation. I believe Oliver thought he could beat Ra's because he finally had a purpose. He knew what he was fighting for. In season 1 Malcolm said the reason he kept beating Oliver was because Oliver in his heart did not know what he was fighting for. This was mentioned in "The Climb" when Roy say that Ra's will kill him. He seemed pretty sure he finally figured out what Malcolm meant and this was what would give him the win..... but he loses. So why if he figured out what he was fighting for did he lose? Was he fighting for the wrong thing? Did he really not figure this out and that's why he lost? Will he finally figure this out and that's what will get him the win next time?

    1. Anon! First off, thank you so much for commenting on this review. :) Let me see if I can answer your questions:

      1) Okay, so after watching the goodbye scene about half a dozen times, I realized what "Arrow" was doing: it was subverting a trope, but also keeping a part of it in tact. The trope that was being subverted (slightly) was that Felicity didn't ask Oliver not to go. (She notes that she wasn't going to do that and he tells her he appreciates it.) But the scene was a trope in itself -- the hero going off to battle, promising his return. And there's a sort of... almost obligatory way that Oliver tells her he will return. He states that he will come back and everything will be fine. Do you think he believes that, entirely? I don't. I think that Oliver is a really smart guy and that he knows there is a chance he won't return. Maseo told him to get his affairs in order and that is what he is doing. His last words to Roy are about looking after and protecting Thea. He wouldn't tell him that if he thought -- for certain -- he would be returning to look after her, too. And in the moment that Felicity says she knows Oliver will win and return, I also have to believe that she was holding onto the hope and saying the words to believe their truth.

      BUT -- here is a big one -- when Oliver turns around to tell her that he loves her, THAT is him getting his affairs in order. I don't think (and you can disagree) that he would have told her he loved her had he not believed there was a good chance he would return safely. Remember: "getting your affairs in order" is basically code for "if you die, make sure you left everything the way you wanted it to be left." For Oliver, he couldn't die without telling her he loved her, just once. And I think that Felicity knew that. If you watch her face after he leaves, I think she knew what he was doing. I think she knew that he said it in case he didn't return. And that's the whole point of the scene, really: he can say "I'll come back" all he wants and she can tell him that he'll win, but... they can't really and truly guarantee that, you know? I think the "I love you" was the indicator of that reality.

    2. Now, to your other point, I think that Oliver believed that his downfall before had been that he didn't know what he was fighting for. Again: it's a trope. Once the hero realizes what he is fighting for, he exudes superhuman strength and is able to slay the giant or conquer the monster or defeat the enemy. It's how heroic stories end -- in victory because of a revelation.

      But again, what I loved so much was that "Arrow" turned the trope upside down: even though Oliver knew what he was fighting for, he didn't win. That doesn't negate the importance of his revelation by any means. He didn't lose to Ra's because he was uncertain of what drove him there -- he lost because sometimes even knowing what you are fighting for isn't enough. Sometimes your opponent is just stronger than you are. Revelations like Oliver's aren't magic band-aids or weapons and I actually really loved the reality of that moment and the fact that he didn't beat Ra's because it reminded me, at least, that while "Arrow" is a heroic story, Oliver is still a human being.

      And sometimes, humans lose.

      (Thank you so much for the comment and for making me think about why I viewed the episode the way I did!)

    3. Interesting questions. I've been wondering what Oliver honestly thought his chances were as well. On the one hand, Malcolm Merlyn, who Oliver barely defeated previously, is quite terrified of Ra's so that's gotta tell him something. And, as Diggle points out, Oliver is very smart. But he's still only heard stories and you can't really know until you've actually seen the guy fight. And Felicity is terrified, in a way we've never seen her express terror before (cause she's brilliant and knows that this is a long shot). I think their expressions of confidence have more to do with acknowledging that this is not a Slade situation where Oliver is going in with despair, giving up before he even begins. They are both expressing hope because Oliver is going to do everything he can and he's a very capable fighter (Ra's was impressed so their confidence was not misplaced).
      As for losing, YES I love how that trope was turned. Our culture can get a little full of platitudes about believing in yourself. Belief is essential however I find hero stories more powerful when they acknowledge that life is deeply unjust. No matter how just the cause, how firm the conviction, good people get their asses handed to them all the time. Heroism is knowing that you don't get to win just because you are the good guy doing the right thing, is knowing that you might be in an impossible fight, but still going in with everything you have because it is the right thing to do. Oliver has evaded death more times than we can imagine. But there are real costs and real risks all the time (made powerfully clear by Sara's death) and life is often senseless and unfair and I like it when a superhero show can really engage with that.

    4. Heroism is knowing that you don't get to win just because you are the good guy doing the right thing, is knowing that you might be in an impossible fight, but still going in with everything you have because it is the right thing to do.

      *slow claps* *standing ovation*

      You're absolutely and positively correct in that assertion and I love it. I love that this show showed us, realistically, that it doesn't just take inward strength to fix everything -- that sometimes even the heroes with the best intentions and love in their hearts lose.

  9. I am the Anon who asked the previous question. Btw, I forgot to mention I loved your review! I just disagree on this point. I get that quote and I do agree with it to some degree I just don't see it applying to Arrow or at least in this situation.

    He didn't give it everything he had. He even said he would do WHATEVER it took to save Thea. Oliver got his ass handed to him by Ra's. He didn't seem to try very hard. we've seen him fight a lot harder than this. Granted he made it up the mountain, but when it came to the actual fight he seemed unfocused and always on the defense. He was not prepared AT ALL. It seemed like everything he learned in the past 8 years went out the window. He seemed heroic in his sacrifice but not in the actual fight. I think he has the physical capacity to defeat Ra's but mentally he's not there. Maybe this has to do with figuring out who he is and what he wants.

    Oliver has been beaten a few times. They have followed the pattern where the big bad has defeated Oliver or he has felt defeated and he must figure out a way to defeat him by the end of the season. This was only the mid-season finale. Surely, the lesson in his defeat was not that it is okay for the hero to lose sometimes and maybe you're more of a hero for the defeat. Then, what happens in the finale? Same lesson?

    I think there was a common denominator in his defeat of Malcolm and his defeat of Slade. Team Arrow. They never let him face the big bad alone. They are always there for him. I know this is Ra's and the circumstances are a little different but I'm sure they can figure out something for them to be there for him.

    I get heroes lose, but Superheroes always win. After all they did have a fight with Arrow vs. Flash because Superheroes always win. So they wanted to find out who would win between 2 Superheroes.

    The thing that makes Oliver Queen so great is that he is a Superhero because of what he did. He earned it. Every scar on his body is a testament to all he endured to become the person that he is today. He is a self-made Superhero. He more than any other Superhero has to rely on inner strength. It is what makes him a survivor. Others can rely on super strength or super speed to defeat their foes. Oliver relies more on mental toughness. He needs a reason to fight.

    Once the hero realizes what he is fighting for, he exudes superhuman strength and is able to slay the giant or conquer the monster or defeat the enemy. It's how heroic stories end -- in victory because of a revelation.

    This IS Oliver Queen!

    1. Hello again anon! First of all, thank you so much for your compliment and for reading the review. Let me try to rationalize why Oliver Queen lost. You made a very interesting and important observation when you said that "superheroes always win." You're correct in that. Superheroes DO always win. It's kind of part of the package, right? Spider-man will save the day. Batman will put away the bad guy. Superman will do the same.

      But this wasn't a superhero battle. This wasn't The Arrow fighting Ra's, it was OLIVER. And Oliver isn't a superhero; The Arrow is. This whole season is about identity, right? So we've got Oliver in "The Calm" who tells Felicity at the hospital: "I thought I could be Oliver Queen and The Arrow... but I can't." So he chooses, in that moment, right? He chooses to be The Arrow and he spends the next few episodes (notably in "Draw Back Your Bow" when he tells Cupid he can't be with anyone; in "Sara" when he says that the life he chose only ends one way, etc.) believing that he had to CHOOSE between those two people.

      So then we get to "The Brave and the Bold" and Barry's conversation with Oliver, where he notes that all the bad stuff that has happened to him has chipped away at his humanity (at his Oliver Queen-ness) so much that all that's left is The Arrow: the lonely superhero who guards and protects but is forever isolated. And Barry calls him on his crap. He says that Oliver isn't gone -- that Oliver Queen is still there and he is not consumed by The Arrow. And I think that's when it clicks for Oliver -- through Felicity and Barry, he's able to see his humanity and the fact that he is STILL a person.

      And that's why I argue that at the end of the episode, when he prepares to leave, it's OLIVER finding his humanity and what he's fighting for. It's Oliver who says he will always protect Thea and OLIVER who says he loves Felicity, not The Arrow.

      Now let's talk about the duel with Ra's. You mentioned his mental capacity in the fight vs. his physical capacity. What I think is super interesting is that this is the first time we've really seen Oliver fight a big bad as OLIVER. When he fought Slade and Malcolm, he had Team Arrow's support. He had his bow and arrow and his hood and his mask. But with Ra's... it's no wonder Ra's calls him a boy, at first. Because he IS. When you strip away The Arrow and all that accompanies him, you have OLIVER who is physically and mentally scarred and in the fight, all of that (literally, because they're fighting shirtless so you can see all of his scars and metaphorically) is laid bare. And I think that's why Oliver loses. Because he's not fighting as The Arrow, but as Oliver.

      I think that the point of the duel was that even when you know what you're fighting for, heroes are just humans. Superheroes aren't, really, if that makes sense? Superheroes have something within them that is -- by very definition -- NOT human. Human beings have weaknesses. Though Oliver prepared and trained mentally and physically, it still wasn't enough to defeat Ra's. That's what happens when humans fight sometimes, though. Sometimes they win and sometimes they lose.

      (Hopefully that helped explain my train of thought in regards to this episode and conversation. Again: thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!)

    2. I gotta agree and then disagree on some points. I love that Anon pointed out that the difference often with the big bad being defeated is that Team Arrow was working together. That is so often the strength of this show and it has been what has turned the tide in those fights. Oliver couldn't defeat Merlyn and find and shut down the earthquake generators on his own. He had Diggle with him and he had Lance and Felicity disarming the machine (or at least the one they knew of) and, of course, Laurel was saved by Tommy. When we get to Slade, loads of people help with that victory too. They bring loads of Assassins in addition to the growing Team Arrow. Significantly Felicity is close enough because Slade doesn't think she is a threat so she can inject him, he is weakened and then Oliver can beat him (while severely injured himself) which means Waller calls off the drone strike. So these victories are less about some more-than-human individual conquering all and more about teamwork? (Of course, Team Arrow couldn't be on that mountain because by definition it was a trial by combat and no outside party can take part but part of me thinks we haven't seen everything about Oliver's preparation or plans for that fight)
      What also strikes me about those finales is that neither victory is total. He kinda beat Malcolm but Malcolm still out planned him (and survived) and part of the city was destroyed and Oliver lost his best friend. And then Slade, steps ahead of Oliver for large parts of the season, was finally brought down but not before the city was ruined even further and lots more people died including Oliver's mum. This shows does give us Oliver overcoming adversaries but it is never a complete victory and it often creates its own set of problems going forward.
      I COMPLETELY agree that the fight between Oliver and Ra's was odd. Oliver looked very out of his depth and (outside of that shot at the end which has Nyssa surprised and which Ra's catches with his bare hand) he never makes a real hit. I would be interested to hear from the stunt design guys about their thoughts and motives behind setting up the fight that way.

      But I've gotta take issue with the idea that superheroes always win. Batman, Spiderman, Superman, Green Arrow, X-Men, Captain America, Thor, Wonder Woman etc etc have been written about and written about for decades. If fans were ever sure that their superhero was ALWAYS going to win why would they keep reading? Where would the character growth and plot come from? If superheroes never met up with anyone who could beat them ever then they would never have convincing nemeses. There would never be any high stakes because the superhero would never truly be at risk. That doesn't sound like a workable kind of writing to me and I don't think it's is what comic books or hero stories of any kind have ever done. Heck, they killed Superman for heaven's sake (well, kinda) and he is more 'super' than anybody! Superheroes aren't perfect or invincible. They make mistakes too and suffer defeats or we wouldn't keep watching them and reading about them and once they get to a point where they could beat anybody and anything isn't the story kind of over at that point?

      PS When it comes to two superheroes fighting as everybody likes to continually imagine is the loser no longer a superhero because they didn't win? Random question.

    3. "This shows does give us Oliver overcoming adversaries but it is never a complete victory and it often creates its own set of problems going forward." hmm yes this. They've never fully won. There are always ramifications to their defeat of a villain and neither major villain has been defeated 100%, they all have or will come back. (I wonder if the final final series finale battle (whenever that is) will be all the still alive villains and all of our heroes duking it out once and for all. that could be AWESOME.)

      Loving these super philosophical (in both senses of super lol) debates!

  10. A new anon joining in - I have really enjoyed your review and the comments that follow. I've been digesting 3x09 and I am ... dubious. I'm very dubious that Oliver actually lost to R'as. Hear me out!

    I am remembering Slade, who I found far more frightening that R'as. Slade was more personal, more knowing, more cunning than we have seen in R'as. And what did Felicity teach Oliver with Slade? That you have to THINK when you are outclassed as a fighter. You must OUTWIT an opponent who outclasses you. I have such a difficult time believing that Oliver would just go up and fight. I mean, WTF? To quote Felicity, he may be blond but he's not that blond. I think Oliver means to win. I think he has a plan. What's in that bag? Why are Diggle and Roy and even Felicity good with him going? I reckon he's taking a calculated risk that he will be badly injured, perhaps even nearly fatally injured, perhaps even mostly killed, but that whatever he has planned (a friend, Island Herbs, Mirakuru, what do I know) will still overcome the injury. Remember, Oliver is the bravest person every in the history of brave. He is willing to take this horrific risk. He means to return. He means to win. Yes, he sets things in order but the writers are faking us out, like they faked us out at the Queen mansion. He may also be faking out the team, like he faked out Felicity at the Queen mansion.

    My bigger question is, what is Merlyn's end-game? Just like Oliver, he must have known Oliver could not defeat R'as. He can barely defeat Merlyn on a good day when the wind is blowing right. So -- what does he gain? His debt is not washed out if R'as is still in charge of the League. What's his game? That's what I wish I knew.

    -- Anon-elizabeth

    1. I like your point that Slade was more terrifying to you. He was certainly a very different sort of villain than R'as. We spent a great deal of time in the flashbacks getting to know him and we watched his transformation and the beginnings of his vendetta against Oliver. It was such a personal hatred and very well developed. It had very little to do with Oliver's persona as the Arrow. No matter what Oliver had decided to do after getting home, Slade would have come after him and fulfilled his promise to destroy his life. Scary stuff.
      R'as is another thing all together. We've seen very little of who his is, only little hints that people are completely scared of him. (It is a totally different feeling if you are familiar with him from Batman stories. I am generally a fan of adaptations of source material as long as they are done well and stand on their own as interesting stories. I firmly believe that you can't rely on your audience having any familiarity with a character from another story. Your characters have to work entirely within their own context and should be judged on their effectiveness in the story itself) The version of R'as in Arrow should be evaluated entirely on information that we have received within the context of the show. Our knowledge of R'as largely stems from hearsay. We've heard Oliver talk about the rumors he has heard back when Nyssa first came to Starling "If even half of what I have heard about R'as al Ghul is true, if his daughter comes to harm we will all pay." I wonder where and when Oliver heard about R'as. Nyssa tells us a little about him and calls him the Demon. Sara says she looked into the eyes of the devil and gave him her soul. Malcolm flinches in fear when Moira tells him she has alerted R'as to his being alive and tells him to run. So these impressive and intimidating fighters are all freaked out by him. And Sara, Nyssa and Malcolm were all trained by him. Felicity is terrified by his reputation and calls him the one of the most dangerous men on earth. The only times we see him fight are in ep 3x09 and he never breaks a sweat when taking people out. But his threat to Oliver has nothing to do with any personal hatred. Oliver has come to his attention largely because of Malcolm and Sara (as far as we know) so R'as has been a remote, abstract kind of bogey-man thus far. I look forward to seeing what they will do with him in the future. But two very different villians, an old friend consumed by hatred and fixated on destroying you and a legendary figure who you've only heard about in frightened whispers. Those give very different effects.

    2. (part 2/2)
      I really hope the writers don't get too dependent on the whole fake-out mechanism for building tension because eventually we won't believe what is going on and the things that happen with characters will have less impact. I do agree that Oliver seemed largely unprepared for that duel and it makes me suspicious. But too many "just kidding!" moments will rob their plots of any real stakes or drama and I don't want them to shy away from Oliver really being dead (at least momentarily) because it hits so hard on the point Oliver made in ep 3x02 that the life he has chosen thus far only ends one way- violent, sudden, bloody death. And if it turns out that he has faked out his team and let them believe him dead those characters are truly justified in being deeply angry with him. (He didn't fake out Felicity last season for more than a few seconds if at all because he handed her a syringe and asked her "Do you understand?" which she completely did.) To jerk their feelings around based on what we saw in ep 3x09 seems really cruel.

      And I agree, Merlyn has some complex plan in play and we have only scratched the surface. My immediate reaction was "You are a heartless soulless crazy person." but I'm sure it is more complicated than that. Although he did suggest Thea might be right when she called him crazy during the finale last season.

      Sorry, I talk a lot. Hope no one minds. :)

    3. I've too, wondered what Malcolm's game in all of this is and the only real idea I can come up with is that it's a win-win for him (sort of). In "The Magician," Malcolm tells Oliver that "these streets were mine long before you laid claim to them." If Oliver dies, Starling no longer has their great and powerful protector and the city is back to being Malcolm's again. If Oliver lives and Ra's dies, obviously all guilt is absolved for the crimes he committed. I know that the first doesn't really seem like a win, but perhaps Malcolm believes that with Oliver ("Sara's killer") dead, Ra's will turn his attention away from him and Starling. It's kind of a weak "win," but it may be a motive no less? Thoughts?

  11. Becca- totally agree about the "fake-out" mechanism being one they shouldn't overuse. But I just think that Oliver was not only outclassed as a fighter, he was totally unprepared for that duel. And why? It's just not in keeping with his character to be unprepared - he's almost obsessively prepared, generally (as shown by his "superhero lesson" to Barry). So I don't buy it. I just can't think that John would let him go that easily, nor Roy. But just in case... he tells Felicity. If this is a fake-out, though, it really won't do well for their relationship.

    As far as writers/fans goes -- we all know he isn't dead, right? He's back in the show again, yes? We have seen pix of them filming in the Arrow suit, plus his long-term contract -- so the question is not "is he dead" but "how is he not dead"? So the first time he was killed and flung off a cliff (season 1) it was Island Herbs that saved him - possibly this could happen again...

    As to Malcolm's game --- really depends on what he has in mind for Thea, right? If Oliver dies, then does he offer up Thea as well, just in case the League gets too hot on his tail re Sara? But then they wanted to kill him anyway, that's why Sara was in town. So it's a puzzle, for sure, and we haven't got all the clues we need.

    But I stand firm in my position that Oliver has an ace up his sleeve. I think it's possible that it was a very risky plan and Felicity will believe him dead, without him needing to fake her out.


    1. First of all -- WELCOME, ELIZABETH! I didn't get the chance to welcome you earlier, but I always love how deep "Arrow" comments sections get. :)

      1) WE know Oliver cannot be dead. WE know there has to be some way he survived (the herb theory is good; the most common one a the moment has to do with the Lazarus Pit). But the team doesn't. Marc Guggenheim answered a Twitter question when someone asked if Felicity would look for Oliver (this was obviously before the episode aired) when he went away and Marc said: "She knows where he is... or where he isn't." Which seems to imply that yes, it appears the team knows where he is but also will believe him to really be dead; that this isn't a ruse they're all in on together.

      2) I'm not sure it's a ruse for Oliver, though. I kind of think he expected his whole "I know who I am" revelation to be enough to stop Ra's. The question I find more intriguing, actually, is whether or not Oliver was going to follow through with Felicity's demand to kill Ra's. I kind of think that's why he was hesitating on that mountaintop. (Because remember, he momentarily HAD Ra's and then the man managed to gain his weapon back from Oliver and eventually kill him). I'm not sure if I believe Oliver had an ace up his sleeve. I think Ra's definitely does and I think Maseo probably does too. (Hence the very popular Lazarus Pit theory.)

      3) Malcolm is such a wildcard. I'm not sure what he wants but I just love John Barrowman so much that at this point, I almost don't care just as long as he's on my screen more, haha.

      Thanks for the comments, y'all! I can understand your theory about Oliver having an ace up his sleeve. I'm inclined to believe he doesn't and he's just managed to wind up dead without any hopes of recovering (which is why it'll be important if someone else saves him) but again, this is "Arrow" SO WHO REALLY KNOWS!

  12. Jenn, thank you for your welcome! Love to read your stuff.

    Re Felicity Mark G said on Twitter something like she's a 10 on a scale of 1-10 in upsetness about his death. So I agree, she probably believes he's dead. And probably she's going to liquidate the assets of everyone she believes responsible. I'd totally love to see her and Laurel taking down whoever. I think Ray may become a pawn in her game. I would not underestimate an upset Felicity!!

    On the one hand, I sort of agree with you. How can it be a ruse? But how can it not be? There is no way he is dumb enough to just climb up that mountain and expect to win in a fair fight. SOMEONE has an ace up the sleeve, that's clear. And I happen to think Oliver is high on the list of ace-holding suspects.

    Malcolm...well, he is the devil. He's getting eviller, too. And you know who else I like for super bad-news villain? Amanda Waller. That woman creeps me out something awful. She's like season 1 Oliver scaled up to a million.

    Probably this doesn't all belong on the comments field here. But it's fun. Thanks for humouring me!

    1. Where else are we going to hash over all this stuff?

      Yes, the comments from Guggenheim are very intriguing. I seem to remember someone asking him if Felicity would blame someone for Oliver's death and he responded "Oh yes" or something like that. I wonder where this all is going to take her.

      Malcolm is so the devil! Fascinating to watch though :)

      Slightly random thought- as midseason finales always fall in December none of our Arrow characters are going to have a nice holiday for the foreseeable future are they? It's always going to be tense or angsty. Sad

    2. I love people hashing things out in the comments (politely, as everyone on this site has really been) because it gives everyone a chance to explore other theories and opinions. :)

      Also, MG DID say that Malcolm and Felicity were going to have a scene. I'm anxious to know how THAT will go down. Felicity is a scary woman to trifle with, yo. Especially when, you know, Malcolm indirectly-but-directly killed the love of her life and all.

      As to your random thought: I feel like much like Doctor Who, no one in the Arrow-verse can ever have a nice holiday. It's always peppered with death and trying to save the world, lol.

    3. Well, thank you for so graciously allowing us the space to do so.

      And for writing wonderful reviews in the first place. Have a lovely holiday!

  13. Argh, I lost my comment!

    See NZ 3.10 trailer -- Malcolm, in Arrow Cave, with Death Sword, and Felicity. My prediction: he underestimates her (easy to do, eh, Slade) and she comes down like the fury of Heaven upon him. But man he is creepy, even the one scene with Thea is horrible, like she's kneeling before him -- I can't think of any good reason why she'd do that.


    1. I DID SEE THAT PROMO! Is this the first time Malcolm and Felicity have had a scene together? (I feel like it is... maybe.) I wonder if Thea just like, collapsed on the floor or something when Malcolm told her that Oliver was dead. That's all I can think of. Also, geez can you imagine what this is going to do to THEA? I keep thinking of how it'll impact Team Arrow but poor girl lost her mom, dad, and brother in the matter of... what? Less than 10 years? POOR BB GIRL. :(

    2. Not to mention her OTHER brother, Tommy! Horrible. But if she finds out Merlyn is responsible, she'll be on his tail as well.