Advent Review #11: Arrow Season 3 Ep 9 (TV Show Review)

As with The Flash last week, we got to see some incredible things happen on Arrow as well when Team Flash came calling and ended up helping Team Arrow with apprehending a villain, Digger Harkness (future Captain Boomerang). It was quite a solemn and sombre episode broken up with the occasional humour from Team Flash, and I loved it to bits, especially the ending when the two heroes decide to do a friendly rematch of their fight in Central City from the eighth episode of The Flash, to see who really could win a fight between the two of them. No conclusions either way, but still a damn good episode.

And now, this week’s Arrow was the winter finale that finally saw Sara’s killer revealed and brought Oliver into direct confrontation with the League of Assassins, specifically the Demon’s Head Ra’s al Ghul himself. After some of the lightness of the last week, this time there is no such thing and it is Mood Serious all the way as the tension between all the characters got ramped up over and over. And Oliver didn’t have a good time over in the flashbacks either since we learn a rather game-changing revelation about his time in Hong Kong, one that I’m hoping isn’t directly carried over, personally speaking.

When last year’s winter finale for Arrow ended with showing that Slade Wilson was very much alive in the present timeline and that he was the one who was working behind the scenes to bring down Oliver through his puppets Sebastian Blood and Isabel Rochev, it was the best moment on the show up until that point in time. It was so poignant, and handled so well that you couldn’t help but be amazed. After kind of building up Blood to be a long-term villain, with some nefarious background things by Isabel happening concurrently, we suddenly saw that they were small fry indeed and that someone from Oliver’s own past, whom he has a ton of history with, was back for some vengeance.

This week’s Arrow had a similar moment towards the end, though we already knew who the season-long villain was going to be, going into this season: Ra’s al Ghul, the Demon’s Head, the leader of the League of Assassins, a near-immortal who has survived for countless decades at the least. In this week’s episode, we see that the League finally tires of Oliver’s supposed mishandling of Sara’s death, and tell him to produce the killer within 48 hours or have Starling City suffer the consequences, fifty innocents killed every day until the killer is revealed to them.

Needless to say, Team Arrow is on a serious clock in the ninth episode of the season, working really, really hard to find out who killed Sara. And they do find the person: Oliver himself. Of course, this is a red herring and a clear setup, so the team hunkers down to find the real killer and work out how and why Oliver was setup for Sara’s murder. She was his lover and friend, there’s absolutely no reason for him to do murder, especially not after he is shown talking to her and bidding her a goodbye of the see you later kind. And Sara’s last words, to her killer just seconds after Oliver left her, were “what are you doing here?” So we know it was someone she knew and someone unexpected.

In “The Climb” we find out the real identity of the killer, with video evidence, and it is not pretty. I won’t spoil the identity since it is a pretty big WTF moment and all viewers deserve to see that moment without having it been spoiled for them beforehand. But suffice to say, it is going to leave you cold, in a good way, and also have you cursing at another character for initiating another betrayal, on top of all the other crimes committed by that character. And yeah, it is someone that all of Team Arrow knows very well. And no, it is not who you think it is, that I can assure you of.

All of this then leads to Oliver offering himself up as sacrifice, and it ends on a snowy mountain somewhere, courtesy of Oliver challenging Ra’s al Ghul himself over the matter, with the caveat that if he wins, all blood debts from Ra’s reign as the leader of the League will be erased. If Oliver loses, well, he loses his life. Life and death, that’s the victor’s and loser’s spoils in this deathmatch.

And it is pretty perfect.

Oliver is no Batman, thankfully. Someone like Batman/Bruce Wayne, who is the world’s greatest detective, is one who can hold his own and win against an accomplished close quarters combat specialist like Ra’s al Ghul. But Oliver, he doesn’t have that kind of training. He is good, really good, but the writers thankfully stay away from making him Batman in green. The fight between Oliver and Ra’s is definitely one of the best moments of this season and the entire show to date as well, and the results of this fight, well, they are something completely unexpected. There’s only two ways that this can go, of course, and either is pretty remarkable and unthinkable. Ra’s cannot die because he is the season villain, but Oliver can’t die either because he is the hero of the show!

So what’s the result and how is it going to change things after the break? Well, that’s another moment that needs to be seen unspoilered.

One of the neat, and potentially worrisome, things in this episode was that following some recent events in the flashbacks in Hong Kong, China White decides to come out of the shadows and take Maseo and Oliver head-on. She invades Maseo’s home, fights Tatsu, and then what happens, we don’t really find out. But something major does happen in the continuation of that flashback after the break next month, since we see in this episode that Maseo leaves his life in Hong Kong with ARGUS behind him and joins the League, taking on the name Sarab (sp?).

In the comics, Tatsu became the hero Katana when her husband was murdered and his spirit took residence in her katana sword. In this episode, we see that Maseo survives something really tragic that turns him to the League, so I’m kind of worried that the writers are going to kill off Rila Fukushima’s character instead. That’s troublesome since she is one of the best actresses on the show and also one of the best characters. A Japanese swordswoman who is really, really good, as the fight this episode between her and China White shows.

I would hate to see her go, especially since I’m really looking forward to her turn as Katana. Perhaps it could even be that their son is killed, which would be an interesting twist. I’m hoping that that’s what turns out in the end since I want to maintain Tatsu on the show, and Maseo’s turn with the League is really interesting from a character stand-point as well.

I guess we will see.

But in the meantime, what an ending. I loved it. It was excellent. And the entire episode was a long sprint of the solemn and sober, without any real grandstanding of any kind. Matt Nable as Ra’s al Ghul was utterly terrific and he got to do a lot of scenes this time too, in the most comprehensive appearance to date, and I think he knocked it out of the park. I’ve had some high expectations of him since his casting was announced in the summer, so it is nice to see that he has stepped up to the plate and really taken on the persona of the honour-bound villain, someone who is both deadly and has a lot of gravitas and who is a true villain as well, without any of the insanity that that entails.

All I can say after watching this episode, when you get right down to it, is I want to watch the tenth episode right now and don’t want to wait a month for it!

More Arrow (Season 3): Ep 1, Ep 2, Ep 3, Ep 4, Ep 5, Ep 6, Ep 7.

More Arrow (Season 2): Link.

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Posted on December 12, 2014, in Arrow, Review Central, TV Show Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

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