**This post contains spoilers for 3.09 of Arrow, “The Climb.”**
It won’t surprise you to learn that I did not like the mid-season finale of Arrow. The following post is depressingly negative. It’s rather unlike me, that’s how upset I am about the whole thing. I even debated just not posting and maintaining an austere silence, but I’ve been so disciplined about posting every week for each new episode that I felt like I owed you some closure.
This is difficult for me, because for over a year now, this show has been my bread and butter. Thanks to hours and hours (and hours) of scrubbing through footage to make videos, I know the canon and characterization of this show like the back of my hand. I want this show to be great, I want it to be as great as it was in season 2. I didn’t need it to get any better, I just wanted it to stay the same.
I can’t abide the ‘Death of Sara Lance’ story arc anymore. It was bad enough when we just knew she died. The promise of a compelling mystery surrounding it softened the blow a bit. I remember all of the speculation, all of the possibilities, ranging from Ra’s al Ghul himself to Slade Wilson breaking out of prison to exact his revenge. Then we had that episode where Roy had memories of killing Sara, which was hard to endure, because having Sara die thanks to a Mirakuru withdrawal felt cheap and hollow; it made her death meaningless to us, and to her. Thankfully that plot point was solved in one episode, and Roy realized he was hallucinating and conflating two separate events. We breathed a sigh of relief.
So imagine my horror on Wednesday night, as I sat sans red wine (I regret not having red wine) and watched as the most ridiculous, artless, meaningless plot unwound around Sara’s death. It turns out Thea killed Sara, something I’d actually heard before the episode aired, but I’d written off as so absurd and bad that it couldn’t possibly be true. But it was true, and that’s not even the worst part. Thea definitely did it — the DNA didn’t convince Oliver, but the video evidence sure did — but she has no memory of it. Why? Because there’s this magical herb that we’re only just now hearing about that makes a person highly suggestive with no memory later of their actions. Convenient, eh?
So yes, Thea killed Sara. And she did it with no knowledge of it. Almost like… she wasn’t a human person. Like she was a puppet on strings. Like she was nothing more than an object. Like Malcolm Merlyn was sacrificing his pawn to kill the queen. He used his daughter, who was looking to empower herself, and effectively erased all of her agency and most of her identity from this season. He did it for dumb reasons that I don’t even want to get into, because it’s so contrived and stupid and not worth the death of one female and the emotional and mental manipulation of another, but I have to because I want you to have full context of my rage.
See, he had Thea kill Sara because he knew the League of Assassins wouldn’t forgive the death of one of their own. He had Thea do it because he knew Oliver would do anything to protect her. And for some reason which he never divulges, he thinks Oliver, the skilled archer, would be effective in a swordfighting duel atop a snowy mountain. Malcolm thought it was perfect, like killing six birds with one stone, and once Ra’s was dead, Malcolm’s blood debt (the Undertaking, Thea’s murder of Sara) would be erased.
I’m not totally sure how succession works in the League, but I’m fairly confident that Nyssa, new leader or not, would never forgive Malcolm for killing Sara. So there’s the rather obvious flaw in that plan. Other flaws? How about Oliver taking the gamble of Ra’s being forgiving and ratting out Malcolm? How about Oliver actually telling Thea what she did and Thea deciding to duel Ra’s herself? (After all, while she didn’t make the choice to kill Sara, she did choose to go train with Malcolm, a man who unapologetically killed over 500 people.) This contrived and terrible plan of Malcolm’s had a lot of moving parts, and the one thing that could’ve brought it all tumbling down was Thea realizing her role in all of this.
Instead, what’s happened is yet another powerful white male has robbed Thea of her agency. Sure, it’s under the well-intentioned guise of protecting her, but Oliver never gives Thea the opportunity to make her own choice and deal with her own consequences. He hugs her and leaves to die in her place, never mind the fact that she has to live with that now, never mind that he’s leaving her in the disgusting hands of her father who just took a calculated risk with her life. You want to protect her, Ollie? How about you actually empower her and GIVE HER ALL OF THE INFORMATION? At least then, she wouldn’t trust Malcolm anymore.
What happened between the season 2 finale, when a female brought down the most powerful supervillain on this show with a single syringe stab, and the season 3 premiere, where a strong female heroine was mindlessly killed by another strong female who wasn’t in possession of her own agency? (Let’s not forget Ray stalking Felicity who seems to be flattered by the attention instead of grossed out, or the time Diggle basically blamed Felicity for Oliver not having his head in the game, or the fact that Laurel’s still spinning mindlessly into outer space as far as retribution and reasons to fight. And where the hell is Sin?) Does this show hate women after all?
(And oh, how sad that it’s not even restricted to women! Remember when Oliver tried to kick Diggle off the team for having a family? And instead of putting Oliver in his place, Diggle later apologized and basically admitted Oliver was right. HE WAS NOT RIGHT. Diggle is a grown man capable of making his own choices, so even if Oliver felt that Diggle was being reckless in his choice to continue his work on the team, he was not right to strip Diggle of the power to make that decision for himself.)
And yes, Oliver Queen appears to be dead. Diggle really Diggle’d it when he offered to go into battle with Oliver, but no, this is something he had to do alone. No wonder Stephen Amell seemed to be on an extended break during the holiday season. It also appeared that rather than finding an actor/stunt man who could fight better than Amell or his stunt man, they just decided to make Oliver look like a freaking amateur out there. Like really, I’ve never seen such shoddy stunt work, and I watch Once Upon A Time, so that’s saying something. It was really, really bad.
We also found out that Maseo is now a member of the League, complete with a new name, and I suspect he will be the one to restore Oliver when the show returns. That reminds me, I guess we get to see the Lazarus Pit, one of the few things I never wanted to see on this show.
Honestly, what do we have to look forward to now? A Black Canary arc with Laurel, who still doesn’t even know why she’s fighting? A bigger storyline for Roy, whom I like very much but who the Big Name Reviewers keep calling “useless” and “bland”? More of Ray Palmer pinging Felicity’s cell phone and intruding on her life, then buying her loyalty by giving her things and spinning tragic tales of lost love? Do we have to — ugh — endure a multi-episode storyline involving Ray and the ATOM suit?! Do we really have to watch Thea run around Starling kicking ass with a false impression of having a father who loves her?
(The way I see it, there are two options with Thea: She turns dark when she finds out about Malcolm’s treachery, turning into a supervillain of her own accord, OR the love and loyalty of her brother and his ultimate sacrifice is the one thing that keeps her light. Frankly, I’d stick around for the second story alone.)
But hey, Oliver loves Felicity. I guess that’s supposed to distract us from how awful everything else was, and in a vacuum, maybe that scene would’ve meant more. I wish I could say I have hope for the second half of the season (which was when it got really good for the last two years) but that’s not true. All I feel is dread.
There’s a very good chance I will not be recapping these in the new year. I’m tired of being negative.
On a side note: Are you guys watching The 100? The mid-season finale is tonight (Wednesday), and so far, this show has done very well by its females.