The fall finale of Arrow brings Ra’s al Ghul to Starling City and delivers big revelations about Sara’s murder.

“The Climb” brings the full force of the League of Assassin to bear on the search for Sara’s killer. Unimpressed with the progress that Oliver has made in his search for the murderer, Nyssa arrives in Starling City to give Oliver an ultimatum: bring Sara’s killer to Ra’s al Ghul in the next two days, or the League will kill 50 people a day until Oliver finds the murderer. Alongside Nyssa, and ready to make good on the ultimatum, is Oliver’s former mentor, Maseo Yamashiro, now a member of the League of Assassins.

After chasing dead ends and red herrings, Team Arrow finally gets a strong lead in their investigation. The results from a DNA sample that Felicity sent to S.T.A.R. Labs are in, but the best match is Oliver himself. Certain that Malcolm Merlyn is trying to set him up, Oliver starts digging into Malcolm’s whereabouts on the night of Sara’s murder. As Team Arrow gets closer to solving the mystery, they also begin to uncover what Thea was really doing in Corto Maltese, and the extent of her contact with Malcolm. Thea is an excellent liar, and every time Oliver confronts her with evidence of her lies, she only gives in to the extent of what he’s discovered, adding calculated new lies to deflect him from the truth. Oliver’s struggle with Thea’s lies is touching. He loves his sister, deeply, and he knows how much he has hurt her before due to his own lies, but now he’s on the other side of it. It’s painful for him to watch her lying to him, but he’s still completely committed to keeping her safe.

Thea isn’t the only one whose lies are coming unraveled. With the holidays nearing, Laurel is missing her sister dearly. She’s not nearly as good a liar as Thea, and her weak fictions about where Sara is aren’t going to stand up for long. Laurel is still so broken up about Sara’s death that when asked directly by Thea, she admits that Sara is dead and buried.

Throughout the season so far, Arrow has shown us that Oliver and his team are functioning well. Again and again we see Diggle, Roy, Oliver, and Felicity executing well-planned attacks and defending Starling City from evil. Now, with the League’s ultimatum, they prove again how effective they are as a team. When they do discover who Sara’s killer is, Oliver makes a choice that sends him out on his own, and with that choice, cracks are about to form in the team. Ray Palmer’s A.T.O.M. exosuit is nearing completion, and whatever he has planned with it involves Felicity as well. Diggle and Lila are getting married, but the dangers of their jobs, as vigilante and A.R.G.U.S. agent, have been emphasized over and over again this season. Roy is finally starting to feel like an effective part of the team, but he barely has any life outside, having forfeited his relationship with Thea. After having become such an integrated team, the fall finale threatens to break the team apart in the second half of the season.

Arrow returns Wednesday, January 21 at 8/7c on The CW. You can watch the latest episodes on The CW’s website and Hulu. Huge spoilers about the end of “The Climb” follow!

So, that ending was certainly a fall finale, right?

Sorry.

But it really was a cliffhanger, wasn’t it?

Alright, I’m done.

After chasing down some leads, intimidating Thea as The Arrow, and having a heart-to-heart with Malcolm Merlyn, the truth about Sara’s death has become clear. Sara’s murder is all a part of Malcolm’s grand plan. When he swore to Nyssa al Ghul that he did not kill her beloved, he was only telling the barest truth. Thea Queen killed Sara, while under the influence of a drug that made her susceptible to Malcolm’s suggestions, and left her with no memory of the murder (or, at least, that’s what Malcolm implies). Malcolm has video of Thea killing Sara, and he threatens to release it to the League unless Oliver takes responsibility for Sara’s death and challenges Ra’s al Ghul to combat over the blood debt. If Oliver wins, then all of the debts owed to Ra’s will be wiped clean, freeing Malcolm from the pursuit of the League and ensuring Thea’s safety. Oliver does as Malcolm wants and fights Ra’s al Ghul… but loses.

It’s a spectacular twist, and my only reservation about it is that so little about it was foreshadowed. It would have been nice to have a few hints that Thea was even a possible suspect. We haven’t previously seen Thea use a bow, and until “The Climb” we had no reason to suspect that she had been in Starling City the night Sara died. I’m not yet convinced that Thea was an unwilling participant in Sara’s murder. Malcolm strongly implies that she was under the influence of a drug, but he never says it conclusively, and I think there’s more to this plot than just what Malcolm chooses to reveal to Oliver. If Thea does remember killing Sara, then she’s a much better liar than Laurel, given her reaction when they meet up in the cemetery and Laurel spills the news about Sara.

Let’s talk Lazarus Pits. In the comics, Ra’s al Ghul has access to mysterious pools that have the ability to heal the dying and restore them to life. Dubbed the Lazarus Pits, Ra’s has used the pits to extend his life and occasionally to revive others when they are on the brink of death. While Arrow has typically been a show that is very grounded in reality, the crossover event with The Flash showed us that metahumans are a part of Arrow‘s reality. I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to think that the Lazarus Pits may also exist in this universe, and it’s my bet that Oliver will be spending some time in one to negate the whole stabbed-in-the-chest-thrown-off-a-cliff problem.

“The Climb” provides some clues that the Lazarus Pits might exist. Ra’s al Ghul kills one of his disciples after what looked like a training session. Death isn’t a very good teacher, but Ra’s could be using the Pits to revive his followers, and to teach them to never fear death. Ra’s also tells Oliver that it has been 67 years since someone challenged him to a duel. Ra’s is clearly not an octogenarian, so there’s something going on to keep him looking young, buff, and without scars. The bigger question for me is: who would revive Oliver? Nyssa now believes that Oliver killed Sara. Could she revive him out of a desire to kill him herself? Is the bond that Oliver forged with Maseo enough to have him turn against the League and revive Oliver in the Pits? Does Ra’s himself suspect Malcolm’s role in all this, and revive Oliver in order to force him to take out The Magician? Malcolm appeared to have come back from the dead, so what might he know about the Pits? Could Oliver’s defeat be part of a grander play by Malcolm?

What do you think? Will Oliver survive, or stay dead? Is he destined for the Lazarus Pits or a cold mountain grave? Will Team Arrow survive the news? Might Roy take up the green hood? Arrow doesn’t return until January 21, 2015. Let me know your predictions for the rest of the season in the comments!

Bottom Line: “The Climb” gathers up all the shaky plot threads around the mystery of Sara’s death into the best episode of the season. Everyone’s lies are starting to crumble, and when the truth comes out there’s going to be more than enough pain to share around.

Recommendation: Arrow‘s mid-season finale is a return to form for the show, and the best episode so far this season.

[rating=4.5]

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