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Arrow – The Magician Review

"An Exposition Filled Hour"
In a 22-episode season, its inevitable that some episodes just won't crackle with as much energy as others. And last night's Arrow was the perfect example of that. It was a perfectly fine episode, but it was much more focused on setting up the show's future conflict than with solving anything in the here and now. The big question that was kind-of sort-of answered was whether or not Malcolm Merlyn was the archer responsible for Sara's death. Now, if you've read my past reviews, you'll know that Malcolm rests firmly at number two on my list of suspects. And, I have to say, I actually believed him when he swore he didn't kill Sara (although the charm of John Barrowman might be able to convince me of anything). After all, what does he gain from doing it? He gets Oliver angry at him (which, to be honest, is more like poking a bee hive, since Oliver was already angry at him). He gets Nyssa angry at him (again, she and the rest of the League aren't exactly on Team Merlyn before Sara's death). I would say he also incurs the wrath of Ra's, but judging from his reaction to Sara's death, I don't really think it's an issue for him (more on Ra's later). Arrow 1 So, why do it? Aside from just being evil and wanting to hurt people who already hate him, there's no clear upside for him. Yes, we now know Sara was tracking his reappearance in Starling City, but he had to know he couldn't stay hidden forever. I'd even argue that he wanted to be discovered (Malcolm Merlyn is many things, chief among them is a narcissist). So when he tells Oliver and Nyssa he didn't do it, I buy it. More importantly, the series needs Oliver and Malcolm to become allies (uneasy allies for sure, but allies) in the fight against Ra's. If Ra's is our big bad, Oliver is going to need some extra firepower and inside knowledge to win, and Malcolm provides that. Plus, there's the whole Thea storyline. The episode's other key piece of exposition was the reveal of Ra's al Ghul, who holds the number one spot on my list of possible Sara killers. And judging from his less than sad reaction at news of her death, he's staying right at the top of that list. Whether or not Ra's actually did the killing himself, I'm thinking he certainly gave the order. His distrust of Sara was clear, but what isn't particularly clear is why. I'm thinking this goes way beyond a father not liking his daughter's significant other. I'm really hoping the show offers us some Sara-centric flashbacks to not only help flesh out Nyssa (who I assume will continue to have a presence on the series throughout the Ra's-Oliver showdown), but to give us a better understanding of who Ra's is. There's only so much ominous exposition we can be given through Malcolm's speeches. Arrow 2 There definitely wasn't enough Ra's in the episode to get a good idea of who he will be as a character, but I did enjoy the overall sense of strength and power exuded by Matt Nable in the role. Not sure about the Australian accent that was bleeding through (Nable is Australian), but after having Liam Neeson in my mind for so long, it could just be remnants from his version of the character clouding my perception of the character (or, perhaps the show is making a statement that Australians are the true evil in Arrow, as this is the second major bad guy from Australia to cross Oliver's path). With the major chess pieces now in place and revealed to us, the season can finally begin it's major arc. And if the battle against Ra's al Ghul means more awesome hand-to-hand combat scenes like the one in this episode, it's going to be a really cool and intriguing ride. Arrow 4 Final Thoughts -- I've ragged on Katie Cassidy a lot so far this season, but I have to give her some props this week. I actually found myself moved and agreeing with Laurel. Compared to Oliver, who seems to have internalized his pain once again, I liked that Laurel is still dealing with her grief. Her scenes with Nyssa (strong work from Katrina Law) were some of the more interesting moments in the episode and Cassidy handled them well. -- I'm hoping the show doesn't put Roy and Thea back together. I'm liking this newly independent and tough Thea, and I'm worried coupling her off again will cause her to lose some of that. -- The mood of "The Magician" was a lot darker than previous episodes this season. I think a large part of that is due to the lack of Felicity (who was guest starring over on The Flash). I really missed her. -- Is it just me, or are the Hong Kong flashbacks a great deal more tedious than the island flashbacks? I find myself removed from the main story every time we flashback.
Rating
8.5
Pros
  • Sets up the season arc nicely
  • Ra's al Ghul appears to be well cast
  • Great use of John Barrowman
  • Very well done fight sequence
Cons
  • Not much forward moving plot

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About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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