Tonight, Arrow was amazing. Every single part of the show was firing on all cylinders—especially the characters who were all ass kickingly awesome. “Uprising” was the perfect conclusion to Arrow‘s The Dark Knight Rises-esque midseason trilogy, which sidelined Oliver Queen in order to allow the rest of the supporting cast to shine and get on the same level. The Malcolm Merlyn-centric flashbacks did a great job of humanizing the character; watching Laurel out in the field is more thrilling than I could have ever expected; and Quentin continues to make us smile and laugh even though we know there’s a ton of pain heading straight toward him.
FLASHBACKS: 21 YEARS AGO
When we first see the Malcolm Merlyn of 21 years ago, he’s a loving, lighthearted father who promises his young son, Tommy, that he’ll never let anything happen to him and that he’ll never leave. Unfortunately, this all change once his wife, Rebecca, dies and he becomes consumed with avenging her death. He attacks the guy the police suspect killed her, but the thug beats him up. It’s actually a striking moment because it’s the first time we’ve ever seen Malcolm not in control and bloodied.
Eventually, Malcolm does find the will to shoot his wife’s supposed killer. Unfortunately, getting his revenge does nothing to quell the anger he feels inside. So he decides to travel to a part of the world where he hopes to learn how to forge this anger into something else. Tommy comes down right when his leather-jacket-wearing father is about to leave and begs him to stay. Lil Tommy reminds Malcolm of his promise, but Malcolm has convinced himself that traveling to Nanda Parbat will ensure that nothing like this ever happens to Tommy again. When he arrives in Nanda Parbat, he finds a young Nyssa al’ Ghul dueling and defeating one of her father’s assassins. He says he’s not there to fight and shows her the magic coin trick he used earlier because all kids, even badass assassins in training, love magic. Nyssa gives him his League of Assassins name, which translates to “The Magician.”
PRESENT — STARLING CITY
It’s been a week since the Mayor acquiesced to Brick’s demands and removed all SCPD presence from the Glades. No surprise here, things aren’t going well—Brick’s goons are terrorizing the people who live and work in the Glades. Laurel and Roy, who is now officially going by the name Arsenal, have thus taken it upon themselves for be the Glades’ police force, while Diggle and Felicity provide support from the Foundry. Quentin, who is not a fan of the mayor’s decision, feels useless and decides to help out Team Arrow by giving them every piece of evidence on Brick they were able to recover from the evidence storage facility.
Felicity starts poring through the evidence for anything that can help them find Brick’s hiding place. She decides to cross reference Brick’s M.O. with other unsolved murders in the city and finds out that Brick’s gun was used in the murder of Rebecca Merlyn, which shocks not only everyone in the cave, but also Malcolm, who is listening in via a hidden camera he placed the last time he visited. And he doesn’t take this news well. For the past 21 years, he’s lived under the assumption that he had avenged his wife’s murder and to find out now, after everything he has done that he hasn’t, is hard to swallow. In any case, Brick must die. Thea, who sees the good in her father, tries to convince him that he isn’t just a killer and to find another way, but Malcolm won’t hear of it.
By tracing the walkie-talkies used by Brick’s goons, Felicity is eventually able to find Brick’s location; he’s ironically holed up in the SCPD’s precinct in the Glades. Black Canary and Arsenal bust in there Splinter Cell-style and take out Brick’s men one by one, but are no match for Brick when he eventually joins in the fight. Merlyn arrives just in time to (a) prove he can’t wear his mask for longer than five seconds, and (b) to save them from being killed by Brick. Unfortunately, Brick manages to make his escape.
Meanwhile, against the doctor’s (read: Tatsu’s wishes), Oliver starts to make his journey back to Starling City. Along the way, he asks her to come back with him and to train him for his next fight with Ra’s, but she declines because she doesn’t want to watch him die or return to the world she forsook.
NEXT: Arrow‘s version of the fourth act of The Dark Knight Rises
Because of their shared enemy, Malcolm suggests that he and Team Arrow team-up to take out Brick. It’s definitely an appealing idea since Brick currently outnumbers and outguns Team Arrow. Felicity doesn’t even hesitate in voicing her opposition to this plan. Roy, on the other hand, actually comes around to the idea of teaming up with the Magician after Thea tells him that Malcolm was the one who protected her the night of Slade’s siege. “He cares about this city. He just went about it in an unimaginable way,” Roy says to the group before they vote. However, Felicity doesn’t buy it because joining forces with Malcolm means letting him kill Brick. Not only is that something she couldn’t live with enabling, but it’s something she thinks Oliver wouldn’t support. In the end, Roy is outvoted.
Tonight’s episode continues this trilogy’s trend of throwing the questions and worries that plagued Oliver during the first two seasons at the rest of the cast. We’ve seen them all struggle with their own humanity and limitations and nailing down what exactly it is they are fighting for. Thea spends most of tonight’s episode trying to convince Malcolm that he’s more than a killer and can find another way, something we saw Oliver go through last season. Thea’s pleas fall on deaf ears because Malcolm is racked with guilt and believes that if he had killed Brick all those years ago, everything would be different and Tommy might still be alive. Like everyone else on this show, Malcolm is still driven and troubled by his past. Malcolm’s visible guilt goes a long a way in humanizing a character who, up until this point, has been an invincible, remorseless god.
Having turned down Malcolm’s assistance, Team Arrow looks to the people of Starling City to fight beside them. Laurel asks Ted to help gather people, and Roy looks to Sin for help. With their army gathered, they make their way to Brick’s hideout, and in a scene that’s the most reminiscent of The Dark Knight Rises, the two opposing armies—Brick’s men vs. Team Arrow’s men—charge toward each other, assault rifles waving in the air. It’s quite a sight, and I found myself chanting “DESHI BASARA, BASARA” as it all went down.
After beating Ted to within an inch of his life, Brick tries to flee the scene, but Malcolm corners him in the alley. Eventually, Malcolm gets the upper hand and holds Brick at gunpoint with his own gun—the very gun he used to kill Rebecca. He reveals to Malcolm that Rebecca was his first kill and was part of the initiation process into a gang, which is a revelation that disgusts Malcolm to no end. Before Malcolm has the chance to pull the trigger, Starling City’s vigilante returns to stop him and convinces him to show Brick some mercy—for Thea’s sake.
With Brick’s men defeated, the Arrow triumphantly stands atop a truck and speaks to fellow citizens of Starling City:
I’ve been gone, and I’m sorry for what the city has had to endure in my absence. But you did endure it! And the evidence of that struggle is lying at my feet. You did not fail this city, and I promise I will not fail you by leaving it again. [Then, Arrow epically grapples out of there like a boss].
What’s so great about his speech is that it perfectly sums up this entire trilogy. Arrow, like Starling City, survived without Oliver Queen at the center of it. (But to be fair, Starling barely survived without Oliver.) This is why Oliver’s quick and somewhat unexplained return from the dead is not as bothersome as it should be. It served a purpose: it brought Laurel, Roy, Diggle, and Felicity to the forefront and proved that they were more than capable of carrying this show without Oliver Queen.
Before parting ways, Tatsu told Oliver that to defeat Ra’s al Ghul he must not only be willing to die, but to also sacrifice that which is dearest to him. And she’s right as Oliver is immediately required to sacrifice something upon his return to Starling, albeit not the thing most precious to him. Oliver asks Malcolm to train him for his next duel against Ra’s. Unfortunately, in doing so, he pushes away Felicity as she can’t believe he’s willing to ally himself with a man who has caused him so much pain. Malcolm turned Thea, a woman Oliver loves, into a killer by having her murder Sara, another woman Oliver loved. “I don’t want to be a woman you loved,” says Felicity. It seems as though Olicity, a hot topic of contention in the comics, has come to an end for now, and we’ll probably see her and Ray together very soon.
Wall of Weird:
- During the fight, Sin notices that it isn’t Sara fighting as the Canary, and tells Quentin this at the end of tonight’s episode. I’m not ready for Quentin to find out Sara’s dead.
- The one outstanding problem with Arrow: Thea still doesn’t know Oliver is the Arrow.
- Guys, Laurel is so much fun and I couldn’t be happier with how the show has rehabilitated the character.
- Quentin on Roy’s codename: “Arsenal, are you guys just pulling names out of a hat?” (Also, Quentin knows Roy is Arsenal. Red leather can’t fool this detective!)
Was Felicity expecting too much from Oliver, and was she too hard on him in that final scene? I find myself on the fence mostly because in “The Climb,” she was worried that Oliver wouldn’t have the will to do what was necessary in his duel with Ra’s—i.e. kill him. To be fair, Oliver’s guiding principles aren’t as solid either as we again find him willing to break his no killing rule for an exceptional circumstance like this. I do think that part of Oliver’s reasoning behind training with Malcolm is that he hopes he’ll have a positive effect on him and further the saving of Malcolm’s soul.