So here we are. Uprising sees the three-episode arc of Brick (Vinny Jones) come to a close, at least for now, and with it we get the return of The Arrow (Stephen Amell) to Starling City. Whilst Oliver’s convenient return is likely the headline part of the episode, there’s a whole lot of juicy character development on show here.
With Brick having essentially taken over The Glades and removed the area’s police presence, Captain Lance (Paul Blackthorne) uses his contact with Team Arrow (i.e., Emily Bett Rickards’ Felicity Smoak) to try and do his best to stop things going completely to shit. In The Arrow’s absence, we get to see further screen time for Arsenal (Colton Haynes) to take centre-stage, although he’s got the newly-anointed Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) along with him for the ride. And whilst it can be strongly argued that Roy Harper/Arsenal is the character who has benefited the most from Oliver Queen’s Starling City absence, this episode gives a brilliant look at the tragic backstory of Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman).
It’s with Merlyn that so much of this episode focuses on, showing how the first person he ever killed was in an act of revenge for the death of wife Rebecca. Malcolm explains all of this to Thea (Willa Holland), as he relays why he had to become a killer and further puts the point home about the League of Assassins coming for them at some point. Now Malcolm Merlyn has been the most rotten of rotten eggs during Arrow’s three seasons, but this is the first time we get to see his story with any amount of real detail. As such, we see the journey of family man Malcolm Merlyn to cold-blooded killer Malcolm Merlyn. From there, we also see the tease of his joining the League of Assassins. The Malcolm arc of Uprising takes a darker twist still when it’s revealed that the man he killed in the name of his wife… well he wasn’t actually the person who took his beloved’s life. In a mightily convenient plot twist, it’s revealed that Brick filled Merlyn’s wife full of lead. As such, Malcolm looks to join Team Arrow’s crusade and rid The Glades of Brick and his crew.
Whilst The Glades is being terrorised, we see Oliver saying his farewells to Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) and continuing his trek back to Starling City. Fukushima’s Tatsu does well in a slightly more expanded role here, and it’s alluded to her past (as in the show’s Hong Kong flashbacks) being one that took a dark turn somewhere down the road. There’s also some hinting at Tatsu’s ability with a sword, which is a nice nod to the Katana moniker that the character holds in the comic book world. Having said goodbye to Tatsu, would you believe it, Oliver Queen just so happens to return to Starling City in the midst of a Warriors-esque tear-up between Brick and pretty much anyone opposed to him.
It’s been talked about in these reviews how the “Oliver Queen isn’t actually dead” moment was given away way too soon, but his arrival back in Starling City is one that induces goosebumps as a solitary green arrow announces his return. The only thing more excitable than this was the expression on Roy’s face at The Arrow’s reappearance, with Arsenal the equivalent of a kennel-ridden puppy who’s just seen his owner return from two weeks in Corfu. And wouldn’t you know it, The Arrow just so happens to step in at the moment that Merlyn is about to kill the villainous Brick. After becoming Malcolm’s voice of reason, the Emerald Archer then goes on to deliver a Rocky-esque speech to the citizens of The Glades.
Uprising is the best Arrow episode since the show returned from its mid-season break, with plenty of fan service paid to eagle-eyed viewers; there’s a nice Flash reference as Arsenal is mistaken for the “red streak”; Nightwing’s abode of Bludhaven is name-dropped by Oliver; and we even get to see the origins of Malcolm Merlyn’s Magician nickname. In other points of note, it’s great to see Captain Lance not being fooled by bogus hero bullshit, such as easily pointing out to Arsenal that he is clearly Roy Harper in a hood, and also when he takes the piss out of the Arsenal nickname that Harper has been given. It was also good to see Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) resurface, even if it was only seemingly to point out to Lance how the Canary patrolling Starling City isn’t Sara (Caity Lotz). On that topic, it was also heartbreaking to see Arsenal having to flat-out lie to Lance about Sara. We’ve seen Laurel have to do this previously, but it genuinely felt like a hugely uncomfortable moment for Roy Harper to be in. Then there’s Ted Grant (J.R. Ramirez) finally putting his Wildcat duds on, only to seemingly be beaten to death by Jones’ Brick. Additionally, it has to be said, Vinny Jones is definitely a lot better now than he was during his show debut a few weeks ago. I was openly critical of Jones (I can’t help but drop in far too many “Juggernaut, bitch” lines – I know, it’s a problem I’m dealing with…) but he’s got a lot better by this point. It just remains to be seen if and when we’ll see Brick again.
So Oliver Queen is back in Starling City and all is happily ever after, right? Maybe not. For Oliver’s apparent death has seen a change in dynamic amongst Team Arrow. The group has had to simultaneously mourn Oliver Queen but somehow still struggle to fight the good fight and keep Starling City protected. What was more telling was Felicity’s reaction to seeing Oliver. Initially, it was a moment that just writing about it raises the hairs on your arms. In terms of emotional impact, the embrace that Felicity gave to Ollie is right up there with Arrow’s most sincere moments. It just felt real and heartfelt and complex on many levels. But then Felicity’s demeanour changed when Ollie revealed his plan to work with Malcolm Merlyn to bring down Ra’s al Ghul (Matt Nable). Citing the examples of Thea and Sara, Felicity revealed to Oliver that she no longer wants to be a woman who is loved by him. Ouch!
Uprising was a great episode of Arrow and seemed to handle the far-too-early return of Oliver Queen in the best possible way. It also gave greater insight into Malcolm Merlyn, showing his evolution from getting the shit kicked out of him in alleyways to becoming a truly badass member of the League of Assassins, with this particularly highlighted in how easily and brutally he took down Brick.
The only slight gripes with the episode is that the score during Arsenal and Black Canary’s assault on Brick’s Glades hideout was a little too forced and over the top, and then there was Felicity at one point seeming a little irked at Ollie for not getting in touch with her despite him being in the middle of nowhere and with no means of contact. Other than those minor, minor issues, Uprising was a good ‘un. Now let’s see how the show’s core group of characters handle Oliver’s return to the fold.
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