The battle for the Glades continues as Team Arrow tries to keep the peace in Oliver’s (Stephen Amell) absence.
Let’s bitch it out…
We learn early in ‘Uprising’ that a week has passed since the last episode. A week without any kind of police presence in the Glades, as Brick’s (Vinnie Jones) men extort local businesses for petty profit. I complained in the last review that his plan was frustratingly unclear and this week does little to clarify the details. We’re basically left to assume that Brick just wants his own piece of the city to rule, which seems remarkably unambitious for someone whose plan entailed getting nearly a hundred men out of prison.
Regardless of the details, ‘Uprising’ is less about Brick than Team Arrow. As we see in the opening scene in the diner, they’ve got their routine down pat: Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) and Diggle (David Ramsey) provide back-up while Arsenal (Colton Haynes) and Black Canary (Katie Cassidy) mop up the bad guys. Still, despite all of their resources, they’re outgunned and outmanned. Felicity jokes with Lance (Paul Blackthorne) that they call themselves Team Arrow, but the reality is that they’re acting like temporary placeholders. Unfortunately only Roy will acknowledge it and that’s causing division in the team: Felicity wants to continue following the gospel of Oliver while Roy admonishes her because they need to accept that Oliver is gone. In truth we know that Roy is more right than wrong. They’re working with an unsustainable business model, especially when it comes to Brick.
Things boil over when Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman) realizes who Brick truly is and offers to strike a bargain to bring him down. The collusion of enemies is a tried and true narrative recipe because it generates all kinds of conflict (I’m watching The 100 and the very same idea has been an ongoing story line for the majority of the show’s second season). Unfortunately the debate about whether or not to work with Merlyn isn’t particularly complicated or deep. There are a couple of rounds of back and forth about the pros and cons (many of them moral and idealistic) and ultimately the team decide to stir up the location population rather than bed with a murderer and master manipulator.
Thankfully Malcolm’s dilemma offers the writers an excuse to fill in some of Merlyn’s past in order to give him some depth. It’s valuable because we’ve never really learned anything about him aside from his eeevil plans for either the Glades or Thea. (Here he even tells Thea that if she thinks he’s anything other than a killer, she’s mistaken). Naturally Merlyn has a dark past – this is Arrow after all – which makes ‘Uprising’ more about his story than anyone else’s, as evidenced by the fact that the flashbacks from his past replace the traditional Hong Kong ones.
Alas that’s the end of the good news as the flashbacks are far too obvious and, frankly, pretty dull. Barrowman, sporting a truly unfortunate wig, does what he can with the story of a man who kills his wife’s murderer only to discover vengeance is a hollow experience, but this story is neither revelatory, nor fresh. Even Malcolm’s turn-around when he chooses to make things right with Thea (Willa Holland) rather than pursue revenge a second time borders on predictable. Credit the writers have been working over time to ensure that we understand how much Thea means to Malcolm (even though he did completely throw her under the bus) there simply isn’t enough meat here to make this backstory interesting.
Of course everything ultimately comes back to Ra’s Al Ghul. The man in question hovers over the proceedings, despite never once appearing. All of Ollie’s recuperation scenes with Tatsu (Rila Fukushima) center around their inevitable duel and Oliver’s speechifying to the citizens of the Glades and ultimate agreement with Malcolm are in response to and in fear of Ra’s. The writers have done a commendable job building anticipation for the second half of the season when the master swordsman takes center stage as the new Big Bad, but it feels like for every interesting decision the writers make, they suffer a misstep. The latest is the decision to adhere to the tired cliche that keeping romantic couples apart is better than bringing them together. It’s a sad state of affairs for Olicity fans who might have been hoping for a happier state of affairs upon Oliver’s return. Alas it seems like there won’t be a lot of happy in their future, at least for the time being. Maybe when Ra’s is finally defeated will we finally make with the smoochies.
- Thea comes clean to Roy that Malcolm saved her the night of the Seige and that somehow translates into Malcolm being selfless and acting without ulterior motives? I get that Roy is a pretty face who has taken a few hits to the head, but surely even he understands that Malcolm has been playing Thea so that he could set in motion the events that let the Sara’s death and Oliver’s near death?
- The return of Sin (Bex Taylor-Klaus) very quickly brings out the truth about the real identity of Black Canary. All I can say is: finally!!! It won’t be pretty to watch Laurel come clean to her father, but it has dragged out faaar too long.
- Finally, I know that visually it looks good to have a mob of civilians face off against a group of thugs, but one group had fists and baseball bats and the other had guns. Methinks that Brick’s guys probably would have just shot the lot of them and called it a night.
- Roy (when a thug asks if he’s the red blur he saw on TV): “Wrong city.”
- Lance (after learning Roy’s codename): “Arsenal – what are you guys just pulling names out of a hat now?”
- Roy (dispensing his voice modifier, after Lance IDs him by the red hoodies and arrows): “Well I guess I won’t need this anymore.”
- Felicity (after hearing that Brick is squatting at the precinct in the Glades): “Great we can add irony to the list of charges against Brick.”
- Sin (when Lance tells her to see a doctor): “No health insurance but thanks for bringing the cops back.”
- Felicity (after Oliver confirms he’ll work with Malcolm): “I need some air. I’m glad you’re not dead.”
Your turn: are you happy to have Oliver back? How do you feel about the three episode arc in retrospect? Are you glad that Sara’s death will finally be addressed? Is Roy a complete moron? Did we really learn anything new about Malcolm from his flashbacks? And how much anticipation has the show built up for Ra’s inevitable appearance in Starling? Sound off below.
Arrow airs Wednesdays at 8pm EST on The CW. Next week Count Vertigo returns as Laurel fesses up…