Arrow: 312 “Uprising” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
As the conclusion to the latest season 3 ‘mini-arc’, “Uprising” provides some interesting moments and a deeper look into one of the show’s more enigmatic figures. It also continues the trend of having some really terrible wigs in the flashbacks, but that’s a minor quibble for what is otherwise a fun episode.
Off in the mountains, Oliver is getting nervous about Starling City and is desperately trying to leave Tatsu’s cabin, even though he’s still pretty weak from that whole death and resurrection thing that happened a while ago. Even though Tatsu strongly implies that he will probably die if he leaves before properly healing, he is insistent that he needs to get back, because his city needs him.
To be fair to him, he’s not wrong.
When we left Starling City last week, it was in pretty terrible shape: the mayor had ordered the SCPD out of the Glades and Brick had usurped control of the district, leaving just Diggle, Felicity, Roy and Laurel to take care of the innocent citizens. We see some of Brick’s goons threatening a bar owner to get protection money, and Roy and Laurel manage to semi-effectively beat them. As they are leaving, they are spotted by our old friend Sin, who recognises Roy and thinks Laurel is Sara, returned to the city.
Meanwhile Quentin, clearly getting distressed by the unanswered calls coming from within the Glades, passes on information regarding Brick’s criminal history to Team Arrow, and they discover something shocking about one of Brick’s past crimes: that he was the one who killed Rebecca Merlyn, better known as Malcolm Merlyn’s wife whose death instigated all of his actions up to this point. It’s news to Felicity and the gang, but it’s also news to Malcolm, who has been spying on Team Arrow through a camera hidden in Felicity’s computer.
As this week’s Merlyn-centric flashbacks show, when a hilariously floppy-haired yuppie Malcolm discovered his wife had been murdered, he used all his 80s billionaire clout to find the guy who did it. He then tracked the guy down to an alley and murdered him in return, before fleeing the country and heading to Nanda Parbat, leaving little Tommy Merlyn in the middle of the night and starting his journey to become the horrible bastard we know him as these days. At Nanda Parbat, he meets a young Nyssa, who gives him the name Al Sa-Her, meaning ‘The Magician’.
It’s a nice insight into the kind of man Malcolm used to be before he turned psychopathic, although the flashback didn’t really provide us with any information we didn’t already have. Instead, the whole thing is made to feel somewhat futile by the information we are provided with in the present day: everything he did started with killing the wrong man, and now he knows exactly who is responsible for everything bad that has happened since.
So, with all that information in mind, Malcolm goes to pay another visit to Team Arrow and suggests that they join forces to take down Brick and regain control over the Glades: however, owing to their past dealings with Malcolm and the fact that he basically manipulated their friend and fearless leader into getting himself killed, they refuse. Instead, they choose to rally the people of the Glades, including Sin and Ted Grant, to take the fight to Brick and create the titular ‘Uprising’.
But just before we get to that, Tatsu helps Oliver to get back to civilization, and turns down his offer for her to come with him. However, before they separate, she gives him one piece of advice: if he is going to fight Ra’s al Ghul again, and he will have to if he wants to save Thea, he will need to seek out Maseo for training as ‘only the student has hope of defeating the master’. Then, with her impression of Mr Miyagi out of the way, Tatsu leaves Oliver to get back to Starling City, with a healthy supply of penicillin tea to stop him from dying on the way home, and disappears back into the woods; although if it’s the last time we see Tatsu in the present day this season I’ll eat my shoe.
Back in Starling the uprising begins, and the armies of organised criminals and baseball bat-wielding civilians clash in the streets. Ted Grant, in full Wildcat get-up is the first to take on Brick, and after delivering a pretty decent beating, he then gets his face pretty much bashed in by his opponent. Brick then flees into the same alleyway Malcolm killed the supposed murderer in and is confronted by the man himself, who threatens to shoot him until a certain Emerald Archer makes an appearance and dissuades him from doing it.
Then Oliver makes a grand speech to the people of the Glades, commending them for not failing the city, and promising never to leave them again. In the aftermath, Sin speaks to Quentin and tells him that the Canary who has been running around the city recently is not Sara, which comes as news to Quentin and sows the seeds for a big personal trauma in the not too distant future. Oliver then goes home to see Thea and covers up his absence by telling her that he was in Bludhaven prison for the past few weeks; then the biggest shocker of the episode comes as Oliver asks Malcolm to train him for the fight against Ra’s al Ghul, even if he personally hates him.
Finally, Oliver reunites with the team and apologises, then informs them of his decision to work with Malcolm. Felicity is understandably pissed off, and tells Oliver that she has seen what happens to the women that he loves: he allowed Thea to be turned into a killer who then killed Sara, whom he also used to love. Then, she delivers the final emotional gut-punch, telling him that she doesn’t want to be a woman he loves.
“Uprising” is an effective conclusion to the mini-arc started in “Left Behind”: it provides closure on the Brick situation, sheds some light on Malcolm Merlyn’s past and sets up an interesting new direction for the show. Now we just need to be prepared for Malcolm to do some horrible things to Oliver to get him ready to face Ra’s al Ghul again.