On the D/L – Arrow
Season 3 Episode 12 – “Uprising”
The Emerald Archer Rises! Sorry I couldn’t resist but Arrow did give off a distinct The Dark Knight Rises vibe this week. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing but the comparison does bear comment. Now that the series has gone through the main beats of all 3 Christopher Nolan Batman films it can maybe completely move past that.
It’s been a good run of episodes so far which definitely comes as a nice surprise given that the lead character has been away from the action since the show returned a couple of weeks back. Thankfully the supporting cast are more than strong enough to keep the material strong and can actually thrive in the absence of their leader. Diggle, Roy, Felicity and Laurel have done a fantastic job of keeping things going and the show has remained engaging with them taking the lead.
One thing that has been constant is that they feel lost without Oliver and this episode continues with that theme. In many ways they are trying to honour him by anticipating what he would do as best they can but are also trying to find their own way of doing things at the same time.
They are definitely lacking in leadership without a strong voice to tell them how things are going to be. Without a central figure to rally behind they waste a lot of time discussing the problem rather than tackling it and become divided by their different opinions.
I liked the smart approach the episode gave to that limitation by giving them a significant moral dilemma to chew on. It’s clear to everyone that Malcolm Merlyn can’t be trusted at all but with Brick fully in control of the Glades and the situation worsening by the hour he seems like their best hope of stopping him and reclaiming this important area of the city. Side note, John Barrowman is the master of dramatic unmaskings.
Malcolm has the necessary motivation to want to bring down Brick after discovering that he was responsible for the death of his wife so he is more than eager to help out in this instance. He offers the team the opportunity to team up for the greater good and this gives them their dilemma. On one hand they need all the help they can get because Brick consistently outclasses them at every turn but on the other allying themselves with Malcolm would sort of make them hypocrites who sacrifice what they believe in to take the easy way out.
I liked how there was conflict within the group as they contemplated what to do but I had my issues at the reasoning behind some of what was said. In particular Roy seemed really naive when defending Malcolm after his discussion with Thea. Roy knows everything that Malcolm has done so I don’t believe for a second that he would be so easily convinced that Malcolm cares about the city in some twisted way. Fair enough he saved Thea during the siege but he was also responsible for the death of over 500 people as well as turning Thea into a murderer. There’s just no way that Roy would forget that so easily.
I was much more on the same page as Laurel who suggested using Malcolm as a weapon and aiming him at Brick then sorting him out when the dust settles. This makes sense as they need the help and shouldn’t really discriminate about where it comes from.
I can also see Diggle and Felicity’s point. They are in this conflict for very specific reasons and allying themselves with someone like Malcolm Merlyn compromises everything they believe in. Felicity believes that it’s something that Oliver would never do but I’m actually not so sure. Discounting the end of this episode I do believe that Oliver is willing to compromise what he believes in if he believes that there’s a good reason to do so. To my mind this situation would qualify so I do think he would reluctantly let Malcolm help.
It was actually unexpected when they voted and his help was refused, I expected a tenuous alliance to come from the discussion but it was a nice surprise when Team Arrow decided to go it alone like they always have. Laurel’s idea of rallying the town to their cause was a good one and really shows how symbolic of the city Oliver’s team are becoming.
The development of Malcolm in this episode was well done. I found it interesting to see a flashback to the time where he found out about the murder of his wife and the steps he took after it. He went from being a man incapable of killing to a murderer in a short space of time and this had consequences for him. He quickly realises how empty the murder he committed was and that he had to do something else to focus his anger. This brings him to Nanda Parbat where he meets a young Nyssa Al Ghul who names him “The Magician”.
For the most part these scenes were strong and provided a welcome insight into Malcolm while pointing out that he was once a good man. It seems that the plan is to begin a redemptive arc for this character over the remainder of the season. Given the blood on his hands I’m not sure this is possible but we shall see. I do wish we’d seen more of his time with the League of Assassin’s but maybe that is due to come in subsequent episodes.
Thea seems to be Malcolm’s inspiration to be a better man as she constantly challenges him on his assertions of the kind of man he is and what he feels he has to do. When he tells her that he has to kill Brick she questions him on it and lets him know that there is a better way. This is clearly a lesson that resonates as it’s the mention of Thea that stops him from doing so later.
It’s a shame that Oliver’s return ended up being more anticlimactic than it deserved to be. The fight between Team Arrow’s army and Brick’s followers was great and all -despite the fact that nobody except Brick thought to bring guns, seems a bit silly really- but I never got the sense that the fight was going badly enough to need the symbol of the Green Arrow to rally behind. It was a clear win for the team without Oliver there so it should have been left that way. Oliver’s conversation with Malcolm was good and I liked how he stopped him from killing Brick.
It was also a really cool moment when Oliver as The Arrow gave a rousing speech about being back to defend his city and never leaving again. It seems that he’s taken Barry’s words about inspiring people to heart.
Vinnie Jones has created a good villain with Brick. He has certainly been a match for Team Arrow in Oliver’s absence and managed to be a memorable presence within the show. I hope he’ll come back at some point because I liked what he brought to the show.
There was also some interesting developments when it came to Quentin’s assumptions about Sara still being alive. He was told by Sin that Sara isn’t the Black Canary that has been seen around town and lets him know that he has been lied to. He doesn’t know for sure that Laurel is the one doing it and that Sara is dead but that reckoning is coming soon and I look forward to seeing it. I also liked that Quentin saw through Arsenal’s identity so easily but I do wonder how he hasn’t noticed the same from The Arrow. Maybe he has and is neglecting to mention it for his own reasons.
I found the ending really interesting from Oliver’s civil discussion with Malcolm where he agrees to partner with him to take on Ra’s Al Ghul who is most certainly coming for both of them. This partnership makes sense as they will be stronger together in this fight but I can also see why Felicity would be so upset over it. She assumed that Oliver would never stoop this low -as she sees it- and is disappointed in him for doing so. Oliver seems to have come back a changed man after his recent experiences so he is looking at things a little differently, just not the way that Felicity would like him to. Her telling him that she doesn’t want to be a woman that he loves is a particularly crushing moment and suggests a shattering of their friendship in some way.
Felicity does admit that while Oliver was gone she allowed herself to fantasize when Oliver was believed dead which seems to have clouded her memory of him somewhat. I think that Felicity is holding onto her ideal of Oliver rather than the reality of what he’s really like so seems extra upset when he doesn’t live up to her fantasy of him.
A strong episode of Arrow that brings Oliver Queen back into the fold to protect his city again.
Team Arrow are still trying to forge their own path and are faced with a moral dilemma when Malcolm Merlyn offers his services after learning that Brick killed his wife. The team are divided over whether to use this skilled resource in a temporary alliance but ultimately stand up for their beliefs and vote not to include him.
I appreciated how this divided them but Roy’s reasons for wanting to take Malcolm up on his offer were completely naive and out of character for him. Laurel’s views made much more sense but Diggle and Felicity also provided a suitable counter to this. It was a nicely done discussion and made for some interesting internal conflict.
Malcolm’s flashbacks showing what led him down the path to being a murderer and being trained by the League of Assassins did a nice job of fleshing out his character a lot more though seem to be starting the questionable story arc of trying to redeem this character. A decision that seems questionable but might work out well in the end.
Tying his redemption to Thea is a clever idea. Having her be the voice of reason that can stop him from being a terrible person is a good idea as it helps Malcolm realise things about himself that even he didn’t know. It remains to be seen whether the writers can pull this off.
Quentin learning that all is not as it seems where Sara is concerned is an interesting development. It won’t take long for him to put the truth together and when he does I look forward to his discussion with Laurel. I imagine it will be heated.
The end battle was really cool despite the fact that nobody bothers to bring guns. I found that to be a little unbelievable but I do like that the city is starting to rally behind what Team Arrow represent.
Oliver’s return seemed a little anticlimactic as the fight was going pretty well so didn’t need his arrow to remind them what they are all fighting for. I did like his discussion with Malcolm that talked him out of killing Brick and his speech to the people where he promised that he’d never leave them again was a good moment too.
Oliver’s decision to ally with Malcolm to take on Ra’s Al Ghul who will be coming after them both for sure was a bit of a surprise but made sense in context. Felicity’s reaction also made complete sense as I think that Felicity’s fantasy of Oliver’s return clouded her to the reality of what he might be like. Oliver compromising for the greater good is something that is in character for him and she should know that as well as anyone. It was still a crushing discussion when she told him that she doesn’t want to be a woman that he loves.