THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE EPISODE. DUH. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.
Since the midseason break of Arrow, which saw Oliver Queen getting all kinds of impaled by Ra’s al Ghul, we’ve seen Starling City’s tenuous grasping to law and order slip to a fingertip and the remaining members of Team Arrow, including a so-not-ready-for-this Laurel Lance who’s taken up her sister’s mantle as Canary, or Black Canary for comic book purposes, have had to step up and try to pretend like everything was okay. Well, now with Danny “Brick” Brickwell having run roughshod over The Glades, and the police basically turning its back on the people, hope seems decidedly low. But in “Uprising,” we get to see the city taken back…actually in a very easy way. We also get to see Felicity Smoak take a moral stand as firm and unwavering as Stephen Amell’s abdominals.
Oliver’s still recovering in Nanda Parbat (immediate sidebar: where in the hell is Nanda Parbat in relation to anything else? It can’t possibly be anywhere but Asia, and yet some of these characters can just go between Starling City and Nanda Parbat in the span of what seems like only a few hours. Are there direct flights?) and he decides to pack up and head back to Starling City but Tatsu thinks it’s way too soon and he’s probably just going to die anyway. Why doesn’t she go with him, he asks, but she says “No, that would be too convenient for plot purposes.”
My favorite part of this episode has to be that the flashbacks have nothing at all to do with Oliver’s time in Hong Kong working for Amanda Waller and interacting with Maseo and Tatsu. I imagine will get more of them before the season is out, as they’ve got to do something to explain why Maseo joined the League of Assassins and why Tatsu hasn’t seen him in forever. I’m sure it has to do with their son, so that’ll be really sad. I’m just so completely unengaged by that storyline and those characters. Great, Maseo is in the League, and he’s clearly got something to do with the current plot, but other than that, I don’t care at all.
The flashbacks we DO get are interesting because they’re about a character who hasn’t had much development recently: Malcolm Merlyn. We learn through his training with Thea that he killed the man who murdered his wife, thus beginning the whole downward spiral that ended with The Undertaking. But, though ballistics matching, and because Merlyn’s spying on Team Arrow, he learns that it was Danny Brickwell who actually killed his wife. A bit convenient, yes, but it allows us to see Merlyn back 21 years when he was just an angry man with a gun. He wasn’t the nearly unstoppable fighting machine he is today; he was a scared, and pretty ineffectual guy who just happened to be full of rage. It’s pretty refreshing, actually.
And it’s really Merlyn who is at the heart of the story this week. We’ve seen him all season teaching Thea, nurturing her in his own twisted way, and she tells Roy that his caring about her and coming to save her during Deathstroke’s siege was really meaningful to her. He does care about the city, he just went about it a horrible way. But, we also can’t forget the fact that he drugged Thea and made her kill Sara for the purposes of… I’m still not entirely sure. Pissing off the League? Trying to get the League off his back?
For all the good Arsenal and Canary are doing in The Glades, they actually could use Merlyn’s help, since he now has a blood vendetta against Brickless. He proposing pooling their resources. Felicity is fervently against this. VERY fervently. Roy, after his talk with Thea, is in the “let’s side with Merlyn this once” camp, while Laurel is leaning yes and Diggle is leaning no. Ultimately, Diggle tells Merlyn that they don’t need his help, thank you, and Roy is seemingly okay with being outvoted. Felicity’s whole point is that Oliver would never allow such a merger, but he’s not there anymore.
Ultimately, it’s decided that they should get the people of the Glades to help them take on Brick and his criminals. This seems like a VERY bad idea, but Laurel finds Ted Grant, who is mad at her for leaving training to go vigilante already, and Roy goes to find Sin, who is only in this episode to narc on Laurel. More on that later. But, there gets to be a big in-the-street rumble between citizens, a few masks, and an army of hardened criminals. Seriously, this is an AWFUL idea. Ted Grant, a/k/a Wildcat, get his ass handed to him by Brick and it doesn’t seem like he’s getting up any time soon. Poor Ted, we barely knew ye. Or maybe he’ll still be around. Sin seems to be doing slightly better, and Arsenal keeps shooting Brick with arrows just as he’s about to shoot someone.
Eventually, Brick finds himself in an alley with Malcolm Merlyn, in full Dark Archer get-up. He’s about to murder Brick when suddenly, Oliver as the Arrow shows up and talks him out of it. If he’s ever going to be anything close to what Thea believes he can be, then he ought to not murder Brick. And miraculously, and maybe because the writers need to make Merlyn a not-so-straight-up villain, he doesn’t.
Arrow then gets on top of a van and makes a big speech about how he’s sorry he’s been gone but he’s back now and the city is protected. This could not have been hokier or less in the spirit of the character, but hey, I guess it works.
So then we get to the real apex of the episode. After the gangs are retaken by the police, led by Captain Lance, Sin walks up to him and tells him that the woman in the black mask and blonde wig isn’t Sara. He says “Umm, of course she is; I talked to her from a very long way away.” She says “It’s not your daughter,” which is actually false. Dun, dun, duuuuuuuuun. It only took one sentence from a street youth to make Lance realize Laurel’s been duping him for the past month. Poor sap.
Oliver goes to see Thea just as Malcolm begins to tell her he didn’t kill Brick. Thea’s expecting all kinds of explosiveness when Oliver sees Malcolm, and yet, none. It’s probably because they’ve come to an understanding of sorts. While Thea goes to make some plot-necessary tea, Oliver asks Merlyn to help train him to fight Ra’s al Ghul, since it’s his fault the League of Assassins is pissed off in the first place. It’ll take a student to beat the teacher.
Aaaaaand when Oliver goes to see the gang, Felicity is obviously very happy to see him, until he reveals that Merlyn’s going to help him fight Ra’s al Ghul. There is no reasoning with her on this point. She feels like Oliver hasn’t changed at all after his ordeal, and if dealing with horrible people under the auspices of women he supposedly loves is his thing, she doesn’t want to be one of them… OUCH. Felicity Smoak, unwavering moral authority.
Ultimately, “Uprising” finished off the Brick storyline (I hope) and set up a new trajectory for the rest of the season, with Oliver training to have a rematch with the Demon’s Head, and Merlyn becoming a bit of a mentor to him, at least in the fighting sense. Felicity is NOT ON BOARD with any of it, and I could see her really pulling back even further from Team Arrow and joining up hardcore with Team Atom. And of course we’re going to have all that Sara’s Dead bollocks to deal with next time, because the episode is called “Canaries.” Take a look!