The midseason trilogy of Arrow has come to it’s close. Oliver Queen has returned to Starling City to find things very different – not only in his former team; but also in himself. With a lot of foreshadowing and the back-story / possible redemption of one of Arrow’s greatest villains, there’s a lot to talk about. So let’s explore everything that happened during “Uprising” and see what lies ahead for the new Team Arrow.
“Uprising” – In The Glades & At Home:
As the episode title might suggest, this main focal point was the final climactic uprising as Team Arrow and the citizens of the Glades took back their city. Oliver of course returned in time to help; but it was truly the rest of Team Arrow who saved their city. They banded together and rose above Brick’s oppressive regime. Though the title ‘uprising’ didn’t just reference the physical uprising; but also the uprising that is slowly taking place within Team Arrow itself.
Yes Arsenal and Black Canary were in over their heads sometimes without Oliver; but they still rose up to the challenge and fought. This episode specifically we see Roy taking charge and doing the usual Oliver errands – laying plans, talking to Quentin, and looking after Laurel. The fact that it was Laurel and Roy as a team that said “Danny Brickwell, you have failed this city” demonstrates their elevation from wannabee and sidekick to true heroes. Oliver’s return won’t reset this. He’s been gone for almost a month and is going to have to come to terms with how things have changed.
Take a closer look at the final scene with everyone in the Arrow Cave. It’s awkward. After the past few episodes, Oliver looks out of place in his own hideout. He might thing that nothings changed or that things can return to normal; but again, hes been gone for several weeks. Team Arrow has grown far beyond him and if he tries to hard to force things back to the way they were, he could alienate Roy and Laurel. Will they become a stronger team or move on without Oliver? Considering the show is called “ARROW”, I’m going with option #1; but the interplay and character evolutions will be fun to watch as we now see Oliver adapt to life – just as the past few episodes showed everyone else adapting to the new life.
Merlyn’s Humanity Revealed – Flashbacks & Second Chances:
Tonight’s episode of Arrow really put the ‘Arrow’ in Barrowman. Seriously though. Malcolm’s an incredibly deep and complex character and tonight’s episode dove right in! Since Season 1, we’ve only gotten to see the crazy and manipulative devil that is Malcolm Merlyn. Sure we got hints here and there about his wife’s death and how he used to be a good father; but all of that was talk. We never got a chance to actually explore his character – or if there were any depths left to him. This episode not only gave us one of the few instances ‘Flashbacks’ didn’t revolve around Oliver Queen; but also the longest flashbacks spanning an incredible 21 years in the past.
During this time we see a very different Malcolm Merlyn, the caring father who comes home to his son and tells him everything is going to be alright. Sadly this is also the night he’d learn of his wife’s death – before he listened to the voicemail. Through these flashbacks we also see Merlyn’s interactions with Robert Queen and how Robert was the one who told him about the ‘suspected killer’. After Malcolm kills the suspect, we see how Robert wants to cover it up and how it leads him to the League of Assassins; but that’s not the most driving point of the flashback.
The moment Malcolm confronts the ‘suspected killer’ he gets beaten up. He’s weak, frail and powerless. Sure he kills the man in the end; but the rage in him still has no outlet and he never wants to feel as weak and powerless as he did then again. Sound familiar? Like father like daughter I suppose as this is the same emotion that lead Thea to go train with Malcolm. Malcolm might be crazy; but all he’s done has been some demented way of trying to help. Thea might be the only one to see it at first; but soon he comes to realize it as well.
When Malcolm learns that he killed the wrong man all those years ago, he’s crushed. He’s realized that everything he’s done has been a lie and for nothing. He has literally hit rock bottom and for him to opt to NOT kill Brickwell when he had the chance show tremendous character growth. This is a second chance for Malcolm, but he didn’t do this FOR Thea. He didn’t for himself because of her – yes there’s a difference. He didn’t spare Brickwell because Thea told him not to; but rather so he could have a second chance at becoming the man he should. A man worthy of being Thea’s father and believing in the Malcolm Merlyn Thea already does.
Him and Oliver might have started as opposites; but in the end its their love of Thea that will bring them together. Additionally, ever since we learned of Ray Palmer’s motivations, a juxtaposition has been drawn between the two. Malcolm’s new path should hopefully put him on a path much closer to Palmer’s – just more awesome because he’s JOHN BARROWMAN!!!!!!!! #TeamBarrowman
Felicity –Selfish or Justified:
You have to admit, Felicity has been on a roller coaster since Arrow’s returned for the second half of Season 3. From believing Oliver’s alive longer than anyone to sabotaging Roy and Diggle’s fight with Brick to leaving the team and then bringing it all back together, she’s been all over the place – and this episode didn’t help it. The episode kicked off with the ‘previously on’ shot of Felicity saying that its not just Oliver’s mission anymore, “its OURS”. Though despite these words, she still very much thinks of all of this as Oliver’s thing.
When the idea of letting Malcolm join them first comes up, Felicity shoots it down and says that’s not what Oliver would do. It is Roy who speaks up and reminds Felicity that he’s not there any more and it’s now THEIR mission. Roy of course is out voted and the team finds alternative means of facing Brick, but when Oliver comes back with news on him and Malcolm working together to deal with Ras, Felicity is D-O-N-E! So was this an overreaction or not?
Yes, Felicity’s reasoning is pretty sound to start. Her dream of Oliver coming back from a near death experience and having a new outlook on life – ie: them being together – is actually pretty spot on considering we saw Oliver’s dream last week where he wishes he stayed with Felicity rather than go fight. This also all explains why Felicity kept the mentality of ‘this isn’t what Oliver would do’ because she still saw him coming back and running the show. Though even if Felicity’s hopes and dreams were well founded, they don’t account for one HUGE drawback – Ras.
As I just said, Oliver most likely would have come back and operated exactly how Felicity hoped they would – based on his dream – but the knowledge that Ras will come for him changes all of that. Yes, it is pretty messed up to train with the man who orchestrated your father’s death and then manipulated your sister into killing the woman you love; BUT that is what it takes to stop Ras. Oliver – as he is – can’t hold a candle to Ras, so he must find a new way or face everyone he loves being slaughtered. That way is with Malcolm. Yes, we the viewers know that Malcolm does have some humanity left and honestly loves Thea; but Felicity doesn’t. There will be many costs in the battle ahead, and this could be one of them.
Tatsu’s Warning – Giving Up What He Holds Most Precious:
With Maseo gone and Tatsu similarly refusing to rejoin the world, Oliver’s decides to return home despite still being severely injured. Though before he leaves, he asks Tatsu for sword training so he can beat Ras at his own game. Tatsu might be Katana from the comics; but even she cannot give Oliver the key to defeating Ras. In order to do so, he must first sacrifice something in order to defeat his opponent. Whatever it is, it’ll be what he holds most dear. Aside from adding more hints about the death of Tatsu and Maseo’s son, this line left a very mysterious and foreboding feeling – or was forgotten completely. So what could Tatsu have meant?
Initially I assumed this meant that in order to defeat Ras, someone Oliver cared deeply about would have to die; but as the episode ended a new idea came to mind. Something Oliver has held dear to him is Felicity, and as the episode ended we saw that she wanted nothing to do with him anymore. Could this be the loss Tatsu warned about? In order to kill Ras, he must train under Malcolm Merlyn and thus completely severe any chance he has with Felciity. Seeing as Felicity is who he cares about most and sees as the ‘light’ in his life, this could very well be it. Then again, maybe the thing he’ll sacrifice is the ‘light’ itself.
Since Season 2, Oliver has held very dear the promise he made to Tommy, to NEVER be a killer again. If Oliver is to defeat Ras, he’ll have to be a killer. Could this be what Tatsu warned him of? In order to defeat Ras, he must break a promise to a dying friend and once again sacrifice a piece of his soul by taking another’s life. We’ll have to see how this plays out in the episodes to come; but it’s still important to keep these ideas in the back of your mind as Oliver begins his training with Merlyn and he and Felicity drift further apart.
Captain Quentin Lance – Blind Or In Denial:
For the second time in a row, someone has discerned Roy’s identity as ‘Arsenal’ – or rather the Red Arrow. While meeting with Quentin this week – another way in which Roy is taking over Oliver’s old habits and roles – Quentin openly called Roy Harper out. Was this a SHOCKING realization or something not that hard to figure out? Considering most of Roy’s pre-Arsenal time was spent running around, playing with arrows and getting arrested while wearing a red hoodie, it wasn’t that hard to figure out.
So does that mean Quentin also knows The Arrow is Oliver? Well not necessarily; but it could be possible. Either way, that’s not what’s important here. What is probably driving you made is HOW did Quentin not know that Sarah wasn’t the one talking to him. Cindy (Sin) was able to spot the difference almost immediately, yet Quentin – Sarah’s own father – couldn’t spot the imposter. As Sin said, he “should have known that wasn’t [his] daughter”. Well, don’t call BS just yet because Quentin’s stance actually can make a lot of sense.
Remember, Sin saw ‘the Canary’ only a few feet away. Quentin on the other hand spoke with her not face-to-face, but while she was a few stories above him. The distance + voice changer could explain the discrepancies, but it is his role as a father that is the biggest solution. Quentin is a worried father who lost his daughter once but saw how his wife’s sustained hope paid out in the end when their daughter returned to them alive 5 years later.
All season Quentin has been suspecting something happened – as seen in his conversations with Laurel, etc – so he might be aware of some striking differences in the Canary as of late; but it doesn’t matter because it is his hope that is driving him. His hope that makes him ignore his gut feeling and makes him think that everything is okay. He’s going to learn the truth very soon, and I honestly don’t know how he’s going to take it. If the denial truly has been leading him the past 2 episodes, then he might be left even more shattered than had he learned of Sarah’s fate from the start.
Rapid Fire – Easter Eggs, Quotes & More:
- The Maseo & Tatsu Puzzle got a new piece this week when Tatsu told Oliver that she came back because ‘she’s been to enough funerals’. And the growing case for their son being killed gets more evidence.
- When one of Brick’s men asked Roy/Arsenal “You that Red streak I’ve been hearing about on the TV” he was of course referring to the Flash. So again “Wrong city”.
- This is the first episode where the name Arsenal is used outside of Team Arrow, leaving Quentin to question where all these nicknames are coming from. Hopefully it catches on because I prefer ‘Arsenal’ over ‘Red Arrow’.
- When Malcolm Merlyn first approached the League Of Assassins, he was scared, but also still a father. So when he met a young Nyssa unsure of his abilities and allegiance, he dispelled her uncertainties the same way he had his son’s – with the magic coin trick. Thus earning him the name ‘the Magician’
- Diggle’s warning to Malcolm “Once we let the ends justify the means, that the first step into becoming you” could be taken as foreshadowing since by episode’s end Oliver seems to be letting the ends (stopping Ras) justify the means (teaming up with Malcolm). HOWEVER, we know that Malcolm does indeed mean well and since he didn’t kill Brick, this warning ultimately shouldn’t come to pass. Felicity on the other hand still believes it will.
- We finally see Ted suit up – kinda – as Wildcat and he got some incredible punches in on Brick. Sadly, Brick is a brick and just obliterated him. His status as alive or severely injured remains to be seen though.
- Take a closer look at Oliver’s first appearance when he’s back in Starling. His slow movements and heavy breathing while talking with Malcolm show us that he is still in pretty bad shape. This is why he isn’t shown fighting but rather just using the bow from a distance; because he can’t in the moment due to his extensive injuries. In fact, being in that costume right now must be killing him.
As I said, next episode will find Oliver coming to terms with how the Team has changed in his absence. It’s no longer just his sidekicks, they’re all equal members and the central conflict will be with his over-protectiveness of Laurel. With the return of Vertigo – an Arrow staple – it’ll be a nice touch to have Laurel try her hand at this and face her own fear – her sister – much like how Oliver faced himself when he last met the new Vertigo. Will Laurel earn Oliver’s respect or will this just drive a bigger wedge in the team? We’ll find out next week. So be sure Follow Me On Facebook and here for the next ‘Looking Ahead’.
*A very special thank you to Raghu Seetharaman, Chris Sixx, and everyone over at THE ARROW CAVE/ARROW group on Facebook who helped throw some ideas back and forth with me and analyze the episode. You guys and girls are awesome and it’s always a pleasure to discuss episode happenings with you.