It was inevitable: Oliver Queen has clawed his way back from the grave, just in time to save the suffering Starling City from the iron fist of Brick and his goons. The latest episode, “Uprising,” shows Ollie packing up to begin the long trek back to Starling City, against the protests of Tatsu. Undeterred, Ollie asks her to come back with him, but she declines, saying “like Maseo, I have disappeared from the world.”
We’re given a quick reminder of the situation through a faux “Hardline”-style news program, that the SCPD have pulled all units out of the Glades so that Brick and his men can take over, cutting all communications from the outside by taking down cell towers. One of Brick’s goons is busy trying to collect “protection” money from a local bar when Arsenal steps in.
“You must be that red streak we heard about,” the mobster snorts.
“Wrong city,” Arsenal replies.
A second goon levels a shotgun at Arsenal’s head before Canary gets involved and the two of them take down the criminals and escape. Canary and Arsenal are spotted by Sarah’s friend Sin (did anyone else forget about her), who seems confused by what she assumes to be Sarah back in Starling City.
The team is still being fed leads by Detective Lance, who believes that just because the police aren’t allowed in the Glades doesn’t mean he can’t feed information to vigilantes to take down Brick. It seems to be taking its toll on him, as he seems to be taking his heart medication with greater regularity…
This week’s episode foregoes the usual Ollie flashback for a look at the moment that defined Malcolm Merlyn as he is today: the murder of his wife. We see him comforting his son Tommy after he awoke from a nightmare, only to find himself delivered into a waking nightmare of his own when the police arrive to announce that Rebecca’s body had just been found in the Glades.
Back in the present, Arsenal meets up with Detective Lance so Lance can give him a copy of Brick’s record. Lance refers to Arsenal as “Harper,” which catches Roy off-guard. It makes you wonder if Lance knows Arrow’s identity…
Back at HQ, Felicity analyzes the file and finds out that the police had been unable to make charges stick on Brick. She also finds out that Brick’s sidearm was used years ago in a murder…the murder of Rebecca Merlyn. Team Arrow is shocked, but not as shocked as Malcolm Merlyn, who bugged HQ.
Ollie’s trekking through the woods, clearly in pain from his wounds. He realizes he’s being followed by Tatsu. “I’ve been to enough funerals,” she explains. She also tells Ollie that he has no hope of defeating Ra’s Al Ghul, telling him that “only the student has hope of defeating the master.”
We then cut to Merlyn sharpening his scimitar (see what I did there?) when Thea enters. He explains, with barely contained rage, that he has to kill the man that killed his wife and that his life up until this point has been false because he never avenged Rebecca’s death.
We then flash back to the day of Rebecca’s funeral, and the camera pans over to a very young Ollie and Tommy standing off to the side. Ollie comforts Tommy, explaining that his mother is with the angels now. “I don’t want her to be an angel,” Tommy weeps, “I want her to come back and be my mom.”
Merlyn’s assistant sits down next to him in front of Rebecca’s plot and explains that the police have found a “person of interest” before leaving Merlyn with a picture of the suspect in Rebecca’s murder.
Back in the present, Felicity determines that Brick’s men are communicating via walkie talkies (remember, they disabled cell communications in the Glades), and she uses the frequency to track down where Brick is holed up—in the Glades police precinct. Felicity cuts the power to the precinct, and Arsenal and Canary raid the building to take down Brick. Brick’s not going quietly, and he fires a few flare rounds at the heroes to take them down. He’s about to kill them, when a mysterious arrow flies through the air and pierces his arm. Malcolm Merlyn, in full Dark Archer getup, pulls back his hood to reveal himself, declaring “Daniel Brickwell…we need to talk.”
Then, in one of the most confusing cuts ever, everyone is suddenly back at HQ in street clothes (what?), where Merlyn explains that they all have a common interest in Brick, and offers an alliance. The team is taken aback, to which Merlyn bluntly declares “you have your options—weigh them.”
The team is clearly divided over wanting to help Merlyn, with Felicity being one of the most vocal opponents, claiming that Oliver would never want to team up with a mass murderer. Roy reminds her that Ollie is gone, and that they can make their own rules. Ultimately, the “memory” of Ollie wins out, and Diggle tells Merlyn that they aren’t going to join him in his crusade to murder Brick.
Flashback time, and Merlyn confronts Rebecca’s suspected murderer in a grimy alleyway. He pulls a gun, but the mugger beats him savagely and tells him to go back to the “rich part of town.” He turns to walk away, but Merlyn picks his gun back up and takes a shot…
Back in the present, Ollie and Tatsu hitchhike back to civilization, but Tatsu leaves Ollie with a somber warning: that he will have to sacrifice something dear to him in order to defeat Ra’s…
We then see the aftermath of Merlyn’s first kill: washing his hands and packing his bags to seek out Ra’s Al Ghul. He explains to his assistant that he can’t be a father to Tommy with the weight of what’s happened to him, and leaves Tommy behind to make his pilgrimage.
Laurel decides that the team needs to get help from the town, and they go out recruiting people to face off against Brick. They go to the middle of the Glades, where Felicity confesses “this feels like recess and we’re about to fight the school bully.” Brick brings his men out, but the citizens of the Glades—including Sin and Ted Grant in full Wildcat getup—face off against them. Wildcat begins to get an upper hand on Brick, but then is beaten within an inch of his life by the thug. Finally, Brick is confronted by Merlyn in an alleyway, who disables Brick and goes to kill him with his own signature gun. Brick confesses that Rebecca was Brick’s “initiation,” a fact that enrages him. He’s stopped at the last minute by the returning Ollie, who tells Merlyn that killing Brick won’t “balance the scales.”
With Brick’s men on the ropes, Detective Lance starts dispatching the SCPD into the Glades. With Brick apprehended and his men rounded up, the Arrow delivers a rousing speech to the people of Starling City, promising that he will never again leave the city without his protection. In the aftermath, Sin pulls aside Detective Starling to ask him why Sarah isn’t the woman wearing the Canary costume, beginning to unravel the dark secret that Team Arrow has been keeping from him for the entire season.
Merlyn and Ollie return to Thea’s apartment almost simultaneously, where Thea is still oblivious to the conflicts that Oliver and her father have engaged in over the years. Ollie asks Merlyn to train him, hoping that Merlyn’s training under Ra’s Al Ghul will give him the edge needed to defeat him.
In a final flashback, we see Merlyn finally arriving at Nanda Parbat to join the League of Assassins and encountering a very young Nyssa Al Ghul, who dubs him “the Magician” after he pulls a coin out from behind her ear, showing that Merlyn still has a kind side after all that he has lost.
Finally, Ollie reunites with the rest of the team back at HQ, and reveals his intentions to train under Malcolm Merlyn, reinforcing Tatsu’s sentiment that “only the student can hope to defeat the teacher.” Felicity is furious, and the episode ends with her explaining that every woman that Ollie cares for—his mother, Thea, Sarah,Laurel—finds themselves either hurt or killed. She leaves him with a tragic proclamation: “I don’t want to be a woman you love.”
Whoof. There are some big ups and big downs in this episode. While there have been some delicious pathos at play with the “death” of Oliver Queen and its effects on Starling City, it was an idea so quickly resolved that a lot of its weight was lost almost immediately. I drew comparisons to “World Without a Superman” in the past, but I’ll rescind that comment on the idea that at least DC Comics had the decency to make us wait 6 months before bringing the Man of Steel back to life. There’s something oddly hollow over watching Starling City learning to cope without the Arrow when he’s drinking penicillin in a cabin waiting for his stomach wound to stitch up. Also, where the hell were Flash and Ray Palmer during all of this? While Ray may not have his A.T.O.M. suit up and running, the complete lack of even a mention of him feels strange, and you think they could have looked up Flash at some point to help them hunt for the missing Ollie.
However, there are still a lot of great things happening in “Uprising.” The decision to showcase the fall of Malcolm Merlyn instead of Ollie’s Hong Kong Hijinks was a welcome shift, especially since it paints Merlyn in a more sympathetic light. He’s not just a megalomaniacal monster; he’s a real person with real pain and real convictions. Also, the idea of Team Arrow gelling in Oliver’s absence is a welcome one, with each member proving their usefulness even without Arrow being the linchpin. We’ll see how the rest of the season fares with Ollie back in the driver’s seat, but his return was less-than-stellar.