Arrow, Season 3, Episode 12: “Uprising”
Written by Beth Schwartz & Brian Ford Sullivan
Directed by Jesse Warn
Airs Wednesdays at 8pm ET on The CW
Starling City’s time without the Arrow was largely a mixed bag; but it mostly comes together in “Uprising”, the conclusion to the “Oliver’s Gone!” trilogy that brought Arrow into 2015 with a bit of a whimper. As with the previous episodes lacking Oliver Queen, “Uprising” is mostly a showcase for Felicity, who is able to express all the frustrating contradictions that come with trying to be a “hero” – or at least, a man who makes reckless, short-sighted decisions that end up working in his favor. That debate permeates the core of “Uprising”, kicking some big season three stories into gear, and finally feeling like the show’s gathering momentum again.
The most important perspective given in “Uprising” is to Malcolm Merlyn, whose back story is given some screen time and an awesomely bad wig, detailing a story that we mostly already know about his wife being killed. Tying it into the Brickwell saga, however, makes things a little more interesting: when most of Team Arrow is willing to sacrifice their morality to keep the city under control, it turns out that Felicity isn’t on boat with working with a psychotic mass murderer (who gets around Starling City ok for a man supposed to be laying low because he’s “dead”, amirite?), painting Malcolm as the rabid dog that he is, blind to reason and married to a specific ideal to the point he’s willing sacrifice his very humanity for it.
In a way, it provides a prism for other characters to examine themselves, and those around them: specifically, it forces Felicity to face whether she wants to work for someone whose ideals are so absolute, flying into the face of death means nothing to them. Sure, Malcolm’s a bit of a straw man because he’s killed a bazillion people, but his presumed benevolence in what he does makes a neat parallel to Oliver, whose spent the last five years trying to capture something he’s lost forever, as well. As we see time and time again, Arrow sticks to the old addage that love leads to terrible things, be it love of family, city, or belief system.
The real highlights, though, come away from Arsenal and Canary 2.0’s suddenly-effective approach to crime-fighting (though boy, does Laurel pull another Laurel doozy when she brings in Wildcat to get killed by Brick… smooth move!), when Felicity is bringing everything they do into question, while everyone is trying to establish their own identity and personal motives in the shadow of Oliver’s absence. The Brickwell saga comes to a neat close while pushing forward the story of everyone not telling Lance about his daughter (a mistruth Sin is beginning to pick up on, now that she’s back on-screen); but it’s that second act, where Felicity is coming to terms with the futility of trying to understand what Oliver is thinking, and Tem Arrow comes up against the limitation of their inspirations’ (admittedly flexible) moral code, where “Uprising” really carries its weight.
Much of “Uprising” is promising material for Arrow moving into its back half (though I still need to figure out when the hell Arsenal got so damn authoritative), save for the cheesy “speech” by Arrow near the end; while I’ve had enough of the whole, cyclical Oliver/Felicity thing for the time being, the other stories with the League and Team Arrow trying to bargain with itself provide interesting thematic foundations for the show to build on, as it (hopefully) continues to push the many breathing, moving pieces towards each other for what I hope is another epic, ambitious season finale. With Oliver back in town (and Felicity off Team Arrow yet again… I think?) and a new friend about to join him (A.T.O.M.!.!.!.!), there’s certainly plenty of time and potential for that to happen.