Uprising – After a week under Brick’s control life in The Glades is falling apart with Roy, Laurel, Felicity and Diggle doing their best to help but overwhelmed and outnumbered. A clue from Brick’s past delivers an unwanted new ally when it turns out he was the actual killer of Merlyn’s wife Rebecca 21 years ago. One way or another it all ends tonight but to defeat Brick’s army of thugs, Team Arrow may need an army of their own.
The show runners of Arrow have never been shy about how they’ve taken inspiration from the Nolan Dark Knight trilogy and of the results of which have frequently been very welcome. Yet this week’s episode may actually take the biggest visual inspirations from it to date and more importantly... they’re awesome! From the Batman Begins nods of Oliver’s pilgrimage back to Starling City to the climactic mass arse kicking fest showdown in The Glades forming the Arrow-verse equivalent of the battle for Gotham in Dark Knight Rises (admittedly both the film and this episode are drawing from the Batman “No Mans Land” comic). It all gives the episode a highly cinematic feel to it as the scale of the events are enough to make you press the information button you’re remote and make sure you’re not actually watching a season finale. It’s always so great to see a show going big like this when it wants to rather than when it feels it has to. This whole trilogy of Brick apposed episodes has made for a great story to which Uprising is a fitting climax. There’s so much to love in the huge pitched battle. From seeing Roy and Laurel charging forward at the front, to bringing Sin back on screen and swinging crazy, to Ted Grant’s much longed for return even seen in action masked as Wildcat (even if all too briefly)! Then that’s before we even get to lightning bolt style green arrow of hope in the middle (we’re right there with Roy and Laurel’s reactions) and Merlyn’s point of redemption. It’s all brilliant action with a great supporting nod to the police precinct assault as Vinnie Jones freaking out with a flare loaded shotgun was worth the price of admission alone.
For all the thrills that follow it’s the first few minutes that are arguably the most dramatically effective as we recap the stakes a week after The Glades became Brick city. From the news report debating the handover decision of negotiating with terrorists verses the countless lives Brick was threatening. To Team Arrow in the field struggling to respond to all the desperate people still calling 911 when they know the police won’t show. Then the final killer shot of Detective Lance listening to the screams over the police frequencies in his office; burning with moral conviction but shackled and powerless to do anything. Paul Blackthorne’s unspoken frustration is outstanding. It all brilliantly sells the gravity and severity of the situation which builds the plausible grounds for the more extreme measures and alliances the team considers for saving The Glades. The Merlyn alliance debate is fantastically fought between the various characters as they try to weigh out the evil the man has done against the good he could do by stopping Brick; i.e. using evil to fight evil. Emily Bett Rickards is impressive even by Felicity standards as she so passionately defends what she believes would be Oliver’s beliefs which again, only makes her later scenes of Oliver going against that all the more powerful. For a while we’ve been told that Merlyn will have an interesting role to play in the series and now finally we have the cards on the table as he does a full on Apollo Creed; agreeing to train Oliver for the inevitable rematch with the reigning champion Ra’s Al Ghul and his friend pain. Even if we don’t get scenes of them running along the beach together this still promises some wonderful interplay between the two of them in the weeks to come. Most interesting to note is Tatsu’s warning about what Oliver will have to give up in order to defeat Ra’s. While the episode initially personifies this as losing Felicity there’s the subtle implication his Oliver holding on to his soul and humanity. Can he learn from Merlyn without becoming a killer like Merlyn? Also consider the heavily used quote of “only the student has hope of defeating the master”. We’re seeing increasing prominence from Thea as Merlyn’s student; could we see her confronting or even killing Merlyn as part of the season’s finale events?
So the biggest series long point to address here is Oliver and The Arrow’s return to Starling City. While admittedly this does feel too soon from the scope and degree of his injuries and it’s been so good to see the rest of the cast trying to function without him.... we have to be realistic here. From a meta-thinking TV show perspective they really couldn’t keep the lead actor and character away for too long so it’s more a case of being grateful for what we’ve been given rather than our impossible desires. Oliver’s departure from Tatsu is a little disappointing. Throughout the Hong Kong sequences she was such an interesting character but her surprise reappearance as Mrs Miracle Max (so Oliver was just mostly dead which fortunately meant slightly alive) just doesn’t feel like it’s done her any justice in what feels like a firm present day goodbye. However, once Oliver returned to Starling masked up that was quite literally all green. His “You did not fail this city” speech with a defeated Brick bellow him made all your hairs stand on end. It’s interesting as well that with all the press equipment there this was actually his first ever press conference/intentional public message. Stephen Amell has been tweeting #theemeraldarcherrises a lot in the past week and the little signs are all there that the rest of this season will see Oliver ascending to the full Green Arrow character or at least using the name. Consider that last week TV reporter referred to Roy as “The Red Arrow”. Also that Felicity actively used the name Team Arrow to Detective Lance who himself on the cusp of becoming a fully fledged member; hilariously revealing he knows Roy’s identity (“I’ve seen you in a red hoodie and I’ve seen you shooting arrows... it wasn’t that hard”) to learning that this Canary is not Sara. Hell, we could even start seeing Green Arrow and Arsenal making 60s Batman style masked appearances at the SCPD!
Like The Dark Knight Rises this episode wavers a little in getting there but delivers an unquestionably brilliant result. The Merlyn flashbacks made for an interesting change and character exploration (tiny Tommy & Olie!). Laurel’s Canary progression still feels right as this week she favours the nightstick/tonfa weapons over Sara’s old staff to imply she’s starting to create her own identity. A great little Flash nod as a thug asks Roy “you that red streak I’ve been reading about on TV?” and yet another show steeling turn from Vinnie Jones (“how many of you bloody masks are there?”). This Canary trilogy of episodes has made for wonderful viewing as it ends with the series looking stronger than ever. Bring on The Demon’s Head..... we’re ready for him.