‘Arrow’ Season 3 Recap, Episode 12: ‘Uprising’
The CW’s superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson is back for the third season of the popular series in our recap feature we’re officially dubbing Pointed Commentary.
This week: Ollie treks from a distant land via hitchhiking, Malcolm Merlyn seeks revenge he thought he already had, and Starling City's citizens group into yet another Springfield-style mob.
Last week, mob boss Danny Brickwell (a.k.a. Brick) essentially instigated a coup of The Glades, goading the mayor into removing all police from the area so he could rule as he saw fit.
It was no secret that he did it. One of the first images of this week's episode is of a Crossfire-style debate show on Starling's one news channel about whether the mayor should have given in. And yet the poor, dumb citizens of The Glades are still there, running their businesses and living their lives like they won't be murdered with impunity at any moment.
This is insane to me. Why wouldn't everyone there leave? The roads aren't blocked off. Hundreds of people there already died in a man-made earthquake. What's keeping them there? The great atmosphere? I suspect next season Darkseid will threaten to teleport The Glades to Apokolips and people will respond with a concentrated email campaign.
Anyway, one of Brick's goons smashes up a diner and asks for protection money. Again, this diner in a lawless no-man's-land being run by criminals is open like any other day. Luckily, Arsenal and Canary are there to stop the guy and his comrade. The bad guys get tossed out a window while Sin, who we haven't seen in a while, watches.
In the Arrowcave, Dig and Smoak provide intel while they listen to the numerous 911 calls people in The Glades are making. Again: What are these people not getting?
Captain Lance calls up Team Arrow and offers to help. He can't go to The Glades, but he can offer some background info on Brick, at the very least. Smoak tells him that Arsenal will meet with him, and Lance asks if Team Arrow is just pulling names out of hats now. Guy's doing my job for me.
When they meet, Lance (the guy who never identified Ollie, who dated both his daughters and whose guts he totally hated for years, as Arrow) immediately guesses that Roy is Arsenal. This will get even weirder later. He also asks about Sara, because no one ever tells him anything.
In the Arrowcave, while Laurel refuses treatment of a perfectly treatable laceration for no good reason, Smoak starts looking through Lance's files and discovers that Brick's pearl-handled gun is the same gun that was used to kill Malcolm Merlyn's wife 21 years earlier.
Somehow, Malcolm is watching them as they figure this out. He's shocked, too, because he thinks he already killed his wife's murderer.
A little later, Team Arrow considers siccing Malcolm on Brick, but they aren't so sure they want to go that far. Plus, they can't even find where Brick is; he's essentially cut off all phone communication in The Glades. (Then how were people making those 911 calls?) Roy remembers that Brick's goons used walkie-talkies, so Smoak traces their frequency and tracks Brick to the Glades police precinct.
At the precinct, Brick disciplines the two goons who Arsenal and Canary took down earlier with the same, "Here's my gun, kill me if you can" trick he's done in the past, but this time he doesn't even really give them a shot. He shoots one of them immediately and is preparing to kill the other when the lights go out. Brick springs to action and tells his men to search the building.
Meanwhile, Arsenal and Canary are effectively doing a Metal Gear Solid on Brick's goons. It isn't until Brick finds a flare gun and some flares (boy do I love Brick) that he gets the upper hand.
Brick starts blasting the hall with flares, exposing Arsenal and Canary. He takes out his pistol to give 'em a good shooting, but just then Malcolm, in full Dark Arrow gear, pops in and shoots the ceiling just in front of Brick, seemingly covering him in rubble. He should be dead. (Of course, he's not.)
Team Arrow and Dark Arrow regroup in the Arrowcave. Somehow he knew they figured out that Brick killed his wife, but they don't seem all that curious about how. They seem pretty satisfied with the explanation, "He followed us." Nope, no hidden cameras everywhere around you! No sir!
Anyhoo, Malcolm says he and Team Arrow should join forces against Brick. Smoak is not having it, but the rest of the team seems open to the idea. Malcolm leaves them to figure it out.
Roy decides to go upstairs to a very empty Verdant (it's The Purge out there, after all) and talks to Thea. She gets all misty about how Malcolm saved her from the Deathstroke army last season, and how he has good intentions. More on how huge of a retcon this is in a bit.
So Roy heads downstairs and tells Team Arrow that Malcolm's really an OK dude. After some debate, Roy calls for a vote.
Cut to: Malcolm waiting in an alley. Dig comes out to tell him the team voted against him, and Malcolm leaves with a pretty good exchange:
DIG: Once we let the end justify the means, that's just the first step.
MALCOLM: Towards what?
DIG: Becoming you.
Not exactly subtle, but well stated. Actually, this episode was pretty light on groaner dialogue, so good on the writers there.
Without Malcolm's help, Laurel suggests Team Arrow's next step should be rallying the citizens of The Glades to take down Brick. This is the worst idea -- putting really stupid innocents in inevitable harm's way -- but it makes perfect sense. The people of The Glades will form a mob at a moment's notice.
And so they do. All Laurel has to do is go visit Wildcat, and all Roy has to do is go see Sin, and the mob is made.
Team Arrow waits in a van for the sparks to fly. When Brick leaves the police precinct for some reason we're not told, Arsenal and Canary jump out and get his attention. Brick summons his army of goons and Team Arrow calls in their ragtag mob. Sadly, they don't have homemade signs this time.
And then the two sides charge at each other like it's Braveheart. It's amazing. People are getting back body dropped and beaten with pipes.
One particular masked fellow in a black mask gives Brick a pretty decent beating, but Brick beats back and incapacitates him. Canary rushes over and takes off the mask to reveal Wildcat, who's in over his head here. Sin carefully watches this new Canary from afar.
Brick tries to escape through an alley, but Dark Arrow gets the jump on him. Malcolm takes off his mask and asks Brick if he remembers killing his wife. After some goading, Brick does recall that she was part of his initiation into a gang.
Just as Dark Arrow is about to shoot Brick, non-dark Arrow appears and tells Malcolm not to do it. They debate the point at length, and Brick just lays there, even though he's not really knocked out. He was just talking. He gets polite now?
Malcolm doesn't kill him, and Arrow sets up a tableau on top of a truck. Just as Captain Lance is arriving (Arrow must have stalled with some jokes for a while), Arrow gives a speech about how he won't abandon the city again.
(That's great and all, bro, but you didn't exactly prevent the last two huge disasters.)
Ollie returned to Starling this week, but how exactly did he get back from the snowy mountains of Somewhere Far Away? Here's how: He rode in a truck.
The episode starts with Ollie getting ready to leave Katana's Magic Healing Hut, but as he's heading out, she stops him, telling him he's not ready to go. He says he's got to go for his sister and his city, and he invites her to come with him. She says she's invisible to the world now, and then totally changes her mind about him leaving. "Don't let the door hit ya where the good Lord split ya," she tells him.
As he walks through the woods in the middle of nowhere, coughing, he hears Katana tailing him and asks her to come out. They make camp and she tells him she just couldn't stand for him to die.
Ollie asks Katana for some sword training to help him defeat Ra's al Ghul; she says to beat him, Ollie will have to think like him.
Eventually, Katana and Ollie reach a road and hitch a ride. It was really that easy. She gives him his medicine (seems like she should have done that earlier) and tells him he'll have to sacrifice something to truly beat Ra's.
Then Ollie rides a truck back to Starling.
So, yeah, a huge part of this episode involves refashioning Malcolm from a mass-murdering villain into a troubled anti-hero.
It... kinda works, but a lot of it is simply making the audience believe something through repetition. Thea repeatedly says -- to Roy, who then repeats it, and to Malcolm himself -- that he "cares about people." That's pretty patently untrue. He killed hundreds of them for revenge in his season one plot to destroy a huge part of the city with an earthquake machine. He said outright that everyone in The Glades deserved to die like his wife did.
This episode argues that Malcolm ultimately did it for the good of the city, to prevent future deaths via crime. That's not entirely untrue, but it's a totally sideways moral hill to stand on.
Virtually every Thea/Malcolm scene hammers that point home, and by the end of the episode, Ollie is asking Malcolm for training to kill Ra's. Malcolm tells Ollie how killing changes someone, like Ollie doesn't know that already.
The other family-related plot of the episode involves Captain Lance -- who immediately identified Roy as Arsenal, let me remind you -- still not knowing that Canary is Laurel rather than Sara. By the end of the big clash, Sin has to outright tell him "that wasn't your daughter."
If viewers had to take a drink every time this show shoved dramatic irony in their faces, we'd all be dead.
Though the episode teased a little spark between Ollie and Katana, the big romantic beats were between Ollie and Smoak after his return to Starling.
When he tells her that he's going to work with Malcolm to train to kill Ra's, she flips out, says, "I'm glad you're not dead," and goes out to the alley.
Ollie follows her out there, and the exchange that follows is super weird. She tells him that she's upset he let Team Arrow believe he was dead for weeks and that he's working with a killer. Ollie outright dismisses it, saying, "That's not why you're upset."
Right back to being a jerk.
Smoak explains that she thought being "dead" would soften Ollie, but now that he's back, he's throwing in with a guy who tricked his beloved sister into murdering another woman he loved. She says she doesn't want to be a woman Ollie loves, and, man, she has got a point.
This week's flashbacks don't focus on Hong Kong; instead, they go back 21 years to when Malcolm's wife was killed. Mostly, it's about John Barrowman in an absolutely hilarious wig.
Malcolm arrives home to find Tommy crying in bed. He's scared, so Malcolm promises that nothing bad will ever happen to him (take a drink). There's a ring at the doorbell, and Malcolm goes to answer it. There are two cops at the door, there to tell him his wife has been killed.
This seems to be another retcon, by the way. Back near the end of season one, Malcolm played Tommy a voicemail message of Rebecca Merlyn dying. Maybe we're supposed to believe he has the voicemail on his phone but hasn't heard it yet, but it seems more like the writers just forgot that point (just like they forgot that The Undertaking was 100% a revenge plot).
After the funeral, Malcolm sits alone in the graveyard, despondent. There's a very weird conversation between little Ollie and little Tommy about how Tommy wants his mom back, and then a bearded guy I think is supposed to be Robert Queen sidles up and tells Malcolm that the police have a suspect in Rebecca's death. He hands Malcolm a photo and walks away.
Malcolm tracks this suspect down to a club, and catches him leaving through a side door. Malcolm pretends to be lost, and the crook immediately starts threatening him that he's going to steal his watch. Malcolm starts asking the guy why he likes to ruin people's lives, and the crook seems a little confused.
Then Malcolm pulls a gun on him. The crook sizes him up, knocks the gun out of his hand, and starts pummeling him. He tells him to go back to his nice neighborhood. As the crook walks away, Malcolm picks up his gun and shoots the crook, who was not the right guy, but was pretty mean.
Back at home, Malcolm starts packing his bags so he can skip town. The Guy Who I Think Is Robert arrives with some cash Malcolm requested. He tells Malcolm he can't leave. He's got a son to raise. Malcolm says he's set on going to Nanda Parbat so he can cleanse his anger; killing the crook didn't do that.
That's when little Tommy hobbles downstairs and asks his dad why he's leaving. Malcolm says he has to go so no one hurts their family again.
Cut to: Nanda Parbat, where Malcolm just goes waltzing into a murder chamber like he's a tourist strolling through Radio City Music Hall. A very young Nyssa sees him and asks him why she shouldn't kill him then and there. He pulls a quarter out of her ear and she's amazed. She calls him "the magician."
- Thea is always in the dark in this show, but at least she gets to wear jackets over 90s-patterned dresses like she's effing Lisa Turtle or something.
- Ollie gives Thea the absolutely worst excuse for why he's been away for weeks: He says he got put in jail in Bludhaven. Her response is, "I thought you got over that," instead of "Why the heck didn't you call anybody?"
- There's a great shot of Malcolm deeply admiring a case of weapons in his office. He really loves those weapons.
- You know how Thea's apartment is like half fireplace? So is Malcolm's office. It's a real family aesthetic.
This one was a mixed bag. Brick was a really great bad guy, and I'm sorry to see him go. Trading him for Peter Stormare's Vertigo next week is an almost definite step down. And again, the dialogue in this one was pretty well-written.
The big problems here were with Ollie's return to Starling (on a truck) and the massive retconning of Malcolm Merlyn's motivations and history. It's nearly a complete character change.
Then again, comics do that all the time. Maybe it's just adherence to the source material. I'm almost willing to give it to them.