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With “Uprising”, Arrow tried to do a lot of things: return Oliver to Starling City, fully initiate Canary as a hardcore crime fighter, offer us some back story on Merlyn’s rise to darkness, once again try to resolve the Oliver-Felicity tension in a crushing manner, and bring back a few notable guest characters while wrapping up the Brick arc. It was an awful lot to pack into 45 minutes of storytelling. And it turned out to be just too much to take on. Some elements of the story worked, while a number of them felt a bit rushed and unnecessary.
Let’s start with the positive. It was great to get a look at Malcolm Merlyn’s origin story. While it wasn’t as epic as Oliver’s, it’s always a good thing when John Barrowman is given a chance to show off his range. It also helped to better humanize Merlyn. Sure, he’s been a bit more cuddly now that he has Thea to play off of, but Merlyn has spent so much time as a mustache twirling villain (albeit one with exceptional fighting skills and a pretty sharp mind) that we rarely get to see what makes him tick (other than revenge). It’s hard to buy that Oliver could talk him out of killing Brick (and it’s impossible to believe that Merlyn will turn over a new leaf a la Oliver), but Barrowman really sold that moment. It was easy to see the pain, fear, and anger warring within Merlyn. Kudos to the writers for giving us this look into Merlyn’s past, and allowing Barrowman a chance to shine.
As for the major set piece of the episode – the battle for the Glades – there were good things about it along with some strange elements. It was great to see Sin and Wildcat back. It was really great to see Sin tell Captain Lance that the Canary is not Sara. The whole “Lance thinks Sara is still alive” storyline has dissolved into a sad commentary on Lance’s relationship with both Sara and Laurel. That he couldn’t tell that Sara wasn’t in the suit- she has a different body type than Laurel- has really driven home how little Lance knew of his youngest daughter, and how little he currently knows about his oldest. When the truth comes out, it is certain to be an absolutely heartbreaking moment for the show.
The return of Wildcat, while a welcome moment, was also completely wasted. He shows up, tells Laurel she’s still not ready (although she’s apparently now a badass fighter- we’ll get to that in a minute), agrees to help out, and then is horrifically injured. Now, here’s where things get a bit confusing. Laurel does the whole comforting “You’ll get better” deal and he pulls the traditional “You’re a bad liar” response. And then there’s no resolution. We don’t see him again. Is he dying? Paralyzed? Just fine? One assumes this will be revealed sometime in the future, but it’s strange to bring back an iconic character (who was hyped a lot coming into the season and then only seen briefly) only to dismiss him with a major (possibly life threatening) injury.
I assume a lot of people thought, as I did, that Oliver would roll into the fight, turn the tide and save the day. So, it was a nice surprise to see that the motley Arrow crew were able to successfully hold down the main action of the fight while Oliver talked Merlyn down. The central point of the Oliver-less Starling City arc has been to emphasize the strengths of Team Arrow. And we have certainly seen Roy develop into a more competent and well-drawn character as a result. Even Laurel has become more multifaceted and less of a whiny character as a result. Sure, she has suddenly developed into a completely competent fighter between last week and this (which is troubling and should be addressed), but I now no longer dread her showing up to the Team Arrow party.
The episode’s major misstep, however, came right at the close of the episode. After spinning round and round on the Oliver-Felicity merry-go-round, it looks like Felicity finally got off. And, frankly, I’m thrilled she did. But the problem is that this is the third or fourth time she and Oliver have had this conversation. Yes, Oliver told her he loved her right before he headed off to certain death (which, really, was a pretty jerk move on his part). So, Felicity had every right to assume Oliver would come back and own up to that, and perhaps take steps to finally man-up and do something about their relationship. When he once again ignored everything and played the stoic hero, I was just as fed up as Felicity. I don’t really care if they end up together (sorry to any shipper out there- I fully admit they have heaps more chemistry than Oliver and Laurel, but I’m just not ultra-invested in any particular relationship on the show), but this back and forth nonsense needs to stop.
I’ve said it before, but the show needs to decide one way or another. Felicity isn’t as interesting if she simply pines after Oliver. Oliver isn’t as interesting if he’s continually haunted by questions of whether or not he should be with Felicity. I honestly hope this is the last we hear of this. I have a sinking feeling it will not be.
— So, in the epic Glades battle, a number of the fighters on both sides were brandishing guns. And yet, when the time came for the battle royale to begin, everyone just started running willy-nilly toward each other. I haven’t been in any melees myself, but why didn’t the people with guns just start picking off people right away?
— I loved that Lance immediately knew Roy was Arsenal. I mean, he pretty much telegraphs it with his hoodies.
— Thea STILL doesn’t know about Oliver. Come on show, this is just getting dumb now.