The third part of Arrow’s” riff on The Dark Knight Rises sees Oliver Queen return to Starling City to take part in the final battle with Brick and his gang. Things went down a bit differently than I expected, as Ollie doesn’t play too pivotal a role in taking down Brick. That honor goes to an unexpected savior, one Malcolm Merlyn.
With Oliver making his way back after being nursed back to health by Tatsu, “Uprising” focuses on the secret origin of Malcolm Meryln. It turns out, through a neat bit of plot convenience, it wasn’t a random thug who killed Merlyn’s wife so many years ago, but rather Brick himself. This awakens the vengeful rage inside Merlyn, the same rage that led to the Undertaking in Season 1, as he rededicates himself to taking down Brick once and for all.
I have to give Arrow credit: Brick was rather generic in his first appearance. Sure, he’s played by Vinnie Jones, which is always cool, but he was merely a heavy with a cockney accent. However, by establishing Brick as the killer of Merlyn’s wife, he now takes his place as an integral part of Arrow mythology. He was the man responsible for wakening the dark side of Merlyn, causing him to seek solace by joining with Ra’s al Ghul.
Speaking of Ra’s al Ghul, I love the way the series is treating the Demon’s Head. He’s more than a “Big Bad”; he’s an ever-present specter of death, and the threat of his eventual arrival creates a sense of dread in all our players -- Oliver, Thea and, in particular, Malcolm. By episode’s end, Oliver join forces with Merlyn because he knows he’ll need his help to bring down Ra’s when the head of the League of Assassins inevitably shows up seeking Sara’s killer. But we’ll get to that in a moment.
First, Merlyn. I’m not sure how I feel about him becoming a tragic villain, a man who lost so much because of Brick’s actions. After what Merlyn did to Sara, using his own daughter to murder her, I can’t muster any sympathy for the man, who -- by the way – also engineered an earthquake to kill 500 people, including his own son. Felicity feels the same way. Our favorite bespectacled genius is disgusted that Team Arrow would even consider working with Merlyn to stop Brick. Roy and Laurel are all for it, as Brick’s goons had the jump on Canary and Arsenal at every turn. However, Felicity and Diggle are set against it.
This leads to a cool sequence in which Team Arrow recruits Starling City residents to take back the Glades from Brick. We’re treated to the return of Sin, who rallies the Glades. We see Ted Grant donning the Wildcat mask to join the fight. (I think a call to Barry Allen may have been wise; it’s not as if he couldn’t arrive quickly, but that wasn’t to be.) But best of all, we witness Laurel, Roy, Diggle and Felicity proving themselves to be capable protectors by retaking the city without Oliver’s help. Sure, Oliver shows up at the end, but thanks to the actions of his allies and of Merlyn, who goes against Brick on his own, the day is won without the Arrow, showing that Oliver’s inspiration and spirit is just as important as the man himself.
One rather dopey moment arrives when Brick’s goons face Sin’s men. Brick’s thugs are heavily armed with guns, but instead of opening fire, they just charged in, 300-style. Why not just open fire? It’s a little plot hiccup, but it didn’t fully spoil an otherwise-inspirational battle sequence.
Of course, we have to deal with Oliver trying to convince Merlyn not to kill Brick. Much to my surprise, Merlyn agrees. Now Oliver trusts Merlyn to help him take on Ra’s al Ghul. A couple of questions to consider: Is Merlyn playing another long game, or did sparing Brick’s life indicate a new path for the former arch-villain? Is he taking his role as Thea’s protector seriously, even after he manipulated her to kill Sara? Whatever the case, Oliver trusting Merlyn creates a tragic wedge between Team Arrow and Felicity that could drive her to Team ATOM.
A few other pieces of business worth mentioning: With the welcome return of Sin, someone is now around who realizes the new Canary isn’t Sara, information she shared with Detective Lance. I guess a reckoning is coming for Laurel before her career as Black Canary gets too far. The scene in which Detective Lance recognizes Roy in the Arsenal gear despite his voice changer and hood is absolutely hilarious, and I was glad to see Roy take lead in the assault on Brick. As for Wildcat … I was disappointed in such a classic hero make his live-action debut only to get his ass handed to him. That could have been a really cool moment to have the youthful version of a Golden Age great stomp some villains, but it didn’t pan out that way.
Lastly, was it me, or were there some sparks when Oliver said farewell to Tatsu? I so wanted her to accompany Oliver to Starling City. Katana would be a welcome addition to Oliver’s crew, especially with Ra’s al Ghul on the way and Felicity estranged from the team.