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Arrow S3.12 "Uprising" review

It’s a cornerstone of comic book mythology that heroes – and more than a few villains – are born out of tragedy, whether it’s an exploding planet, a murderous mugging in an alleyway or your dear old uncle popping his clogs just in time to drum the words “With great power comes great responsibility” into your selfish little bean of a brain.

“Uprising” gives Malcolm Merlyn the secret origin treatment, told in flashback form to give us a breather from the ongoing Hong Kong narrative. It’s standard issue fare as far as backstories go: he vows revenge for the death of his wife, only to discover that taking a life doesn’t solve anything (it solves even less when you’ve taken the wrong life, of course). It’s a commendable attempt to deepen our understanding of the character but ultimately it backfires. Somehow Malcolm seemed an infinitely more complex and compelling figure before this week’s episode. Retrofitting him with such a well-worn motivation only serves to make him less ambiguous, less interesting, less of a story force. There was a magnetism to his hazy morality. John Barrowman does his best to sell Malcolm’s essential nobility but I can’t help feeling the character’s a more effective foil for Oliver as a mercurial trickster figure.

Arrow Trivia

The newspaper story on the death of Malcolm’s wife has a byline for David MacLean, a shout-out to the show’s storyboard artist. His other genre credits include The Flash, X2 and Caprica.

This episode’s other ambition is to give Oliver a suitably heroic homecoming. There’s some obvious (and by now traditional) borrowing from Nolan’s Bat-verse: both the long trek home from the mountains and the citizens banding against their oppressors shamelessly ape elements of The Dark Knight Rises. Here, however, the episode just misses: while there’s a stirring shot of an arrow shooting into the climactic melee, soundtracked by the show’s theme, Oliver’s return to Starling doesn’t feel nearly as triumphant as it should (and it should, by the essential laws of dramatic physics, feel equally as big as his apparent death in the mid-season finale). It’s left to Felicity – still the soul of the show – to give his comeback some real emotional resonance. The ever brilliant Emily Bett Rickards manages to make the words “I’m glad you’re not dead” sound like a slam.

Elsewhere I liked the sight of Red Arrow and Black Canary working in tandem, feeling like a team-up strip in an old DC Comic being brought to life. And Roy, of course, earns the funniest scene of the episode as a hilariously dismissive Lance sees right through his superheroic disguise. “Harper!”

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Did You Spot?

A thug thinks that Roy is “the Red Streak”, the new superhero he’s heard about on the TV news. That’s one of Arrow’s subtler crossovers with The Flash

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Merlyn was known as Merlyn the Magician when he first encountered Green Arrow in the comics. Malcolm’s aptitude for coin tricks in this episode appears to be a nod to this appellation. Can he do balloon animals too? Maybe balloon arrows?

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Did You Also Spot?

Brick states that he was once part of a gang known as the Orchid Bay Butchers. Orchid Bay’s an established part of DCU geography: first referenced in Green Arrow Vol 3 63, it’s the downtown part of Star City and the location of city hall.

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Best Line

Felicity: “Great. We can add irony to the list of charges against Brick.”

Arrow is broadcast in the UK on Sky 1 HD on Thursday nights, and Arrow in the US on Wednesday nights.

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WritersBeth Schwartz & Brian Ford Sullivan
DirectorJesse Warn
The one whereWith Oliver still missing and the police abandoning the Glades, its up to Team Arrow to finally confront Mr Brickwell

More info

Available platformsTV