**This post contains spoilers for episode 3.12 of Arrow, “Uprising.”**
Everything is so bad right now, I don’t even know how to write about it. Should I stop? Should I stick it out in the hopes that it’ll get better? Can it get better? I think I’ve set a mental deadline for myself — if things aren’t amazing by the time Slade returns, I’ll be done writing about this show. It’s not fair to keep coming here and trashing something that, judging by social media, a lot of people are still enjoying. It’s getting exhausting. But I can’t sugarcoat my feelings, so the language gets worse, the writing gets more italicized and exclamation point-y, and I end up sighing with relief on Wednesday nights when I hear those blessed words: Previously, on The 100…
The funny thing is, I’m not angry about any of the things I expected to be upset about. I really, honestly thought that this batch of episodes would be hard for me primarily because of Laurel ascending to the Black Canary, but this week, she was the most inoffensive part of the whole episode. There was a snafu with her when it seemed like she actually wanted to team up with Malcolm Merlyn, but ultimately she cast her vote correctly, and my tiny bit of faith was restored in Laurel. I also thought Ray Palmer would be flitting around in this episode, but he was mercifully absent… unfortunately, it made way for other terrible developments and plot devices and ugh.
We didn’t see Oliver fight his way back. Did you know he was stabbed through the midsection, on a snowy mountaintop, and left for dead? Did you know someone dragged him all the way back to a cabin in God-knows-where to have him nursed back to health, sans magical herbs or a mythical healing pool? Did you know Maseo, and by extension Tatsu, risked everything for him? And we see, what — we see him get on a truck and half-heartedly ask Tatsu to come with him back to Starling. Then suddenly, one commercial break later, he’s back in his leathers, shooting people, bellowing at Merlyn in an alley, and moving around like he didn’t just recover from certain death. They made such a big deal about him almost dying, you guys, they pretended he was dead even though we knew better, they had the characters spin out of control in their grief, they had a madman take over the Glades, and Oliver just… appears. Mid-battle. And gives the most hokey, cringe-inducing speech on top of a truck. It was horrible. It was rushed, it was poorly edited, and worst of all, it was hackneyed.
Instead of going immediately to his team, who kept his image going for as long as they could while he was gone, Oliver went to Thea’s apartment to make a deal with the devil. We got to hear all about how Thea is now Malcolm’s redemption, except for the fact that he already ruined her. And Oliver just nods like this is totally normal language! Like, “Yes, I can see how this is a good thing, you know, you turned her into a killer and our mother wouldn’t recognize her today but sure, yeah, your redemption should totally hinge on my twenty-year-old sister who still doesn’t know the truth about Sara’s death! Hey, let’s get drinks later!”
His team barely reacted when he finally deigned to appear in the foundry; a couple of relieved looks, maybe a grin or two, and Felicity flinging her arms around his neck, but then things got so much worse. Felicity’s been fighting for the Right Thing since Oliver left, she and Diggle are holding the party line, but as the city falls into more chaos, Roy and Laurel have considered making exceptions. Felicity shouted them down.
And then Oliver comes back and the first thing he says is that he’s going to team up with the monster Felicity’s been facing down for weeks. It’s unimaginable.
I can’t even get into the horrible Merlyn flashbacks. Some of the scenes indicate that even Barrowman can’t make this crap work onscreen, and the anti-climactic showdown in the alley was just embarrassing for all parties. (No, I take that back, I think Vinnie Jones can hold his chin up after that.) Why bother doing a three-episode arc of a supervillain trying to take over the Glades, then throw in a random last-minute twist that Brick killed Rebecca Merlyn, then not even resolve the bigger issues around it?! The mayor kowtowed to a terrorists! The police were pulled out of that section of the city. That’s not even Gotham-levels of corruption and misplaced power, that’s just BAD. That’s just anarchy and death.
What was the point of twisting it so that Brick killed Merlyn’s wife? He didn’t even do it for a reason, he just needed someone to kill, so it wasn’t even a compelling backstory. It gave Merlyn a reason to kill him, but having him choose “correctly” doesn’t absolve him of the other horrors he’s bestowed on the people he loves. He killed his son. He turned his daughter, who still doesn’t know the truth, into a killer. He killed Sara and sent Oliver to his certain death. And Oliver made a deal with him? This is not Moira — this is not shades of right and wrong meshing and mixing in a gray area, this is black and white, this is manipulation and emotional abuse and Oliver actually making a decision that will turn him from an every-man hero into an Advocate for the Greater Good. And as Diggle rightly pointed out to Merlyn early in the episode — that makes him no better than Merlyn himself.
So ultimately, by the time the last scene rolled in and Felicity was standing alone in the alley as Oliver wandered over to her, I was done. I was livid, I was over it, and I was ready for the whole thing to implode. I’m so tired of this season, of the choices Oliver has been making for no good reason, of our beloved characters becoming warped versions of themselves… I was done.
I can put myself in Felicity’s shoes and picture falling out of love with Oliver Queen in that moment. Here is a guy who, despite the blood on his hands, I thought was a hero. I fought for him. I defended him to cops, to friends, to family, even to myself. He always did the right thing. He saved lives. He loved his mother and his sister, he defended his father’s honor, he chose not to kill in the name of his deceased best friend. He loved me back. He believed in me. He saved me. He armed me for a takedown, and I followed through. Things were good, and then they weren’t, and he pushed me away. I had to choose how to feel, and I tried to move on, but one of our close friends was killed, and that changed everything — that changed him. Suddenly he stopped believing in the good of people. Suddenly he started aligning himself with a criminal. He went to his death even when he knew it would hurt everyone, even when he knew it would leave his sister in the care of a psychopath. But he went anyway, and I asked him to fight, and he died. I mourned. I thought he was gone, but deep down, I wanted him to be alive, I wanted him to fight back and come back to me and decide life was worth living in the light, that being in the streets and in battle wasn’t fulfilling anymore, and maybe he deserved better… But he came back, and he said, “I’m going to work with Malcolm Merlyn.”
Yes. I can definitely see myself falling out of love with Oliver in that moment. At the very least, I can see myself hating him, and hating that he is who I love. I can see every reason behind Felicity’s speech, even if it was cruel, even if it was worded specifically to hurt him. He deserved it. As angry as I am at Roy for lying to Thea and considering aligning himself with Merlyn, as angry as I am with Laurel for even considering it for a moment, that’s nothing compared to the fury I feel when I think that Oliver is teaming up with the man who stole his sister’s agency, the man who killed Sara for no reason. Now Oliver is the hero Starling City has, but he’s certainly not the hero Starling City deserves. Not anymore.
– Thank goodness Sin was back, even if it was just for one episode. I love that character, and it sucks that they shoved off the “Hey that chick in black isn’t Sara” reveal to Lance on her, of all people, but at least he’s going to figure it out now. I kinda hope he tries to kill Oliver when he finds out the ugly truth.
– Also back was Ted Grant, who might or might not have been killed in the Braveheart battle, because why keep around a compelling side character whose backstory we didn’t even explore and who can actually fight when you can keep… Malcolm Merlyn. #ArrowLogic
– My sister was excited about “baby Oliver and Tommy!” but I couldn’t even work up a little bit of enthusiasm since they were part of the Humanize Malcolm Merlyn Campaign that this show is currently on. Still, here they are:
– I’m sorry I have to do this, but the absolute worst editing and voiceover work I’ve ever seen outside of The Mindy Project happened at the end of the episode, when Thea and Malcolm were chatting and Oliver walked into the apartment with an “Is my room still available?” It was poorly timed and poorly edited and honestly, it might seem like nitpicking, but after that terrible truck-top speech, I can’t abide it. IT WAS BAD.
– Also, I call it the Braveheart Battle because have you ever seen a crowd with assault rifles start charging at each other? Or do they, you know, hang back and use their assault rifles?
– I’m sad that the Vinnie Jones arc ended so lacklusterly. I’m so sad that I might spend tonight rewatching his episodes of Elementary, because THAT was a compelling villain.
– The only people who managed to make this episode watchable: John Effing Diggle and Felicity Friggin Smoak, that’s who. Diggle really Diggle’d this episode and his criminally few lines by being amazing:
And Felicity, well…
– Finally, this needs to be seen in its entirety.
Next week: I don’t even remember the promo for next week. Actually, I wrote this whole thing based on my memory of the episode, instead of rewatching as I write like I normally do, that’s how much I didn’t want to relive it. I think I read a summary somewhere that Oliver won’t be happy with the changes on the team, but hey, that’s what you get for going to your ultimately pointless near-death, bro.