This week’s episode of Arrow brings the stirring and action-packed finale to the
Funeral for a Friend Brick trilogy, in which Team Arrow comes to terms with being Oliver-less just in time for the Man in the Green Hood’s return. In a busy hour of television that saw Oliver’s triumphant comeback, and the titular gathering of Glades residents ready to stand up to Brick and his very ambitious gang of psychos and criminals. We also get new revelations into the mind of Merlyn and a new direction for the season as to how Ra’s al Ghul will respond when he finds out that stabbing a guy with a sword isn’t nearly as effective a death as it should be.
First of all, how big of a cosmic coincidence is it that Brick turned out to be the one that killed Merlyn’s wife? But wait, you would have thought that the guy that built an earthquake machine as part of his grieving process would have capped the specific guy who killed his wife as job one, but no. Well, sort of no. I don’t think it was explained who the guy that gave Merlyn the wrong name of his wife’s killer, or why he had the wrong name, and although the wig they had John Barrowman wear in the flashbacks was doing him no favors, it did allow him to do some honest to goodness acting.
Now no one’s saying that John Barrowman isn’t good at what he does, his atypical super-villain madness on this season of Arrow has been sublime, but what’s been missing is any real world motivation. Malcolm’s been trying evade another super-villain, turning his own daughter into a killer to set up a complex, Rube Goldbergian scheme to eliminate his enemy by getting another enemy to take responsibility for the murder done by his daughter. The next time Malcolm tries to evade justice he should hand out programs.
But in seeing Malcolm confront the man he thought killed his wife, there’s a wonderful mix of machismo and panic in his face as he approaches his wife’s supposed murderer. He’s jazzed, he’s doing the manly thing, he’s taking his power back, and it’s primal. Money, success, and society all bury that base instinct, that immediate visceral and emotional reaction to outside forces. In that moment, Malcolm was essentially reborn, stripped of everything he was and consumed by one singular thought, and Barrowman wonderfully plays that simplicity and confusion. His determination to get that gun off is almost equaled by his surprise that he did it.
In the present day, Malcolm is at the center of another morally ambiguous decision, and he’s testing others to make decisions just as difficult so far as he’s concerned. Malcolm wants to kill Brick, and he wants Team Arrow’s help to make it happen. Team Arrow, realizing that Brick and his gang have them outnumbered and outgunned, wants to consider an alliance. Well, most of them. Felicity insists that no way, shape or form should they team up with the Dark Archer. Felicity must have been convincing even though both Laurel and Roy strongly considered it, so Diggle delivers the verdict to Merlyn: they can’t let the ends justify the means, because that’s the first step to becoming just like Merlyn.
If the moralizing of Team Arrow wasn’t enough, Malcolm was getting it from the other end of his life too. Thea, while during her ninja training, is only interested in protecting herself and not in killing anyone. Like Malcolm, she knows what it’s like to be a victim, but she also knows that her own strength doesn’t come from taking power away from others. But Thea’s not naive about her birth father either, she’s not convinced there’s a good man under the barnacles if she just scrapes enough away, she just knows that when she needed him, he was there, and if that’s the least you can expect from people, then it’s the least they can do to deliver.
In the end, this story arc turned out to be a kind of redemption tale for Malcolm. Who knew? To get there, Team Arrow decided that the best way to save the Glades was to rally the Glades to save itself. As the town, led by Arsenal and Black Canary, wallop Brick’s gang, Malcolm takes some sweet revenge out on Brick. It turns out killing Rebecca Merlyn was a gang initiation, which only infuriates Malcolm more, every terrible thing he’s done, every awful decision he’s made, begins with Brick. What stops it from ending with Brick though is the returned Arrow’s invocation of Thea, Malcolm could make a different choice now to be a worthy father, a worthy man. Is Malcolm redeemed? I doubt it, but “Uprising” at least yanked him back from mustache-whirling villain territory (for now).
Yes, Arrow returned to Starling, and although he wasn’t exactly at fighting strength, he still served as a powerful symbol and even gave a little speech of thanks to the people of the Glades, congratulating them with a hearty, “You did not fail this city.” That’s about as sentimental as Oliver gets, I mean aside from telling the woman he loves that he loves her the last minute before going to fight a man to the death. We’ll circle around back to that.
For now, who guessed that when Tatsu mentioned “only the student could beat the master” that Oliver was going to end up asking for Malcolm’s help to train to beat Ra’s? I did. The non-surprise of this development was mitigated by Felicity’s exasperation when Oliver announces this formal team-up to the rest of the gang; never have the words “I’m glad you’re not dead,” been said with such disdain. Felicity’s disappointment in Oliver comes from a place where her last hope for his return was a hope that he’d return differently, but his willingness to get in bed, proverbially, with Malcolm is the last straw. Admittedly, this is who Oliver is, and Felicity should know it. It’s kind of hard not to feel as though this a ploy to stretch out the will-they-or-won’t they of the Olicity dynamic.
Another secret that threatens to come loose is when Quentin Lance is given the news that the Canary running around isn’t the daughter he thinks she is. Sin (Welcome back, Sin!) knows that this Canary isn’t Sara and she shares tjay with Quentin. With Team Arrow being a wall of silence, having Sin drop the news was a nice work around, the question is though, what’s Quentin going to do with that information, and that is he going to do when he finds out a) Sara’s dead, and b) Laurel’s picked up where she left off? Also, it was nice to be reminded that Quentin’s no dummy, as the show has sometimes treated him lately. He called out Arsenal as Roy Harper in two seconds flat. Quentin’s reaction to Arsenal was almost as good as Roy’s sheepish realization that he doesn’t need the voice changer after all.
Next week, it looks like Thea is finally let in on the secret. Probably a good idea since her brother and her father are about to be spending more time together. I do wonder what her reaction will be, because the teaser for next week walked right up to the point where Thea sees the inside of the Arrow Cave. Hopefully, Speedy’s streak of understanding and wisdom extends past the moment when her brother reveals his deepest, darkest secret. You know, for Oliver’s sake. It’s been a long couple of weeks for him.