Arrow 3×12 Review: Uprising

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Malcolm Merlyn is the worst. I don’t mean he’s a bad character, because he’s not. He’s a fantastic villain; he has just the right conviction and crazy. But as a person, he is the worst and there is no limit to the amount that I do not care about any kind of redemption arc Arrow has planned for him. Just let him be evil, Arrow.

On the topic of things I don’t care about – the entire Hong Kong arc and whatever Oliver is up to. BUT I love love love the left over team of wannabe superheroes in Starling. A couple of girls in male-dominated careers, a street kid and a black ex-soldier team up to protect those the authorities have abandoned? Sign me up for more of that because it’s a hell of a lot more interesting than rich boy with a hero complex. Steven Amell is great, and Oliver is not the worst white male hero on TV but let’s face it, he’s not really Arrow’s biggest draw card.

After recovering for dying, Oliver decides it’s time to head home to Starling because he’s aware that the city has probably torn itself apart in his absence, which is true. The police have abandoned the Glades to Brick and his men because they are actually chickens with their heads cut off without the Arrow. Plus I’m really starting to think that much of the city kind of agrees with Macolm Merlyn’s assessment that the Glades are unsalvageable. Luckily Team Arrow (minus Arrow) is on the job. Laurel and Roy are doing their best but as neither of them were trained by any master assassins they’re not doing so well. Meanwhile there are flashbacks about the death of Merlyn’s wife reminding the audience that he abandoned his son so he could go train to be a better murderer.

Anyway, I understand that John Barrowman is incredibly popular, and that Arrow is obviously trying to figure out the best way to keep him around predominately. But a redemption arc, if that is in fact what they are planning, is just not the way to do. His love – or I guess sense of obligation – for Thea makes sense but he’s clearly not a good person. Lots of people react badly to traumatic events but trying to drop a city on top of thousands of people is going beyond redeemable. Plus if he becomes a kind of benign part of Team Arrow he will lose everything that was interesting about him. So I want Arrow to stop wasting time trying to humanise him and just get him to do something evil again already.

Oliver’s identity crisis is getting a little old after 3 seasons, his absence was supposed to show the important role that a leader plays within the group and how he sometimes has to make the tough calls, all on his own because that’s what heroes do. But really it just kind of made Oliver seem harsh and out of touch. Sure the others don’t have the skills or ruthlessness that Oliver does but that kind of worked in their favour. Instead of become angst-driven loners with a death wish like so many superheroes do, they actively sought out help from each other and eventually the very people they were trying to protect.

This is a a group of people, all of whom are directly affected by the culture of privilege in patriarchal society. Whether it’s due to class or race or gender, each member of Team Arrow – with the exception of Oliver  Queen – has faced discrimination in some way. When faced with the task of protecting those that have literally been abandoned by the police they turned to the people themselves for help because as Laurel points out, it’s the symbol of the superhero that is truly powerful not the man behind the mask. And that one image of seeing the citizens of the Glades coming together to fight for themselves is 100 times more power than any speech the Arrow makes could ever be.

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That’s Arrow’s problem, it wants to be progressive but it’s essentially a story about a rich kid that spends his nights beating up criminals. Oliver Queen, when he was rich and the owner of one of the biggest companies in the city, could have done some real good for Starling City but he chose to be a heroic band-aid instead. So moments, like in “Uprising” when the Glades fought together, are undermined by the fact that the Arrow has to jump in at the last minute to save the day because he’s the titular character and that’s okay, but it means that Arrow will never be the show it wants to be.

Author: Undie Girl

Undie Girl (aka Von) has a BA (Hons) Major in Cultural Studies. The title of her honours thesis was “It’s just gay and porn”: Power, Identity and the Fangirl’s Gaze. She’s currently pursuing a Masters of Media Practice at University of Sydney. Von’s a former contributor The Backlot’s column The Shipping News and a current co-host of The Geekiary’s monthly webcast FEELINGS… with The Geekiary.



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