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Arrow S01E08 – Review

ARROW S01E08

By: Beth Schwartz & Andrew Kreisberg (story)

The Story: Every couple should find a hobby to do together—like ruthlessly taking down mafia.

The Review: Just like anything else, the introduction of a new character into a story must generally serve the story, either by advancing the plot or revealing some character.  If, by the end of a story, the character hasn’t made much of an impact, then probably the series would’ve been better off never running into that character.  The worst shows, as you might expect, are the ones where you have a whole episode of events and absolutely nothing changes.

Now that I’ve gotten us started on a low note, let’s get back to a high one, because Helena actually does serve a purpose for Arrow.  Her wild card personality gives the plot of Ollie’s latest target some greater stakes and a little more complication than his usual missions, although it doesn’t result in the big gangster war that the episode promised.  I suppose I was expecting something that would really infect the city, rather than a shootout on the Bertinelli estate.

And what does Helena do in terms of revealing character?  She does bring out Ollie’s sensitive side, oddly enough.  It’s still awkward and clumsy how he tries to analogize the death of her fiancé with his personal trials, however.  During his whole speech about his breakup with Dinah and his subsequent affair with her sister (both of whom he conveniently keeps nameless in telling the story to Helena), I just kept thinking it was a very laborious way to find a connection to Helena’s pain.

By the end of the episode, I’m not sure the show has done any favors for Helena’s own character.  Her thirst for vengeance gives her a stilted and narrow vision of the world, which makes her in turn seem a bit flat.  Although she shows the slightest hint of reform, it only comes about in context to her feelings for Ollie, which diminishes the value of the change.  Besides, once things sour with Ollie—and boy, the honeymoon period did not last very long on this one—her path towards heroism takes several big steps back after only a small step forward.  This episode makes it seem like she turned violent over romantic jealousy, which is hardly impressive.

I never like it when romantic relationships drive important parts of the plot where they really have no place to be.  In the same way that Helena’s jealousy sends her over the edge in her vendetta, you can see Tommy’s insecurity towards Dinah and Ollie’s connection as the seeds of his future villainy.  I particularly hate this development because I happen to think Katie Cassidy has far better natural chemistry with Colin Donnell than Stephen Arnell, with whom the show gives a more manufactured tension.*

I would also hate to see Tommy turn toward the dark side because the show has made him so darn likable.  I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I’m a sucker for a good reform story, and the idea of a rich, spoiled playboy gaining some responsibility to earn the love of his life—who wants to see that fail?  You know, Smallville dared to defy certain points of comic book continuity as needed; maybe we can hope Arrow will do the same and not make an inevitability of Tommy’s evil—or the Dinah-Ollie relationship.  But that’s a bit much to hope for, isn’t it?

I have the barest curiosity about what will happen with Walter coming onto Moira’s secret life, but little more.  The only reason to invest in that particular plotline, in my opinion, is to see more of Felicity, who just cracks me up.  Daniel, who didn’t understand why I found Felicity so funny in S01E04, probably won’t get my amusement at this line either, but it made me laugh:

Felicity, nervously entering Walter’s office after he had previously threatened to dismiss her, “Did I mention—it’s almost Christmas, and many of the suicides this time of year are due to sudden and unexpected joblessness.”

Conclusion: There’s only traces of the Huntress comics fans know in this version of Helena Bertinelli, but she does manage to add a new dimension to the show’s usual exploits.

Grade: B-

- Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: * It reminds me of the first season of The West Wing, when the writers tried fruitlessly to fan the nonexistent sparks between Josh and Mandy, only to give up when they realized Josh and Donna did it better, and easier.  Mandy eventually vanished from the show; you can’t even say she was written off, since no one ever mentioned her ever again and her disappearance was never explained.  Unfortunately, we can’t hope for Ollie to disappear, so the future of this love triangle is much more uncertain.

- Seems like Diggle is settling comfortably into the show’s position of Wise Black Man Who Advises Younger White Man to Greatness.

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12 Responses

  1. I could be wrong, but hasn’t Huntress always had a thirst for vengeance and as such had a stilted world-view? Because from what I’ve read of the character, that is who she is when not with the BoP. Cynical, bitter, and driven by a need for vengeance. How is this any different?

    Besides, Punisher has the same problems, but that doesn’t necessarily make him a boring character when he’s done well.

    I think I agree that it would be better if Merlyn became a rival rather than a straight-up arch-enemy, though I will say that they could still have him become a villain without having romantic jealousy be the cause. There are many different ways he could go bad. What if came about as a result of something other than jealousy? Would you have any problems with it then?

    • To your first point, it’s true that pre-Birds of Prey, Huntress did have that vengeful, stilted worldview and at the time, it seemed par for the course for the period in which her character was revived as Helena Bertinelli–remember that was the late eighties, early nineties. And frankly, reading over the early stuff featuring her, she was just as flat then as she is now. She only truly became popular and interesting once she opened up on JLA and Birds of Prey. Which is why I felt it wasn’t that interesting to watch her go through her early, rage-driven period now (besides being played by a stiff, awkward actress).

      I definitely would not have any problems with Tommy becoming villainous via other motives besides romantic jealousy. Actually, romantic jealousy in itself is not a bad motive to turn evil, but I just feel that it’s incredibly risky to use it that way because most writers go for the most melodramatic, soapy, ridiculous transition possible. And with a show like this, that is almost certain to happen.

      • So does this mean you don’t find the Punisher interesting either? Or is he somehow different?

        • I personally don’t find Punisher all that interesting as a character, but what I do think makes him different from Helena is that he thinks he’s being a hero. I mean, the fact that after Captain America died, Punisher tried to emulate Cap’s look and costume–that to me is more interesting that pure vengeance.

          • What Punisher stuff have you read? He’s a very interesting character in the right hands. Also, when has Frank Castle openly thought of himself as a hero? Again, what Punisher stories have you read aside from that flawed Captain America story you referred to?

            (I know this is a Green Arrow thread, but I had to ask.)

            • As I said, I’m not very familiar with the character. If you have suggestions of stories I should read, let me know and I’ll check them out when I get the chance.

              • Okay, fair enough. To be honest, I wasn’t into the Punisher that much either … until I read “Punisher: Born” by Garth Ennis. That book – or rather the character’s portrayal and adept handling by Garth Ennis – made me a fan to an extent.

                Mind you, I’ll only read Punisher books written by Garth Ennis or Jason Aaron now. I’ve read others and left with a bad taste. Ennis and Aaron both “get” the Punisher.

                So “Punisher: Born” … highly recommended!

  2. I have to say this was the weakest episode of the series…There were times that I had to cringe because the acting was so bad. Especially the action sequence with Huntress first used her bow.

    Also whats up with Ollie…why did he just give up his location of his lair so easily to her…Next Time listen to Diggle

    Diggles charcter is a funny one for me because will he eventually suit up? Or will he sit back and play “Alfred” ha ha

    • You make some good points. First, I agree with you: the acting was pretty bad this week. Then again, it was bad last week. I hate to point fingers, but it was Jessica De Gouw. After reading Huntress in numerous books and seeing her in animated form in the awesome JLU series, I had high hopes.

      As for Diggle, you’re both right: he’s settling into this role as “wise advisor”. Considering his formidable talents and military background, he should be more involved. I’m hoping this advisor thing is temporary.

    • Well, you know, it’s a CW show, and when was the last time anyone ever praised a CW show for its intense, convincing acting? I agree with katmore9; Jessica De Gouw definitely has a stiff reading of lines which makes any scene unconvincing.

  3. Nice review. I agree completely with your grade for the episode. Thankfully, things will pick up again next week (based on the trailer).

    Wait a second… you’re saying that you hope that Arrow won’t “make an inevitability of Tommy’s evil.” WHY?
    From comics or even the DC animated showcase “Green Arrow”, we know that Merlyn is Green Arrow’s rival. Period. I think the tragedy is greater when they start as friends and become arch enemies. Think of any number of comics where that’s happened and the stakes rise significantly and instantly.

    I do, however, think it’d be forced to turn Laurel into Black Canary or Ollie’s sister into his sidekick Speedy. Then again, the show has been pretty solid so far, so I’ll reserve judgment.

    • I’m just saying that in the context of this show and the way they’ve set up the characters, it’d be rather sad to have Tommy go bad, that’s all. Especially since anyone with familiarity with the Green Arrow mythos knows it’s coming. Obviously, I know it’s traditional for Merlyn to be the big archnemesis.

      I guess I wouldn’t mind having Tommy be more of a mercenary character, someone who is a rival with Ollie, but not necessarily a committed antagonist. Ultimately, I think he will have to become a villain on the show (no matter how much Smallville tried to give Lex a benefit of the doubt, he eventually would become the baddie in the end), but it just seems disappointing to me, for the reasons stated above.

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