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.
– 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.