After last week’s revealing ‘Muse of Fire‘ episode,  Arrow makes the case that Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) can learn to become a different – and possibly better – hero by trying to keep another vigilante from crossing a potentially devastating moral line.

By showing his new flame Helena (Jessica De Gouw) that her quest for revenge would be better served if she weren’t consumed by it, or didn’t let it dictate her increasingly reckless actions, Oliver has taken the next step in what it means to be a hero, not just another vigilante.

In ‘Vendetta,’ Oliver takes the Huntress under his wing to show her a different way of doing things. At first, she doesn’t get it; the distinction isn’t enough for her – Arrow kills, so why can’t the Huntress? Slowly, Ollie begins to illustrate that Arrow isn’t just out to put bad guys in the ground or to start mob wars between the Bertinelli crew and the Triads. He’s more interested in forcing those people to own up to their crimes and pay for what they’ve done, not just die for it. For a moment, Helena’s classes with professor Queen seem to pay off; the two make a hit on a drug dealer and walk away without killing anyone. Helena seems to dig it; the crossbow goes great with his bow and arrow, purple and green look good together…so why can’t things last?

It turns out, as damaged as Oliver is, Helena may be worse off. Oliver’s actions may have cost him the love of his life, but at least Laurel (Katie Cassidy) is still alive. Yes, she’s with Tommy (Colin Donnell) now, but even a justifiably bitter ex-girlfriend and a recently penniless best buddy are something of a support system, a reason to continue the fight for justice and not let revenge turn him completely into a hateful killer. But those people are kept at arm’s length, and as good an associate as John Diggle (David Ramsey) has become, Oliver’s not quite ready to be as upstanding and righteous as Diggle thinks he can be. So Arrow takes on the challenge of saving the Huntress, and winds up saving himself in the process.

What works best in ‘Vendetta’ is the way it depicts how far Ollie has come from the angry man who snapped necks with zero compunction. By episode’s end, Arrow is the hero who would save a mob boss’ life, so that Helena wouldn’t make the biggest mistake of hers. It was the kind of hard victory that heroes are so often asked to take as a win. Sure, Bertinelli is likely going to go to prison for a very long time, but Ollie failed to convince someone he cared about that it was justice. Helena was the most profound, persuasive way for Oliver to see precisely what it was he had the potential to become: A grief-stricken, angry young person with bone to pick and the means to do something about it. Helena wasn’t just a new shot at personal happiness, she was his inspiration to turn the corner on finally becoming the hero that the hood was intended to represent.

While Oliver continues to grow, the show seems to as well. For the second week, Arrow hasn’t flashed back to the island and it didn’t seem like a big deal; in fact, the episode felt more cohesive in many ways. Additionally, the dinner scene with Tommy and Laurel, which earlier in the season would have been just another uncomfortable scenario for Oliver to deal with, worked as a nice way to illustrate Helena’s state of mind. It also proved that the show was capable of putting together a story that meant a great deal for the development of the series, not just the progression of the plot.

Various other items:

  • “You’re probably the right guy for the job.” Oliver has a lot to learn about being in management. Anyway, it looks like Tommy is going to be working for his best friend in the near future. Let’s hope that’s not what might turn him into a villain.
  • Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) continues to take somewhat hokey dialogue and make it sound as close to funny as possible. At any rate, here’s hoping her investigation with Walter (Colin Salmon) winds up providing them both more screen time.
  • Again, Diggle has proven valuable in being able to direct Oliver toward the moral high ground, but that can’t be all the character is destined to do, right?

Arrow will head into hiatus following next Wednesday’s midseason finale, ‘Year’s End’ @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: