It's been a few weeks since the Arrow midseason finale, and after the revelations that came from Ollie being more or less on the losing end of his encounter with the Dark Archer, it seems like Arrow and his alter ego could use an adversary that will help get him back on the horse, so to speak.
One of the more significant aspects of the audience finding out that the Dark Archer was none other than Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman), father to Oliver's so-called best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) and major source of Queen-family problems, was that it created a greater sense of the scale of conspiracy that surrounded not only the death of Robert Queen (Jamey Sheridan), but also the clandestine organization that was apparently determined to bring about serious ruin to Starling City.
Before the hiatus came to an end, Arrow writer and producer Andrew Kreisberg mentioned how the first 9 episodes were really a way for the series to get all its ducks in a row, and that from 'Burned' on out, there would be a greater sense of the larger plot that's at play. Naturally, there's always going to be some adversary for Arrow to deal with, but, to paraphrase Kreisberg, the series would start to become more than just Oliver scratching names off a list. In other words, the scheme involving Malcolm Merlyn and Moira Queen (Susanna Thompson) would begin to make its presence known to the characters.
For the most part, though, there isn't any advancement regarding the supposed plot threatening Starling City, nor is there any involvement of Malcolm or his alter ego, for that matter. Instead, 'Burned' chooses to spend its time seeing Oliver get back on the proverbial horse, having lost a step or two in his near-fatal encounter with the Dark Archer. Up to this point, Oliver's been so driven by his goal that there's been virtually no stopping him. So, in the wake of his first real defeat, Ollie has taken several weeks off to not only convalesce, but also to assist his family with the growing emotional burden of the disappearance of Walter Steele (Colin Salmon). It may not be furthering the major plot involving the elder Merlyn, but the recognition of the trouncing he took, as well as Walter's vanishing, act as the right kind of reminder to get the audience back up to speed after the holiday hiatus.
That said, like the appearance of Deadshot, a lot of noise had been made about the appearance of Firefly in the episode, and, like Deadshot, Firefly (played here by Andrew Dunbar) acts primarily as a catalyst for the episode, taking something of a backseat to the overall Oliver storyline. Unlike Deadshot, though, Firefly comes across less as a full-on villain, and something more along the lines of a tragic character led astray by horrible events and a need for vengeance.
As a firefighter, Garfield Lynns was left for dead by his commanding officer in an out-of-control blaze that would also take the lives of several other firemen and many civilians. Now, three years later, Garfield is picking off members of his old crew, making his way to the man he ultimately holds responsible. It's tough to say how the audience is going to respond to Arrow's depiction of the villain, considering he is far more grounded than his comic book counterpart. Instead of the character's more unique, winged costume, this Firefly primarily utilizes a typical fireman's uniform, save for some incendiary grenades and spray hose full of accelerant.
But, as mentioned above, 'Burned' isn't really about Arrow facing off against a new Starling City adversary; in fact, he only confronts Firefly twice – the second time results in the villain taking his own life. Really, the episode is more concerned with Oliver coming to terms with the fact that the people in his life matter as much as his undertaking – he realizes what it would mean to his family if they lost him again. That's certainly an aspect the series has been trying to get across for some time, and it's not really clear if the show is any more successful here, but we do get the sense that, by the episode's end, Ollie uses this revelation to overcome the emotional hurdle he was left with in the aftermath of the Dark Archer fiasco. At the very least, it says something that Oliver is more aware of the people in his life, and that fact plays some small role in the decisions he makes while in vigilante mode.
Arrow normally relies on drawing a parallel between the two lives Oliver is living, and in 'Burned' it felt like the beginning of those two formerly separate parts of Oliver's life coming together. The way Arrow dealt with a tragic murderer by attempting to extend some compassion was not altogether unlike how he'd approached dealing with his mother. Neither attempt was what you might call a success, but it suggested a unity to the two sides of the character that had been at odds during the first half of the season.
Although the episode lacked the punch of others that have come before it, it did offer some interesting developments for Oliver's character that helped make up for its slight super hero-y shortcomings.
Various other items:
- Despite his daughter's apparent change of heart, Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) is still determined to bring the vigilante to justice. And now, he's using Laurel as bait to try and track the vigilante.
- After several episodes of watching him do pretty much the opposite, it was strange watching Diggle (David Ramsey) actually encouraging Oliver to put on the hood. With Roy Harper set to make an appearance soon, let's hope all the good Diggle does isn't forgotten by Ollie.
Arrow returns next Wednesday with 'Trust But Verify' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview for the episode below: