Lately, Oliver has been making a habit of letting the people close to him in on the little secret that he's actually Starling City's green-hooded vigilante. While that's allowed Arrow the chance to develop or dissect his relationships with people like Felicity Smoak and, more importantly, Tommy Merlyn, it has also provided those with a reason to hurt Oliver and his alter-ego with the leverage they need in order to do so.
'The Huntress Returns' offers another glimpse at the damaged Helena Bertinelli and, possibly, a hint of what Oliver might have become if not for the relationships he managed to cultivate since his return from the island. Helena is very much the violent vigilante Oliver was in his early days as the Hood, and her arrival in Starling City does more than bring up questions about his feelings for her - it illustrates just how divergent their paths have become since they last met.
By now, Helena is a woman consumed by her need for vengeance, and that has transformed her from would-be vigilante to full-on killing machine that indiscriminately takes the lives of anyone who gets between her and her father. By the episode's end, Tommy and Felicity have both been roughed up; a whole squad of cops and U.S. Marshals are dead; and Oliver's girlfriend, McKenna Hall, has suffered a shattered femur. McKenna's injury is also the series' (temporary?) send-off to the character, as it's revealed she'll require a year of PT to recover, leaving little choice but to move in with her sister in Coast City and abandon any hope of a long-term relationship with Oliver. The whole thing is enough to leave Ollie questioning his ability to maintain a dual identity and whether or not he should even entertain the idea of having relationships.
Most of this is well-trodden territory for the series, and the addition of the Huntress only serves to make it more so. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; 'The Huntress Returns' does a good job of illustrating the changes in Oliver's vigilante playbook by directly comparing his methods with those of Helena. Unfortunately, with the amount of secondary character plots like the sudden return of Det. Lance's wife Dinah, and her belief that Sara is still alive – not to mention the island flashbacks – there is little in the way of actual Huntress development, and the character manages to be little more than a plot device, helping to set up storylines for the series' push toward the season finale.
In addition to facilitating the sudden departure of McKenna Hall, the episode uses the opening of Oliver's club, Verdant, and Tommy's subsequent injury at the hands of the Huntress, to broach the subject left hanging at the end of the 'Dead to Rights.' Things are naturally tense between the two friends, and although Tommy calls Oliver a murderer, he's still been helping to set up and launch Verdant, so it doesn’t seem like he has too much of a moral objection to Ollie being the Hood. There is a nice moment toward the end of the episode, however, where Oliver questions some of the choices he's made, and finds that Tommy is there to actually listen, which hopefully means the young Mr. Merlyn has been successfully pulled from the show's margins and thrust into more Arrow-related territory.
Elsewhere, the Thea and Roy Harper subplot continues to move along in an unsurprising, but entertaining fashion. In what we've seen of him, Roy is reminiscent of Downton Abbey's Tom Branson with some spiffy Parkour skills – which he uses to save Thea from a pair of street toughs, only to get knifed for his trouble. Considering Colton Haynes is one of two actors recently bumped up to series regular for season 2, the writers aren't exactly obscuring where that particular character is headed.
Thankfully, Manu Bennett is the other newly promoted cast member, so we can likely look forward to more Slade and Oliver next season – which is a good thing since all the floating subplots of 'The Huntress Returns' leaves little time for anything beyond the pair using a circuit board as leverage to force Fyres into helping them get off the island.
Ultimately, the episode was stifled by all the subplots, and the lack of focus on the Huntress failed to represent the character in a way that was as appealing as her introduction. There were some interesting elements being set up here, however, and while addressing all of them at once hindered 'The Huntress Returns,' hopefully those subplots will branch off into more successful storylines, to justify overstuffing this episode.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'Salvation' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview below: