After Arrow took a week off for Thanksgiving, The CW brings Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) back in an episode that's co-written by DC Comics' Chief Creative Officer, Geoff Johns - and it features a bit of a conundrum for Arrow as he encounters his first vigilante rival, who may just be his perfect match.
Of course, if you've been following Screen Rant's Arrow coverage, you are well aware that 'Muse of Fire' marks the first appearance of Helena Bertinelli, or The Huntress (Jessica De Gouw) – but she's called that as much as Oliver's been referred to as Arrow, which is to say, never. In fact, since she doesn't have much of a gimmick (like a green hood and arrows), and she appears to be killing mob folks with no rhyme or reason, everyone just refers to her as "the killer" – which is sort of in the same vein as everyone calling Oliver "the vigilante."
At any rate, Arrow does it's usual blending of thematic elements with the episode's plotline, but instead of using flashbacks to Oliver's time spent on the island, 'Muse of Fire' is more concerned with establishing a connection between the two young firebrands who've taken up a cause they're willing to kill for. But despite Oliver's belief that his quest for justice is nobler than her thirst for revenge, Helena sees no such distinction. The bodies Arrow is racking up belong to the same criminal scum she's trying to eliminate – it's just the motivation that differs, and not by that much.
By the episode's end, however, the two manage to set their differences aside, as the larger, and possibly more important issue begins to present itself. Regardless of the reasons for embarking on their quests, the common bond that exists between them is the isolation they feel as a byproduct of the paths they've chosen. In one another's company, Oliver and Helena can be the people they truly are – no secrets, no lies, and no helmets or face paint required. It's another reminder of the consequences of Oliver's double life, and what he's given up in pursuit of justice.
Sure, Oliver has let Diggle (David Ramsey) in on his secret, but Diggle isn't as scarred as Ollie – grief-stricken and compelled to act over the loss of his brother, yes, but psychologically speaking, he's not in the same place as Oliver. Helena, on the other hand, knows what it's like to want to make up for the sins of the father, and what it means to put everything else in life on hold for a single purpose. In a way, they're made for each other. That doesn't mean it's going to end well, as the two will inevitably become entangled in the mob war between Bertinelli's crew and China White (Kelly Hu) and the Triads, but for now they at least have that initial spark.
While Helena and Oliver crossing paths as vigilantes - and later, apparently becoming lovers - is the main draw of 'Muse of Fire,' the episode also has a rather large reveal up its sleeve. As it turns out, John Barrowman's 'Well-Dressed Man' is none other than the father of Tommy Merlyn (Colin Donnell). Although it was handled with an odd, ham-fisted camera movement (who hadn't already placed Barrowman's voice behind the fencing helmet?), the build-up to the reveal was actually one of the better Tommy and Laurel (Katie Cassidy) moments the show has produced. Now Moira's connection to the 'Well-Dressed Man' is better explained, but the larger mystery of just what their agenda is remains to be seen. The idea that there is a family connection, though, makes it less of a clandestine conspiracy and more of a Dynasty-like scheme. Right now, it's tough to say which would be more fun to watch. Still, the development certainly helps to better flesh out a character whose mysterious charm had begun to fade.
Meanwhile, the reveal of Tommy's father coincides with the younger Merlyn being cut off from his trust fund. Penniless and essentially out of luck, the question now becomes: Will his sudden change of fortune lead Tommy to a greater purpose, or will it turn him toward a life of crime?
Various other items:
- Colin Donnell is 15 years younger than John Barrowman (a fact that makes the casting a bit of a stretch), but in terms of the way the two actors actually look, Barrowman would've been more convincing as the son.
- "Bite the bullet and have a Cobb salad with the woman."
- It's just too bad that the vigilantes' spark had to include the killing of Bertinelli's mob enforcer, Tom Salvati (Tahmoh Penikett). Given Penikett's experience on Battlestar Galactica and Dollhouse, one would think he'd earned at least a two-episode stint on Arrow.
Arrow continues next Wednesday with 'Vendetta' @8pm on The CW. Check out a preview for the episode below: