Welcome back to me talking about Arrow, a thing I still haven’t come up with a cute name for yet. This batch of episodes wraps up with episode 9, the midseason break. Is that something I have to explain? Just in case, way back in the Before Times, weekly TV shows often took a break for a month or so around the middle of a season to give the actors and creators a little break. Usually it’d end on a cliffhanger, and this sort of has one!
Episode seven is “Muse of Fire,” a Shakespearean reference I don’t understand. An assassination in broad daylight puts Oliver Queen’s mother, Moira Queen, in the hospital, but she wasn’t the target. Instead the person killed worked for local “businessman” Frank Bertinelli (Mr. Jeffrey Nordling), and that wasn’t the first of his associates killed. Oliver gets close to Bertinelli in order to figure out who the assassin is, and along the way meets Frank’s daughter, Helena Bertinelli (Jessica De Gouw). Ooh, that’s a recognizable name! Oliver and Helena bond over their traumas–him with his time on Lian Yu, her still grieving the death of her fiancé. But when Frank’s goons try to shake down the restaurant the two are at, the Hood and the assassin run into each other. Turns out the assassin is Helena, furious at her father for killing her fiancé. She kills the goons who learn her secret, and she and Oliver end the episode kissing. I ship it, I really do. Meanwhile, Tommy Merlyn gets cut off by his father, who I can officially say is Malcolm Merlyn, the John Barrowman character that has been scheming with Moira (even though I’m pretty sure he’s still unnamed). Moira’s husband, Walter Steele, comes back not just because Moira is hurt, but because he misses his wife. Aw, isn’t love grand?
Next is “Vendetta,” continuing Helena’s story. Oliver becomes her mentor, something fellow Team Arrow member John Diggle does not approve of. Giving Helena a purple costume and a crossbow–close to her signature look in the comics–they take down an associate of Frank’s without killing anyone. But when Oliver and Helena go out on a date and run into Tommy and Laurel Lance, the ensuing double date is so awkward that everything falls to shit. Believing Oliver’s true love is Laurel, Helena storms off, kills some Triad members, and pins the blame on her father. Sure enough, a gang war ensues with the Triad forces being led by Chien Na Wei, AKA China White. The Hood keeps Frank alive for weak reasons, but Helena swoops in trying to kill him. She’s stopped, but not before Frank takes her crossbow and shoots his own daughter with it. Helena survives, but rejects Oliver’s methods and strikes out on her own. Meanwhile, Tommy and Laurel’s fallout from the double date has them almost break up, but Tommy apologizes for being an asshole then swallows his pride and asks Oliver for a job at his nightclub. Walter decides to drop investigating Tempest, but the mystery won’t leave him, so he and Felicity Smoak discover a supposedly blank book with the organization’s symbol in it that is revealed to be filled with names using invisible ink. Hey, that looks exactly like the book Oliver got from his father…
Finally, there’s the mid-season finale, “Year’s End.” Oliver realizes that his family hasn’t celebrated Christmas since his disappearance, so he decides to hold an impromptu holiday party. But a major distraction comes from someone we’ll come to call the Dark Archer, who is killing people the Hood has taken down including Adam Hunt (from the pilot). Meanwhile, Walter is investigating people on “the List,” which upsets Merlyn and Moira. Also Thea has a new boyfriend, but we never see him again. All that makes the Christmas party pretty tense for everyone, which means the Dark Archer taking hostages is a great excuse for Oliver to bail. Too bad the Archer is a better fighter and beats the Hood’s ass handily, only barely letting the vigilante escape with his life. Dig comes up with the cover story that Ollie was in an accident, and Oliver vows not just to take down the Dark Archer, but also whoever created the list. Turns out they may be the same person, as Malcolm Merlyn is actually the Dark Archer! He has Walter kidnapped for knowing too much, and through a conversation with Moira we find out that plans are in motion that will lead to thousands of people dead in 6 months time.
There was no flashback in “Muse of Fire” or “Vendetta,” but “Year’s End” showed Yao Fei return to a barely alive Oliver, revealing that the archer had captured Fyers. Turns out that the mercenary had a plane that Oliver could use to escape the island, but that was actually a trap; Yao Fei gets captured by the Deathstroke-looking guy, but Oliver escaped. Also he had to question if Fyers was telling the truth when he said that Lian Yu was a prison, and all the inmates were killed except for Yao Fei and Deathstroke Lite. Was this true? Signs point to yes!
So how about those comic references? “Muse of Fire” and “Vendetta” are all about Helena Bertinelli, who goes by Huntress in the comics. Remember her being played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead in Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn? Anyway, Helena’s comic background is… a bit complicated. Originally appearing in DC Super-Stars #17 (1977), she was Helena Wayne, the daughter of Batman and Catwoman. She became a vigilante after the death of her mother, taking the name “Huntress.” Now, that sounds weird, right? Batman and Catwoman have an adult daughter? Long story short, those comics take place on Earth-2, an alternate world where things happened differently. Crisis on Infinite Earths destroyed the multiverse and left only one Earth, and Huntress was reintroduced as Helena Bertinelli, daughter of mob boss Franco Bertinelli in Huntress #1 (1989). But then things got even more complicated when Flashpoint completely reset the DC universe. The Huntress that debuted after that in Huntress #1 (2011) was actually Helena Wayne from Earth-2 again, using the name Bertinelli as a cover story (but really to psych out readers). Then after that the real Helena Bertinelli debuted in Nightwing #30 (2014) with a backstory more in line with the Birds of Prey movie: family killed, survived in secret, now agent of vengeance. Confused? Welcome to comics, baby!
“Year’s End” had just a few nods to the comics. Oliver thinks the vigilante shouldn’t be named “Green Arrow,” something that’s meant to amuse the audience, notwithstanding that Oliver will take on that name later on in the series. And Quentin mentions the corner of O’Neil and Adams to Oliver, a reference to writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neil Adams, who worked together on the Green Lantern/Green Arrow series, particularly the “Hard Traveling Heroes” run. That’s a well loved run where Green Lantern (AKA Hal Jordan) and Green Arrow travel the country together, fighting systemic racism and landlords more than actual supervillains. This run includes the moment where a black man confronts Green Lantern on how he’s saved the universe, but he hasn’t done much to help the people of his home planet. You may have seen these panels before, as they’ve become fairly iconic:
With the introduction of Helena, we had a solid love interest for Oliver. I mean it that I ship it, and it’s sad that with her two episodes so far, we’re halfway through all of her appearances. She’s basically forgotten about after season 2 outside of a few offhand mentions, but she could’ve been a solid Team Arrow ally! But no, the true endgame for Oliver’s heart goes to… Laurel? It sure looks like the first season was setting up Oliver and Laurel getting together–after all, Green Arrow and Black Canary got married in the comics–but fans know that’s not how things end up.
So now we the audience better know who’s secretly pulling the strings in Starling City, but Oliver hasn’t figured that out yet. I’m enjoying Malcom Merlyn as an actual threat, because he overstays his welcome and kind of becomes a joke later on. It’s the Vegeta “we keep him around because he sometimes helps out,” but without the Prince of all Saiyans’ genuine connection to his new friends. Merlyn is an opportunistic ass, and that becomes his defining characteristic later on, for better or worse. With these episodes covered, we’re about two-fifths of the way through the first season, and there are more twists and turns to come. Why do I keep refusing to call the masked man in the flashbacks “Deathstroke?” How many more people are going to find out Oliver is a vigilante before anyone in his family does? And which major characters won’t survive the first season? I’ll have more episodes to talk about next week, so stay tuned to find out!
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