Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Arrow: Vendettas

Picking up where they left off (in bed together), Helena and Oliver now try to untangle the conundrum they find themselves in. He’s a vigilante trying to put high-class criminals in jail; she’s an assassin getting revenge on her father for the murder of her fiancé. Together they fight crime.

They just can’t agree on how to do it. Oliver wants to show Helena that there can be justice outside of revenge, whilst Helena claims that the two concepts are more or less synonymous. It’s hard to argue with her, as the differences between how the two of them go about their business are slight. Oliver claims that he only kills when absolutely necessary – but that’s still not strictly the same thing as “self-defence.”

At the end of the day, all that can be really said is that in the act of taking lives, Oliver does it with more restraint.

Still, he tries to show Helena how he works, rigging her up with her very own leather costume and mini-crossbow. She starts to buy into the idea, despite Diggle’s nay-saying. But here’s where things get a little clunky.

First of all, Diggle’s animosity toward Helena is a bit too heavy handed. It's expected that he would be hesitant at the idea of bringing someone else into the loop, especially one that’s already left a pile of dead bodies behind her, but the writers end up giving him far too much omniscient knowledge of the inner workings of Helena’s mind. When he starts going on about how she’s “dark and twisted”, I got a little disgruntled. Seriously Diggle, you’ve only spent about two seconds with the woman.

Add to that the fact the episode demonstrates Helena is certainly not a psychopath (she displays empathy by taking Ollie’s hand at Sara’s grave), and who can be made to see alternative routes to reaching her goals, and you can’t help but feel that both men gave up on her too soon.

Which leads to the second major stumbling block of the episode: that Helena’s Face Heel Turn is due to an awkward dinner with Oliver’s ex-girlfriend. Really? Romantic entanglements are what lead Helena back to the dark side? Instead of (let’s say) one of Oliver’s plans not giving her instant gratification?

It reduces everyone involved to emotional infants, and though I can’t say I know what it’s like to go around shooting people, I’m fairly certain that if I did, my dating life would be rather low on my list of priorities.

So Helena goes ahead with her plan to kill the Triads and blame their deaths on Frank Bertinelli before going after him herself. Ollie’s intervention saves the man’s life, but by now Helena can differentiate between justice and vengeance. And if sending her father to jail for life is justice, then she wants revenge after all (though sending a man to jail knowing that his daughter wanted to murder him is surely going to make him suffer much more than a relatively quick death).

So Oliver and Helena part ways not because of a fundamental difference in principles, but because Oliver still has feelings for Laurel. Which makes even less sense when you take into account that Helena explicitly tells Oliver that she’s not looking for anything serious.

Believe it or not, this entire storyline of opposing ideologies clashing played out a lot better on an episode of Xena Warrior Princess in which the titular character comes across an otherwise perfectly wonderful woman who secretly kills criminals who don’t convert to her belief-system instead of offering them up to the courts for justice. It’s called Crusader; go watch it and see how this episode could have been better nuanced.

Meanwhile, in two somewhat negligible subplots that will probably have payoff much later, Tommy asks Oliver for a job after getting huffy with Laurel for trying to do it for him, and Walter gets Felicity to investigate a notebook that he found in Moira’s bedroom. Why he’s asking an IT girl to do this instead of someone more qualified is a bit of a mystery, but she pulls through and discovers that the notebook is filled with names written in invisible ink. What’s more, the handwriting is exactly the same as that in Oliver’s book, and no doubt contains the same list of names. Ooh.

Miscellaneous Observations:

At times I was stunned by how much Stephen Amell looked like Chris O’Donnell in this episode.

I’ll admit I smiled when Helena is presented with her iconic mini-crossbow and asks if her costume “comes in purple”.

I’m glad that we got a bit more emphasis on Sara Lance’s death, even though it still feels as though the whole thing should have much more impact in the way Laurel and Oliver interact with each other.

Finally, that was a nicely shot fight scene right at the end there, in which Helena confronts her father in the mists by the lake. The wide-shots were especially good, giving the whole thing a suitably atmospheric feel.

Verdict: A wee bit of a disappointment after last week’s intrigue, with the beats of Oliver/Helena’s relationship playing out along extremely predictable lines. Still, at least she’s still alive and kicking by the end of the episode, and despite her parting of the ways with Oliver, I don’t feel as though the writers have cast her into the role of villain. Like Ollie said, I’m sure we’ll be seeing her again.

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