ComicsAlliance Recaps ‘Arrow’ Episode 1.8: Vendetta
The CW’s new superhero series Arrow re-imagines Green Arrow for a TV audience as a tough, often ruthless vigilante bent on setting things right in his home of Starling City by punishing the wicked. ComicsAlliance’s Matt Wilson will be following along all season to see how he fares.
This week, the Huntress’ violent act of revenge results in grave consequences, Merlyn deals with the fallout of losing his trust fund and Steele does some more digging where he probably shouldn’t!Previously: Steele found that Moira had been hiding the yacht that sank, stranding Ollie on an island! Helena Bertinelli figured out Ollie’s Arrow! She also made out with him! (And killed Helo, though the “previously” doesn’t show that, despite it being what everything in this episode is predicated on.)
Things open on Helena and Ollie enjoying some post-coital sleep when Helena is awakened by what I can only guess is the blinding white light coming in through the window, and slinks out. Honestly, how could anyone sleep with a floodlight right outside? Ollie apparently can’t either, as his eyes open, too.
Helena, all decked out in some Mad Max cosplay, rides a motorcycle into Chinatown — which you know is Chinatown because there are neon signs with Chinese characters on them even in a back alley — to find China White, who is taking her damn sweet time getting into a white Mercedes. It’s lucky for Helena, who pulls out a pistol and tries to take a shot at some other Triad boss.
One can only assume the next step in this plan is to swiftly be murdered by the other Triads that are there, but we don’t get to see it because Arrow rolls off a rooftop and moves Helena’s hand just as she’s firing. The Triads respond as they drive away with a hail of bullets that hit no one, because the Triads are such notoriously bad shots.
Helena gets pretty mad at Ollie for trying to stop her attempt to get the Triads to wipe out her dad’s criminal organization, but it’s hard to really pay attention because she’s overpronouncing every word, like “a-GAI-n” and “or-gan-eye-ZAY-tion” and “AUGHN-SLAUGHT.” It’s very distracting. But basically it all boils down to Ollie saying he wants to teach her his version of justice, which involves killing people much more thoughtfully.
Like anyone who just unsuccessfully tried to off a crime boss, Helena and Ollie go out for a burger and some coffee. Ollie tries to convince her that her methods of hurting people like his mom in the process of trying to tear down her dad are going to backfire on her, but she says, “eff your moms” and walks out. (OK, she doesn’t say that, but wouldn’t have been better if she did?)
In the Arrowcave, Ollie’s doing handstand push ups when Dig enters and makes a very weak crack about the Olympics. (Why would he make a crack about the Olympics when Ollie’s doing push-ups, which are not an Olympic event, and not, oh, I don’t know, archery?) Then he gets down to it: Helo and his thugs are dead, which means Ollie did a crappy job of stopping Helena from killing them (in fact, he helped). They threaten my gig by running through a recap of last week’s episode — Helena’s dad had her fiance killed, Bertinelli thinks the Triads are the ones killing his guys now — and by the end of it, Dig is vehemently warning Ollie off of hanging around Helena. Ollie says he’s got to try.
At Casa Queen, Moira and Steele are also recapping (lay off, people) how he left the country for a few weeks because she was hiding that yacht from him. Moira says she wasn’t lying to hurt Steele, but to protect him, so we see where Ollie gets it. Steele asks for more honesty going forward, and Moira agrees. Thea asks Steele for a ride to school and they leave as Moira wonders how she can craft lies that seem more honest.
In yet another domestic setting, the Bertinelli home, Frank Bertinelli is consoling Helo’s widow with some warm cliches. Helena comes down the steps and offers some smirky and creepily cold cliches that might as well just be an admission of guilt. Somehow Bertinelli doesn’t pick up on it, seeing the widow out and declaring his thirst for revenge.
Before Helena can make that much more obvious that she killed Helo, Ollie arrives at the door to see his murdering love. Bertinelli says, “This is one merger I won’t stand in the way of,” because I guess he’s part of a Vaudeville act that does boffo business humor, and leaves. With old mean dad out of the picture, Ollie’s free to take Helena on a romantic, whirlwind date at a cemetery.
Save some fun for your forties, guys, really!
Ollie takes Helena to Sarah Lance’s grave and tells her the whole story of how he was sleeping with his girlfriend’s sister, and then that sister died on the yacht that sank. This episode has mostly been people just saying things that have happened in previous episodes. Anyway, he explains how he used to be a real turd. Somehow, this story of how he was an awful person that cheated on his girlfriend with her sister but then he was on an island so he’s better, inspires Helena to grab his hand and say she wants to get close to him, but the last guy she did that with was her now-dead fiance.
“I can’t be hurt again,” she says. “I’ll never hurt you,” he replies. “I promise.” If you’ll recall, her fiance didn’t have much say in the matter. He got murdered by gangsters. It wasn’t him who did the hurting, it was Papa Bertinelli. So I guess I’m not seeing how that promise means s**t.
It works on Helena, though, because she’s in the Arrowcave now, training away with a bow and arrow.
She misses the target entirely and pitches a mini-tantrum. Ollie says he’s trying to teach her patience and discipline, which he then immediately undercuts by shooting a bunch of stuff she throws into the air, then a tennis ball that she doesn’t even manage to release. The arrow that hits the tennis ball jams into a pretty important-looking steam pipe, too.
Ollie exposits even more by showing Helena his dad’s book of wicked names as Dig disapprovingly walks in. Helena leaves them alone for a second so they can rehash a conversation they had maybe six minutes ago about whether Helena is a good person or not, and whether hanging around her may be dangerous for Ollie. Dig plays his “I might quit” card yet again and exits.
Merlyn saunters into Laurel’s legal aid office to tell her he got a reservation at a new, expensive restaurant. Laurel reminds him and everyone in the audience that he has no money anymore, and suggests he ask Ollie for a job at the nightclub he said he was planning to open over the Arrowcave about six episodes ago.
Over at Queen Consolidated, Smoak has been digging into Moira’s secret boat-hiding organization, and she informs Steele that some other shadowy organization has been tracking her every move. The one trace of that organization Smoak managed to find was that Lost-meets-the-Sanctum-Sanctorum symbol from Ollie’s book, which Steele says he doesn’t recognize. He does, however, chew Smoak out for digging into his wife’s personal business, even though he asked her to do it, and threatens to suspend her.
In the Arrowcave, Ollie has invited Helena back for an “object lesson.” They’re going to take down a piece of her dad’s criminal orgainzation — a drug dealer whose name is conveniently in Ollie’s book even though everyone else in there has been some giant of big business — without hurting any innocent people. To avoid hurting innocent people, Ollie gives her a crossbow. He also shows her a design of a new costume, which she asks to make purple. They should have named her the Purple Huntress, just to throw everyone’s color naming conventions off.
Their target, a guy who looks like a poor man’s Michael Rapaport, is pawning off some party drugs on a dealer when the lights go out and thugs start going down. The score gets really insistent and goofy as Arrow spouts off an awful one-liner and tag-teams his “you have failed this city” bit with a now fully-costumed Huntress (who is never actually called by that name, because none of the vigilantes in this show ever get names).
There’s a big fight, they nab the drug dealer and the cops show up to confiscate all the drugs. It’s easily the cleanest job Arrow’s ever pulled, even though it’s presented as the norm. Helena says she could get used to this kind of justice, the kind where she doesn’t brutally murder anyone. She and Ollie kiss.
Bertinelli is not pleased, so Helena takes the opportunity to go revel in it to his face, though he still fails to notice how much she enjoys his pain.
Moira heads off to a meeting at the art museum, which gives Steele an opening to rifle through all her stuff. He finds a box marked with the Mysterious Symbol inside a grandfather clock, the number-one hiding place for all DC characters, and inside that box he finds a book quite similar to the one Robert Queen gave Ollie.
Merlyn and Laurel are at that fancy restaurant, and since Merlyn has no cash with which to grease some wheels, they’ve been waiting quite a while for a table. Just as they’re about to gorge themselves on bar peanuts, Ollie and Helena enter because maybe this restaurant has special menu items that remind you of your various emotional scars. I don’t know why else they’d be there. Introductions are made and Laurel jumps at Helena’s suggestion that she and Merlyn join them at their immediately available table, despite Merlyn’s protests.
The couples make small talk and Helena discovers that she’s the odd one out of this group of old pals. Laurel presses the issue of Merlyn working at Ollie’s nightclub, which Merlyn never actually asked about. Merlyn doesn’t want to discuss it. Ollie also lets slip that he and Laurel dated, which really bothers Helena. This is the same Helena who was touched by that whole, “I f**ked my girlfriend’s sister” story earlier, by the way.
Merlyn excuses himself and Laurel follows, asking why he’s so upset. He doesn’t want help from Ollie, and he thinks Laurel’s still into him. Merlyn suggests maybe breaking up and leaves. Meanwhile, Ollie’s following his own storming-off date, who insists he’s still in love with Laurel. Ollie tries to argue otherwise, but Helena won’t hear it.
Tommy comes at Laurel’s apartment of iTunes-available mid-tempo hits to apologize for his behavior, say he’s scared of having to take responsibility for himself and tell her she’s too good for him. Laurel says she never cared about his money and apologizes for pushing too hard about the job at the nightclub that won’t open for another five years or so anyway. They reconcile and kiss and suddenly they’re actually one of the better parts of this show. What in the world is happening?
Ollie goes back to the Arrowcave to mope and tell Dig he was right about Helena. He wanted to believe Helena could be turned from her murderous ways (to different murderous ways), but she’s too far gone in her quest for revenge. “Maybe I thought the universe owed me one,” says the billionaire son of a billionaire to an Afghanistan veteran.
Some Traid lieutenants are enjoying a smoky poker game when all their phones go off with a warning to get out of there. Before they can, the Huntress bursts in and shoots a bunch of them dead with guns, not that fancy crossbow. She nasally tells the last one standing she doesn’t speak Chinese and that Frank Bertinelli sends his regards. Wasn’t this gang war supposed to be going strong like four or five deaths ago? Does it really need this extra push?
With a warning that the last employee he asked to look into this died mysteriously, Steele asks Smoak to examine the book he found. She agrees to, because she hates mysteries and they need to be solved. Makes sense, because she is Velma and Daphne rolled into one character.
Finally, after all that pushing, the Triads are converging on Bertinelli’s house.
Hey, remember how the cops and Dig were all worried that innocent people were going to die because of this gang war? Well, they never should have worried, because it’s all taking place at this one house and it’s only mob thugs who are getting their throats sliced. Needless worry! It’s so localized detectives Lance and Hilton aren’t even in this episode.
Arrow’s here, too, killing some goons for good measure, while Bertinelli digs into a safe to pull out Helena’s fiance’s evidence laptop (which he probably should have just destroyed) as his empire collapses around him in his own home. He’s like Romney Voter Scarface. White manages to corner Bertinelli, but before she can slice him up, Arrow shoots her in the leg and tells Bertinelli to run. He does.
Bertinelli gets as far as his yard before Huntress shoots him in the leg with her crossbow and reveals her identity to him. She wants payback for her fiance. “I know you had him killed, Helo told me,” she says in a manner that’s no so much intense as kind of drunken. I’d need some liquid courage too if I was going to threaten my own dad with death, too. No judgments.
Before Helena can deliver the killing blow, Arrow shoots the crossbow out of her hand from a weird angle. She turns and starts to fight him. In the weirdly slow scuffle, Bertinelli reaches out and grabs the crossbow, which he uses to shoot Helena in the shoulder. She and her dad both pass out; Ollie picks her up and carries her away as the cops arrive.
In the Arrowcave, Helena regains consciousness and immediately tears into Ollie, saying her dad is a monster and he should have let her kill him. Ollie says she doesn’t understand what killing someone does to you, even though she’s killed a bunch of people, and informs her the cops have the evidence laptop, so Bertinelli’s going to prison. That’s justice, he says. She retorts that she must care about revenge more than justice and weirdly enunciates a threat for Ollie to stay out of her way or she’ll reveal his secret. Ollie plays the “I did everything because I care” card, but she says “eff your moms” and leaves. (That’s actually pretty close this time.)
Dig comes to Big Belly Burger, where old mopey Ollie is indulging in some chili cheese fries. Ollie brings up the curare bullets from episode three so that it can touch on literally every past episode. Dig says love is about finding the right person, not changing someone, and observes that Ollie wouldn’t have opened up to someone like he did Helena just a few months ago. They share a bro laugh over the fries.
Smoak enters Steele’s office with some fancy pants glasses that Queen Consolidated probably paid millions to create. She tells Steele to look at the book using the glasses, and what do you know, he can read invisible ink. That’s what those high-dollar glasses do. The same thing holding paper up to heat does.
And lookie, there’s Bertinelli’s name in there. At least there’s that.
At Casa Queen, Merlyn arrives to tell Ollie about how his dad cut him off and to ask for that nightclub job. Ollie gives it to him. I was in such suspense as to whether he would!
Ollie also tells Merlyn he and Helena had a falling out, but he expects he’ll see her again. She riders a motorcycle down a street. Remember when this show had that one great cliffhanger? Let’s all just try to recall that simpler, better time.
So, last week, there was a ton of buildup to this huge gang war between the Triads and the Bertinelli crime syndicate. It was imminent! It was going to be huge! Innocent people would be caught in the crossfire! But no. Really, all it was going to be was about three minutes of screen time near the end of the episode, at a location the producers already had available to them. I can’t imagine a more disappointing anticlimax.
So what did this episode have around that? Expository dialogue where none was needed. A subplot about Merlyn asking for a job that had a foregone conclusion. Helena stoking fires that we had been told were already at inferno levels. Characters finding out things other characters, and the audience, already knew. I actually kind of enjoyed some of the Laurel/Merlyn stuff, despite it being about a douchey rich guy losing his trust fund, but everything else just felt like filler.
I know I said, back when this show was doing its rich-bad-guy-of-the-week plots, that it would have to break that formula to have staying power. But you know what? I take it back. I take it all back. Bring the rich-bad-guys-of-the-week back! Bring the flashbacks back! I miss you, Deathstroke! I miss youuuuuu!
Also, early on, I did a lot of comparing this show to Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies, but I think that influence has largely dissolved. How do I know? Batman would never let the Huntress kill as many people as she did in this episode. Batman would not stand for that s**t.