If there’s one thing we know from the superhero genre, it’s that vigilantism is contagious. You may start with just a handful of guys in tights, a Superman here, a Batman there, but before you know it you’ve got a big messy DC Universe on your hands. With this week’s episode, co-written by comics favorite Geoff Johns, Arrow introduces Oliver Queen’s first colleague in the field of ass-kicking: the Huntress.
Comics fans will immediately recognize Helena Bertinelli, a vengeful mob princess who murders gangsters via motorcycle drive-by and, this being the CW and all, wears heavy rouge under her helmet. I’m no expert on cosmetology, but I’d imagine that most women wouldn’t bother with a careful makeup regimen before going on a killing spree. Then again, this is a show whose hero slathers his face in green eyeliner every night, so let’s chalk it up to artistic license.
“Muse of Fire” throws its twin vigilantes together right off the bat, as Oliver witnesses Helena’s attack on one of her father’s employees, who just happens to be talking to Moira at the time. Oliver vainly tries to chase down the attacker, earning him this week’s scolding from his relatives. Fortunately, Moira escapes with only a mild concussion, which leaves her bedridden for the rest of the episode and Thea reluctantly pressed into nursing duty. Neither of them are too pleased with the situation, but it leads to a nice conversation wherein Moira suggests that maybe the two of them shouldn’t be constantly shaming Oliver for his every mistake.
That’s a big step in the right direction, since at this point Oliver’s been unintentionally slighting his family and getting raked over the coals for it approximately once or twice an episode. It’s a classic superhero trope, but it wears out its welcome mighty quickly in rapid succession. Let’s hope Moira and Thea get more to do in the future than stare disapprovingly at Oliver and/or John Barrowman.
Speaking of whom, those of us who’ve been speculating about the identity of Barrowman’s character can stop. Is he Morgan Edge? Maxwell Lord? Vandal Savage? No, he’s… Tommy’s dad. The plot, as they say, thins. He’s also something of a dick, as he unceremoniously cuts off his son’s income, bank accounts, and investments without so much as a phone call.
Now, I like to think of myself as a fairly empathetic person, but I found it a wee bit hard to weep for a man who suddenly finds himself without his enormously inflated trust fund, and nothing to do but go to his gorgeous new girlfriend’s apartment to cry and eat cold pizza. Then again, losing his fortune at least gives Tommy something to do other than make puppy eyes at Laurel and hang around wisecracking with Oliver, and there’s a definite sense that Tommy’s more hurt by his father’s naked contempt than he is by suddenly being forced to join the working class. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens to Tommy later on.
Anyway, while all this is going on, Oliver (remember him?) is investigating the recent rash of mob murders, and has a chat with Mr. Bertinelli himself. Sooner or later he’s going to have to stop just walking up and introducing himself to people that his alter ego is investigating, but we have already established how bad he is at keeping secrets. Although considering the survival rate among his enemies… Anyway, the meeting, ostensibly about giving the Bertinellis a construction contract, leads somewhat implausibly to Oliver and Helena being packed off to dinner together. They bond over their mutual past traumas, as Oliver learns that Helena lost her fiancé three years ago and is still pretty steamed about it.
Meanwhile, Bertinelli Sr. meets with China White, who assures him that the Triad isn’t behind his recent personnel losses. Of course, as soon as she leaves, he goes right back to assuming that yes, they are, because the Triad isn’t known for “rational thinking.” Pot, meet kettle.
Things come to a head when the Bertinellis’ chief thug comes to the same restaurant where Oliver and Helena are dining, in order to demand some extra protection money. Bad idea. Arrow and the Mysterious Motorcycle Killer suddenly arrive to dish out revenge/justice, and inevitably wind up fighting each other instead. Helena’s helmet is knocked off in the fighting and Oliver is stunned, because he, unlike we, has not been following superhero stories his whole life and couldn’t see that coming a mile away.
Oliver proceeds to woo Helena in an exceedingly stalkerish fashion, tailing her from her house to the grave of her dead boyfriend and getting brought along for the ride when she’s kidnapped. The culprit: the aforementioned head thug, who found her trademark cross necklace at the scene of the ass-whooping and immediately deduced that his boss’s daughter was murdering all their associates, despite the fact that she’d been eating in that same restaurant hours earlier. What was that her dad said about rational thinking? His idiotic guess is right, however, and they reveal their respective secrets: that he killed Helena’s fiancé himself on dad's orders because the guy had a laptop with incriminating, FBI-bound evidence on it, and she that the laptop was hers all along. Mobsters: not good at detective work.
Ass-whooping number two swiftly follows, and everyone except our two semi-heroes ends up dead. All that’s left for the wrap-up is a highly bizarre scene in which Oliver sneaks into Helena’s apartment sans disguise. Why? Why break in if he’s not in the Arrow suit? Why not knock? Was he going to confront her about her vigilante-ing? He certainly seems shocked when she knows about his alter ego, because she “looked in [his] eyes.” And maybe because the guy snuck into her home unannounced, like crazy vigilantes tend to do. They have a brief, impassioned argument about the nature of justice and revenge, and then make out. Of course they make out.
Helena is clearly meant as a dark mirror of Oliver himself, and despite his protestations, they’re really not very different. Sure, he has arrows and a fancy hideout and she just drives around shooting people, but they’re both attacking (and often killing, though more often in her case) people associated with the sins of their parents. And they’re both pretty bad liars.
So now Oliver’s got a comrade-in-arms, like a version of Diggle he can make out with all the time. Who’s also… extremely traumatized and eager to murder people. This can’t end well.
Next week: Mobsters from east and west square off, and Oliver teaches Helena how to be a better vigilante. Step one: goofy mask. Step two: crossbow. Step three: there is no step three.