Contributor: John Keegan
Written by Geoff Johns, Marc Guggenheim, and Andrew Kreisberg
Directed by David Grossman
Considering that the writers for “Arrow” are taking their time with Laurel’s eventual development into Black Canary, it makes sense that they would want to introduce someone that could help Oliver gain some perspective on his vigilante lifestyle. Dig is already serving that purpose to some extent, but sometimes it takes someone coming at it from a different extreme to prompt self-reflection.
I’m only familiar with the version of Huntress that was the daughter of Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle, so I have no idea if Helena Bertinelli was an earlier incarnation of the character. Regardless, Helena/Huntress is damaged on a level similar to Oliver’s, and is also on a quest to correct the sins of the father. The difference being that Helena’s father is alive, and that complicates matters dramatically.
Deadshot confronted Oliver on the reality of his choices in an earlier episode, but given that Deadshot was an adversary, there was little chance of the message getting through. Dig can also play the conscience, but he can only go so far, and he’s not pushing Oliver to tone down the level of bloodletting, so much as recalibrating the scope of his crusade. Helena, however, is far more overt in her lust for vengeance, almost to the point of being consumed by hate.
Helena is a difficult character to render within the world of “Arrow”, because her specific issues run the risk of making her look uninteresting and flat compared to Oliver’s more polished act. We don’t get to see Helena outside of her sullen and defensive moments. I can easily see some viewers saying that the actress is terrible in the part, but I would disagree. I think Helena is meant to be off-putting, to demonstrate what kind of trauma Oliver is hiding (that he would be drawn to someone like Helena) and to emphasize that she may be too far gone to change her ways.
Huntress is therefore a reflection of what Oliver could become, if he doesn’t come to terms with his own choices and recognize the flaws in his self-justification. Oliver has told himself that giving his victims the opportunity to change their ways and amend their sins is sufficient; if they choose not to do so, they get what they deserve. But is that any better than the choices that Bertinelli gives to those he shakes down, or the machinations that Captain Jack must have employed with Oliver’s father? In the end, it’s window-dressing, a pretty fantasy.
To that end, I can easily see this turning into a story arc where Oliver finds Helena to be a kindred spirit in the short-term, but as they get closer and time passes, his misgivings grow as the depth of her hatred becomes clear. If Huntress is a reflection of what Green Arrow could become, then it would make symbolic sense for him to have to fight and defeat Huntress down the line, before he can become something better.
It is now definitive that Captain Jack is Tommy’s father, and somewhere along the line, I missed the fact that Tommy’s last name is Merlyn. It doesn’t take much digging to realize that Merlyn is the name of Green Arrow’s nemesis, which fits the general impression that the writers have given for Tommy’s future role. The fact that he is now cut off by his father, while still trying to live the life he had while Oliver wasn’t in his way, could become the basis for a future turn to villainy. (And it also provides another possible reason for Laurel to take up the Black Canary mantle!)
If there is one flaw to the episode, it’s that the dialogue didn’t quite seem to fit what has come before. Some of the Dig/Oliver conversations were a bit more awkward than usual, and generally speaking, Oliver’s attempts at light banter felt out of place. It’s hard to tell if this was a problem with the script or the direction, but considering Geoff Johns’ track record on “Smallville”, it could be that his initial attempt at writing for “Arrow” wasn’t quite in tune with the material coming out of the writers’ room.
Final Score: 7/10