Arrow: Season 1 Episode 8 Review – ‘Vendetta’

Courtesy of CW

Courtesy of CW

This week’s ‘Vendetta’ is a near perfect conclusion to the two-episode arc featuring Helena Bertinelli (DC comic’s The Huntress). Vendetta seamlessly integrated Arrow’s underlying themes on the nature of vigilantism, with conflicting perspectives on justice and an engaging character-driven story.

Oliver’s dangerous quest to honor his father’s dying wish has isolated him from the closest people in his life, with the exception of Diggle. Revealing his secret identity to his family and friends could put their lives at risk to criminals, mafia and the triads whom would undoubtedly seek retribution. Nor could his family and friends possibly relate to his damaged psyche and crusade for justice having not endured their own crucible.

Oliver’s loneliness is primarily the consequence of his inability to connect the disparate aspects of his persona with anyone. In his relationship with kindred vigilante Helena, Oliver can be his whole, true authentic self: from billionaire bachelor to the hooded archer. Their immediate attraction towards one another is attributed to their mutual objective and shared inner demons, both of which were born out of their father’s corruption.

As much as Oliver and Helena share a common bond, their approach to vigilantism is considerably different. Helena believes her reckless vendetta to ignite a deadly gang war and eliminate everything that has meaning in her father’s life is considered justice. Whereas Oliver follows a more pragmatic moral code. He explains to Helena, “I only kill people when it is absolutely necessary. It’s not my opening move.”

Courtesy of CW

Courtesy of CW

There’s a blind rage within Helena that has transformed her into an island on to herself. To reach out to her, Oliver relates to how his own selfishness was a destructive force in his past life that resulted in the death of Sara Lance. In an attempt to mold Helena into another version of himself, he begins training her how to use the bow and arrow; however, she lacks the emotional control and discipline required to be a proficient archer.

To demonstrate his brand of justice to Helena the duo takes down an illegal pharmaceutical drug operation without putting innocent lives at risk. Oliver’s endeavor to connect to Helena was succeeding until their paths collide with his ex-girlfriend. It becomes readily apparent to Helena during the dinner conversation that Laurel Lance is Oliver’s one true love. Feeling manipulated and hurt for letting Oliver into her heart, Helena resumes her bloody vendetta; killing the triad leader to provoke retaliation against her mobster father, Frank Bertinelli.

Oliver is not opposed to killing criminals like Mr. Bertinelli, but he saves Helena from crossing a line that she doesn’t fully comprehend the toll it will have on her. To Helena, having her father locked away in prison for a very long time is not her version of justice. She wants the ultimate revenge and threatens to reveal Oliver’s secret identity if he gets in her way; putting a whole new meaning to ‘payback’s a bitch’.

Diggle puts things into perspective like only Diggle can do: Love is not about changing or saving a person. It’s about finding the person that’s already the right fit.

Whether or not Tommy and Laurel are the right fit remains to be seen but the actors do have an undeniable chemistry. Scenes of their burgeoning relationship is strongest when it is interwoven with the central story line, namely Oliver’s. Tommy is an analogue of Oliver; the “Oliver” that did not end up on the remote island of Purgatory. If viewed from that perspective, Tommy’s character arc and relationship troubles do not seem as extraneous.

Courtesy of CW

Courtesy of CW

Overall, Vendetta is the strongest episode of the season so far. The high production value, lighting, and action sequences were all top-notch. Further, the performance by actress Jessica De Gouw appeared more natural in her second episode on the show. Hopefully she will return sooner rather than later.

After reading some other reviews, I’m starting to wonder if my appreciation for this episode is because I had low expectations after last week’s Muse of Fire. If I were to pinpoint viewer’s disdain for this episode is that Oliver and Helena’s relationship happened so fast; it didn’t feel authentic and her acting combined with some of the dialogue made it worse. If Helena was a reoccurring character that we got to know leading up to this two part story, it may have helped. Having said that, I can understand why two lonely people with a shared connection would immediately become attracted to each other.

I did read one review on a popular site and they gave it an A, their highest score for Arrow so far. I wouldn’t rate it as high (I don’t score episodes but if I did, I would be really stingy) but it was a solid episode for me.

What are your overall opinions on this episode and The Huntress? Where do you think the story line of Walter and the notebook will lead to? Do you enjoy the way the show is handling Tommy and Laurel’s relationship?

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Posted on December 6, 2012, in Arrow, Comics, Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. First off, let me just say I’m glad to see you doing Arrow reviews again!

    “What are your overall opinions on this episode and The Huntress?”
    I liked the character, liked the actress, enjoyed the episode. The one thing I didn’t like was her costume. Really hope she’s on again though.

    “Where do you think the story line of Walter and the notebook will lead to?”
    As long as it doesn’t lead to Felicity Smoak’s death I’ll be happy. I love her character and can’t wait until she starts working for Arrow. You know it’s going to happen sooner or later. As for the notebook, maybe Walter’s time on the show is running out?

    “Do you enjoy the way the show is handling Tommy and Laurel’s relationship?”
    Yes. It will make Tommy’s turn to the dark side even better after having his heart broken by her.

    • Thank you very much for the support and commenting!

      My opinion of Huntress changed from ‘Muse of Fire’ to this episode. It might have something to do with a different writer. Or maybe writing reviews helps me to see the character development. I hope she returns as well.

      As for Walter, I also think his days are numbered but he might stick around long enough to unravel the mystery behind Tempest and the identity of the hooded archer. The actor is not credited as a main cast member which is a big hint.

      I actually think Laurel has more chemistry with Tommy than Oliver at this point. I’m looking forward to watching the origin of Tommy and how he gradually turns dark.

      • At the end, did you think she was riding off to Gotham City or was that just me? Something about that scene just gave me that vibe. We’ll see her again but not right away.

        • I’m not really sure where she is going. Perhaps, the show could drop little hints. For example in the background they could have a news report mentioning a motorcycle vigilante striking Bludhaven or something?

  2. I knew by the conclusion of “Muse of Fire” (fun fact: that episode title is derived from the opening lines of “Henry V”…this show loves its Shakespeare) that nothing but disaster was waiting for the relationship between Ollie and Helena. My last semi-serious relationship was built on the same kind of sands…mutual loneliness coupled with bad decision-making. Helena strikes me as being someone Ollie is going to have to bail out later or someone who is really, really going to hurt him for making the call to reveal so much at once. Bottom line, she promises to be nothing but trouble down the road. The speed the relationship happened at is actually NOT that unbelievable, given my own experience. The faster it comes together, the faster it can come apart.

    Walter is in over his head and I suspect that even HE knows that. But, for whatever reason, he can’t look away anymore than the efficient Ms. Smoak. Maybe he realizes that what he doesn’t know CAN hurt him and what he already DOES know (I’d be interested in what he found on that trip to Australia) can get him killed. Only one way out: forward…and it’s no guarantee that he’ll be safe.

    Tommy and Laurel’s relationship is coming along nicely. But that one’s built on every shakier sands than Ollie and Helena’s relationship. As you pointed out, Laurel sooo is not over Ollie, whatever she says. Her whole body language just tells us that it’s Ollie she wants and that Tommy is the closest that she can come right now. When she admits that out loud, look out below.

    Tommy…you’re absolutely right about him being who Ollie would have been had he never wound up on the island. But one of the vibes I’m picking up off the guy is an inner resentment. The reason he blew up at Laurel and why he didn’t initially ask Ollie for help is because he HATES having to depend on others. It’s only a matter of time before it gets worse. He’s making the right noises and the right gestures but he’s not really feeling them. He strikes me as a man who’s still looking for a reward of some kind…out of a sense of entitlement.

    One interesting question that no one seems to be asking aside from Tommy: why DID his dad suddenly decide to cut him off?

    • I was thinking about the origin of the episode title so I’m glad you shared that fun fact. There’s a volatility to Ollie and Helena’s relationship that I think many people can relate to. It burns brightly, then quickly blows out.

      I agree Walter knows he’s asking for trouble either way; his head of security died under suspicious circumstances and he even warns Felicity Smoak. To be in a marriage where his wife has lied to him, embezelled millions of dollars, and salvaged the Queen’s Gambit, it might be considered foolish to turn a blind eye and stop asking questions. He’s knows what happened to his wife’s former husband, could he be next? If he finds out more info, maybe he can hold those secrets as leverage to keep himself alive?

      That’s a good question as to why Tommy’s dad cuts him off. Whatever the case, I do sense an inferiority complex especially when it comes to measuring up against Ollie. What adds salt to his wounds is that the girl he wants to be in a serious relationship with, tries to get him a job – I’m assuming his very first job in his life.

      As always, I appreciate your thoughful comments.

      • In case you’re interested, here’s the full quote that I was talking about: “Oh, for a muse of fire/To ascend the brightest heaven of invention/A kingdom for a stage,/Princes to act,/And monarchs to behold the swelling scene.” Certainly fits with the overall dynamics of everyone involved, yes? Another fun fact: I first read this in a comic book, “Doom 2099” by Marvel, quoted by the writer, John Francis Moore.

        You raise some good points about Walter. Two things he has never struck me as is either foolish or stupid. I personally don’t think that he’s looking for leverage per se. My thought is that he’s looking to do some tumor removal. He holds onto those secrets, the folks he’s got them on may eventually assume that he’s a liability, whatever they told his wife. So…get the intel and decide the right course of action. Another Shakespearean connection comes to mind when I think of Walter: Othello, the Moorish prince who was manuevered into killing his wife thanks to his misplaced trust in Iago.

        Thank you for putting the right term to what Tommy is actually suffering from! I don’t know why it never hit me that an inferiority complex is what this guy has. I’d actually argue that it goes beyond just Ollie (though that’s where the complex finds it heaviest expression). The vibe I keep getting off Tommy is that he feels inferior to nearly EVERYBODY: Ollie’s folks, his dad, Laurel. The one exception is Thea and considering some of her actions, that’s got disaster written all over it. Yeah, it’s fairly plain that this is Tommy’s first job and that he’s getting it from a friend/rival AND the girl he wants to impress is what really makes it sting.

        I keep getting this sense of foreboding as the series goes along…like the real tragedy is just about to begin. Ollie is suffering, yes, but who else is going to pay a heavy price before this is all over? I keep thinking about the body count plays that Will used to right, the kind where most of the cast is dead by the final curtain. Not saying that this is the overall game plan, but Ollie’s return has caused a lot of disruption, not all of it benign. There’s always a bill when you’re trying to pull off the kind of change he’s aiming for.

        • That’s a fantastic quote. Speaking of monarchs, perhaps it’s not a coincidence that that the lead character’s last name is Queen?

          Walter brings a sophisticated presence to the show and when he is absent I notice it. Just to clarify, I don’t think Walter is foolish or that his plan was to gain leverage. To use a Game of Thrones analogy… if Tyrion was in Walter’s predicament it would be interesting to see him play all the angles to stay alive, get info to outmaneuver his opponents and keep three moves ahead of everyone.

          Have you heard about the recent casting for Ollie’s sidekick? I’m looking forward to it but I’m also a bit surprised; perhaps they could have introduced this character for Season 2? Speaking of sense of foreboding, I just hope that nothing happens to Diggle, our current sidekick/associate.

          It would be interesting to see how Oliver’s vision for Starling City with be contrasted with Mr. Merlyn’s master plan and what Oliver is willing to sacrifice to obtain it. I agree there needs to be a price or cost to achieve this.

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