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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