Arrow: 108 “Vendetta” Review
Reviewed by Phil Boothman.
For a show ostensibly about superheroes, none of the episodes thus far in Arrow’s first season have felt particularly ‘super’. That is, until “Vendetta”, which documents Helena’s transformation into someone more closely resembling her comic book counterpart, the anti-heroine known as the Huntress.
The episode opens with Oliver and Helena in bed together, although their post-coital slumber doesn’t last long, as Helena gets up and heads out to do some killing. She is about to shoot China White (of the Triad, and possibly one of the least memorable recurring characters in the show), when Oliver intervenes and causes the Triad to flee, albeit while firing every bullet they own in Oliver and Helena’s general direction.
Oliver then engages Helena in an ethical discussion about which one of them has the more just crusade, with Oliver defending his method by telling her that he only kills when he absolutely has to, not as a first resort. Helena doesn’t take this lecture too well, and leaves after a scathing rejection of both Oliver and his methods.
Oliver deals with the rejection the way he deals with everything: by working out in ways so punishing they wore me out just by watching them, and then he takes Helena to look at Sarah Lance’s grave. He reels off some familiar excuses about the ‘person he used to be’, how he hurt people and his time on the island changed him. The excuses clearly work on Helena, as the next scene is a fun one in which Oliver attempts to teach Helena how to use a bow.
She is understandably bad at archery, calling it ‘the least efficient way to shoot someone’, and the lesson devolves into Helena throwing coffee cups and other Arrowcave paraphernalia into the air and letting Oliver shoot arrows through them, finishing with him overzealously shooting a tennis ball right out of her hand. It was particularly enjoyable to see Oliver having fun with his talents, and made him feel a little less like Batman and a little more like Spider-man, which was refreshing in a show seemingly obsessed with its own grittiness.
However, Dig breaks up the party and warns Oliver, for the second time in the episode, that Helena is bad news and he doesn’t trust her, but Oliver pays him no heed and heads out on a drug bust with the Huntress, who is equipped with a Queen-funded purple leather coat and mask, and a crossbow instead of her guns. The action in this sequence is frenetic, and would be the best fight scene in the season thus far, if it wasn’t for a moment later in this very episode; naturally Oliver and Helena win and share a rooftop smooch as the cops take the drug pushers away.
Unusually for me, I’m going to handle one of the subplots in the midst of the main plot, for the sole reason that it is at this point in the episode that the two overlap. So, Tommy is still attempting to have a relationship with Laurel, and to that end he risks going completely bankrupt to take her to an obscenely expensive restaurant. However, while they are waiting for their table who should turn up but Oliver and Helena, and thus ensues a rather awkward double date. Laurel asks Oliver to give Tommy a job, Helena realises that Laurel is Sarah’s sister who Oliver was ‘getting serious with’, and everyone storms off leaving Oliver to pay the bill. This scene would hardly be noteworthy, but for the fact that, in the comic books, Helena as the Huntress and Laurel as her superhero persona ‘Black Canary’ are a well-known duo called the ‘Birds of Prey’, thus making their respective dagger-staring rather exciting for a geek like me.
However, Helena runs off and kills the Triad boss, telling the lone survivor of her massacre that Frank Bertinelli did it, and seemingly immediately China White and some Triad goons retaliate, attacking Bertinelli’s house. Oliver and Helena join in, with Oliver taking China White down with an arrow to the knee (couldn’t resist) and Helena shooting her dad in the back. The action in this entire sequence is faultless, capturing the fast pace and the chaos of a large-scale gunfight, and then the ensuing fistfight between Oliver and Helena acting as a neat little topper. However, Frank ruins it by shooting Helena in the back with her own crossbow.
Back in the Arrowcave, Oliver fixes Helena up and tells her that her father is going to be in prison for the rest of his life, and that is justice enough. She tells him she doesn’t agree, and storms out, sneakily hanging onto the funky new gear Oliver equipped her with.
The episode closes with Tommy finally summoning the courage to ask Oliver for a job in his nightclub, Laurel telling Tommy that she likes him better now he’s no longer a billionaire, and Dig commending Oliver for opening up and trusting someone, something that the Oliver Queen he first met wouldn’t have done, and the two share a really nice moment which makes them feel like genuine friends rather than unlikely ‘associates’. Meanwhile, Helena drives off into the night on a motorbike which, judging by her previous form, was probably given to her by Oliver, and Oliver suggests that he will ‘be seeing her again’.
In other news, Walter digs a little deeper into Moira’s secrets with the help of the brilliantly snarky Felicity Smoake, and swiftly discovers her own copy of the List, with a little help from the company’s Applied Sciences division, which I assume is a sly reference to Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the assistance the Applied Sciences division of Wayne Enterprises offers Batman. There’s nothing much of note in this subplot, although it does set up some interesting conflict between Walter and Moira in the near future.
How you feel about “Vendetta” is probably dependent on what you think Arrow should be: if you want it to be a gritty, realistic vigilante show which happens to have superheroes as a base, there’s every chance you’ll have hated this episode; however, if you want it to embrace the campness of comic books and run with it then it’s entirely likely that you will have thoroughly enjoyed it. Personally, I fall into the latter camp, and while I am aware of the plot holes and questionable ethics in this episode, I nonetheless had a blast watching it.
An episode which stands up to the high standard set by last week’s, albeit in a very different manner: it was daft but fun, with some excellent action and a few shifts in tone which made Arrow feel a little less like a show riding on the waves created by The Dark Knight, and more like something new and refreshing.