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Arrow: 117 “The Huntress Returns” Review

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Reviewed by Phil Boothman.

More and more, it seems as though the latter part of this first season of Arrow is concerned with contriving situations in which characters that have previously appeared in the show return to some kind of dramatic effect. In the previous episode it was Deadshot, this week it’s Helena Bertinelli, also known as the Huntress, also known as Oliver’s old flame and a certified psychopath.

It turns out she’s back in town to kill her father, Frank Bertinelli, who has cut a deal to go into witness protection instead of prison. After asking for Oliver’s help, which he naturally refuses, she goes the more direct route and breaks Tommy’s wrist, introducing the episode’s theme of using leverage to achieve your goals. Oliver agrees to help, and identifies the vehicles being used to transport Frank to his court hearing: unfortunately, as there are two vans they have to take one each, leaving Helena plenty of opportunity to kill her dad without Oliver’s interference.

Oliver takes out his own empty van and heads off to stop Helena, but the police arrive in time to do that for him. They arrest Helena and take her in for questioning, mostly to find out the identity of the Hood: she tells them almost immediately that it’s Oliver Queen, but of course they don’t believe her. However, she does turn her forked tongue to McKenna Hall, telling her that her relationship with Oliver is doomed because he ‘uses people’, even going so far as to reference Detective Lance’s daughters in her little ‘Oliver Queen sucks’ speech.

However, in an attempt to keep his secret identity secret, Oliver busts into the police station and busts Helena out, giving her a plane ticket and telling her to get out of the country. She prefers to find Felicity, whom she bumped into in the Arrowcave while she was beating up Tommy, and get her to hack into the FBI database to find the safe house Frank is being held in.

She finds it and storms the place, taking out what must be a dozen guards with the help of her crossbow, before Oliver makes an appearance and fights Helena while a faceless extra in an orange jumpsuit flees the scene, and here is the problem with the episode: Jeffery Nordling, for me the best part of the Helena Bertinelli mini-arc, does not appear as Frank Bertinelli. I couldn’t help but feel that the episode would have been improved with a real face-off between Helena and her father, particularly with the understated performance of Nordling in the role of Frank.

However, the absence of Nordling shifts the focus on to the relationship between Oliver and Helena, and they have a pretty intense showdown: after a brief stand-off, Oliver shoots an arrow right at Helena’s chest.

And she catches it.

This was a great moment: aside from being a breathtaking moment of action, it really showed the evolution of Helena as an opponent from the slightly erratic, single-minded combatant of her first appearance to a slick, highly-trained killing machine. The fact that the arrow-grab is a move only visibly performed by Bill Wintergreen on the island before now only emphasises how formidable Helena has become.

Anyway, Helena tries to distract Oliver with the big sad eyes before pouncing and attacking him. Oliver wins the scuffle, but McKenna has the misfortune of turning up and being on the receiving end of a shotgun blast from Helena, who runs off while Oliver attends to McKenna. I get the distinct feeling that the next time we see Helena, Oliver is going to be squarely in her sights along with her father and it probably won’t end well.

McKenna ends up in hospital, and tells Oliver that she’s moving to Coast City (home of Green Lantern in DC Comics), and leaves Oliver alone again. I can’t say I’m too disappointed to see her go, as their relationship always seemed like something of a non-starter, but her departure is bound to affect Oliver in upcoming episodes, which could prove interesting.

In other news, after she turned up out of the blue last week, Laurel’s mother meets with Laurel and Quentin about her insistence that Sarah could still be alive. It turns out she has a map of where the ship crashed, showing a chain of islands, along with a photograph of a woman who looks an awful lot like Sarah. She asks Quentin to look into it, and although he initially refuses, he eventually relents, possibly spurred on by Helena’s jibes about his daughters.

In news even further removed from the main plot, Thea has another little run-in with handsome scumbag Roy: she bumps into him, they trade a few barbs about being alternately rich and a criminal, and then he saves her from some muggers with amazing parkour skills, albeit getting stabbed along the way. She takes him to a hospital with the most sarcastic doctor ever, and kisses him to distract him from the big syringe the doctor jabs in him. You can practically hear the doctor’s eye-roll at those crazy kids.

However, in a brief trip to the island, Oliver and Slade manage to steal a circuit board from the missile launcher Fyers has set up, and call him to arrange a trade: the circuit board for a way off the island. I’m thoroughly enjoying the increasing camaraderie between Oliver and Slade, and it’s bound to only improve from here after the recent news of Manu Bennett’s promotion to series regular for season two.

Verdict: 7/10

Helena injects a refreshing dose of crazy the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Count some weeks ago, but the episode isn’t without its problems: the absence of Jeffery Nordling aside, the subplots never really gained any momentum and felt, like so many other elements of this show, like filler.

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