Back from its winter hiatus, Arrow returns us to Starling City where Oliver (Stephen Amell) has not been the vigilante since his encounter with the “Dark Archer,” revealed to be Tommy’s (Colin Donnell) father, Malcolm Merlyn (John Barrowman). Ollie is in full-on, self pity, mopey mode, ignoring Diggle’s (David Ramsey) assertion he needs to suit up and get out there because the city needs him. In fact, we’re blatantly told via some talking head news show the vigilante has had a direct effect on lowering the number of muggings, robberies, and murders in Starling City. Which is pretty astounding considering we were shown none of this during the season’s first half.
But Ollie is off his game, he can’t even shoot and pierce a tennis ball! Now what trick does he have to impress the ladies!?!
In the Queen mansion, Moira (Susanna Thompson) is doing her best Howard Hughes impression as she’s become a shut-in since Walter’s (Colin Salmon) disappearance. Made all the weirder because she knows who kidnapped Walter and probably feels responsible. Thea (Willa Holland) and Ollie try to cheer her up, but the Queen family is extremely, emotionally stunted. Just listen as Ollie awkwardly suggests getting takeout and watching a DVD. It gets worse when he struggles to pronounce “Galifianakis” in another reminder he was trapped on an island for five years. We get it, how many more painful pop culture references must we sit through?
The episode needs a villain because there must be a crime in order for Ollie to get back in The Hood. Well, actually, no. A call from Laurel (Katie Cassidy) on the secret vigilante iPhone is enough for him to put on the suit and creep into her apartment. She presents him with a case about a fireman who died on the job under suspicious circumstances that she believe is a murder being covered up as an accident. The perpetrator and this week’s bad guy is Arrow‘s attempt at an updated, “more realistic” version of the lame DC villain, Firefly. And I know what you’re thinking, how could it be worse than a pyromaniac dressed as a bug with a flamethrower strapped to his back? Oh, they found a way.
During a horrific fire years earlier, a fireman, Garfield Lynns (Andrew Dunbar), was killed when he refused to leave the building after it was deemed unsafe and the rest of his squad was called out. He demanded reinforcements, which his chief denied, and he was left in the building to die. Of course he didn’t die, but being so terribly burned he was unrecognizable and was labeled a John Doe while in a coma at the hospital. It’s an all right, seek revenge on your surviving company back story until you see him and he is by no means burned beyond recognition. Hell, Oliver is able to narrow down the suspects because when he confronts Lynns he notices the firefly tattoo on the back of his hand signifying him as a member of the Firefly Company. Good thing that didn’t burn off with the rest of his skin. I mean, look at him!
How was this man not identified as Lynns at the hospital is beyond me, and I’m usually pretty forgiving when it comes to suspending my disbelief. Rather than appearing as a horrible burn victim he looks like man who’s had some scar putty smeared on his face. To make it even worse, that scarred side of his face is kept mostly in shadow. I’ve been quite happy with Arrow‘s spin on many classic DC characters, like the Royal Flush Gang and Huntress, but this was dumb. If they were looking for a challenge in updating one of DC’s crappier villains, they only succeeded in making him even dumber.
Pretty terrible villain and criminal plot aside, “Burned” had its stronger moments, too. Laurel, for one, wasn’t completely useless. We see some that of determination and stubbornness we associate with Dinah, Black Canary, as Laurel investigates the case and disobeys her father seeking out the assistance of The Hood. Though, she does come off a little like the scolded child when her father, Detective Lance (Paul Blackthorne) finds out she’s stolen the secret vigilante iPhone. And she manages to somehow not realize Ollie answers his phone when she calls The Hood, even though they’re about 20 feet away from one another. So she’s not perfect, but there was some growth this episode. Unlike Tommy, whose role has become to throw the party that all necessary characters attend come the end of the episode to better serve the climax. Guess it’s not a bad job.
For Oliver, this episode was all about coming to terms with facing death and having people you care about in your life. Something he didn’t have to worry about as he struggled to survive on the island. It’s the fear of what his death would mean to those closest to him that’s had him resisting The Hood. But after several heart to hearts with Diggle, including a friendly bro-fight, Diggle convinces him having people he loves doesn’t make him weaker, but rather stronger. It gives him something to fight for. And here, we have the episodes message, Ollie learns to be a hero not just a vigilante. Something the show makes sure you don’t miss by having that same newscaster from earlier blatantly state it on television.
Ollie’s got his confidence back, Moira leaves the house after a pep talk from Thea to become the new CEO of Queen Industries – a dicey decision if you ask me, considering what happened to the two previous CEOs – and Detective Lance allows Laurel to keep the secret vigilante iPhone, essentially turning her into Arrow‘s version of Jimmy Olson. Oh! And he’s bugged the phone in order to finally catch The Hood, because even though he sort of saved the day, he still can’t be trusted.
Next week THE LIST is back and Ben Browder guest stars! Arrow airs Wednesday nights at 8pm on the CW.