Monday, March 25, 2013

ARROW: "The Huntress Returns" S1E17 (review)

By PJ Hruschak
So many ladies, so few arrows
You know an episode if going to be a bit dark when it starts in strip club.  This week The Huntress returns (what, you thought the episode name would be a lie?) to make certain her father is not let out of jail early for all the bad things he's done.

Naturally, that means she has to meet up with her masked ex beau, lure him into her evil plans and generally cause a bunch of havoc.

The Hunt is On
Helena "The Huntress" Bertinelli (Jessica De Gouw) has been methodically taking out her father's former cohorts, which naturally puts her on the police radar.

She begins the episode by executing out her father's lawyer - because all mob-related people hang out at strip clubs - which essentially lets everyone know she's in town. Oliver's (Stephen Amell) concern now is that Helena will blow his cover, which she hints at doing multiple times. Seems the police are moving her father to a new jail, which means it is the perfect opportunity to set up a black vehicle chase - vans in this case - and a few on-road explosions.

She eventually gets Tommy (Colin Donnwll) in a rough position, causing Oliver to agree to help her take down her father, even though he thinks it's more murder than justice. When they finally do get to the semi-dramatic van chase sequence, it turns out the police has set her up, with cops popping out of the van instead of her father.

Ollie decides to break her out, which later backfires since they end the episode in a standoff, bow to barrel. The coolest part is that she actually catches his arrow. More on that later.

Ollie is pretty much a ping pong ball this episode, darting between the awkward situation with Tommy who now knows his secret, opening his nightclub (with Tommy), this whole Helena ordeal and trying to keep a girlfriend, a secret identity and so on. The good news is that he and Tommy eventually come to terms with the situation just after the nightclub opens but, unfortunately, right before Huntress nabs Tommy and uses him as leverage against Oliver.

On Flashback Chinese Island, Oliver and Slade Wilson (Manu Bennett) continue sneaking around and peeking at the missile launcher the baddies, lead by Edward Fyers (Sebastian Dunn), have secured and will likely use to start a war. As they are rearranging the explosive to go boom a new way, Oliver plucks the all-important yet tiny and surprisingly easy-to-grab circuit board from the launcher, later using it as leverage to try to get a ride off the island. It's a small series of brief flashbacks that, again, do not tie in to the episode much but kick that back story line down the dirt road a little longer.

Det. McKenna Hall (Janina Gavankar), who is lucky enough to be Ollie's current lady friend of choice, plays the part of arm candy for a bit of the show, donning cop garb later in the show as part of the police sting against Huntress. You'd think that was enough but she shows up at the wrong time, right when Huntress and Hood are taking aim at each other at the house where her father is actually being held. That arrow Huntress caught was Ollie's attempt to take her down which she then takes as a clear message to shoot Det. Hall. By the end of the show, we learn that she's moving to Coast City to undergo rehab since she'll be unable to play cop for a year.

Thea Queen (Willa Holland) has another side story encounter with Roy Harper (Colton Haynes), putting two of DC's Speedys on screen together.

She tries to help him by promising him a job at brother Ollie's new nightclub. After he doesn't show for the job, she pays another visit and is verbally tossed aside by Roy. As she's walking to who knows where in his shady neighborhood, she's jumped by a couple guys who are quickly taken down by a red hooded Roy, who also takes a knife to the gut. That sets up a quick stop at the hospital where he flinches at a needle but gets a distracting Smooch from Thea.

The final side story, likely a setup for a future episode, has Laurel Lance (Katie Cassidy) chatting with mother Dinah Lance (Alex Kingston) about the possibility of sibling Sara being alive instead of drowning during the show's opening sequence each week. Seems some tourist took a picture of a girl who could be her on a Chinese island.

This throws Det. Quentin Lance (Paul Blackthorne) into a tizzy, but that dissipates by the end of the show when he decides he's ready to look into the possibility of her being alive.

Everyone Knows Your Name
This week Arrow really feels like a soap opera. We have the ex girlfriend coming back to make comments about Ollie's lady friends (and ultimately shoot one), a lot of brief scenes with brief story lines, brief lines that are accentuated with slow, thoughty looks and a cliffhanger ending. While that is all not necessarily bad, it does mean that the dialog ratio drastically shift each week.

For example, we barely heard from Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) who says maybe two lines and is brought mostly as a plot prop than for her character. Mother Queen said only one line at the nightclub.

But the biggest thing this week, and perhaps the most frustrating, is how they handle Helena being questioned about the identity of The Hood. When asked, she point blank answers, "Oliver Queen." It seems the writers had an "Uh, oh" moment where they could not unwrite the scene and also could not quite write their way forward. The solution was to have Dets. Lance and Hall misunderstand the direct answer and tell them his identity.

Any viewer would be confused as to why the characters took that as a joke and not her answer. Sure, you can argue that it's so unbelievable that they don't even entertain the thought but there really was not confusion. She said it. Bam.

I understand that heroes' secret identities are a super tricky issue but it seems to really be carefree with this show. So many people are brought into the fold that it's amazing more people have not simply figured it out.

Arrow is also setting up what may become the default DC hero MO: Have a hero, find a sassy sidekick, recruit or otherwise acquire a tech wizard for magic answers, reveal yourself to a best friend and/or family member and amass a hero support group. I know they want to avoid Batman and/or Smallville comparisons but, really, it's a bit on point with both.

Why does Hall have to leave town. Sure, they gave the lame reason of Coast City having the best rehab center but she's a cop. What happened to her job? What, don't they have desk jobs in the DC TV universe? I guess when you date a hero you have to go the most dramatic route possible. And how is it that ace-archer Huntress only hit a femur? It looked like Hall was wearing a bullet-proof vest so, unless it was an unsuitable-for-TV headshot, I guess it had to be elsewhere. And since when does a shot to the femur (ie. the thigh bone) instantly knock someone unconscious? They also glossed over how she got to the hospital (obviously thanks to Ollie, then as Hood). These are the details that are starting to get overlooked so they can squeeze in too many substories.

In any case, this show needs to start reigning in the multiple story lines and characters. Main characters are getting in barely a dozen lines, leaving little room for true development and devolving the roles to melodrama. OK, so it makes for a fast-paced show but it also means it's becoming more a soap opera than an engaging action series.

Bring it in a bit, guys. Just a bit.

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