Stars: Stephen Amell, Katie Cassidy, Paul Blackthorne, Colin Donnell, Susanna Thompson, Colin Salmon, Willa Holland
Writers: Teleplay by Geoff Johns & Marc Guggenheim, story by Andrew Kreisberg
Director: David Grossman
Network: The CW, airs Wednesday Nights
Original Telecast: November 28, 2012
This week’s episode of ARROW reveals that there are families in Starling City far more dysfunctional than the Queens. In the opening sequence, Moira Queen, (Susanna Thompson), the Queen family’s sturdy matriarch, finds herself caught in the crossfire of another family’s internal dissention, and narrowly escapes being gunned down outside her office building. The business associate she was arguing with at the time is not so lucky. Her son Oliver, (Stephen Amell), who also moonlights as a bow-and-arrow wielding, hooded vigilante, witnesses the helmeted assassin speed off on a motorcycle and gives chase, but isn’t quite able to catch them. That sets in motion the events of “Muse of Fire,” a taught, interesting episode that works because it returns to one of ARROW’s favorite themes, the damaging legacy left by bad fathers, and it deepens some of its characters in the process.
Oliver’s investigation of his mother’s brush with death reveals that she was not the intended target of the assassin’s bullet. The business associate was connected to the Bertenelli crime family, and someone has been knocking off Frank Bertenelli’s, (Jeffrey Nordling’s), underlings one by one. To find out who, Oliver decides to get closer to the mob boss by pretending to accept the deal Bertenelli had been previously offering his mother, (something about taking over a division of Queen Industries), and goes to the Bertenelli household under false pretenses to seal the fake deal.
In a clunky scene earlier involving a motorcycle helmet worn indoors for a comically long time, we learn that the assassin is (surprise!) a young, beautiful woman. And it’s also not a great surprise when, at Frank Bertenelli’s house, we learn that this beautiful young woman is Bertenelli’s own daughter, Helena, (Jessica DeGouw).
Side note #1: Apparently this character’s vigilante alter ego is called “The Huntress,” but, in the same way nobody calls Oliver’s vigilante anything beyond “The Hood Guy,” we don’t actually hear anyone call her “The Huntress,” so I won’t be calling her “The Huntress” either. Of all the comic book conventions that become an albatross in a live action adaptation, apparently it was decided that identifying the superhero by name is the biggest one, and hence Anne Hathaway never really gets to be “Catwoman,” in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, either.
Side note # 2: This decision is probably the correct one if we’re talking about preserving suspension of disbelief, since grown, non-animated adults don’t tend to refer to each other as “The Huntress” or “Arrow” in conversation, and I would snicker if they were doing so as much as the next person. But, still – is she really “The Huntress” then, CW?
In any event, Frank Bertenelli is called away from his meeting with Oliver to a meeting with the leader of the Triad, returning DC Comics super-villain China White, (Kelly Hu), (who I will actually call China White because there is no other way to identify her). To make up for the inconvenience, Frank offers to send his daughter to dinner with Oliver to help seal the business arrangement between their families. Helena then reveals how much antipathy she has for her dad when she accuses him of “pimping out his daughter” in this way, and Frank must assure her that she’s only going to dinner with Oliver to represent their family’s business interests. But Helena discovers she has no such antipathy for Oliver while at dinner, as the two get along swimmingly. The dialogue between them at dinner is well written and moving, as the two tortured scions of corrupt empires recognize their similarities and discuss the burden of expectations placed on them by their family name, and how much they want to escape them.
In a scene that parallels the dinner between Oliver and Helena, Oliver’s best friend Tommy (Colin Donnell) and Oliver’s ex-girlfriend Laurel, (Katie Cassidy), also share their first official date together. Their scene is similarly well written, and it’s intriguing because we’ve already seen Tommy tell Oliver about his intentions with Laurel and watched Oliver take it well. This clears the way for Oliver’s impending doomed romance with Helena, (which will be more exciting than this particular love triangle), and also provides a path to another nice reveal about a terrible father. After dinner, Tommy’s credit card is declined. Tommy goes the next day to his wealthy father to ask why his assets have been frozen, and we learn that Tommy’s father, (John Barrowman), is, in fact, the “Well-Dressed Man” character who has been tormenting Moira Queen for several episodes, and is the central figure in the conspiracy that consumed Oliver’s father. We also learn that he’s ashamed of his son Tommy and isn’t opposed to telling him so to his face, which hits hard since we’ve seen Tommy be a decent guy recently, and no one deserves to hear their father call them “a joke.”
Towards the episode’s climax we finally learn that Helena’s beef with her father’s employees started when one of them killed her fiancé at her father’s behest, and she wants them all to pay for it, one-by-one. This sounds like the kind of thing Oliver would get behind, but once the two of them learn each other’s secret identities and agendas, Oliver takes pains to point out that her desperate quest for revenge doesn’t occupy the same moral high ground as his bloody quest to avenge his father’s crimes, even though it basically does, and they’re mirror images of each other. His dismissal of her actions as dangerous and misguided doesn’t prevent him from falling into her arms at the end of the episode, though, which is as it should be. Clearly these two need each other to take the edge off of leading their lonely, violent secret lives.
My only complaint about “Muse of Fire” has to do with its action sequences. The martial arts choreography wasn’t that bad, but if you’re going to present us with two principal characters zip-tied to a chair, waiting to be beaten or tortured by some thugs… well, let’s think about this a bit. We understand that they’re going to get out of the chair and defeat the thugs. But you do have an obligation to show us how they break through those zip-ties. I don’t accept a couple of close-ups of hands struggling against their restraints, followed by the snapping of zip-ties, to be an adequate solution to this problem. Details like these in the action sequences deserve to be more than an afterthought, but they don’t seem to be in “Muse of Fire.” Still, if this is the only thing that’s bugging me at the end of the episode, ARROW did some nice work this week.
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Article: TV Review: ARROW – Season 1 – “Muse of Fire”