This review contains spoilers.
It’s only been six weeks since Oliver’s horrendous beating from the Dark Archer, but he’s already in peak physical condition demonstrated beautifully by a shirtless training montage at the start of Burned. His mind and his emotions seem to have taken more of a hit than his body, to be honest, and it’s clear that it will take more than a month in the gym to repair his confidence and bruised ego.
This week’s episode is all about Ollie’s internal state, and John Barrowman doesn’t make an appearance at all. The warning has been set and we can fear the next encounter the two of them have, but for now we’re back to villains of the week who are there to mirror Oliver’s own mindset. This time it’s Firefly (originally a Batman villain), a scorned fire-fighter who’s going after others who he believes have done him wrong. He’s a mindless killer driven by a sense of justified vengeance, much like Oliver was when he first returned from the island, and the similarities force our hero to take a good look at his own mission statement.
When Arrow first started, the amount of time Oliver spent justifying his questionable actions was quite startling, and it’s nice to see that the character is being allowed to grow and change this early on. Heroes on TV usually start off righteous, get led astray, and then return to their original quest, but Oliver has had a very different, and frankly quite refreshing, journey so far. Smallville’s dark season (number nine) remains one of my favourites if only for this fact, and I love how immoral the show allows Oliver to be sometimes.
Now that his confidence has been shaken in terms of his vigilantism – an area in which he used to feel relatively safe and secure – the cockiness he held on to in the first half of the season could start to disappear. We see him enjoying the flattering statistics read out on the news and it may be that he wants to start becoming more heroic rather than remain the hunted vigilante forever. Helena showed him how dark things can get if he doesn’t watch himself, and Lynns is just another example of that. The fact that Oliver just stands there and watches his adversary burn tells us that he may soon start saying goodbye to that side of himself.
Elsewhere, Walter’s disappearance seems to be a permanent one considering how deep Moira is tangled up in the organisation’s business. She spends half of the episode wracked with guilt before turning it around at the end, and it’s hard not to feel sorry for a woman who seems to just be in over her head. This is, after all, the second husband she seems to have lost over the same issue. Thea throws another hissy fit over how little attention the rest of her family pay her, but until this character does something interesting I shall remain firmly disinterested in what she has to say.
Of course, some of the soul-searching also leads to epiphanies about his personal life, and Laurel’s words suggest to him that his general unease doesn’t relate to his fear of death, but to his fear of life. If Oliver dies fighting the good fight, his family and friends will have to deal with that loss all over again, and he realises this week that that might not be the most desirable outcome. Kudos to Arrow for wounding their hero enough to make death a real possibility, as it’s interesting for a superhero show to explore the mortality of its central figure in this much depth.
Read Caroline’s review of the previous episode, Year’s End, here.
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