Sometimes a specific episode of a television show comes along and causes us to sit back in satisfied awe at the wonder we have witnessed. These are the episodes we refer to as classic without any trace of hyperbole. Arrow’s “Vendetta” is one such episode.
THE SERIES: Arrow
THE EPISODE: “Vendetta”
It was easy to write off CW’s latest foray into the superhero realm, Arrow. It featured an almost too good-looking for words leading man (and his abs, which are on display…um… constantly) and featured a character that had been
used wasted on Smallville, the series that turned me off of CW-DC shows for what I thought was all time.
It took much prodding from my fellow We Minored in Film co-writer, Kelly and quite a few favorable reviews before I bought a few episodes from Amazon, watched them immediately, then bought every other episode and proceeded to watch them all in the span of three days. So, to all the show’s defenders: you were right, and I was wrong. Arrow owes more to Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins and its dark, real-world based Gotham City (except here, it’s Starling City) than it does the blandly unsatisfying Smallville.
Based on the DC superhero the Green Arrow, Arrow tells the story of Oliver Queen, a billionaire golden boy of Starling City who was stranded on an island and came back an arrow-shooting vigilante, known mainly as “The Hood.” Much of the first season centers around Oliver’s shifting from the cold-blooded vigilante to the hero who will eventually become known as Green Arrow. While I was tempted to pick the series finale, in which crazy, crazy stuff goes down, I decided to pick the first episode in which the show demonstrated how strong it could be: “Vendetta,” in which Oliver recognizes there are lines he will no longer cross, because he meets someone who will cross them.
(From this point on, SPOILERS are present. Read at your own risk. You’ve been warned.)
In the previous episode, Oliver (Stephen Amell) met Helena (Jessica De Gouw), a vigilante on a quest of her own. Her father, a powerful mob boss, had her husband murdered because he believed he was about to turn over evidence against him. In fact, it was Helena who was planning on turning over evidence against him, but her father still doesn’t know that. At that episode’s conclusion, Helena, aware of his secret identity, comes to Oliver and they fall into bed together.
This episode opens with Oliver trying to pursue a romance with Helena, while trying to keep her from losing herself in her vengeance quest. Diggle (David Ramsey), Oliver’s body guard, warns him that she can’t be saved, but Oliver believes she can, even going so far as to attempt to train her in the art of archery. For a while, it seems as though Helena may be willing to adapt her ways to Oliver’s way of thinking. He takes her to the grave of Laurel’s sister, the girl he with whom he cheated on Laurel, explaining how he once hurt those he loved most because he made selfish choices.
Check out the scene below:
She seems willing to go along with this, until an awkward foursome dinner with Laurel and Tommy convinces her that Oliver will never not be in love with Laurel.
Meanwhile, Laurel (Katie Cassidy) attempts to convince Tommy (Colin Donnell), Oliver’s best friend and her current boyfriend, to ask Oliver to let the two of them go into business together, because Tommy’s father froze his finances. When Laurel brings it up at dinner, thinking Tommy has already asked, Tommy lashes out at her and ends their relationship. However, he eventually apologizes and tells her he’s just afraid of losing her.
Check out a clip of Laurel and Tommy below:
Helena, still on a rampage, rebels against Oliver’s advice, once again donning her Huntress persona, then takes it upon herself to take out several of her father’s allies, and then proceeds to attempt to take out her father.
Oliver stops her, giving her father a chance to shoot her. Oliver is able to save her life, and gets her father sent to jail via information stored on a laptop, but she lashes out at him, promising to reveal his secret if he doesn’t leave her alone.
As the episode draws to a close, Diggle point out that Oliver has taken a big step, letting someone into his life, and it shows how much he’s grown as a person. As if to drive that point home, Tommy arrives at Oliver’s house, finally asking to work for Oliver in his new nightclub venture. Oliver happily agrees, and the two discuss that although he and Helena had a falling out, Oliver will probably see her again.
Why I Love this Episode:
For me, “Vendetta” was the first time Arrow revealed how brilliant it could be. The stuff going on with Tommy and Laurel, as well as Oliver’s step-father, Walter, and his investigations with Felicity into his wife’s affairs is fine, but it’s the shifting dynamic between Oliver and Helena that drives this episode to greatness. It broods and meditates on the nature of a vengeance-driven superhero and demonstrates who Oliver could become (and, to some extent, who he was as the series beginning) if he loses Diggle as his moral compass and his sense of justice.
The previous episode ends with Oliver and Helena, two extremely damaged souls reaching out to one another. This episode continues to demonstrate how damaged and haunted both individuals are. The difference is Oliver is beginning to change, letting people like DIggle and Helena into his life. while Helena works to shut out emotional connections. It’s why Helena turns against Oliver so quickly when she learns about his history with Laurel. Her willingness to let Oliver in is precariously balanced and the slightest upset will topple her completely, and all it takes is this one strained dinner to shatter their illusion of contentment. Helena overreacts, as their no indication (except decades of DC comics) that Oliver is anything but committed to Helena. It simply shows that she’s too emotionally imbalanced to accept Oliver’s help.
It takes DIggle to get the truth out of Oliver. It’s not that Oliver couldn’t see that Helena was too far into the darkness to come back. He didn’t want to see that. In perhaps my favorite moment of the episode, we see a glimpse into Oliver’s interior thoughts, and it’s probably the reason I chose to focus on this episode above all others. He’s given up a lot to become the Vigilante. He keeps his family and friends emotionally distant from him and keeps himself from reconnecting with them. He thought he could save her, because the world owed him that moment, but he sees now she’s too far over the edge to be pulled back to safety. He’s going to lose her, and there’s nothing he can do about it. She’s the Catwoman to his Batman. Both are standing on two different sides of a line, each beckoning the other to cross, but neither are willing to so do. It wasn’t too long ago that Oliver may have had no real problem with what Helena was doing (after all, he was fine with killing a man in cold blood to protect his secret), but he seems worlds away from that side of his persona now.
Now, he wants to save someone from becoming the person he was not too long ago. He has grown as a person, and the fact that he has kept DIggle in his inner circle and was willing to engage in a romance with someone (even if it didn’t exactly go well) speaks to how far he has come. Being a hero doesn’t mean he can save everyone, and Helena was a casualty long before Oliver attempted to help her. Lost causes and victims of battles not fully understood are issues that will pop up time and again in Arrow’s first season, anad the more they do, the greater Arrow becomes.
Arrow is available to purchase on the usual streaming sites, and Season 2 premieres on Oct. 9 and Season 1 will be released on DVD/ Blu-ray Sept. 17.
So, what do you think? Are you a fan of Arrow? Is there another episode you think we should cover? Another series at which you want us to look? Let us know in the comments!
Also, take a moment to check out some of our other Arrow-related content on the site:
- The Burden of Canon: Can We Talk About Arrow’s Oliver, Laurel & Felicity Problem?
- Arrow’s Producer Clarify Flash Spin-Off Confusion: Yes, “Powers” Are Being Introduced Into the Show
- Back in a Flash: Barry Allen to Be Introduced on Arrow to Set-Up a Flash Spin-Off Show
- Arrow Casts New Actress as Black Canary. Confused? The Exec. Producer Explains
- Comic-Con: Arrow Reveals Two 2 D.C. Characters, Confirms Black Canary & Shows Footage from the Season 2 Premiere
- Arrow EP: Season 2 to be Oliver’s Transition from “The Hood” to Green Arrow