"... the man in the hood has been a positive force in this city so where has he been for the past six weeks?"
After about a month away from fighting crime, Arrow finally returned to The CW last night with "Burned." The events of "Year's End" are not far from Oliver's mind, however, as the scars, yes even more scars, continue to heal and haunt him after his run in with the 'Archer' aka Malcolm Merlyn. That's right, the 'Hood' isn't the only masked man working in Starling City's shadows and now that there's another colored character sporting a bow and quiver maybe the all important TV news will finally dub him Green Arrow? Wishful thinking and probably a question better answered in another installment because this episode is all about fear, flashbacks and fiery revenge. Oliver needed something to force him our of his self-imposed hiatus, well, besides the network schedule, so cue Firefly and a cry for help from Laurel. You know what they say, you play with matches, you get...
”Back at fighting weight, looks like. Last i checked there were more than a few names to cross off in this book.”
“Burned” didn’t skip a beat before throwing us right into the action, well, besides the much needed ‘previously on’ segment (like I said, it’s been a while since we visited Starling City) and the cold-open introduced us to this week’s, uh, hot villain. Garfield hates Mondays! Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. At this point, the only thing that’s clear is that this former freighter is out for vengeance and the scene is pretty intense as the antagonist watches (and us through his reflective mask) his victim burned to death in the already burning building. You think if you were out for blood, you’d want to make more of a statement and not be so concerned with making the murders look like on the job accidents. Eventually he does make a big statement but that’s only because Ollie and Tommy stupidly provided him with irresistible bait. I keep skipping ahead. While the unknown pyro-centric villain is toasting firemen, Oliver is back in the club’s basement trying to work out is demons.
"Hello? I need your help."
Not only do we get flashbacks to his time on the island, almost always welcome in my book, but also see how he keeps replaying the ass-kicking at the hands of the Black Archer over and over in his mind. Dig does his best to try and break the spell (I like how his character is kind of whatever Oliver needs him to be, pushing him when he's timid or reigning him in when he's crossed a line) but at this point it's no use, our hero is way to wrapped up in his own head. I mean, double flashbacks! The brief snippet of island life shows Ollie and his mentor get ambushed by Deathstroke and the mysterious mercenaries with only the former able to make an escape. While Ollie is scared to act, we catch up with Laurel and Jo only to find out that the fireman who died was the annoying and up-till-now irrelevant (and soon to be irrelevant again) co-worker's brother. Bring on the tears and the 'this is personal' aspect of the case for Laurel.
"He took whatever is in your heart that lets you jump off buildings and take down bad guys."
The last thread winding though "Burned" has to do with Walter's disappearance, which takes the form of a grieving (and secretly guilt-ridden) wife and her kids trying desperately to get her out of the house. Luckily, a job as CEO of Queen Industries has opened up. Of course she doesn't initially want it since moping around a mansion is awesome but once Thea delivers the zinger of the night (you know, I'm your mom or something like that) it finally puts a fire under her butt and get's her into her kidnapped husband's job. Since Thea is doing most of the emotional heavy lifting at home, that frees up Ollie to be wishy-washy about handling this latest case, which officially becomes an investigation once Jo drops by Laurel's with some interesting information. Why don't the police want to investigate? Well, Backdraft taught us that firemen have their own cops which means there is only one way to handle things in Laurel's eyes. Fortunately for her, she discovered the existence of the Bat-phone... Arrow-phone... aPhone a few seconds ago and can place a direct call to the vigilante for help.
"Maybe you go it backwards Oliver, you think the people you let in have taken your edge, I think it gives you one. Maybe a stronger one even. You can stare down death with something to live for or not... Something to live for is better."
If there's one person (sorry Dig) who could push Oliver our of his funk, it's Laurel and her call inspires him to at least put on the suit and pay her a visit. After he cuts the power and makes it all sexy-like. Laurel's plea for help doesn't get his gears fully rotating though, as he hands the case off to Dig (who is HUGE) who in turn should hand off any leads to the cops even though we already established they don't handle fireman crimes. I loved the confrontation between Ollie and Dig, especially the line about how he was ready with the slow down speech. It's around this point that Tommy yells at some non-existent contractors and then devises the genius plan of putting all the firefighters in one place while there is a lunatic out there burning them alive. Someone needs to swift kick his still stupid ass. It doesn't take long for Detective Dad to notice that the aPhone is missing and he confronts Laurel with the same old speech about not having to go outside the law and how terrible it is to lie to your family. Hm. This from the man who ends up using his daughter.
”I know. You’re afraid to live.”
While Thea continues to play clean up with mom, Dig pulls Oliver away to investigate the first real lead in the Firefly case but once again the hero tries to shy away from donning the hood. After a bit of convincing, not to mention a flashback to where a frightened Ollie is failing to make a fire while being hunted by a random merc, he decides to face the fiery villain as Arrow and, uh, things don't go so well for anyone involved. Not only did another fireman perish in the flames but Garfield makes pretty short work of Oliver before successfully escaping. To his credit, Arrow does manage to spot a few significant clues like the tattoo and burns but the encounter took it's toll. You can tell because he's sitting on the floor and hasn't changed out of his gear. Sadface. Another flashback to his first island fight is interrupted by Laurel's call and he decides to simply pass off the intel instead of pursuing the leads on his own. Dig overhears how he's putting all of it on Laurel's shoulders and basically calls him out as a whining punk. Simple question, does he want to be a vigilante or not?
"No. We go hunting."
"Burned" is one of the more linear episodes of Arrow to date in that we stay with Ollie on his crusade for the majority of the episode and even when the supporting players enter the fray the do so largely to interact with out now tentative hero. Yes, tentative. Fear and guilt are strong themes running through the tenth installment with more than just present Oliver having to cope with the emotional adversity and get back in the saddle. Same goes for Moira, although I'm sure mommy's mind is more weighed with guilt than fear (certainly the second exists, her loveably stern British husband is missing... Do I smell the first season finale?) but she's still battling similar demons as is island Oliver. It was pretty rad to see him all suited up at the end, keys and map in hand, the hunted perhaps becoming the hunter, right before Arrow announced it's hunting season at episode's end. In light of Oliver's renewed sense of purpose, not to mention how well the supporting cast seems to be developing, how could you not be excited for the second half of Season 1?
Arrow returns with Episode 11, "Trust But Verify," next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.