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"... no one can know my secret."
After a week off fighting crime, Arrow returned with a vengeance last night with "Muse of Fire." The CW's superhero series is having a great first season run so far, producing exciting episode after exciting episode, even if it did have a bit of a misstep last time out with "Legacies." That's not to say the installment from two weeks ago was all bad, there were several really great stretches that had Oliver and Diggle squaring off against the Royal Flush Gang (at least, this show's incarnation of the DC villains), however, the moments away from our heroes, and there were many, fell a little flat. Sure, the world of Starling City has to be built beyond just the few crime fighters but Arrow is still looking for the right handle on some of the supporting characters so time spent with them can seem wasted. Or at least make you wish you were back in the main storyline of Oliver's investigation. This week, "Muse of Fire," is not only the series' first two-parter but also does a great job using our hero to expand the world as well as an interesting reveal to bring extraneous threads back into the fold.
"Maybe you should spend a little less time trying to be a hero. You're obviously not very good at it."
"Muse of Fire" opens with Ollie cruising around Starling City on his bike when he gets a phone call from Thea, his nagging sister, reminding him to meet mom for lunch. He arrives just in time to see another motorcyclist hop up on the curb and take a few shots at Moira. The assailant 'misses' and instead kills the man she's talking to but not before suffering a mean concussion. Instead of staying with Moira, Ollie takes off after the helmeted assassin and Stephen Amell once again shows how believable he is when it comes to the role's physicality. He looks fast. Not Tom Cruise fast, really fast. But still, he's unable to nab the killer and receives his fair share of shit about it from little sister. I guess you stay with knocked down mom but getting the license plate seems like a decent second choice, especially since it could save her from future attempts. Except, well, the Detectives (Dad's back!) are quick to inform him that she wasn't the target. It turns out the hit was a success and the man she was talking to has mob ties. Vague mob ties! But before Ollie can fill Dig in or investigate further, we first have to catch up with Tommy and Laurel.
"When I find out who this guy is, he's a dead man."
The scenes between the best friend and the former flame would be a little more interesting if there was some actual progression but it feels like the relationship has been in the same push-pull gear since we first met the characters. It doesn't help that Katie Cassidy is still stiff as a board. I think she thinks that posture and delivery makes her seem more professional but instead it comes across as a woman who doesn't know how to carry herself. Literally. Our female guest star, however, does a great job in her brief amount of time on screen. Jessica De Gouw as Helena Bertinalli aka Huntress brings the physicality and fire needed for the character and I can actual feel some chemistry between the heroes. Right after Ollie vows to not just apprehend but murder the new vigilante, her identity is revealed to us as is her big board. She's got a mission! And so does Ollie, obviously, but that first entails convincing his little sister to skip clubbing and stay home with mom. Thea accepts, probably so she has another reason to bitch but their mom is much more forgiving when it comes to Oliver's secrets. I wonder why.
"If you hurt her, I'll snap your neck."
Tommy drops by to make sure his best friend doesn't mind him taking out his ex and even though it seems like Oliver might be jealous, that is soon erased by his encounter with Helena. That's right, the Huntress is the daughter of this week's villain and she wears really fancy clothes even when just bombing around the house. Good thing too cause she's soon tasked with taking Ollie out to dinner, coincidentally to a place under her father's protection. Mr. Bertinelli was supposed to be the one sweet talking the young Queen for business but he's called away to deal with another one of the episode's guest stars, the return of Kelly Hu as China White. More vague mobsters! This time it's the triad and Bertinelli blames them for the death of his soldier, a misconception that could spark a full on mob war. If only China White tried a little harder to convince him that they had nothing to do with it but nope, she just walks away coyly instead. It turns out that the Detectives are also listening in on the crime syndicates except it isn't really explained how. That was an odd leap but quickly forgotten thanks to the two dinner dates, one interesting and one not so much, that thankfully didn't cross paths.
"That makes two of us."
I couldn't have been the only one assuming that Tommy and Laurel would bump into Ollie and Helena but the two affairs were kept separate, the former far less engaging than the latter. While Tommy is busy cracking lame jokes and having his credit card declined, Oliver is caught up in probably the most honest conversation he's had since returning from the island and we learn some of the reason why Helena is on her crusade (even though it's revealed later that she's been on it since before her fiancé was murdered). With the kids out to dinner, and Thea, well, working the door, the 'well dressed man' played by John Barrowman stops by for an unexpected visit with Moira. Once he's assured that her near death experience didn't waiver her resolve to continue pillaging Starling City, he leaves for a fencing lesson and confrontation with his son. Big reveal! The businessman happens to be Mr. Merlyn! I must say, I did not see that coming and it instantly makes Tommy more interesting. Well done. Meanwhile, Dig (who doesn't get nearly enough screen time this week) pulls Oliver from diner in order to send him on a mission to stop Bertinelli's right hand man from assaulting more innocent people.
"Any attempt on his right hand is going to send you new friend's father on the warpath."
So where is the shakedown taking place? Back inside the restaurant that Ollie just left. And it's nice that he's so close to the events because I didn't really want to watch the bad guy ham it up inside much longer. It was much more enjoyable to see Arrow and Huntress beat a few guys up before he removes her helmet and reveals her identity. Uh oh. Ollie's confused with emotion and for the first time Dig doesn't deliver sound advice. Well, some of it is good - not lying to him - but he's a little off base in his black and white approach to Huntress, especially since he's an accomplice in Arrow's exploits. The other investigators on the case spot Oliver and Helena having dinner when reviewing the surveillance tapes and Detective Dad decides to pay his nemesis a visit to warn him about his dangerous date. Lance is probably once of the most complex characters on the show and I always enjoy Paul Blackthorne's playful delivery. Of course, the warning only serves to fuel Oliver's already intense interest in his fellow crime fighter and he pays her a visit at her fiancé's grave to try and talk things out. Their emotionally charged discussion is cut short with the arrival of the Bertinalli right hand and his kidnapper van.
"Sometimes revenge is justice."
Our heroes, in plainclothes, are taken to a warehouse and secured with some pretty flimsy twist-ties before the rich hand performs his best Bond villain and share with us (and them) the entire backstory and future plan. No surprise, he was the one responsible for killing Helena's fiancé but surprise, she was the one investigating her father all along, not her former lover. I'll overlook the cheap way that both Arrow and Huntress were able to escape their cuffs because, well, they kicked some ass shortly after and, for a moment after telling him that no one can know her secret, I thought she was going to try and kill Oliver so the cutaway way extra suspenseful. Unfortunately, we cutaway to the Detectives expository discussion that only exists to set up the possible mob war for next week which is still better than the following sequence between the burgeoning lovers, Tommy and Laurel. The sentiment continues with the return of Walter to his wife's side and a reconciliation between Oliver and Thea. I'm sure she'll be back to bitching soon enough but she does manage to convince her older brother to finally confide in someone and that someone happens to be a beautiful, albeit angry, young woman who's just getting out of the shower. A little creepy time to break in don't you think Arrow? She didn't seem to mind.
Arrow returns with Episode 8, "Vendetta," next Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.