This week's episode of Arrow, "Muse of Fire" was directed by David Grossman with story by Andrew Kriesberg and teleplay by Geoff Johns and Marc Gugenheim. The episode is another finely crafted one with multiple story arcs interweaving and re-enforcing the main theme: what people become when they are forced to go through something life-altering, especially a near-death experience. While the episode had its share of great action sequences and a few big reveals, it was most interesting to me for how much insight we got into Oliver and how difficult his path has become. The episode also marks the introduction of The Huntress played by Jessica De Gouw who helps to illuminate Oliver for us.
The episode begins with Moira almost being killed. Oliver's first instinct is to protect his family by removing the threat. Unfortunately, Moira and Thea are both less than impressed that he took off, leaving Moira hurt on the sidewalk. It's clear that Oliver is hurt that his family thinks the worst of him, keeping his secret is driving a wedge between him and his family. Stephen Amell continues to do an outstanding job at slowly giving us glimpses of the man behind the secret. It's important to watch every bit of his coverage as there are flashes of what's going on under the surface which can be easy to miss because they are so subtle. Diggle points out that Oliver is also cutting himself off emotionally and not dealing with his mother getting hurt. Oliver pretty clearly views his own emotions as a weakness - something we know was re-enforced in him by his experiences on the Island. It's also not hard to see that he is trying to protect himself from having to live through the pain he experienced when he lost his father.
Helena quickly identifies the Island as Oliver's crucible. A crucible is defined as either a severe test of patience or belief or it is a vessel used for heating materials at high temperatures. The link between the definitions and Oliver should be clear - forging something new under severe conditions. Helena has also been changed by a severe occurrence: her father murdering her fiance.
This theme comes up again when the Well-Dressed-Man comes by to see Moira after her accident. He wants to make sure she hasn't lost her "conviction" for the future of Starling City. He tells her "a brush with death can change your deepest held convictions." He intimates that Richard had lost his conviction after a brush with death. This may mean that Robert had had a brush with death and a change of heart before the boat accident, and that's what lead to the Well-Dressed-Man and Moira conspiring to have the boat sunk. However, Moira did look a bit frightened rather than stalwart in her convictions when he left. John Barrowman is doing a wonderful job being quietly menacing and creepy. Interestingly, Moira also explains to Thea that Dr Lam had told her that "the Oliver we'd lost might not be the Oliver that they had found." She goes on to say that they need to remember he was alone on the Island and apart from civilization for five years and they need to stop judging him for the Oliver that he was and accept him for the Oliver that he is. If both Moira and Thea start really looking at Oliver, they may discover that he isn't the man he was but the hero he is trying to be.
One other character is about to find out what he's made of by going through his own crucible: Tommy Merlyn. Tommy and Laurel's date is a nice mirror to Oliver and Helena's. With the addition of Helena, the decision to put Tommy and Laurel together makes a lot more sense, as well. Tommy tells Laurel that he wishes they could have a fresh start, that he wishes their date was their first one so they were just beginning and there wasn't so much of him he wishes she'd forget. The episode's big reveal, of course, is that the Well-Dressed-Man is actually Tommy's father. We learn this when Tommy goes to find out what happened to his trust fund and learns that his father has cut him off. I wondered why Tommy didn't just fund Laurel's legal clinic himself last week, and this would seem to answer that question - if had, she would be in financial trouble again. Tommy goes to Laurel and she tells him that he's going to be fine. She obviously has faith in him and who he might become if he is forced to stand on his own.
Helena is another rich kid, stuck with her family and what that family makes others think of her. She is
remarkably perceptive, however, and quickly identifies with Oliver, who is also judged based on his past and who his family is. She asks him about the Island and he admits that he misses the feeling of being free from those preconceptions. Oliver is surprised by her perception and is drawn to her. He admits it's nice to be with someone who he can be himself with and she replies that it's nice to be with someone who knows how hard that can be. Their exchange comes to fruition by the end of the episode when they are truly and completely able to be themselves with each other. While the relationship seems to get very serious awfully quickly, it doesn't seem completely forced when you consider how lonely Oliver is and how much emotional baggage the two have in common. Thea recognizes how lonely Oliver is and encourages him to share his secrets with someone. It almost seems at the end that he is about to talk to Moira but he finds her with Walter who has just returned.
Helena tells Oliver that her crucible was losing her fiance: that when you love someone with all of your
heart you can't just turn that off; you still feel things as deeply, but instead of love it becomes hate. While the two are captured by her father's henchman, we learn that her fiance was killed because they found a laptop with all her father's business dealings on it and assumed he was turning them in to the FBI. Helena tells them that she was the one informing against her father because she believes him to be a monster. Nicky tells her that Michael's death is her fault, but she doesn't see it at all - she takes no responsibility for his death. I'm curious to find out if she is still providing evidence for them. It will also be interesting to see if her father finds out about any of it. When she tells Oliver that no one can know her secret, it's ambiguous as to whether she means the secret that she's the Huntress or that she's an FBI informant.
Oliver tells Helena that what she's doing isn't justice, it's revenge. Helena wants to know why Oliver's
vendetta is more valid than her own. Oliver denies it. Helena insists they are the same: "Hiding in plain sight. Concealing our anger with smiles and lies." When Oliver asks her why she's crying she says, "I've been alone in my hate for so long..." and Oliver finishes her sentence with "it feels good to tell the truth." I thought this was an interesting way to bring up the discussion between justice and revenge and where the line gets drawn. It will be interesting going forward to see if they can bring each other the respite from loneliness that they both crave. I suspect that they are going to continue to be at odds over the question of what constitutes justice though.
I was disappointed that we saw China White only briefly, but we are obviously building to a pretty big
showdown as more players are being put in place. I did find myself wanting more John Ramsey and Katie Cassidy in the episode and I'm impatient to see them have more to do - especially in the fight scenes. What did you think of the episode? Do you like Oliver and Helena getting together? Too soon? Too dangerous?