Arrow Ep 1.17 ‘The Huntress Returns’ shies away from its darkest (and best) moments

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Arrow Season 1, Episode 17 ‘The Huntress Returns’
Directed by Guy Bee
Written by Jake Coburn & Lana Cho
Airs Wednesday nights at 8pm ET on The CW

After a three-week spring break, Arrow returned with ‘The Huntress Returns’, a title that doesn’t really try to be coy what it’s about. And while most fans (including myself) were anticipating the return of the Hood’s darker, female counterpart, ‘The Huntress Returns’ is ultimately a disappointment, reverting back to familiar patterns of unfounded character choices, avoiding its most compelling moments to embrace its most melodramatic.

‘The Huntress Returns’ is an episode packed with dramatic shifts in many relationships: Tommy and Laurel are arguing, Oliver and McKenna are getting close (and about to have the sex for the first time, presumably after their “important” sixth date), and all of a sudden, Quentin is Mr. Apologetic when it comes to setting his daughter up so he could catch the Hood. These dramatic shifts all conveniently pop out of nowhere, save for Tommy being weird now that he knows his best friend kills people in his moonlighting gig.

The rest of them? Contrived as can be, whether it’s Thea’s sudden attraction to Roy (a guy who recently robbed her), or Oliver’s whimpering about how he feels like he’s failed everybody – even though we’ve seen him do nothing but succeed, except for the one time Malcolm donned a hood and beat him within an inch of his life. Clearly the episode was going for some emotional payoffs in the end, and had a checklist of relationship beats they wanted to hit before the climatic scenes of the episode.

Problem is, there’s so much of this string-backed emotional crap in every scene, there’s never a connection made between people’s decisions and why they make them. Why does Laurel just stop being mad at Tommy? Why is Quentin ready to listen to his ex-wife at the end of the episode? Instead of taking any time to catalyze these important character decisions, Arrow is always skipping over the journey to get to the big, dramatic moment at the end – which not only fall flat, but make some characters (Thea, Tommy, Laurel, Quentin) feel like everything they do is determined by the needs of the plot, not the true nature of the characters.

But ‘The Huntress Returns’ is not without its interesting moments – but even those felt like cop-outs, skimming over the best ideas to embrace a more conventional approach to his hero story. When Tommy tells Oliver he’s a murderer and when McKenna gets shot are far and away the two best scenes of the episode: but the show backs away from them so quickly to get to the next beat, it renders them ineffective. They should’ve let McKenna die – instead of Oliver deciding that there are consequences to his actions because his girlfriend moves away, he’d really have to face the ugliness of the life he’s chosen if the girl he cares about gets shot down because he’s indecisive.

It’s such a dark, awesome concept: Arrow’s faced with the decision of killing The Huntress, lest he be exposed and sent to jail for the rest of his life. But the show seems unequipped to really deal with it as this point, clinging to the idea that the audience has to view Arrow’s killings as justice, because he’s supposed to be the ‘good guy’. What if he isn’t – what if he’s got to become the very thing he’s trying to stop in order to it? These are the kinds of things I want to see Arrow exploring – and it’s tantalizing when they dip their toes into these waters, which makes it that much more frustrating when the run screaming in the other direction.

‘The Huntress Returns’ was an episode with a ton of potential – but Arrow wants to enjoy its big moments and dramatic decisions, without putting in the narrative work beforehand to justify it all. In an episode like ‘The Huntress Returns’, which tries to explore the darker side of the Hood, it doesn’t work well at all.


Other thoughts/observations:

– If the show’s trying to make the island compelling, they’re doing a terrible job at it. This week, Slade kills a bunch of people, and Oliver steals a circuit board to a missile launcher.

– The Huntress practiced someone shooting a weapon out of her hand from five feet away with a bow and arrow. She just wanted to get the timing down right in case she needed it in the future. One of the worst lines I’ve heard on this show.

– Roy Harper will be a main character next season, so pay attention to the red hood.

– Speaking of red, did everyone catch the red and green straws at the bar in Verdant?

– Verdant, by the way, is a word that means “green with vegetation”.

– this missing sister story line is going to be a drag, isn’t it?

– Diggle is seen reading a computer screen, and the camera lingers on a headline about Deadshot and some political assassination somewhere  Wink, wink, indeed.

– who makes a “you cut yourself shaving?” joke about a wrist injury?

– Roy’s afraid of needles.

– the motorcycle sequences were so terrible: Helena is seen driving down a city road, then she’s in a foggy, rural area, and two seconds later, she’s underground in a tunnel (which looks suspiciously similar to the one the Hood was just in).

– why can’t a white teenage girl walk anywhere without fear of rape? Television’s portrayal of a ‘lower class’ city street really bothers me sometimes.

– awww Thea kissed Roy… wait, Thea kissed Roy? What the hell? Apparently being called a “stuck up rich bitch” is a turn on – either that, or the way he creepily checks her out every time the camera’s looking at him.

— Randy


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